How to Decorate a Corner Fireplace

Michelle Radcliff
classic corner fireplace

Don't think of a corner fireplace as an awkwardly placed architectural feature that challenges furniture layouts. Embrace the angle as a sophisticated design feature that brings edgy style to any room.

A Classic Transition

If you live in a traditional or colonial style home with a room that could really benefit from the ambience of a fireplace, one of the easiest options is a freestanding electric fireplace. It's a great way to fill an empty corner in the master bedroom. Infuse some romance with warmth and flickering flames you can control with the touch of a button without ever leaving your bed. The heat can also be turned off, allowing you to enjoy the fireplace all year long.

The traditional looking corner fireplace surround has very classic styling with the fluted wood pilasters, molding and decorative wood appliqués applied to the face. Other traditional elements that stand out include the decorative wood trim on the walls, the heavy, formal draperies, the carved wooden candle holder and the gold leaf frame on the picture above the fireplace. Yet, despite all of these traditional elements, the room still has an underlying modern feel.

Update a Traditional Room

You have several options when it comes to installing a traditional style electric fireplace in the corner of the room. "Installing" is used very loosely here because all you have to do is assemble the fireplace and plug it into a standard wall outlet. Flickering LEDs give the impression of real flames while a powerful infrared heater warms 400 to 1000 square feet of space, depending on the model you get.

If you want a 45° angled corner wall, you'll need to do some structural remodeling or find a contractor to do it for you. Choose an electric fireplace with a traditional style surround in white or ivory, which gives it more of a contemporary feel. If you decide to stick with a 90° corner (or your budget requires it), you can get a unit designed specifically for corners.

Update the walls with a trendy neutral such as "greige," a warm mix of beige and gray that makes a lovely backdrop against a white or ivory fireplace surround. Paint the trim, molding and the walls all the same color. If your fireplace's finish is a cooler shade of white, go with a cooler shade of gray. Install hardwood flooring in deep tones of charcoal or ebony.

Mix Up the Accessories

Go floor to ceiling with traditional style draperies. Use double curtain rods to layer sheer panels inside of decorative valances and heavier outer curtain panels. Go with an abstract print on the valance and curtain panels instead of a traditional floral or toile print.

Use a mix of both modern and traditional accessories to decorate around the fireplace. Display photos on the mantle in a shiny chrome frame. Place a white pillar candle on a carved wooden candlestick with a gunmetal finish. Add some fluted white glass or ceramic vases to play up the classic, fluted legs on the surround. Mount an abstract or modern Art print inside of a traditional frame to display over the fireplace.

A Natural Focal Point

This minimalist style corner fireplace instantly draws the eye with its majestic giraffe sculpture standing front and center on the mantle. Influenced by the peaceful splendor of natural settings, it reads as a perfect spot to sit quietly with a good book or to have an intimate conversation with a trusted friend.

natural fireplace in corner

The natural elements in this space are key to its quiet, comfortable atmosphere. Woven grass floor cushions introduce rich, earthy texture complemented by the natural wood grain and tones of the mantle and flooring. Twigs border the fireplace on the left in the form of a rustic iron tool stand and on the right, a bundle of twisted twigs makes an interesting accent in an unusual sponge-like vase.

The sleek, smooth finishes on the natural wood and stone of this fireplace and the soft, neutral color scheme gives it a clean, contemporary look; hallmarks of minimalist style decorating aimed at conveying sophistication.

Get the Look

This look can be re-created with a modern gas unit or wood burning firebox and chimney that has been framed in, covered with drywall and painted white to blend with a subtly patterned, tone on tone wallpaper on the surrounding walls. Add a custom built, wrap-around wood mantle with a dark maple, honey oak or mahogany stain and a glossy, clear varnish finish. Incorporate polished stone with some granite facing material underneath the mantel shelf and top the hearth with a custom cut granite slab.

For the flooring, install 12 inch square, honey oak parquet wood tiles, on the diagonal from the corner of the room. Consider adding some wood ceiling beams or, if possible, install a skylight to brighten the area with natural light and impart a feeling of being outdoors.

