DIY: Fix Up a Faux Fireplace

There’s a lot of stuff that gets me riled up – I am perhaps a bit of a hot head – however, on that long list are two words that when combined both infuriate and flabbergast me and those words are: decorative fireplace. Yes, seriously.

Is there anything more useless?! Especially in a town like San Francisco, where an actual fireplace would be so warm, and helpful, and necessary to not constantly freezing yer tits off. There’s one in our living room, and it makes positioning the furniture in that room a freaking hassle. Currently, we’ve just blocked it off by putting the TV in front of it, which is a lazy and inelegant solution as it eats up a ton of space in the room (and ironically, causes other pieces of furniture to block off the heater thereby making the room even colder). Fortunately, as with most things in life, there are several simple and swanky DIY ways to convert a non-working (or unused) fireplace into something prettier or more functional. Here are your basic options:

Fill It: This is the obvious and easiest option, but also an incredibly versatile one. If you damn well intend to use that fireplace for fire, then set up some candles or a candelabra inside (pro tip: adding a mirror behind the candles reflects light back into the room). Alternatively, you can fill the space with several different sizes of plants (or, a seasonal alternative: pumpkins) or make it an impromptu book shelf by stacking your library inside (probably want to sweep it out first). If you like the nature theme, fill it to the brim with stacked logs OR stack brightly painted logs inside. Other options: turn the space into a place to display your record collection, hold various boxes, or vases. I’ve even seen turtle shells used to create a nature display around a fireplace.

Light It: White strands of Christmas lights work wonders here: either wind them around a wrought iron grating and actual logs, or you can just throw ‘em on it there and cover the area with a piece of upcycled, painted opaque plastic. Colored lights produce a very cool effect (and are easily wound around a ball to create a neat glowing shape). Lights along the mantle always give a warm glow to a room, too.

Paint It: Grab a bucket of brightly colored paint and wake up your room by painting your entire fireplace a vivid hue, then adding art inside the opening. Or, decoupage with fabric or wallpaper to nicely create contrast and intrigue. Alternative option: paint just the inside, or paint the inside a contrasting color.

Cover It: If you want something a little more upscale than my “put the TV there” method, try adding a grate in front. Bonus fun: paint the grate a bright color to draw attention. If your “fireplace” is in the bedroom, consider putting your bed against it: you get an instant mantle above your bed and a secret hidey-hole behind it. Or, go 1910 on it and hang fabric inside the opening.

Convert It: Slap on some tile around the outside, or paint the inside and add shelves to convert your unusable “fireplace” into a built-in shelving unit. That last one probably requires some measuring and a chat with someone at a hardware store, but doesn’t seem overly difficult. Or, if you’re feeling particularly avant guarde, fill it with old TVs and a VCR to create a wall of video.

Is this screaming "early 90s MTV" to anyone else?

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About the author

Amber Bouman - Crafty & Cashless

A freelance writer, blogger and poet based in San Francisco, Amber has written for PC World, InfoWorld, and the 16th & Mission Review. She has performed at City Hall, Litquake, the Brainwash, 16th & Mission, BlueSix, and SFSU among other places. Amber is also consummate fan of swearing, organizational freak, yoga practitioner, music geek, caffeine addict, and tattoo enthusiast who enjoys platform shoes, making out, thumb wrestling and fighting the good fight. She owns a bicycle named Gretel, a motor scooter named Elroy and a cat named Simon. She can be found in various virtual locations all over your interwebs.

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