Decorating fireplaces — great ideas from 10 reader living rooms

decorating fireplaces that are symmetricalOur recent uploader all about decorating fireplaces generated more than 180 photos to help Peter with ideas to decorate the fireplace in his 1957 house. Today, let’s take a look at a few of our favorite photos straight from reader living rooms. Above: Jessica used the colorful brick in her 1954 fireplace to dictate the color palette of the room. Burnt orange, charcoal grey and warm browns — when evenly distributed around the room like this — make the whole room look put together and inviting. A bit of sentimental art — her mother’s 1970 floral cross stitch — not only adds softness and cheer, its contrast further accentuates the fireplace brick as the focal point of the room. Nicely done, Jessica!

Decorating fireplaces to emphasize their symmetry or asymmetry

As you look at all the photos today, think about this: Is the architecture of your fireplace design symmetric — or asymmetric? Decorating fireplaces to emphasize and accentuate their fundamental architecture is probably the best place to start. Symmetric designs are usually matchy-match starting at the center and working to the left, then to the right. Decorating an asymmetric space is a little trickier — you still want to aim for “balanced asymmetry” — with sort of equal measures of “weight” side to side.

decorating fireplaces traditionalAbove: This reader gives us more ideas about decorating fireplaces that are symmetrically styled. Each side has a built-in book shelf, a globe lamp, and even the pictures on the mantel are symmetrically arranged. Perhaps the loyal family dog sensed that the furniture was making one side of the room “feel heavier” and came to the rescue to fill the empty space and restore balance. We also like how pup matched the wrought iron cabinet hardware. Good boy. (Reader, can we make a recommendation? Can you paint the white leg protector cap thingies on the bottom of your ottoman black, too? That would be just the perfect touch. Pam wanted me to add this. She’s not too anal retentive about decorating touches like this. No, she’s not. No. Really. tee hee.)

decorating fireplaces modernAbove: Sometimes the fireplace doesn’t require any further ornamentation — as this fabulous three-sided stone fireplace demonstrates. The relief of the stone, the size of the fireplace and the irregular shapes of the stones themselves make quite the decorative statement on their own. Kudos to these homeowners for their ability to be restrained.

decorating fireplaces1954-double-sided-fireplace-2Above: Readers Drew and Eric have a two-sided fireplace with an even brick pattern that has been painted all one color. In this case, leaving the fireplace alone might have felt too sterile. On one side, they added character with shelving and a starburst mirror — these decorative touches are balanced, and restrained. On the other side of the fireplace, they had a perfect spot to create a cozy reading nook.

-faux-fireplaceAbove: Eartha Kitsch’s fireplace is non-working, but that didn’t stop her from going for the glow with faux. To decorate around this traditionally designed fireplace, Eartha chose a somewhat dark wall color to set off the white trim… and decorated the mantle asymmetrically to give the scene a little dynamism. Notice how the vibrant orange in the Nixon painting picks up the orange in the fake burning fireplace logs. Kitty approves.

1949-traditional-fireplaceWe loved Hillary’s 1949 living room that we called it out earlier on the blog. Readers doled out lots of praise for her artful mix of traditional modern. The Tiffany blue wall color, a large framed portrait and symmetrical chair arrangement makes her fireplace stand out as the focal point of the room.

-roman-brick-54-ranch-fireplace with knotty pine panelingReader Jennifer’s 1954 roman brick fireplace is surrounded by knotty pine paneling and the cutest scalloped trim molding I’ve ever seen (see our story on where to get scallop molding like this today.) Jennifer has smartly continued the homey and kitchy feel of the knotty pine into the pieces she’s chosen to hang above the fireplace and put on the mantel. Her built-in bookshelves dictate a symmetrical arrangement — which she has picked up on and executed nicely. Knotty is Nice!

malm-preeway-mid-century-fireplaceAbove: This is kind of genius — this reader has brought elements of the outside in, by adding a bed of gravel around the fireplace is with a bed of gravel. This stylized interior design has me thinking that James Bond will appear any minute with a very dry martini in his hand.

mid century fireplace with starburst clockReaders Rob and Julie used the niches in their fireplace stone to create the illusion of tiny fish tanks on either side of their stone fireplace. Choosing just a few more large scale pieces that contrast with the light stone  make for an interesting arrangement. I’m dying to know — is that an Andy Warhol doll sitting on the edge of your fireplace doors?

white fireplace in colorful retro roomAnd finally, reader Terri’s fireplace was kept minimal — so that it didn’t try to compete for attention with her collection of art, funky lamps, colorful chairs. What a happy space!

Whether you want your fireplace to have a starring role or simply to support the rest of the room –these readers give us some terrific ideas for decorating fireplaces that make the most of this valuable feature.


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  1. tear-down townie says

    A question for Jessica: Is the built-in cherry cabinetry around your fireplace original? It looks identical to the style of cherry cabinetry thoughout our 1956 Ranch. Our doors are all raised panel, but the angles of the panels are all smoothed and less drastic than what you normally find on raised panel doors. Is there cherry paneling in your house as well?

    • Jessica says


      I am so excited to see my picture. My living room is one of my favorite spots in my house, besides my aqua kitchen. I am not really sure if the cabinets are original. They are in excellent shape and had brass hardware that I replaced. I kind of feel like they were put in in the 70s because thats when our house had some remodeling done. I also found paint splatter and gold sparkle wallpaper behind the cabinets, so I wonder if the walls were originally bookcase free. I don’t have any cherry paneling in my house, but that sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for your question.

