damian_nicholson

What do do with this fireplace?

Damian Nicholson
20 August, 2018

I'm in a bit of a bind what to do with this fireplace and surround as we feel like we want to hold on to some of it if possible as it has a lot of character. What's counteracting that is a few snags:


1. the hearth is cracked and in bad shape so is probably going to need replacing

2. the hearth is completely flush with the floor boards which is going to make putting underlay and laminate down difficult as it's going to sit above the hearth and generally be an eyesore in my opinion. In an ideal world the entire fireplace / hearth would look like it'd sit above whatever flooring we put down. It also seems like the entire fireplace is one giant unit so I'm not even sure if it can be lifted at all? I've never seen / came across a fireplace like this before.

3. we're not fond of the mirror section that sits on top


Am I being silly trying holding on to this? Any advice / ideas would be appreciated :)





Comments (37)

  • Linda Hancock
    Lucky you. Absolutely save it, you won't regret it. We had two in our old home and I miss them as they really did make the room beautiful once painted. Everyone commented on them. I will try and upload a picture but our walls/ceiling were in f&b old white white the fireplace painted in slipper satin. This would work as would f&b off white walls/ceiling.
    Gabriel holland interior design had them in her 20s home and used off white. You might find an image on website. It's a nice technique to 'paint out' a feature that's quite dominating but it results in it being a real asset. The mirror will reflect lots of light back into the room and is lovely with candles at Christmas flickering in it.
    Have never posted a comment before but honestly, I love these fireplaces more than the white marble ones in my listed home.
    Damian Nicholson thanked Linda Hancock
  • minnie101

    I personally like the mirror, if you were to paint it you could add beading at the top to look like panels although I think they were designed with panelling either or below the mantel not both? How bad is the hearth? there are places which will either make tiles in the same style or you could look at reclaimed? Different period but my dining room hearth is cracked badly, a little bit of imperfection isn't always bad! Could you not just keep the existing floor boards and varnish them etc? I personally would probably keep the fireplace in wood thoug and paint the cabinet so it blends into the walls. Definitely don't get rid anyway :)


    Damian Nicholson thanked minnie101
  • PRO
    Man About The House - The DIY & Odd Job Handyman

    I love it. Keep it, paint it old white and lay a new hearth all the way around on top of the old one. You could use old green tiles a very popular colour of the times, which also looks great with off whites, greys and warm woods.

    Damian Nicholson thanked Man About The House - The DIY & Odd Job Handyman
  • Gillian Spark
    I do agree with everyone that you should keep it. It really is a gem.
    I the sixties we bought our first home an Edwardian house with wonderful proportions. Now I find it hard to admit the we were modernist vandals. (Everything ripped out and everything white ).
    I f you really do not want it please offer it to someone who will love it and remove it very carefully! Gilly
    Damian Nicholson thanked Gillian Spark
  • Alix W
    Keep the fire surround and paint it - it looks Edwardian to me. If you don’t like the fire insert and the hearth, I think you could get a new one? I’m not an expert, but the current one looks a bit more modern than the fire surround, more twenties or thirties, so they might not have been made for each other.
    Damian Nicholson thanked Alix W
  • tbyrne309
    I really love the mirror on top, I think it makes it. :-)
    Damian Nicholson thanked tbyrne309
  • chloeloves
    Personally I think the reason it overwhelms the room and looks odd is you have two different wood finishes with the fire surround and cupboard next to each other. The proportions of the cupboard do not sit well next to the fire surround as the break between bottom and top unit does not line up with anything on the fire surround. What are the plans for big cupboard? If you are keeping it and it was painted into the colour of the walls it would recede into the background a bit. I would replace the fireplace including the tiles and hearth I agree it looks to be from a different era from the surround or paint it as per Math mock up.
    Damian Nicholson thanked chloeloves
  • Damian Nicholson

    The cupboard next to it is going to be demolished as there's damp on the wall behind it which needs to be treated, so the fireplace isn't going to be competing for attention much longer.

