I receive emails from readers all the time asking for advice on particularly troublesome areas in their homes. Unfortunately, I’m not able to respond to each one, but a problematic area that keeps popping up is the pesky angled fireplace. I would never suggest an angled fireplace in a new build, but sometimes they’re inevitable in homes bought by successive owners. The good news is I don’t think an angled fireplace should be a deal breaker if other attributes of the home are desirable: location, layout, size, price, potential, etc. In fact, they can really amp up the cozy factor in a space. Personally, I’ve never lived in a home with an angled fireplace, but I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts on working around one. If I ever end up with an angled fireplace, there are a few general guidelines (no hard and fast rules) I would follow.
Update an angled fireplace, but don’t make it the star of the room. If an outdated surround is cramping your style, feel free to give it a fresh coat of paint, add trim, upgrade the mantel and/or install new tile on the surround or hearth to better suit your aesthetic. Keep the updates simple so that the fireplace melds with the rest of the space without creating a distracting focal point in a corner. If you opt for a mantel, keep it shallow. Amber Lewis painted the stone fireplace in her previous living room, while Julia and Chris Marcum added basic trim and paint to a contemporary version in their basement family room. In spaces where you don’t want the corner of a room taking center stage, allow the fireplace to become part of the background.
Don’t arrange main furniture pieces parallel to an angled fireplace. It’s so tempting to orient a sofa facing the fireplace. However, when dealing with an angled fireplace, it’s better to place the sofa on OR facing another wall in the room to establish a conversation area. This creates a more practical and appealing layout.
Balance an angled fireplace with adjacent built-ins, shelving, a large window, french/sliding doors or furniture items similar in scale to the fireplace. In other words, place something of similar size on a wall at 135° in relation to the fireplace. This keeps your eye traveling around the room instead of dead-ending in a corner. In essence, you are creating a new focal point while still benefitting from the coziness a fireplace can provide. Gwen Hefner designed built-ins using IKEA bookcases for a client’s living room. If desired, you could bring in a media cabinet and TV instead. I wouldn’t recommend placing a TV above an angled fireplace!
Keep fireplace accessories to a minimum. Placing a small accent chair, ottoman, planter or basket near the fireplace can help soften awkward angles. Just make sure you aren’t drawing unnecessary attention to the corner. Hang a simple mirror or piece of artwork above the mantel, or just leave it bare. This is one time you don’t want to layer a bunch of accessories on the mantel. Studio Matsalla added patterned cement tile to an angled fireplace but opted out of a mantel. A modern planter and round mirror are subtle decorative accents. (You can see how this fireplace fits into the bigger picture in the very first image of this post.)
I hope this gives those of you struggling with angled fireplaces some ideas! No need to sell your house ;)