Simple Enhancements

Include floor cushions, ottomans or an area rug made from natural grasses such as Sisal or jute. Hang a few pictures of natural landscapes on the wall nearby and offset a rustic, iron stand holding fireplace tools with a large urn or vase holding twisted twigs or dried reeds.

Choose a standout centerpiece sculpture for the mantle, whether it's a giraffe, elephant, a tall crane or a horse, bear or big cat in an action pose, standing on its hind legs to help emphasize a sense of height. Fill in empty space along the mantle with some of these items:

  • Smaller wildlife figurines
  • Decorative rocks such as geodes
  • Seed pods
  • Dried ocotillo
  • Dried pressed flowers in acrylic
  • Pine cones
  • Air plants in wood, branch pieces or shells
  • Small twig baskets

Be careful not to overdo it. Too much additional décor will distract and lessen the impact of the centerpiece. Keep it simple, natural and uncluttered.

A Casual Conversation Area

The design is more complex, yet this corner fireplace still looks warm and inviting. Built-in recessed soffit lights keep shadows at bay and help illuminate decorative accent wall features and shelf art. The exceptional lighting of this area indicates a layered approach that would include overhead pendants to brighten the entire room.

conversational area

The space has a distinct eclectic look with vintage objets de art casually placed on decorative shelving and built-in cabinetry surrounding the fireplace. A wonderful mix of rough and smooth textures brings visual interest to an all-neutral color palette of brown, beige and cream. Bench style seating by the coffee table offers a warmer spot by the fire. Brick wall panels help define the area with dual focal points created by the fireplace and the TV.

Recreate It

Get this look in your home by elevating the firebox of a corner fireplace with built-in, bench style cabinetry that wraps around the corner and extends several feet on both walls. Frame-in the chimney, tapering the sides as they approach the ceiling. Include a wrap-around top shelf that extends outward from the fireplace mantel. Build or have a custom-built wooden mantle and surround made for the fireplace.

Add Visual Interest

Use a mix of both dark and light stains on the woodwork and a combination of rough and smooth finishes. The varied textures and color contrast will help create depth and visual interest.

Cover the wall between the bench cabinetry and top shelf with these Travertino ceramic tiles, which resemble stone with a wood-like grain. Above the shelf, finish off the remaining wall space with faux brick paneling made from thin slices of real brick. Install directional recessed ceiling lights or track lights to highlight the varying textures and depth created along the walls. Include ceiling fixtures for general lighting and lamps or cove lights for accent lighting.

Conversation Pieces and Stow-Away Seats

Decorate the shelving and walls around the fireplace with treasures found from thrift stores, flea markets, specialty boutiques or yard sales. Objects collected from different eras lend a look of authenticity, like keepsakes slowly acquired from travelling adventures over time. Stash a few extra pillows or cushions in the lower cabinets. Swap a few decorative items on the bench top for cushions when you need extra seating for entertaining or to change the look with fireside seating during colder months.

Kiva Corner

One of the best suited designs for a corner is the kiva fireplace. Also known as a beehive fireplace, this design is most commonly found in Southwestern, Adobe style homes. The fireplace is typically constructed from the same Adobe clay material used to construct the walls of the home.

kiva fireplace

In the past, a kiva fireplace had to be installed by a mason, on a solid, ground level foundation to support its immense weight. Today, they can be made from prefabricated kits that contain an arched or square firebox connected to a metal chimney pipe. The traditional beehive shape surrounding these components is made from a metal mesh lath façade covered with stucco or plaster. This new lightweight design makes it possible to install a kiva fireplace in a second story room.

In this example, the kiva fireplace blends in with the surrounding architecture as the material covering it is extended along the surrounding walls. It serves as a sculptural, standout architectural feature emphasized by a few primitive, museum-like art pieces. However, if you look closely, these accents don't look Southwestern at all.

The design of a kiva fireplace makes it a perfect centerpiece for Southwestern décor. Although the roots of this fireplace design trace back to the Pueblo Indian tribes of the southwestern United States, there are no design rules that state you can only install one in a Southwestern style home or strictly use only Native American décor to decorate around it.

Give a Kiva a Contemporary Twist

Take a quick peek at one more example of a contemporary styled kiva fireplace in a remodeled Victorian home. The key to making an eclectic design like this work is to combine elements that still have something in common, despite being from different styles, eras, or cultural origins. If you're planning an extensive remodel or addition of a room in your own home, this type of fireplace is definitely an option.