    I'd never thought about painting the fireplace in all honesty, though looking at the mockups provided here can see that white will work well :) Thanks everyone for your recommendations, I think I'll try to hold on to the mirror part at the top too!

  • Mary Brady-Maguire
    Job I did recently- fireplace not quite as imposing as yours!! Classic White, which is also on built-in unit, gives whole new life to the room!!
    Def keep it..it's a a lovely piece.
  • Mary Brady-Maguire
    Also, I meant to mention, if hearth is so flush with floor you could add a fender...not a big padded one!! just enough to allow you work with flooring. Google "fender for fireplace"...loads of ideas and think it would fit well with style of fireplace.
  • PRO
    Decor Books
    if the flooring is going to be a natural wood, stripping the fireplace back to bare wood would ms
    make them work well together
  • E D



    Another photo to hopefully inspire you to keep the fireplace. :)

  • PRO
    Hand Built Designs

    I'd be in favour of keeping it also but I would consider removing the upper part as I think it is a little top heavy. If you are keen to keep the period thing going I'd look for a neater or finer gilded over-mantel. However, the most problematic thing with your room in my opinion is the cabinet. It dominates the space completely. A suggestion might be to paint the fire-place in an antique white as has been pointed out by other contributors and also to paint the cabinet but in the exact same shade as the walls. This should help it to recede and allow the fireplace to take centre stage.

  • domm madden

    THe first 2 are great goods and they are very modern for any home İ think.

  • Emma

    Definitely keep it. I agree about the top section so would think about removing it. I wouldn't paint it though personally but then I don't like how everything these days is 'whitewashed'.

    We kept the original tiles in our bedroom which are flush with the floorboards and ran a strip of wood around the edge for the underlay/carpet to sit against (a kind of DIY fender as Mary suggested). I'll try and remember to add a picture when I get home.

  • HU-361232410

    the picture of fire and surround are beautiful

  • Jaxx

    Definitely paint and keep it, as previously suggested. If you can’t afford to replace tiled insert and hearth, have you considered painting it matt black? It will help it to recede and give the look of a Victorian or Edwardian cast iron one

  • PRO
    SuedeStone Ltd

    What a beautiful old fireplace, you don't see them like this too often anymore. I would definitely keep it, not sure I would paint it either, I fear that painting over wood is a bit of a fad at the moment and you could possibly regret it in years to come, that said it could probably be stripped back to bare wood again if necessary.

    As for the hearth, if it was my fireplace I would install a 40mm thick stone hearth cut out to fit around the profile of the fireplace, I would also make it much wider and deeper than the current hearth as I think it would give it more balance. I have attached two suggested stones, the first is a Walnut Travertine, the second is Triest Limestone.


    Triest Limestone

  • Pam Dee

    Hi Damian, My first impression was that it was too much of a good thing with a 'king of the room' personality, which the people should be! The most attractive and unique part is the actual fire surround so I can see why you like it. I would leave it as a focal point to be enjoyed and drastically simplify the woodwork - which is less unusual and seems to me is taking the attention from the best bit. The mirror and its flat square mount could be replaced with a picture of your own choosing leaving the outer surround as a frame? Just a thought, but I'm not an interior designer! I think it contains too many unmatched shapes to be comfortable to sit by and focus on restfully?

    I don't think you will have any problem getting a hearth over the existing one cut to fit.

  • coughlan_sharon

    Mary Brady-Maguire, I love what you did to your fireplace. I want to do the same to my mahogany surround. What pain did you use please? And what else would I have to do? Thankyou

  • Mary Brady-Maguire
    coughlan_sharon, Colourtend paint Classic White, I had it done by professional painter. I'm an Interior Designer, so I didn't have the brush in my hand!! I'm very much about upcycling where possible. I acknowledge comments above about "painting everything"! however, in this case it really worked - very calm and cosy room with a little glam!! See pic from opposite angle.
  • Rebecca Wilson

    Mary which grey paint did you use on the walls please?

