Non-Working Fireplace Decorating Ideas


A non-working fireplace presents an interesting design challenge: It doesn’t fulfill its actual function, but it still works as a focal point of the room. So what do you do with a feature you can't ignore and find difficult to integrate into an interior design? Treat the fireplace as the center of attention in the space.

Add a Note of Irony

  • You can't light the fireplace on a cold winter’s night, but that doesn’t stop you from stacking some wood in it. Fill the firebox, top to bottom, with precisely stacked logs, cut ends facing out. The round flat ends of the logs make a graphic pattern in the cavity. Or, arrange some beautiful white birch logs on black metal andirons and drape a string of clear holiday lights over them.

Bibliophile's Delight

  • Use the fireplace as a bookshelf. Stack coffee table books, spines out, in a tall pile in the firebox. Or pile unread magazines on the andirons until you can get to them. You can fit the firebox with custom bookshelves and place books in there just as you would regular bookshelves. Or, save those shelves for a collection of rare or leather-bound volumes that look antique and decorative.

Exhibition Space

  • Plaster or whitewash the firebox, mantel, hearth and surrounding wall and arrange a pottery collection or antique amphorae in the empty space, around the hearth and on the mantel. Displaying it all in one place in a vignette draws attention to the artwork you have collected and not to the unusable fixture in the middle of the room.

Fireplace Botanicals

  • Do what people always do with a non-working fireplace: place a plant in it. Use the classic Boston fern in a painted porcelain pot is the class. Or, tuck a humidifier in among some plant stands of varying heights, affix a grow light inside the firebox or shine two spotlights down from the mantel to turn the fireplace into an orchid nursery. If you don't like orchids, stack bromeliads in the opening, like a mini-jungle. For the holidays, line up flaming red amaryllis along the mantel.

Fireplace by Firelight

  • Light a fire in the fireplace anyway. Use varying heights of tall and short pillar candles--natural beeswax is elegant and burns clean. Light them all at once for a party or a reflective evening. If you don't like candles, find a large empty glass jar--at least a 2-gallon capacity--or an old-fashioned candy jar and fill it with strings of clear holiday lights. Let them burn steadily or set them to blink. Set the glass container in the fireplace and plug it in for interesting patterns of light and shade and a bright conversation piece.

Contemplative Alcove

  • Keep the space special by featuring a single sculpture in it, as if the firebox is an altar alcove or gallery niche. Place a simple teak stand and a Buddha statue, or a huge multi-faceted crystal or tall, water-etched scholar’s stone. Call up chakra energy and traditional good fortune by hanging a large red silk lantern in the firebox and dropping a bulb inside that can light up at night to fill the room with a warm glow.

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