Designing a classic fireplace mantel

July 14, 2014

Today I’m sharing the process I went through to decide on our new fireplace design. THIS is the fun part for sure. Usually I’d spend months pouring over photos to figure out exactly what I wanted, but this time I had to hurry it up a bit. The fireplace happened a lot faster than I thought it would because we had to have that figured out to move the gas line and lights.

Thankfully that built was the majority of the cost in this project – from here on out it’s not too bad. And even though I had to hurry up my normal process, I’ve known what my “dream” fireplace looks like for years anyway. ;) I just wanted to find some pics to show the guys.

There were a couple things I was considering to change up the look even more. I love the look of a grand fireplace and as I was looking through inspiration photos I noticed that the ones that really struck me had two things – a hearth of some kind and they were raised up off the floor a bit.

Our fireplace has always been down to the floor and has never had a hearth:


I’ve always thought raising up the box and adding a hearth would make it feel grander, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do either one. I started doing some research to see if it was something I REALLY wanted to make happen.

This was my original inspiration:

raised fireplace on hearth

It had both – the fireplace itself was raised up a bit and there was a flat hearth. I’ve always thought both things make it feel more substantial.

But then the more I looked at photos, the more I realized most of the ones I was drawn to may have have had one of those features, but rarely both. Kelly’s gorgeous fireplace had a hearth but the actual fireplace was to the ground (because it’s wood burning):

woodburning fireplace, hearth

Kelly Elko

Layla’s beautiful fireplace redo had a simple black hearth and another fireplace that was low to the ground:

lettered cottage fireplace redo (The Lettered Cottage)

Again, their’s was low because there was a cast iron firebox inside initially, but I did like the look.

I finally found a gas insert that had a small hearth and was down low too:

TV over fireplace


The more I looked the more I realized maybe a raised insert and big hearth wasn’t the look I was going for. ;) And then as things started to come together I noticed that adding a tiled hearth was going to eat into our family room space even more. I’ve mentioned that the new room will be much bigger, but it will be long and skinny. That width the hearth would take up is valuable space.

And I looked into raising the gas insert but there were two issues – the venting in the back would have to be replaced and it would mean the whole thing would stick out even more. I mean, it’s already a beast. And we’re moving our TV over the fireplace so even another four to five inches in height would make our TV really high. As it is now I think it will be great, but any more and it would be awkward.

So after a little more research I decided to nix both. The added cost and problems weren’t worth it. I felt a ton better about that decision after seeing this gorgeous fireplace redo:

TV over fireplace

Feeling Love Some

No hearth and the insert is to the ground – and it’s beautiful.

And when I found this one I saved it to my files and named it “exactly.”:

TV inset over fireplace, no hearth

Simply Inspired Design

This is actually very similar to how ours will look, at least the fireplace and wall part above. I’ve been planning to “sink” the TV in just a bit and this gave me a good idea of how it will look. My plan is that you won’t see that inset part though – the bracket will go inside and the TV will sit over it:

inset for TV bracket

As a reminder, here’s my inspiration for the look of the built ins and fireplace set up:

fireplace with built ins

And this is what they had done as of early last week:

fireplace with built ins

Lots of progress has happened since!

This week I’ll start caulking, filling and priming the entire thing. I still have to figure out what tile I want to use on the surround:

Those are just a few options – the first and third from the left are my favorites but that herringbone looks hard to install – lots of little bitty cuts that I’m not sure I want to attempt. It would look AMAZING though, right?

Anyway, I hope by the end of this week I’ll have the whole thing at least primed. Can’t wait to show you the progress! We’re almost to the point where it’s all up to me – the guys are finishing up the fireplace details today, working on the lighting in the room and then the audio/visual guys are coming to move everything. I’m a little nervous about that – hope it all goes smoothly. Then the floors can be patched and I can get moving on the walls and paint.

So far so good – I’m doing OK with the mess so far. Since there’s not really much left for the contractors to do I can see the light. :) I think we’ll only have another week or so of construction and then the smaller stuff starts.

Do you have a dream fireplace in your head? I’m so excited I get to see mine come to life!!

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  1. Wow, they are really making huge progress fast. It is going to look amazing.

  2. It's going to be fantastic, Sarah! I think you should go for the herringbone!

  3. Wow Sarah It's going to be such a statement piece in your room! I agree with Jennifer go for the herringbone! Classic!! -Kathy@The Daily Nest

  4. It's going to be gorgeous! I love how quickly the progress is coming along on this Sarah - can't wait to see it move along!

  5. It will be beautiful! I agree with Kathy...herringbone all the way. :)

  6. I do love the herringbone but I would probably go for the first set of tiles. I think I am close to my dream fireplace - it is raised with a multi-fuel stove but I would perhaps update the stove at some point. So many decisions!

  7. Love the gray tile. Just redid our JJ bathroom with marble floor and gray wall tile and trim. Love it!!!! So, so classic...

  8. WOW. Now that is why I would love to have a fireplace or just a mantle in our livingroom. Just beautiful what you are doing.