You can order a prefabricated kiva fireplace kit from a company like Adobelite but you may need to consult with a local building contractor to help with installation. Choose between a gas or wood burning set up. For a built-in look, extend the plaster or stucco material along the two adjoining walls or paint textured (or faux textured) walls and the fireplace the same color.

Decorate the fireplace with a few select pieces of handmade art. Ceramic vases, sculptures, plates or pottery play into the earthenware design of this feature. Hand woven baskets or artifacts carved from stone or wood look right at home with a kiva's ancient design; think African or Pacific Islander for an interesting twist. A custom, hand forged iron fireplace screen adds a distinctive, rustic touch.

Antique Chic

This unusual corner fireplace has an antiquated look with angular, stepped geometric lines that hint at an Art Deco influence, as does the model car sitting on top - a classic 1920s roadster.

antique chic corner fireplace

The posh furniture is also befitting of a 1920s or 1930s era parlor or sitting room designed to entertain and reflect the opulence and glamour of old Hollywood. Tangerine orange and gold were popular decorating colors during the Art Deco and Golden Hollywood eras; notice the subtle gold pattern embossed with metallic threads on the bold orange upholstery. Sleek materials such as the glass table and the gold vinyl on the bottom of the sofa and chair are also hallmarks of Art Deco style but the pattern itself reads more Hollywood Regency than Deco.

The curvy, flowing lines of the floral patterned area rug are more typical of Art Nouveau, a short-lived but extravagant a style that preceded Art Deco. The ornate brass mantle clock and twin candelabras have the timeless look of interesting conversation pieces; are they priceless family heirlooms or did they once belonged to royalty?

A Deco/Nouveau/Regency Redo

Despite their differences, these early 20th century design styles had something in common; an extravagant, upscale look. It wouldn't be uncommon to find a mixture of these style elements in a residential home, as one style evolved into the next. Although re-creating a look from a bygone era can be a lot of fun, be prepared because it can get quite costly.

Where to Start

You won't be able to find a freestanding electric fireplace that looks anything like this design. But it can be re-created using a gas or electric firebox and having a custom, plywood surround built around it. Consider kicking up the Art Deco vibe a notch by covering it with these shiny copper Deco tiles. Hammered copper tiles would also be a good option if you prefer a slightly more rustic aesthetic.

Buy the big upholstered seating furniture next - it will take a large portion of the budget. Look for budget-friendly glam styles at Wayfair or if you can afford designer pieces, check out the Hollywood Regency Collection at Kathy Kuo Home.

Decorating With Orange

If you have reservations about a room filled with orange, go with navy blue on a velvet tufted sofa or sette lounge paired with a tangerine or burnt orange side chair. These complementary colors will create the bold contrast characteristic of Art Deco and Hollywood Regency designs. Orange energizes the room - great for conversation flow. Include metallics of gold, copper or bronze or neutrals of brown, beige, or cream.

Finishing Touches

Accent the sofa with Deco inspired fan patterned pillows in ombre shades of orange. Treat the windows with sheer cascading lace inner panels underneath a waterfall style or scalloped valance with tassles and outer panels in hues of brown, rust, beige or blue. Look for fabrics infused with metallic threads. Complement these romantic, shimmering textiles with a traditional style area rug in rust, blue and beige. Touch of Class is an excellent resource for traditional window treatments, rugs and other accessories such as mirrors, photo frames, candle holders and fireplace screens.

Keep an eye out for a metal and glass coffee table with either curvy, scrolling designs (Nouveau) or sharp geometric lines (Deco), depending on what appeals to you the most. Try Etsy or eBay for antique model or toy cars and antique or vintage mantel clocks.

Out of the Box Design

What about a corner fireplace in the middle of the room? If you want a look that commands attention, a multi-side fireplace built-in to an outside wall corner simply can't be missed.

modern corner fireplace

Room dividing walls are an endangered species in today's modern open concept home designs so if you're going to add one, give it a higher purpose. This two-sided corner firebox makes a stunning accent in this great room. This wall could also be fitted with a three sided peninsula fireplace that would provide see-through visual access to the dining room as well.

