Fireplaces are a charming and sought-after feature in many homes, but it isn't always realistic to have a happy blaze roaring away all days of the year. In older homes, in particular, fireplaces may be out of code or even entirely unusable. Whether you're looking for designs to liven up your hearth in the off season or permanent decor to give function back to a dead mantle, you can liven up your fireplace year-round.
To bring back the classic look of flickering flames without the mess or hassle of real logs, fill your fireplace with candles of varying heights and widths, centring taller candles toward the back and shorter candles up front. Use leftover candles from all over for a vintage, playful look, or unify the theme with matching candles in clean white. Another striking idea incorporating candles is to place a single large, multi-branched candelabra in the centre of the fireplace. White and metallic finishes will be most visible in a dark fireplace, but black can add interest when candles appear to "float" in place.
Shade-loving vines such as ivy and philodendron make beautiful and organic statements clambering out of a fireplace and spilling onto the hearth. Rotate the plants periodically so that the side that faces the rear of the fireplace does not begin to struggle from lack of light. You can also try keeping two plants on hand for the fireplace and swapping them out every few months to keep them thriving.
Fill a basket with gourds and miniature pumpkins in autumn, pinecones or poinsettias in winter and fresh flowers through spring and summer. Dress up your fireplace for the holidays with wreaths, ornaments, ribbon or party favours in tune with the season. Rotating out the decorative items you choose to fill your fireplace with keeps the designs fresh while constantly drawing attention to the area as a focal point. Enhance this interest by keeping your mantel's decor in theme with the fireplace below.
The mantel need not be the only area to hold family keepsakes and photographs. Place a few cardboard boxes of varying heights on the fireplace floor, and drape with black cloth. Set family pictures, ornaments or travel memorabilia on the differing levels, and use your fireplace as a sort of revolving shadow box for vacations and events.