Fireplace decorating is more than just what you put on your mantel. It’s the culmination of your personal style that pulls your look together. A natural focal point because of its size and usually centrally-located position, the fireplace is an important place to start when you consider your décor.
Where do you start when decorating the fireplace? Start by surveying the fireplace itself. What do you see? Is your fireplace brick dark, ugly or just old, old, old? Worse, is it boring? Has it been painted by previous owners to a shade that makes you cringe?

Brick paint or fireplace paint that’s specially-formulated to withstand the demands of a fireplace can wash over the drab, old brick—even if it’s been painted before—and completely revitalize your fireplace and your room. The process is easy, fun, and can be completed in a few hours. The cost is only a fraction of the price of re-facing or remodeling your fireplace and you’ll be surprised at the impact.

Now that you’ve brightened the masonry, step back and see how your mantel fits into your fireplace decorating project. Does it compliment or compete with the fireplace? What color is the mantel? Does it draw the eye with an attractive, clean style and finish? If not, see what other mantels might fit better.

Since the mantel is at eye-level, it’s natural that its decoration draws attention first. Heirloom, pictures, beautiful knick knacks and things dear to the heart will make the truest statement about your home.

Artwork is always striking above your fireplace, so include unique displays like a single, bold piece in a beautiful frame, or try clustering smaller paintings or prints in asymmetrical groups for contemporary, interesting impact. You can also group items of similar shape or color on your mantel for a whimsical look, again trying differently symmetrical configurations since an aspect of incongruity is pleasing to the eye.

Now move to the hearth, the next area of your fireplace decorating project. Balance is the name of the game when it comes to your hearth, so try a potted plant or topiary on either side of your fireplace opening. Beautifully polished andirons also create a classic, balanced tableau.

If your mantel displays candles, sculptures or vases in equal measure on each side, try shaking up the scene on your hearth with a stunning set of fireplace tools at one end, and a gleaming wood holder at the other. Those who prefer a sleek, bare look can try a simple, striking clock or a wreath hung over the mantel.

Fireplace decorating is important even if you don’t use your fireplace regularly. Placing a candelabra inside your empty fireplace adds a touch of personality and gives your fireplace a polished look. Seasonal variations like a cornucopia in the fall, a basket of pine cones in the winter, flower arrangements in the spring and even a collection of sea shells and driftwood in the summer make your fireplace a living part of your home.

As you move to the end of your decorating project, don’t forget form when thinking function. The very finish of your fireplace tool set, wood holder, andirons and firebacks pull together your complete look. If your living room style is understated and elegant, polished brass pieces always look smart.

If you have a more casual décor, copper, bronze and even black iron tools look stylish, not fussy. More contemporary? Nothing says ‘modern’ quite like brushed pewter. Underscore your preference in finishes by choosing a matching fireplace screen, or the perfectly brilliant pair of glass fireplace doors, which work well for masonry, prefabricated and firebox insert fireplaces.

Fireplace decorating is the quickest, easiest way to pull together a total look for any room. If you create a warm, beautiful and inviting environment, you’ll find your fireplace becomes a focal point around which your family can’t wait to gather.
Fireplace Decorating Quick Tips:

* Paint the inside of your fireplace with black fireplace paint. This will cover any unsightly stains and make the opening look like new.

* Look to see if your mantle color competes with the overall look of your fireplace. No mantel? Try a pretty wreath instead.

* Balance your accessories. Try a large mirror in the middle and a topiary on each end. Or, a large picture in the middle and decorative vases or urns on each side. But remember, asymmetrical groupings can make interesting focal points, too.

* If you have a real wood burning fireplace or wood stove, a hearth rug will protect your floor from falling embers. Decorative fireplace tools are also a plus.

* If you don’t use your fireplace, you can still decorate for a stylish, easy look. Try a large fern in the opening, or a candelabra.

* Seasonal fireplace decorating is always fun, and may be the easiest place to start. A collection of grape vines, white lights, small pumpkins and gourds creates a great fall look. Re-use those white lights with greenery and red candles for the merriest mantel during Christmas.