A stone fireplace can add a bit of flair to any living area. With dozens of stone looks available, a fireplace can be designed to match any decor and budget and accommodate any size space. With the proper design, your stone fireplace will never go out of style and will likely never need to be replaced.
Types of Stone
There are two basic types of stone available for fireplaces: natural and cultured. Natural stone must be cut by a professional mason and is commonly formed of materials like granite, marble, slate, limestone and travertine. Cultured stone is a casting that simulates the appearance of natural stone, but is most often found in veneer form. In general, cultured stone is the less-expensive alternative, but this can depend on the abundance of natural stone in your area. Installation is very different for the two types. Natural stone is either produced in single pieces or cut into bricks, which must be stacked and mortared into place individually. Cultured stone usually comes in sheets that are glued down, but can be individual bricks as well. Advances in manufacturing processes have made artificial stone nearly indistinguishable from natural stone, and once installed, many people cannot tell the difference.
The tone of the room will be greatly affected by the choice of stone material. For a warm, homey feel, lay field stone or river rocks in a haphazard fashion. Stacked or ledge stones, which almost look like small flat bricks, are reminiscent of old outdoor border walls and give an air of antiquity to the space. Limestone blocks achieve a similar feel with a more organized stacking pattern. Slate, much like brick, provides a traditional look. Travertine and granite look expensive and cultured for a formal appearance, while marble stands as the most expensive and rich-looking option, particularly when hand carved.
Inset or Out
A fireplace can blend seamlessly into the wall, or can stand out as a centerpiece in the room. Inset fireplaces work best in rooms with limited space. Stone veneer can fall nearly flush with the wall, eliminating the need for a hearth and mantle. In rooms with more living space, the fireplace can be built out of the wall with stone or veneer laid on top. A hearth can come out from the floor with a step and provide a seating area on either side of the fireplace, or even in a semi circle coming around either side. The size and complexity of the hearth depends largely on the size and intended use of the space it is in.
You also can choose to make your stone fireplace a whole wall feature. The fireplace is inserted at the base or center of the wall and can be accompanied by a mantle if desired. When this effect is chosen, the fire itself ceases to be the single focal point, and instead the entire wall is given attention. This works particularly well on an odd-shaped or angled wall.