If you have a living room with a fireplace in the middle, well then lucky you. In most instances a fireplace is the perfect centerpiece or focal point for this room. The trick comes in how you decorate around it.
After all, that’s the biggest challenge when decorating a living room around a fireplace. Compared to a room without one, you have to base our layout, at least in some way, around it.
Our suggestion? Look at creative ways to anchor this very important element in the room using interesting decor ideas. There are plenty of ways you can decorate around, on either side, and in front of a living room fireplace for better design synergy in the room.
Here’s a look at some unique living rooms, each with a fireplace at the heart of their designs.
Aditi is a homes writer and editor with several years of experience. Her articles, backed by expert insights, offer suggestions aimed at helping readers make the best home design choices. For this article, she spoke to several designers to understand how to decorate a living room with a fireplace in the centre.
1. Make the fireplace the focal point
If you have a fireplace centered in the main living room wall, use it as the focal point, and place all the furniture around it. Why not try a layout that emphasizes it, like in this project designed by Cat Dal Interiors (opens in new tab).
Curving sofas, ottomans and armchairs are the easiest furniture pieces for this type of layout. In this space, pop-colored footstools are kept in front of the fire when not in use, offering extra occasional seating, while further interest is created by decorating the mantel above the fireplace with a mirror.
‘A fireplace can often serve as the focal point of the room, providing structure to use as a reference point for the rest of the space’s design,’ says Malka Helft, founder of Think Chic Interiors (opens in new tab). ‘Things to keep in mind include the materials, as using tile, an antique mantel, or stone can all yield very different results and aesthetics. What will work best in your space? The second thing to bear in mind is functionality. Is this a fireplace you are going to use very often? If so you’ll want to ensure that it’s easily accessible and easy to maintain & clean, so try not to place furniture in the way and make sure you have a storage area for firewood handy.’
2. Keep the decor around minimalistic
If you aim to have a minimalist living room, then keep the decor restrained and subtle. Balance your interior with complementing colors, and insert the fireplace into the wall so it looks eye-catching yet not overwhelming or bulky.
Consider converting your fireplace surround into a single-panel wall. That way, you draw the eyes from the fireplace to the interesting architecture.
Apart from the usual, chunky fireplaces, when it comes to minimalism, think of fireboxes with fire ribbons or gas flames that are wide but shallow, appearing literally as ribbons of fire. The look is contemporary yet minimalist, with no faux logs. Flames rise from rock, sand, or glass, and provide the illusion of a wood-burning fireplace, adding warmth and beauty of a flickering flame.
‘To add further layering and to create a beautiful ambiance, be sure to add lighting to all levels by combining lamps, sconces, lanterns, and spots to illuminate the fireplace,’ says Joshua Smith, founder of Joshua Smith Inc (opens in new tab). ‘Keep in mind that with wall space at a minimum, you’ll need to get clever with electrical sources. Having plugs installed in the floor for lamps, lights, and sound equipment is one great workaround.’
3. Don’t be a slave to symmetry
With the fireplace as the central point in the room, it’s tempting to go all out on a symmetrical design. However, a more interesting scheme isn’t so concerned with symmetry as it is with balance, ensuring the elements, colors, and even materials don’t feel too lopsided.
This is especially useful when designing a small living room fireplace, as the limited dimensions of the space can very quickly look unbalanced or overdone if not carefully planned.
This design is the perfect example of how non-symmetrical decor can have real impact. ‘While it may not be symmetrical as such, the art piece on the left side of the fireplace was selected to balance the sculptural console on the right side and vice versa,’ says Jessica Gersten, founder of Jessica Gersten Interiors (opens in new tab).
4. Be more creative with fireplace niches
If you have a large wall, you can surround the fireplace with shelving, open or closed for a more decorated look. Also, this way you have an accent wall and still draw attention toward the fireplace. Use these niches to showcase interesting curios, artworks, and more.
You can also create eye-catching firewood storage, next to your fireplace for a more country-like feel. Logs of firewood can be a beautiful addition to a space.
When stacked vertically or horizontally, these can bring effortless warmth and coziness to a space, and add layering to an interior design scheme. ‘With custom built-in storage, horizontal storage is the easiest to fill, pull logs from and re-fill,’ says Catherine Staples, the lead designer of Aspen & Ivy (opens in new tab).
5. Make a fireplace the centerpoint for a u-shaped sectional
There’s no better cozy living room idea than one with a curving or a u-shaped sofa. Humans inherently respond to curves, and this layout creates a calm, relaxing, and tranquil setting. To add cherry on top, a fireplace in the center can lend that extra bit of snugness, ideal for these cold days and nights.
When creating the layout of such a room, think of the fireplace as another seat in the layout, such that it should be able to engage with all those who surround it. Move your living room sofa closer to the accent wall, and keep its center of gravity with the fireplace in mind.
6. Use it to cozy up a large living room
Sometimes in large, expansive spaces with several seats and large windows, it can be difficult to create an inward scheme with a warm vibe. Enter fireplaces. These warm contraptions will create a sense of intimacy and calmness in a room that might seem too scattered. Plus, a fireplace helps anchor a room that has too many furniture pieces.
To make the fireplace more snug element, choose materials or designs that look cozy. Consider a wood burner fireplace or ones made of stone or brick. ‘Another easy update to a fireplace is by renovating the facade by painting the millwork,’ says Karen B. Wolf, founder of Karen Wolf Interiors (opens in new tab). ‘Try a dramatic deep blue/black to create drama in the space.’
Use this space to ground the center of the layout, encouraging dwellers to gather around it and engage in deeper, more personal conversations.
7. Add a mirror on either sides of the fireplace
One of the most well-known ways to decorate around a fireplace and mantel is to use the ‘three-plus-one’ trick. This means using elements of different heights to create visual interest. Place three similar objects on one side of your mantel, and one large one on the other. While doing so, remember not to line them up but more so, stagger them.
Of course, the three-plus-one rule is just one of infinite ways to decorate a mantel. The other is with mirrors. Living room mirrors have more uses than one. Not only do you create cohesion and uniformity in the look of the room by placing two exactly same mirrors on either side of the fireplace, but you also create the illusion of more space, bring in more light, and reflect the best of the room, based on the height at which you hang the mirror.
Want to add more layering? Bring in visual weight by creating a secondary focal point on the mantle, with a vase or sculpture. This will relieve the weight of the bulky mirrors.
8. Choose an alternative to a TV over a fireplace
Sure, placing a TV above a fireplace may be a common sight but this could be a little disadvantageous since it discourages conversation. It can also hamper the look of your interior since the TV can look out of place with your decoration, and be at the wrong height for casual viewing. .
For a functional living room TV, consider mounting the TV on a corner wall, or one adjacent to the main fireplace wall. This subtle change will make the decor of the room more cohesive and will encourage people to take notice of the entirety of the room (especially helpful if your home has rich architectural bones).
For a more effective circulation space, ensure you place a few loose seaters close to the TV, and a few close to the fireplace, so your guests can break up into smaller, intimate groups and either spend time watching the TV, or having long conversations by the fire.
How do you arrange furniture around a fireplace?
If you want to make the fireplace the focal feature of your modern living room, ensure you place all the furniture in such a way that the fireplace doubles as the room’s center of gravity. This can be done by placing the largest furniture piece, usually, a long sofa, facing the fireplace, with the rest of the armchairs places around it. A semi-circular layout usually works.
Keep in mind that your furniture should allow for ease of movement to and from the fireplace. To encourage more time by the fire, perhaps place ottomans or chairs beside the fireplace, creating an inviting and warm fireplace seat for you or a guest.