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How to Design Your Mantel and Fireplace

How to Design Your Mantel and Fireplace

A classic white mantelpiece. Instead of a fire, the mantel sports a blue and white tiling with a unique pattern

Fireplaces and chimneys have kept humans warm for thousands of years. And over time, they’ve become beautiful as well as functional. The mantel is among the clearest examples. They began as simple hoods for catching smoke from indoor fires but have turned into elaborate ornamental frameworks. Discover what materials comprise your mantelpiece’s architecture and get the look you want!

Lay of the Land

Before we jump into mantel materials, let’s make sure we know what we mean by mantel and the architecture surrounding it. Did you know that the terms “fireplace” and “hearth” aren’t interchangeable, for example? Knowing how to talk about the architecture of your fireplace and mantel can help you get the look you want when hiring contractors, designers and architects. Here are some terms to know.

illustration of mantel and fireplace with labels

Mantels Terms to Know:

  • Fireplace or firebox: The area at the base of the chimney that contains the fire
  • Hearth: The stone or brick floor of the firebox, where the logs sit
  • Mantel or mantelpiece: The decorative shelf or piece on the outside of the fireplace
  • Surround: The area directly around the outside of the firebox (term is sometimes interchangeable with “mantel”)

Mantel Materials

Now, when it comes to updating your mantelpiece and surround, there are a variety of potential materials at your fingertips.

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Tile is perhaps the most versatile material you can use to build your surround. It comes in many different styles, and it’s an easy material to redo later if you decide you don’t like the look. Especially if you decide on a simple shelf mantel that doesn’t have columns coming down to the floor, tile will act as a good complement for the surround.

A white mantelpiece with white tile surround
Southern Enterprises Nobleman Fireplace with Tile Surround


One of the more traditional materials, brick adds a warmth and richness to farmhouse design without breaking the bank. While not as versatile in terms of different styles, brick will still add plenty of texture on its own.

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White brick panels for your fireplace mantel
Replacement Hearth Brick Panel


A classic surround material, stone adds rustic charm to the room. The different types of stones available allow for a wide variety of possible designs. And the fact that the stones themselves heat up alongside the fire means that there’s a practical use for the material as well; it will heat your room faster.

Stone fireplace with a wood mantel
Muskoka Sable Mills Tan Stone Mantel


If you want a single piece for your mantel shelf and surround, wood is ideal. It can bring warm tones to the room and can even be carved into patterns or designs to suit your home’s unique farmhouse style.

Reclaimed rustic barn wood mantels
Reclaimed Rustic Barn Wood Mantel Shelf

Learn about the pros and cons of gray paint. Of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration! 

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