Interiors: Dressing for summer
PUBLISHED: 10:58 24 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:01 02 June 2016
© Channel Island Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Just because warmer weather is here doesn’t mean the fireplace has a holiday. Make the most of this key feature year round, says Andrew Bullock
In autumn we blow the cobwebs from our hearths and wood burners and light the first kindling twigs of the chilly season. By midwinter, fires fit for chestnut roasting are roaring. And at Christmas, we drape mantelpieces with stockings and turn fireplaces into shrines to all things festive.
Now in May and beyond into the warmer months what do we do with the fireplace now its practical use is not needed? Advice from fireplace experts and interior designers is don’t treat it as a seasonal feature, dormant until the leaves begin to turn again, make the most of it all year.
‘The fireplace should be the focal point of the room. It’s meant to make a statement,’ says Jason Jackson, showroom manager at Chiswell Fireplaces in St Albans. ‘With a traditional fireplace, for instance, there are plenty of carvings or mouldings showing the skills of the master craftsman. This type of fireplace becomes a piece of furniture when not being used - stunning the whole year through.’
Additions to the fireplace will make it pop even when a fire is not lit, Jason adds.
‘In Victorian times, decorative screens were placed in front of the hearth when not in use. Many were elaborate wrought iron work, stained glass and even tapestries.’
In today’s innovative world of interior design, the possibilities go far beyond this.
‘The most common way to dress up your hearth for summer is to fill the inner chamber with decorative items such as beach pebbles, church-style candles, crystals, vases with or without flowers, fairy lights or stacking logs,’ Jason says.
With the latter idea, this is an opportunity to have fun with logs – of the kind that aren’t appropriate to burn. While cherry, chestnut and maple aren’t in any way unattractive, save those for practical use in the winter. When springtime hits, try placing seashore sourced driftwood in the hearth opening or logs that have been sprayed silver, gold or white or pick a brighter colour, such as a blue or rosy shade, and mix with natural logs.
‘Stacked logs have always been my go-to solution for dressing an empty fireplace,’ says Kerry Laird, interior designer at Fishpools in Waltham Cross. ‘Fill the entire centre of the fireplace with random sized logs. If you don’t have the depth for longer logs you can always use slices or even a digitally printed wall-covering to create the illusion or to match an accent colour in the room.’
A scattering of pebbles will bring a summer beach feel into the living room, but Kerry stretches the idea further: ‘A nice tile or stone will give a fresh look to an unused fireplace. Use a marble backing or porcelain if you don’t have the budget.’
Kerry also champions candles in a dormant hearth: ‘I love to group different height church candles in a fireplace to give warmth to a room. You can also mirror the back of the hearth to give depth and create the illusion of multiple candles.’
Candles are synonymous with fireplaces and replacing wood with wax in summer will give you the ambience of a fire without the heat. The trend in wood-effect candles will keep the timber theme going in a summer fireplace. Amelia Candles in Letchworth has a range of wood-style candles that not only look the part but burn with scents mingling fruity orange with rose blossoms and nutty sweet almond flavours with sandalwood and cinnamon.
Potters Crouch Candles in Gorhambury near St Albans offers pine and zebrawood (found in Central America, Africa and Brazil) three-tiered tea light holders, which provide height to a hearth display. If it’s the fragrance of a wood fire you’re missing in summer, go for the Fireside range - a warm woody blend of ash, birch and walnut. Co-owner David Brown says, ‘Fine fragrance is never out of season. You can keep the fireplace alive with a wonderful evocative aroma even when the weather is hot.’
While Christmas mantelpieces are adorned with garlands of fir, conifer and spruce, Zoe Lafbery of Flower Box in St Albans, suggests a seasonal overhaul when it comes to summertime. ‘Take a lovely, large vase, either clear glass or porcelain, and fill it with flowers and fresh leaves that represent the warmer season.’
Flower Box sells by the stem and Zoe advises combinations of ‘mauves, pinks, creams and light yellows just say ‘summer’; while tulips and daffodils are the epitome of spring.
‘Collating roses with cymbidium orchids and hypericums is always a striking look, while anemones, freesias, tulips and veronicas also compliment each other. Long-stemmed luscious buds or plusher foliage will fill out a hearth space.’
For a longer lasting display, take a countrified approach with dried flowers - particularly salvias, lavender and violets. These will last all season, without the need water, and add a rustic texture to a fireplace.
So embrace this wonderful feature of your home all year round and have fun with the possibilities. Save the fire for barbeques in the garden and use your hearth as a space for interior trends to flourish.