Our Houston Interior Designers Share Our Top Tips for Fireplace Design and Styling   

Despite the Texas heat, our Houston interior design firm receives many requests for fireplace design and styling. It’s easy to see why fireplaces are such a popular design feature. Whether you live up North and use your fireplace every winter to warm your home or reside down South and only light a fire as a holiday backdrop (with the A/C running), this architectural element adds visual interest and a cozy feel year-round. Our interior designers share top tips and considerations to help you plan your fireplace design and achieve that warm, welcoming feel in your space. 

What are the Parts of a Fireplace? 

It’s important to know the parts of a fireplace before making any design decisions. Keep these components in mind during the design and material-selection phases. 


The firebox is a square or linear opening lined with heat-resistant fire bricks or a fireplace insert. The shape affects the overall look. Square fireboxes feel more traditional, while linear fireboxes have a contemporary edge.  


The fireplace surround lines the perimeter of the firebox and spans typically at least 8 to 12 inches to meet building codes. The surround must be made from a fire-resistant material to protect the wall and mantel from the heat. 


The hearth extends from the base of the firebox and can either sit flush with the floor or be raised to create a bench. It usually extends 16 to 18 inches to meet code and must also be made from a non-combustible material. 


The mantel is the decorative ledge placed over the firebox. It can either be floating or supported by pilasters. Many traditional designs call for a stately mantel, while some minimalist interiors forgo it entirely. 

What are the Different Types of Fireplaces? 

There are three main types of fireplaces: wood-burning, gas, and electric. The best fit for your space comes down to preference. 


Wood-burning fireplaces offer the charming ambiance of a crackling fire, which is appealing to many homeowners. However, this type of fireplace requires regular cleanings and can leave a lingering soot smell in the home.   


Gas fireplaces turn on with the flip of a switch, allowing you to have the beauty of a flame without the hassle of chopping wood. It’s an excellent option for homeowners who value convenience. 


Electric fireplaces don’t have the same charm as a real flame. However, they are easy to install in any space because they don’t require ventilation. This style is a wonderful alternative for Texans who want the look of a fire with the option to turn off the heat! 

Where is the Best Place to Put a Fireplace? 

When building a new construction home, you have the opportunity to place a fireplace in any room you’d like as long as you plan ahead. But what are the best spots for this feature?  

Living Room 

Living room fireplaces are a classic choice because they create a spot to gather and to arrange furniture around. Consider fireplace and television placement in the space, as these two focal points often compete for attention. 

Dining Room 

Dining room fireplaces are a luxurious feature that will add a regal feel to your next dinner party. Plan the space accordingly, ensuring enough clearance between the fire and the table. 

Primary Bedroom 

Bedroom fireplaces create a cozy atmosphere perfect for curling up. Rather than centering the fireplace in the room, consider an off-center placement to form an additional seating area and better appreciate the feature. 

What are the Best Materials to Use for a Fireplace? 

Fireplace materials need to be beautiful and durable. Here are a few of the best options. 

Natural Stone 

From polished marble slabs to hewn limestone blocks to intricately carved mantels, natural stone is a versatile and classic fireplace finish. As a bonus, it’s highly durable and fire-resistant, so it can be used on every fireplace surface for a cohesive look. If natural stone is not to your liking or out of your budget, cast stone is a great alternative. You can achieve close to a natural stone look in many different designs from Neoclassic splendor to modern profiles. Most cast stone fireplaces are made to order and easily customizable to fit your space.


Tile fireplace surround accents pair well with other materials like stone and wood. You can also use it to clad an entire fireplace for a rustic or modern look. Black tile with white and gold veining going up the entire wall around the fireplace can be a strong modern design that fits in many of today’s homes. A colorful, patterned tile can create a nostalgic, European feel. Tile is fire-resistant and comes in endless arrays of colors, sizes, and patterns. It’s an ideal way to finish off a fireplace.


Metal sheeting on a fireplace can create a sleek, modern look, but this material isn’t limited to contemporary interiors. Antique metal surrounds are also a great option for incorporating some vintage charm. 

Wood Accents

Unlike the other materials mentioned, wood can’t be used for fireplace surrounds or hearths. However, wood is a popular choice for fireplace accents like mantels. A reclaimed wood beam can be used for a rustic accent, while a paneled fireplace wall adds Colonial charm. 

How to Style a Fireplace

Once you’ve designed and built your fireplace, you can get to the fun part and style it. Here are a few fireplace decor considerations. 

Mantel Displays 

If you choose to have a mantel, you have a great space for displaying a few prominent decor items. When styling a mantel, keep things minimal so they don’t feel cluttered. Consider a symmetrical arrangement, like two candlesticks on either side. 

Art or Mirrors 

Hanging an art piece or mirror above the fireplace helps extend the feature vertically, creating an even more striking focal point. Our advice: don’t be afraid to go bold! 

Flanking Bookcases 

While art above the fireplace extends the look vertically, custom built-in bookcases on either side expand the feature horizontally. Flanking bookcases add depth, visual interest, and additional space for storage and display. 

Seating Arrangements

You’ve created a beautiful fireplace feature, so make space to enjoy it. Arranging furniture around the fireplace creates a cozy gathering space. Consider adding swivel chairs next to the fireplace so you can enjoy the fire or the conversation with the rest of the room. 

Bonus Tip: Think Ahead for the Holidays

The fireplace often becomes the centerpiece for holiday decor. So, think about your family traditions during the design process. For example, you may like the minimalist look of a fireplace without a mantel until it comes time to hang stockings. When in doubt, talk things through with your interior designer. 

Get Cozy Around Your New Fireplace Design 

Once the design work is done, all that’s left to do is cozy up around your new fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa in hand. Remember, there are a lot of design considerations to keep in mind during the process, ranging from the functional to the aesthetic. If you need help, our Houston interior designers are more than happy to step in and get the job done.

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