There’s nothing more heart-warming than gathering around a fireplace on a brisk winter’s night. Here’s how to make your hearth an idyllic focal point to welcome you in from the cold.
Why we love fireplaces
Whether you have an ornate period surround or a modern log burner, there’s something intrinsically British, archaic even, about having a fire in the home. Maybe the desire to gather around flames harks back to our caveman instincts, or maybe it is simply because they give an appealing design focus and symmetry to a room.
Jonathan Stewart, owner of Wharfside, which offers a range of modern fireplaces, gives his view: “In winter we want to hunker-down at home, feathering our nests to create a cosy and inviting retreat. Nothing does this more than a fire– it’s a focal point for the room and it brings us physical comfort and warmth. For something different, the Cocoon Aeris fire has a streamlined, minimalist aesthetic, making it perfect for contemporary interiors.”
For houses that have smaller rooms, a petite wood burner, like those available at Ludlow Stoves, is the best option. These will still give the addition of a fire but without taking up as much space as a traditional fireplace, hearth and mantel.
Wood-burners and multi-fuel stoves also have further benefits. Rebecca Hubbard, marketing manager at the Cambridge-based renewable energy specialist Eco Installer, explains: “Wood burning and multi-fuel stoves are becoming increasingly popular and are a cost-effective alternative as they use renewable or fossil-fuel heat sources. Burning wood from a renewable source is an easy way of helping to protect the environment, not just for ourselves but for future generations.”
For those with properties boasting period fireplaces, a few modern design twists can revamp tired spaces. Wallpapering the chimney-breast in a classic yet contemporary print, such as Farrow & Ball’s Tourbillon or Samphire papers, draws the eye towards the area, even when the fire is not lit. Adding a ‘collage’ of mirrors above the fireplace, or featuring an edited collection of vases, for instance, on the mantelpiece, are also design ‘cheats’ to add interest.
Mention the word ‘fireplace’ to many homeowners and the dream is to have a traditional surround with roaring flames. Chesneys is one of the leading suppliers for architecturally spectacular fireplaces. Paul Chesney, managing director, gives his take on the latest trends:
“There is currently a strong trend for unique, veined marbles such as the black Portoro or creamy Fleur de Peche. The Pittsburgh, a very contemporary design, features a simple limestone frame juxtaposed with riveted brushed steel panels. The new Gosling is a contemporary take on a traditional design featuring Portoro marble and hand cast antique brass.”
Add a little Hygge
Declan Walsh, managing director of Morsø UK, on the Danish art of cosiness
“The Scandinavians have a word for it – Hygge. It’s a word that sums up that feeling of contentment that comes from sitting down in front of a fire. The crackle of the flames and the light bouncing all around the room can be mesmerising. As the room heats from a wood burning stove, a feeling of relaxation comes over you and the troubles of the day melt away.”
Curl up beside the fireplace
Making sure that the space beside the fireplace is truly inviting is easily achieved. Place sofas or a favourite chair in prime position and keep the area clutter free, add in layers of textiles with throws, a mix-match of cushions and rugs, as well as a side table to rest that ‘must-have’ cup of tea or cocoa.
Start with your seating. Our money is on Parker Knoll’s soft velvet two-seater Harrow sofa or Multiyork’s Greenwich Chair (choose the geometric Cairo fabric to be bang on trend). For something extra special, keep décor pared-back and neutral but add in a statement chair in a bright, popping fabric. It doesn’t get much stylish than Sofa Workshop’s Petite Marguerite Chair in Osborne & Little’s Tulipan Multi-Ivory print.
Claire Hornby, creative manager at Barker and Stonehouse, advises: “A slouchy, laid-back style of sofa gives the ultimate ‘cosy’ factor. Choose 100% goose feather cushions as not only does it make it extra squishy, it will also help to maintain the shape.”
For finishing touches, look to Shimu’s wooden travelling trunks to stand in as side tables. They are also practical storage solutions for books and magazines. While Conran’s marble Farley Table, designed for Marks and Spencer, is a chic addition for larger rooms.
An expert in sourcing unusual pieces for the home is Hollie Brooks, owner of Mia Fleur, an online interiors boutique. She adds: “Introduce mood lighting with candles, table lamps and floor lamps. Create ultimate ambience with different textures and rich, deep colours. Cushions and throws are an easy way to introduce both of these features. Think: velvet, wool and mohair.”
Take time to choose sumptuous accessories to put the final ‘layer’ to your fireside space. Carpet is soft underfoot and ideal for the cold days of winter, while thick rugs – like those available at Coral and Hive Rugs – can also be used to add a design statement.
“Bring the Danish concept of Hygge into your home,” says Jemma Dayman, assistant buyer for carpets at Carpetright. “Choose earthy hues. The Rowan Dove carpet is a classic 100% wool loop pile carpet. Soft underfoot, it is natural, durable and available in a range of neutral tones.”
To continue the Scandi theme, add sheepskin poufs or Nordic reindeer hides from Scandi Living, for the perfect wintery touch. Linda Swarbrick, managing director at Scandi Living, says: “Scandinavian style really comes to life in the winter months. All of our animal skins are perfect for this season and add a cosy touch to the home.”
Finally, add some much-loved items to look at and admire – the mantelpiece is the perfect place, soft lighting and perhaps a wireless speaker so you can chill out in your own, private corner.
John Mabhegede, owner of Mineheart, sums it up: “Lots of soft textures will help to make your home feel intimate, so invest in deep tufted rugs underfoot and woven throws and sheepskins for cuddling up in. Subtle lighting from table lamps will bring a warm glow to any room. Dark colours on the walls can make a space feel warmer, plus dark blues and greys are very on-trend this year. Interesting wall art, such as our Madame Blush picture, will add a little drama to your space too!”
Light my fire
My top ten most stylish fireside accessories
FLORAL TRIBUTE: Rose ceramic vase blue chrome, £99
PERCHING BIRDS: Copper-finish set of four sparrows, £25
MIRROR, MIRROR:Ophelia gold over mantle mirror, £332
LIGHT IT UP: Hourglass storm lantern, £379
STYLISH STORAGE: Grey wicker log baskets, £60
CUDDLE UP: Belinda velvet throw, £75
SCANDI STYLE: Nordic reindeer hide rug, £165
NAME IT: Personalised kindling box, £42
SOFT TOUCH: Textured velvet tile print cushion, £19.50
UNDER FOOT: Juhannusruusu floral rug, £59.90