Nothing says home sweet home more than the hearth.
The fireplace is most often the focal point of your living room or great room. Done right, it's what commands our attention and sets the mood of the room. The mantelpiece can be a stunning feature in which to display the story of you and your family. And it can make a big statement about your individual style, (especially this time of year, when you spruce it up with candles, boughs and lights).
An updated mantelpiece can be an inexpensive improvement that can actually raise the value of a home.
Celia Dawson, senior vice-president of interior design at Polygon, says, "Today, the mantel can be a work of art. The true defining element of a mantel is in its design and craftsmanship."
If your fireplace mantel is in need of a facelift, your choices are endless. We often think of mantels as made of wood, such as cherry, cedar and fir, but they can be made of brick, tiles, glass, polished stone, river rocks or metal.
"Updating your mantel by adding or changing the tiles or changing the colour can also be a great way to add personality," says Dawson. "You can also use decorative shelves as mantels."
Styles run the gamut. From the stately, including Edwardian, Victorian and Georgian designs, to traditional and rustic, all the way to sleek and ultramodern, home owners have endless choices.
However, Dawson cautions against simply going with what's trending.
Bill Mercer, owner of Hazelmere Mantel agrees. He's been selling mantels for three decades now, and he's seen many trends come and go.
"For a few years mantels were either really ornate or modern, modern, modern; but we've gone back to traditional some new elements mixed in."
How to choose the right style
"Whether your taste is casual or formal, minimalist or not, express your individual style, but make sure it incorporates well with your room," says Dawson.
When the veteran interior designer works with clients to decide what type of mantel to install, she'll ask them to look at their décor, the furniture and style of home, and then choose a mantel that is "in keeping with your décor."
"For example, in a Whistler cabin, I might opt for a square, hammered piece of timber, whereas in a really modern home, perhaps a stone ledge rock or a straight simple mantel," she says, adding that some ultramodern fireplaces don't even have mantels.
Before choosing your mantelpiece, look at your room with a critical eye and think of the following: Are your colours soft neutrals or bold and bright? Do you want a rustic texture or something more modern and sleek? What is the size of the room?
"Scale is very important, so choose the size of a mantel that won't overwhelm the room," says Dawson. "It should match the size of the room as well as the fireplace opening.
"In larger rooms, we sometimes design a non-traditional mantel with space for a television, which we incorporate right into the mantel."
Besides, the aesthetics of your room, Mercer says there are key factors to consider when figuring out the size of mantel.
"First off, to build the mantel you'll be asked the opening width and height as there needs to be adequate clearance from the edge of the fireplace to the mantel," adds Mercer. "In addition, your builder or fireplace supplier needs to know where the switches, fixtures and windows are to avoid covering them."
Considering the characteristics of the room that you would like to focus on or complement will make shopping much easier. You can also narrow down your choices by knowing what your budget is before you start shopping. An oak or brick might be less expensive than natural stone or mahogany.
By taking the time to select the right materials and design for your mantel, both Dawson and Mercer agree that you will enhance your room and add value to your home.
For your mantel makeover, find inspiration from the Internet, Pinterest and magazines and you are sure to find just the right one for your homenot to mention that you'll have the perfect place to hang your Christmas stockings this year!
In fact, we've been collecting inspirational photos of festive fireplaces... and other places. Click to see more images.