Make fireplace as elegant as furniture

April 04, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Q: I want to make the fireplace wall in my living room more consistent with the nearby furnishings, which are classical and elegant in their styling. The present wall design is quite simple, with a standard brick fireplace installed in the center of a painted Sheetrock wall. The chimney projects 18 inches into the room, and there is no mantel. How can I improve the look of the wall without making a lot of physical alterations?

A: You should consider doing some resurfacing work, specifically on the hearth and the area around the fireplace opening. A polished and fire-resistant stone, such as slate, granite or marble, will give the wall a more formal look that should go well with your furnishings. These materials can be applied directly on top of the brick.

If you do take that approach, you'll also need to add a mantel or a simple molding in order to frame the fireplace opening and its new stone surround.

A less expensive alternative would be to panel the entire wall and to install a simulated mantel that actually consists of wood moldings. That's what was done in the setting shown in the photo.

In this case, decorative moldings were placed on the painted wall to produce a simple yet stately geometric pattern. Specific sections of wall, such as the area around the painting, were framed by giving the same moldings a somewhat more elaborate arrangement. Appropriate crown moldings were affixed below the ceiling line on this and all the other walls in the room in order to make a unified design statement.

A decorative shelf installed above the fireplace opening is the only other element needed in order to produce a convincing replica of a traditional full-scaled mantel set against a painted wood-paneled wall.

Once this type of treatment is introduced in a plainly surfaced room, you may feel compelled to paint the moldings in a contrasting color. But I urge you to resist the temptation. The raised moldings and ersatz mantel will probably stand out as is, due to the shadows cast by their projection outward from the wall.

But if you're still determined to heighten this effect, I advise you to create the contrast by changing the values of the color rather than introducing an entirely different color. For example, if the wall is white, the moldings can best be embellished by painting ** them in a pale shade of beige, yellow or peach. The reverse treatment would work just as well. But please don't try to contrast a white wall by coloring the moldings dark brown or something similar. I'm sure you'll regret such a decision.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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