When it comes to creating a focal point in a space, a fireplace is usually a real winner. Add to that, surrounding custom joinery with built-in storage and suddenly you’ve made the beautiful blend of form and function. Interior designer Sarah Yarrow tells all…
The fireplace is often located in our lounge rooms which means, for these modern days we live in, we’re also contending with the placement of a TV, sound equipment and a myriad of additional accessories. Using the fireplace as the starting point and evolving the design of joinery around that is the way to go.
Here are my tips for creating an impactful space using a fireplace and joinery:
Plan! Work out exactly what you need from the space – do you need loads of storage to hide kids toys, photo albums, AV equipment etc? Or, do you prefer a more minimal clean line approach with little to no closed storage with the focus being to highlight the wall texture and materials used? Can the TV sit above the fireplace or do you prefer it off to the side? Once you know what you realistically need from a functional perspective, the design of the joinery will naturally have a direction to follow.
The fireplace Decide on the type of fireplace you’d like (or can have in your home). Consider your lifestyle, budget and longevity. For example, the nostalgic idea of a wood burning fireplace might conquer up warm fuzzy feelings and images of cold nights with a red wine in hand, however, the reality of that also means the clean up and maintenance that comes with a wood burner along with the smoky smell which can linger in your fabrics and safety for young children. That’s not to say you shouldn’t install one though (I’m personally a huge fan of the tradition of a wood burning fireplace, in the right situation). The goal should always be about carefully considering what is going to work for YOU! Maybe a gas or electric fireplace will be a better option.
Materials & colour Here’s where you can have some fun! Once you’ve decided on the actual fireplace, you can take those plans from step 1 and start to create the surrounding joinery. Go custom! As opposed to trying to buy off the shelf, adhoc individual furniture pieces or shelving. Custom allows you to maximise every inch available based on your design goals and will ultimately always deliver a better result. Regardless of the style you’re trying to achieve, whether it be traditional and of period or contemporary, you can still inject your personality into the design via colour and material choice. This might be coloured cabinetry, textured wall panelling, an ornate marble surround or classic heritage tiles. Whatever speaks to your style and the architecture of your home. A good designer can help you visualise this with drawings and suggest the most appropriate material choice.
Finishing touches Time to personalise! It’s your home and styling it so it’s representative of you and your loved ones is essential. Displaying accessories which are meaningful to you is what makes a space feel lived in, welcoming and interesting. Depending on the design of your fireplace, you may have lots of open shelving to display books and collectables; or it might be a mantle only to show off a special framed photograph and a sculptural vase. The important thing here is to showcase what you love. A few guidelines to help; less is often more, display only what you really love and store away the rest knowing you can always change the accessories up every few months or when you tire of seeing the same ones. Consider scale and proportion and try to keep a colour palette which is relevant to the other spaces within the home. If you’re opting for a minimal look, displaying something ornate and sculptural is a perfect way to highlight the architecture of the fireplace and joinery and allows that accessory to be the hero – for example, a vase or urn, artwork or vintage artefact. Remember, the finishing touches can always evolve as your life changes and interests grow. Life is dynamic so there isn’t necessarily a ‘finished’ utopia for our interiors either; I suggest to keep evolving your home, just as you do yourself. Allow it to grow with you and it will always feel relevant.