Bringing summer to your fireplace could be as simple as putting away your tool set and wood holder. Just looking at that stuff can make you feel hot.
Or you could cook up a new look for the focal point of your living room.
Whether you’ve got a wood-burning or gas fireplace, you’ve got three areas to decorate, or not: the mantel, the hearth and inside that big hole where the logs go.
Designer Marika Meyer always keeps two big blue Italian pots from A Mano in Georgetown on the hearth in her 1949 brick Colonial home in Bethesda, Maryland. “I change out the plants seasonally,” she says. In the summer it may be peace lilies; in the winter, she might switch to evergreens. Inside the fireplace, she likes to keep a big stack of birch logs, which she buys at a garden center and has custom-cut so she can stand them up. For clients, she has filled the fireplace with big bowls of dried hydrangeas, and in one house, a collection of antique metal balls.
“The balls look almost like a sculpture,” she says. “It feels textural and very interesting.”
As for mantels, she changes her own every few months, displaying groupings of different accessories or bouquets of flowers. “I have a lot of fun doing my mantels; I look at flea markets and consignment stores for interesting objects,” she says. She’s used small paintings, collections of candlesticks and Chinoiserie items such as pagodas. “Right now, I have a vintage silver urn on my mantel filled with oyster shells that my sons and I picked up in Bethany Beach,” Meyer says. “It’s perfect for the season.”
Abbe Fenimore of Studio Ten 25 in Dallas thought of the perfect thing to put in the ivory and cream sitting room she designed for clients. “I wanted to create something in the fireplace that looked serene in the summer,” Fenimore said. She found several websites that sell ceramic fire balls (an alternative to traditional gas logs) and ordered them in white. In the summer, they look great, but in cooler weather if you have gas, you can turn it on for a show. “The balls flicker and shimmer as the flame floats across,” says Fenimore. One source for the look is woodlanddirect.com.
Fenimore has also used selenite logs (available at jaysonhome.com) that are what she calls “a shimmery white mother-of-pearl color.” The natural crystalline columns of North African selenite give an icy, frosty look for summer, and can add a bit of sparkle to nonworking fireplaces during the holidays as well. She likes using the decorative logs better than putting candles in the fireplace, something she thinks is overdone.
Designer James Wheeler, who owns J. Wheeler Designs in Atlanta, is always looking for interesting objects to put in fireplaces during the warmer months. “We look for big architectural objects so you can make a real change to the space,” he says. Recently, he found a large antique lion’s head fountain. He had a stand made for it and placed in a fireplace he did for a show house.
“Sometimes we also put a piece of artwork on a stand or arrange a collection of garden objects or pottery in the fireplace,” he says.
Summer is also a good time to have repair work done on your fireplace, whether you want to have it painted or install a new hearth made of slate or marble. If you need a new fireplace screen, start looking in September, when stores generally start getting in their fall orders and will have the biggest selection.
According to Chuck Hall, owner of Winston’s Chimney Service in Fairfax, Virginia, summer is a good time to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned — important safety measures. He says the most thorough inspections use a video camera to examine the inside.
This time of year, some fireplace-cleaning companies offer specials, so it can be worth not waiting until just before Thanksgiving or Christmas. ‘That’s when you and everyone else want their fireplace cleaned,” Hall says. “You could wait for three weeks as everyone gets backed up.”
In that case, stick with selenium logs until you know your fireplace is safe to light.