  • minipie

    Just an idea, if you wanted to change the inner bit of the fireplace (the beige tiles) to be black like in the photos above, look for Craig & Rose Grate Black paint, this is a metallic black paint that looks kind of like cast iron once painted on. I used it to cover up some ugly tiles on our fireplace and it made the whole thing look much less fussy.

  • Mary Brady-Maguire
    R Wilson, again Colourtrend, Cool Elegance Matt, with a little mix of white - do tester first. Colourtrend paints dry darker - so much pigment. This colour has a slight heather/voilet tone in varying lights. So you should try tester first!!
  • coughlan_sharon

    Thank you Mary for your reply. Absolutely beautiful room. In answer to R Wilson, I have a room painted in Farrow and Ball Cornforth White that looks very like that grey colour.

  • bouncebob
    Keep it! Don’t paint, then it looks like any new wooden fire place. It looks like art deco, 1920’s. So I would keep it, also the insert and think Great Gatsby, roaring 20s when decorating the room. That fits with the current styles, dark colours, copper lights etc. Success with your refurb!
  • PRO
    Hampstead Design Hub

    Gorgeous fireplace! Please do keep it, I agree with the earlier comments, just paint it.

  • Lois Addy

    Looking at it, I think it's a mishmash of periods.

    the mantelpiece and overmantle is characteristic of a late victorian/edwardian style. We are more used to seeing these with vertical side panels of decorative ceramic tiles and a cast iron firebasket raised off the floorlevel.

    the actual ceramic glazed fire you have in there appears possibly to be anywhere between 20s & 50s, probably a replacement because the original burned out (assuming it's in the main living room it will have been a main source of heat for the house).


    So the question is, what do you love and what do you hate about it? Because it's not working for you right now.

    Usually edwardian fireplaces with an overmantel (and edwardian/victorian furniture in general) comes apart into sections. the tricky bit is finding which sections! But I'd imagine the entire overmantel with the mirror could be taken off leaving the mantelpiece intact, albeit with peg holes that would need filling on the top of the mantel at the back. Usually there were wooden pegs and holes for placement.


    If you are on a very tight budget, and assuming you don't want to keep the rather lurid carpet, simply keeping what is there, and adding a fender would work (as someone suggested above). You can get low level ones in brass that are extendable to fit relatively cheaply, or there's vintage ones that range from low level right up to having padded seats.


    If you intend to actually USE the fire, then it may be possible to pull up the 20th century ceramic tiles (if that's what they are) lay a screed underneath and then relay the tiles a bit higher so they are proud of the floor level. If any are broken it might be possible to relay them at the edges where they are less in the way - but at the end of the day, open fires are messy and what you really need is a slab of clean smooth hearthstone to make it easy to keep clean.


    Alternatively if you don't like early 20th century mashups, then you could (carefully) take out the fireplace, sell it on (someone would love it - personally I don't like the murkiness of that sort of fireplace ceramic colourwise, but I do recognise it's a nice and unusual example of the genre) and buy a replica more suited to the surround. You can get some rather nice ceramic edwardian style tiles for the sides.


    Have you tried to light the fire? it may be the hood is necessary if the chimney doesn't draw well. Or it could just be an aesthetic choice a previous owner made without considereing how the fire actually performs.


    As people have said above, you can paint it. Whatever paint you use, make sure you aren't totally knackering the wood underneath in case you want to have it stripped back to wood in future.


    The suggestion of hanging a picture over the oval mirror is a good one. Though I suspect with a different less instituttional carpet and the fitted cupboard gone, a judicious choice of plants or ornaments might make the whole thing recede into the room as a whole and be less 'in your face' at the end of the day, it's actually a time and labour intensive decorative heat source, so if you aren't going to have an open fire, and it's not a listed building, consider selling it and getting rid completely. It's a mishmash anyway that doesn't work so well aesthetically, though individually the separate parts of edwardian/ mid 20th century do have charm. but together? ouch you are living with some dearly departed's poor design choices! Which I suspect are not going to be so easy to marry together. Though as people have said above, painting it white is going to help a lot!