Plan a Cutting-Edge Look

Decide whether you want a wood-burning unit that can be converted to burn gas logs or if you would prefer a direct vent unit that uses propane or natural gas. View some of the various designs available at Woodland Direct or FastFireplaces.com. Call the company to discuss your design options and let them guide you in locating a local contractor to help install the fireplace.

Work out a design plan with a qualified and licensed building contractor or interior designer to incorporate the fireplace into the outside corner of an existing wall or a wall specially designed for the fireplace. Situate the fireplace so that it can be seen from more than one room. Tell the architect or designer to include a symmetrical group of built-in art niches wired for accent lights. Include a large alcove in the corner above the fireplace.

Dial in the Details

Customize the look of your fireplace with a sleek surround made from coffee-brown granite. Tie the art niche grouping in with the fireplace by painting the back walls of each compartment chocolate brown. Dark brown can be paired with practically any other decorating colors, including cool grays for walls, as it pairs nicely with blue, green or violet undertones.

Create a contemporary ceramic art display around your modern corner fireplace. Fill the wall compartments with a group of identically sized and shaped vases with different designs. Place an odd-numbered grouping of vases on the hearth with varying shapes and sizes. Display a single vase filled with silk orchids or dried reeds as a centerpiece above the fireplace. Enhance the ambience when entertaining by lighting up or turning on (flickering LED) metallic copper pillar candles on each end of the fireplace top.

General Decorating Tips

A corner fireplace can ignite a brainstorm of clever decorating ideas that will bring an entirely new look to the room. If you go about it carefully, you can continue to update the look either occasionally or even seasonally without having to do extensive remodeling every time.

Color Schemes

Bold or bright colors can make a dramatic statement and add a lot of excitement to any decorating scheme. However, even a color you really love can wear out its welcome when trends or styles change.

bright color scheme

For example, the bold, red-orange tiles on this corner fireplace incite an edgy, modern art feel but they will clash with many paint colors and limit the options for future finishing treatments on the fireplace wall. Of course, there are exceptions such as Moroccan or Spanish inspired designs.

Keep these tips in mind when using color to enhance your corner fireplace design:

  • Incorporate bold or bright colors on finishes, furnishings and accents you can easily change, such as paint, wall art, area rugs, accent chairs, pillows and throws, lamps, curtains, ceramic and glass accents, candles and other small decorative accessories.
  • Add interest to all-neutral color schemes by using a variety of textures, a mix of natural wood and/or stone finishes or a mix of metals or metallic finishes.
  • Give an outdated fireplace a fresh, contemporary look by painting wood or brick surrounds, chimneys and walls white. You can also use a sponge painting technique with various shades of beige and gray to make brick look like stone.
  • Muted or earth tone colors read the same as neutral colors on painted walls.

Furniture

People often struggle when trying to decide how to arrange furniture in a room with a corner fireplace. Tips that can help include:

  • Use a free online design tool to try different furniture layout ideas. Get the exact dimensions of your room and furniture pieces so you can work with a correctly scaled plan.
  • Combine focal points. Mount the TV over the fireplace (by framing in the wall if necessary) or on the wall next to it and arrange furniture to face both.
  • Group sofas and chairs near the fireplace but facing each other, allowing the fireplace to become part of the backdrop.
  • In large rooms, create separate conversation areas. Use an entertainment center, a large piece of wall art or a large picture window to focus one grouping and the fireplace to focus a second.

Decorative Accessories

Like the icing on cake or the jewelry to the outfit, decorative accessories add important final touches to corner fireplace designs.

  • Always use a less is more philosophy when adding decorative accessories to a corner fireplace. Too many accents turn into clutter and will detract from the look of any style.
  • Symmetrical displays and objects grouped in even numbers lend a formal look while asymmetrical displays and objects grouped in odd numbers tend to feel more casual.
  • Rotate decorative accessories seasonally to keep your corner fireplace area uncluttered and looking fresh.

Always Keep Safety in Mind

No matter what type of fireplace you have or want to install, make sure it adheres to local building codes and safety inspections. The most beautifully decorated fireplace won't be as gorgeous if you aren't safe when installing and decorating around it.

How to Decorate a Corner Fireplace