  9. So far it is beautiful! I LOVE it!

  10. Wow! That is going to look amazing when it's finished! I love the built ins!

  11. I'm excited to see it. I too love the herringbone. Can't wait to see what you choose. We have a corner fireplace that is stone. I hated it at first, but it's grown on me. I just need to build a wood mantle to cover the lopsided stone that nothing sits level on.

  12. Can't wait to see how it turns out! I agree with the hearth. I think lower is better. It's going to look fab!!!

  13. It's going to be so great! I can't wait to see how it turns out.

    Not that it matters any longer, but my firebox is raised, with a flat hearth, and it's a bit of a problem. I don't have doors on it and was interested in a fireplace screen. The problem is that the top of the firebox is too high. A screen would have to be custom made, which is $$$. Mine is higher than it looks like you were thinking, but JIC anyone is thinking of doing that, think long and hard if it will really work. The look of mine is like picture 6, it might even be the same tile, but my firebox is smaller, and up higher.

  14. I have had both raised hearths and level hearths in houses in my past. One of the things I loved the best was lying down on the floor in front of the flat fireplace. My next house will definitely have a flat fireplace and hearth. Yours is beautiful and I hope you enjoy it.

  15. I ripped our fireplace mantel, surround and hearth off almost two years ago because we were getting new wood floors and I didn't want the hearth. Ours is a gas insert at the floor too and on an angle wall. Uhhhhhh. I'm planning to actually tackle it this summer hopefully. I plan to do a tile surround, board and batten wall and no mantel.

  16. It's going to be beautiful! Are you having a place for a DVD player or cable box? My sis is doing the same as you (tv over gas fp) and is wondering what yo do with them.

    1. Yes! The cabinets on the side will house all that stuff. :)

  17. We just did the herringbone and love it! The cuts weren't bad and we had a pretty basic wet saw from Amazon. We used this one: SKIL 3540-02 4.2-Amp 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw by Skil

  18. So beautiful & light! Love the 1st and 3rd tile as well! Looking forward to seeing you bring this all together!

  19. My dream fireplace included a raised hearth and a tall mantle, both of which are now in our home. We built our house and we built the wood burning fireplace so it was easy to get what we wanted. We don't have space above the mantle for a TV but we never planned on putting one above it anyway. We love the raised hearth because we often sit on it - the kids color or play games or read in front of the fireplace. As for tile, I have tile #3 and it is a pain to install. I am trying to put it on as backsplash in our laundry room and it is one frustrating job. The cuts are hard to get straight, the tile wants to move so the spaces aren't exactly even - GRRR. You would think I had never tiled before (when, in reality, I have done a tonne!). I, myself, would never pick that one again. However, I do think with grout it will look amazing but the process to get there is not a fun one. I can see if you were using it on a floor the tiling would be so much easier. On the wall is not fun. If you are curious to see our fireplace, this is it:

  20. You always make such great choices. I would probably go with the 2nd from the left. Love the chevron, but it does look like a more difficult install plus chevrons are such a trend right now it might feel dated later. Since this is something you'll likely live with forever I would go with something you will love looking at forever. I did a slate surround and floor level hearth. It was the thing of my dreams, and when we built this house it was one of the first decisions I made. Maybe it was the first? I can't wait to see it in a week!

  21. I am SO loving this transformation!!! My vote is the herringbone :)

  22. I just wanna tell you that this is one of the gutsy-est and awesomest renos on the internet right now. I love it. like big time.
    xo - kb

  23. Wow, the progress is fast! It's going to be beautiful. I'm sure of it. As always, your choice is brilliant :D

  24. I'd pick the 2nd or 4th from the left. My great concern is how the herringbone tile pattern would end up looking down the sides of the fireplace. I wonder if the tile will have an arrow design pointing up on one of the sides and another arrow design pointing down on the other? So before you pick I hope you measure or even draw that out. CONNIE

  25. How exciting.

    I think your decision to have the fireplace at floor level was a good one. Not only do we have a raised one, we have a raised hearth. If I could do it over my hearth would be on the floor. One benefit of our raised hearth is it does provide extra seating. :)

  26. I like the rug in the dining room and by the fireplace. Where can I buy it?

  27. I love seeing your transition. Beyond happy for you that you are getting something you envision. My hubby and I close on our "new" home next week and it's straight out of the 70's. I pretty much have it all figured out in my head on what I plan to do BUT the fireplace. It's a complete brick wall. I actually like that it's wood burning. I can't get a confident design on what to do as far as; paint, build wooden mantel, lighting...etc. Feel free to share any ideas that come to mind if you take a peek on my blog. I'm not a big pinterest fan but have been searching fireplaces for a couple months now. Can't wait to see your fireplace done!

  28. Love all your great ideas. I have a corner fireplace that is all white brick from floor to ceiling and surrounding walls in my living room are dark tan which makes the room very dark and the fireplace is so plain it is just boring. Might you have any ideas? Love your taste.


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