Home Ownership

How to Dress up a Non-Working Fireplace

The hearth is supposed to be the heart of your home — but that doesn’t mean you have to build a fire in it.

Lots of homes have non-working fireplaces. Some are there by design, as part of the home’s aesthetics. Others have become nonfunctional over the years because of modifications in the home or problems with the chimney itself. Or (if you’re like us), the summer may have just slipped away from you before you had a chance to have your fireplace cleaned and inspected for the season. 

You don’t have to let a non-working fireplace remain cold and lifeless all winter, however. There are plenty of easy, creative things you can do to style your non-working fireplace in a way that is warm, decorative and even somewhat functional (without bothering to stock up on all that wood). We’re going to share some of our favorite ideas below:

Use Candles for a Soft, Ambient Glow in the Hearth

If you want the charm of a fire without the actual soot, ash and work, consider using candles in your fireplace instead. Plain candles in cream or white always work, but you can also choose candles in colors that match the rest of your decor. You can even switch them out when you change accents for the season.

The trick to making this look work is to use a variety of candles of all different heights and sizes. Make good use of candleholders and bases to elevate some of your candles in the back so that their flickering lights can be seen a little better when they’re lit.

Turn Your Fireplace Into a Cabinet of Curiosities

If you’re a collector of sorts, why not show off some of your favorite oddities and vintage pieces where everyone can see them? Gather up some of your most unique treasures and strange thrift-store finds and treat the fireplace like a display case of sorts.

Small pieces of artwork, mementos from your travels, and other items that don’t really fit anywhere on their own can often look charming when placed together. If you love a “shabby chic” or Cottegecore aesthetic, this can easily enhance your decor. The frame of the hearth creates a natural shadow box that automatically draws the eye toward your collection.

Make Your Hearth a Focal Point for the Holiday Decorations

Nature and nostalgia are two of 2020’s biggest trends for the season, so why not incorporate those elements into the way you dress up your non-working fireplace? 

Gather up some acorns and pinecones from outside and pile them up in some pretty bowls or baskets that you can sit in your hearth — just make sure that you vary their height and size a little for interest. Gather up those old seasonal greeting cards you’ve been collecting for years and hang them on a cord that you drape across the front of your mantle. It’s an endearing, sentimental way to look back on holidays past that won’t break the bank!

Turn Your Non-Working Fireplace Into a Makeshift Bookcase

Photo via Cottages and Bungalows Magazine

If you’re a real bookworm you know the struggle that comes with finding adequate storage space all too well — and that empty fireplace is just begging to be used.

This is particularly pleasing if you have a favorite reading chair that you can position near the hearth. The books can be stacked pages out if you prefer a “clean” look, or you can simply stack whatever books you’re done reading up in happy piles. 

Go Green and Create a Mini-Terrarium in Your Hearth

Are you one of those folks who loves plants — indoors and out? If so, you know the struggle that comes with hauling many of your outdoor plants inside for the winter. 

Why not make use of that extra space for the season to create your own miniature oasis? By using bases of different heights, you can give your miniature jungle a layered look that’s very pleasing to the eyes. The structure of your fireplace will provide a frame, help hold in the heat the plants need to thrive and make them easy to water. Plus, you’ll have a lush, lovely little burst of nature gracing your home all winter long.

Fake It with a Decorative Screen and Some Logs

Photo via Shelterness

When you love the idea of a working fireplace but don’t love the actual work, you can still incorporate certain elements natural to a hearth into your decor and add character to your room.

Look around for a decorative screen that you can place in front of your non-working fireplace and paint it to match the mantle (matte black or off-white are two common choices) and bricks. Pile a few logs high on the fireplace grate and stack some extra next to the fire for a look that’s cozy and comforting — no heat required.

Use Strings of Lights and Battery-Powered Lamps for a Kid-Friendly Glow

If you love the idea of candles lighting up your non-working fireplace but you’re worried about safety with your kids around, you can create a similar effect by using strings of “fairy” lights and battery-powered lanterns. 

Twinkle lights are readily available just about everywhere you go, and they always look charming. You can even find outdoor lanterns that are designed to simulate an actual fire, which makes them perfect to decorate your hearth — and you won’t have to worry about anybody getting hurt.

The most important thing to remember when trying to dress up a non-working fireplace is that you should let its look reflect your personal aesthetic. After all, the only person you have to please with your home decor is yourself!