Fireplaces have always been important stylistically, setting the tone for everything else in a room.
Whether it’s the living room, bedroom, family room, library, or even the dining room, finding innovative ways to incorporate a fireplace into your Southern California home can simply be a matter of going back in time.
History brings great inspiration for a project like the fireplace.
If you’re renovating an older home -- or just hoping to inject a vintage feel into a new house -- you might want to do a little research on which styles were prevalent during your favorite period in history.
Here’s a quick rundown of fireplace fashions from the past few centuries:
1500- 1625: Tudor and Jacobean
During the Tudor and Jacobean periods in Britain, hearths were grandly scaled with broad lintels spanning cavernous openings. Mantelpiece designs were as elaborate as any you might find in a church.
1600-1775: Colonial American
In early colonial America, it was common to forgo the overmantel and hang a large painting above the fireplace. Wall paneling often surrounded the entire fireplace, framing it like a showpiece.
During the early Georgian period (the early 1700s), fashionable Europeans ordered elaborately carved mantels and paired them with marble slips. Classical designs -- wave patterns, scrolling acanthus leaves, lonic pilasters at the sides -- gave mantels added grace.
During the late 1700s and early 1800s, designers looked to Greece and Rome. Wooden surrounds and overmantels featured a great deal of finery. Homeowners who could afford a solid marble surround often embraced simpler designs with less ornamentation. Others settled for marble slips and gussied up the woodwork.
Victorians had no fear of ornamentation, either -- though there fireplace designs frequently took a more Gothic turn and embraced medieval European traditions. Built-in cabinetry, raised paneling, elaborate overmantels with spindles and fretwork -- any or all of these might be gathered around the hearth to underscore its importance.
1860-1920: Arts and Crafts
Arts and Crafts fireplaces featured clean, simple lines and spare geometry. But not everything was rectilinear. Sinewy vines, stylized leaves and flowers, elegant long-tailed birds -- all appeared during the Arts and Crafts era, in art-tile accents, as well as mantels made of beaten copper and cast iron.
1910-1940: Art Deco
One thing can always be said about Art Deco: It made waves!
Popular motifs, such as wavy borders and “stepping” patterns, made their way into fireplace designs during this period.
1920-1960: Prairie Style
Frank Lloyd Wright, the prominent architect when this style first appeared, often included a central fireplace, dividing rooms in what was then a daringly open plan. Plainspoken natural materials add to the earthy quality of these homes.
1950-1970: American Modernism
The operative word for American Modernism is sleek. Look for long, lean lines with few adornments. Some fireplaces in this style don’t even have materials.
In addition to using the historical guide above, as you consider the right fireplace style for your Southern California home, trust your instincts. Surround your fireplace with colors that cheer you, fabrics that comfort you, and treasures that capture your past and inspire your future.