With so many modern and minimalist fireplace models available today, you may be wondering: are traditional hearth-style fireplaces seen as bulky and outdated?
For many homeowners and design experts, the answer is that hearths are definitely still in style! In fact, some may say hearths are even having a moment, as more attention is given to creating cozy, inviting living spaces with multiple functions.
Originally designed to provide an extra layer of protection from flames and stray sparks, the fireplace hearth has evolved into a decorative element that serves several purposes. Besides creating a certain ambiance and style, hearths are also used to:
• Protect the floor in front of the fireplace
• Create a barrier for children and pets to keep a safe distance
• Mount or showcase essential fireplace tools and accessories
• Ensure the home meets local fire codes or protocols
While the overall look of a fireplace hearth can align with virtually any design style, there are two main types of hearths that are seen most commonly – the floor-level (or flush) hearth and the raised hearth. Ultimately, the type of hearth should accentuate the style of the room and is really a matter of personal choice, as both models serve the same purposes.
Still, there are ways that you can freshen up your fireplace hearth to ensure that it’s not stuck in the 19th century and is very much aligned with contemporary styles. Here are several ideas to help you update your fireplace hearth.
1. Incorporate built-ins to make the hearth even more of a focus
While some fireplace hearths are self-contained and have no shelving, others can extend to the surrounding or adjacent walls to create a fuller unit that has both storage and display areas. Incorporating built-ins will not only make your hearth more of a focal point in the room, but it’s also a practical way to work with space that may otherwise go unused.
If you decide to add built-ins, there are two main questions to ask before starting the project:
• How much space is available for built-ins or shelving?
• How do you visualize the fireplace wall?
With these considerations defined, you can move ahead with transforming your hearth into a statement piece that offers additional storage or space to display prized possessions.
2. Add unique accents to give the hearth more personality
Generally speaking, materials like stone, brick, cement, or fire-resistant drywall are the go-to finishes for making hearths durable and fireproof. These materials are adaptable and can be painted, tiled over, or styled to give the hearth more personality.
If you have an electric fireplace and don’t have to worry about fireproof materials, have some fun with creating an accent wall to surround your hearth and fireplace. Anything from wallpaper to a bold paint will offset your hearth and make it a centerpiece of the room.
Another way to add character to your hearth is to install a mantel made of the same material that’s used elsewhere in the room; for example, if the crown molding is finished in cherry wood, you can use this same wood as an accent on the hearth. You can also install decorative tiles to brighten up the hearth in trendy patterns like herringbone or mosaic.
3. Include charming accessories to make the hearth extra cozy
Fireplace hearths can be boring and outdated if you leave them as is. This is why it’s a good idea to include hearth accessories that can make the overall appearance extra charming and look as though it’s been given special attention.
Some accessories you can think about including are:
• Fireplace grates
• Hearth rugs or pads
• Log holders
• Bellows or stokes
• Fireplace andirons
• Baskets for storing blankets or pillows
Additionally, consider adding personal touches to the hearth area, such as decorative objects, artwork, or framed photos, to make it feel more inviting and reflective of your style.
4. Update facing or surround material
The area surrounding the fireplace, including the hearth and the vertical space above it, can be enhanced with tile, stone, brick, or other materials that tie into the room's aesthetic.
The materials used for the hearth's construction and finishing play a crucial role. High-quality materials like marble or even reclaimed wood can add a luxurious and timeless feel.
5. Add architectural details
Intricate architectural details such as carvings, moldings, and decorative elements can add a sense of elegance and uniqueness to the hearth.
If your hearth includes a mantel, its design can significantly influence the overall look. Mantels can range from simple and clean lines to more ornate and decorative styles.
5. Light it
Proper lighting around the hearth area can accentuate its beauty. Wall sconces, recessed lighting, or even candles can create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Spotlights highlight this wall as the feature of the room. Add a dimmer switch so you can control the ambiance without competing with the flames. If you've added personal touches or highlights like art over the fireplace, add some specific lighting to these objects.
6. Integrate with the room design
The hearth should seamlessly integrate into the overall design of the room. A hearth that doesn't match the rest of the space it the number one thing that can make it feel outdated.
Your hearth should complement the existing furniture, color scheme, and architectural style. Even simple updates can help bring it into the current vibe of the room.
7. Keep up with maintenance
A hearth in poor repair can bring the whole room design down. A beautiful hearth is one that's well-maintained. Regular cleaning and upkeep will ensure its beauty lasts over time.
Be sure you know the proper care for the type of material your hearth is composed of. Brick will require a very different type and regiment of cleaning than marble.
8. Give the mantel a makeover
Consider updating or adding a mantel to the fireplace. A new mantel can change the entire look of the hearth area and serve as a focal point for the room.
You can also give your existing mantel a refresh by updating mantel decor. Hang a large piece of artwork or a decorative mirror above the fireplace to create a focal point. This can also make the room feel more spacious and reflect light.
9. Add a fireplace screen
A new screen has the power to change the style of your hearth with very little effort or cost. Replace an old or outdated fireplace screen with a new one that updates your decor style to get the full impact.
Choose a minimal design to bring your hearth into a more modern style. Add an Art Deco or geometric design for mid-century modern or vintage styles.
Whether you incorporate built-ins, colorful accents, or simple accessories, there are many ways to upgrade the look of your fireplace hearth so that it mirrors a more contemporary style. If you have an electric fireplace, check out these best-selling kits to also update your mantel.