It's the centre of any space it's in, whether it's in a living room, bedroom or kitchen, which is unusual considering it's such a functional addition. It is the fixed piece around which all other movable furniture orbits, whether that's sofas or dining chairs, it is the inescapable hearth and heart of a home.
But even if you're not using it as an open fire or stove, there are plenty of ways to make it fit with the style and function of your home.
Photograph: Doreen Kilfeather
Traditionally black, cast iron fireplaces can often drag down a room and make it appear smaller and darker. If you've got a small area but find that the fireplace acts like a big black hole into which everything is lost, consider painting it the same colour as the walls. It'll allow the detailing of the cast iron to shine through while blending in the fireplace in with the rest of the space. Then you can add brighter colours, like this zingy yellow throw, without feeling like it's competing with the fireplace.
Accept the rough with the smooth
When it comes to fireplaces, there can be an inclination to square everything off perfectly. But remember, this is a working, smoky place so if you decide to paint your fireplace pure white with perfect edging, make sure it's in a wipeable paint and prepare to clean it often. There's something pleasant about this fireplace, left in raw and in some places crumbly concrete. The smoky spots only add character and give the room a lived-in yet stylish feel.
Don't let space go to waste
Photograph: Al Higgins
If your fireplace is not working or simply in an awkward, unusable space, don't let the area go to waste. A good carpenter or joiner will be able to make use of it whether it's in a bathroom, bedroom or even a dressing room. Here, the homeowners have used it for extra storage in their kitchen and the reflective surface bounces light around the room.
Make it a picture rail
Photography: Mark Scott
If you're putting in a mantle above a stove, consider extending it along the entire wall. This works especially well in a small space as it will lift the room by giving it height and variety at eye level. It also makes for an excellent place to display your art and you can move them around whenever you like.
Photography: James Fennell
Once you're happy with how it works in a room, it's time to look at styling the mantlepiece. The safest option is to start with symmetry and then begin adding pieces. Above, they have used two tall candlesticks to give the mantlepiece height. For the other items, they've focused on similar heights to give the illusion of balance without it looking too matchy-matchy. Consider shape, material and height as you style, here they've focused on glassware which has allowed them to vary the shape without it looking cluttered.
Featured image shot by Doreen Kilfeather
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