  2. Kelly Wittenauer says

    The white fireplace in the bed of gravel with the plants was decorated that way from the start, the current owner has kept it original. When it appeared on the uploader, I knew I’d seen it in one of the 1950s modern home collection books I’d recently read. It appeared just the same, although that photo was b&w. The reader who uploaded it confirmed it was the house I’d seen – designed by George Nelson.

  3. Diana of Mt. Lebanon says

    Thank you for posting our humble fireplace with our standard poodle Boo. Boo has now been featured twice on your blog! She is becoming quite popular :-).

    I will let my husband know that our white chair protector thingys are too clashy – we installed those because our boys kept moving the furniture over the hard wood floors. Yeah, sometimes life is about practicality, especially when one has wee ones enjoying the mid mod style.

  4. Diana of Mt. Lebanon says

    All of these fireplaces are great, but I especially adore Terri’s fireplace and room. Wow.

  5. Kathy O. says

    Thanks for the inspiring ideas! Seeing all these fireplaces with artwork hung above/near them made me think of a question to ask.

    We have a 1957 ranch with a fireplace on a brick wall that runs from the front of the house to the back (living room open to dining room). We’d like to hang some pictures, artwork, etc. in the dining area but don’t want to damage/drill the brick. The actual bricks are very narrow and shallow so “brick hangers” don’t work. I think our only other solution is to use outdoor “extreme strength” mounting tape that should adhere to the brick; although we hate to do that and have it permanently affixed to the brick and, especially, the art frame. Any ideas?

    • tammyCA says

      I don’t know if this helps but I recently saw on some blog where the homeowner used wooden dowels wedged in the mortar to hang stuff. I’ll see if I can find that.
      Otherwise, I wonder if this brickclip site can help…they have a few different sizes:

      • John says

        I have brick clips in my house, i have a huge amount of exposed brick in my MCM house, every room. They work amazingly well. They hold very heavy items without problem and go on brick super quick. They hold strong with no damage to the brick. They arent as easy to get off just because of how well they grip but its pretty easy, just a screwdriver and they pop off. I highly recomend them. They hold a wide variety, (did i spell that right), of items from unframed paintings, framed pictures, sconces, plates, etc… Though i sound like it i’m not an advert for them! LOL =) just a great product that i am glad was already on the walls! now if i could just hang things on the few lath and plaster walls!!

    • Drew R says

      Kathy O –

      Greetings from Norfolk!

      Eric and I have made great use of 3M Command strips to hang our album frames (without the records) and the starburst on the painted brick in our house. As long as you follow the instructions to the letter and are not hanging anything too heavy, they work well. We have used them in other areas of the house to hang framed photos, etc.


      • tammyCA says

        Command strips are a great invention…I use them for seasonal things like hanging Christmas lights on our bookcases.

    • Kathy O. says

      Thanks for the info/ideas, everyone!

      I have tried Brick Clips and, unfortunately, they don’t work on our brick. The bricks are VERY shallow; the clips won’t grip.

      I have used Command Strips on other surfaces in our house – think they are great – but I didn’t think they would adhere to the brick. Glad to hear others have had success with them. I guess I will give them a try. 🙂

      Thanks again!

  6. says

    In the 3rd photo from the top, I would dearly love to know where the homeowners got the rugs in both the living and dining rooms. Our house is 1971 and very much understated like theirs. Kind of sparse in most people’s opinion but it suits our taste. All our colour comes from the art and the textiles. Any info on the rugs would be GREATLY appreciated!

  7. Robin, NV says

    I’m so jealous of everyone who has bookcases next to their fireplaces. Mine is very shallow, only about a brick’s thickness, so bookcases would protrude past the fireplace and look weird. I have paneling on either side of my fireplace. A couple of faded spots suggest that the original owners hung large pieces of art there. It’s something I might consider trying but I really like the unadorned look of the paneling. But I’m definitely on the hunt for the perfect swag lamps to hang next to the fireplace. Hooks in the ceiling suggest that someone already did that once before too.

    I love Jennifers’s knotty pine/Roman brick/bookcase combo.

  8. Suzanne says

    I love all the fireplaces. It makes me wish I could come visit all these lovely homes and their creative owners.

  9. julie s says

    Yeay, you showed one of my pictures again! I just got back from a quick vacation and saw this. This is Julie, from Rob and Julie in Colorado, and yes, that is an Andy Warhol doll sitting on my fireplace screen!
    Thanks for showcasing my fireplace!

  10. Robin, Maine says

    I am trying to find a source for the long thin stones like the ones in the 3 sided fireplace that is in the 3rd photograph down. The tricky part is that I need these in a veneer. Does anyone have any suggestions where I could find this?

  11. Evan says

    SO glad to find this discussion about fireplaces! We are restoring a 1948 ranch style that has a brick fireplace. It is the narrow, horizontal brick, exactly the same as the exterior chimney. The problem is that I’m certain this was NOT painted white in its original life. The question is how to remove the white paint safely without harming the brick? Anyone have tips?

  12. says

    Those fireplaces are totally gorgeous. They have their own unique design according to the owner’s taste and preference. You stated a great list, too! The home decors and furniture pieces used in those fireplaces are really stylish. Thanks for sharing!

  13. emiller says

    I live in Florida and sadly have no “need” for a fireplace, but I want one so badly. I have been hunting around for the perfect electric fireplace to add to my front living room, but alas nothing stands out as “mid century” to me. Has anyone found a good site? My great aunt had a beautiful limestone fireplace that was long and low, perfect for my 1958 ranch, but unfortunately it was sold many years ago. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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