    My final thought is that you've got off lightly with that overmantel with a plain oval glass! When I was a kid we had an edwardian house near manchester, in what was the day nursery, behind a baize door, on teh first floor, had an overmantle with a plaster of paris insert that weighs 25kg with rather terrifying fairies playing in the moonlight as it's subject. The house was due to be demolished so we took the plaster behemoth with us. It's currently hanging in my hall and scaring all small children that pass by!!! 40 years on I still can't decide if it is actually totally hideous or so ugly that it's beautiful. Mostly though I just don't want it to fall off the wall and kill one of the cats! Here it is in all it's fugliness. Framed in the 1980s in somewhat ungracious proportions to just top off the general weirdness of it!


  • Lois Addy

    if you google edwardian overmantle, you can see quite how hideously overdecorated some of them were! I think part of the difficulty with that actual mantle and overmantle is that it has quite spare decoration, which has been picked up in modern times 1980s+ and used with 'fake' fireplaces with flame effect (poor effect) fires and our eyes and brains make that connection.


    I think it looks like you have picture rails? if so, might as well keep the overmantle, cos they'll be not that easy to match up in the gap...

  • Lois Addy

    oh on googling, some people have kept the mantle and overmantle and installed a wood burning stove type fire having taken the entire fireplace out. Looking at yours, that might be a possibility? It's easier to run as it's cleaner and less ash everywhere....

  • Emily
    Looking forward to seeing how this turns out. I’m in the keep the whole fire surround camp. Agree that oval mirror is dated but still like it and in a newly decorated room think it will be a lovely quirk. However the tiles wouldn’t be a loss imo. Like the stove paint suggestion or if budget allows like the replacing with a stove suggestion. Depending on the style of the finished room I could imagine a pared back scheme with an unexpected coloured stove inset into this fireplace if the surround was maybe painted F+B Railings. Just a thought.
  • ngcox1
    Mary Brady- could I please ask what make and colour that gorgeous grey is in your living room? Thanks!
  • Mary Brady-Maguire
    ngcox1...Colourtrend "Cool Elegance". but added a little white to it!!
  • Samantha Haine
    Forgive me if this has already been said (I cannot seem to access others' comments), but I think the real problem is the huge cupboard front next to the fireplace. If you could up-cycle this to a different location the fireplace would become the focus of the room again, and making some small changes to its appearance wouldn't be such a task.

    (If) once the cupboard is removed and an alcove restored, tackle the tiling, either with paint or replacing entirely (depending on budget). Don't worry that the laminate you lay will sit above, edge the inside of the hearth with lengths of marble or stone (a bit like adding an edge of skirting or beading) or wood (if budget won't allow/fireplace isn't a working one).

    Should the wood be too dark, there are two reasons (I think). Either it needs a good clean-up (search wood restoration techniques/people for veneered furniture) or perhaps can also be carefully painted/stained/limewashed to give a much lighter (& therefore less heavy) look. Keep the mirror as is, like you said, it's probably all one piece and neither half would benefit from being separated. The mirror will add light and depth to a small(ish) room anyway.

    Alternatively, ask a reclamation yard what they'd take for it and remove the whole lot, including the cupboard front and start again with a blank canvas!

    Good luck!
    Sam (Newmarket)
  • Samantha Haine
    Now managed to read all other comments after posting my initial one... hurry up and post photos of what you've ended up doing... I simply can't wait to see!!

    Sam (Newmarket)
  • stephfallon
    I’m late to this post but just thought I’d add to it because I have one of these fireplaces. Bought it second hand as an old, dark wood piece like yours and then painted it white. Our style might not be your cup of tea (ok we’re “eclectic”!) but just thought I’d post a photo so that you can see they can actually look quite modern when combined with accessories.
  • kathleen1926

    the surround would be fabulous if painted similar to previous photos. i think the insert is original and in my opinion equally gorgeous. we spent years looking for something to replace a mismatched replica that had been put into our 1920s living room and finally purchased one after it was removed from another house

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