Contrasting wall colors, minimal accessories and an open furniture arrangement enhance a fireplace.

How to Decorate a Room With a Fireplace Focal Point

by Mary Cockrill

Draw attention to your fireplace by making it the room's star attraction. By decorating a space with the right colors, textures and fabrics, you can showcase your fireplace as the primary focal point. Choose kid-friendly furnishings that are durable and easy to clean and avoid decorating with expensive, cherished antique accents that can leave you fretting about the possibility of their getting broken by rambunctious little ones.

1. Walls

A neutral, unassuming wall color -- soft gray, creamy ivory, sandy beige -- provides an ideal backdrop for any home without stealing the decorating show from a fireplace focal point. Steer clear of white walls to avoid perpetual cleaning; they don't mesh well with your kids' sticky fingers and dirty hands. Interior wall paints with satin or semigloss finishes make it easier to clean dirt and scuffs from soiled walls. Give your fireplace an instant design boost by painting the wall behind it a different color than your existing walls. Draw a color from your fireplace or existing furnishings to create a feature wall. For example, in a neutral-themed room with light beige walls, apply dark brown paint to the wall behind a natural-stone fireplace to make it stand out and get noticed.

2. Windows

Install simple window treatments to allow natural light to stream inside without creating a fussy look. Your kids will love the unobstructed view outdoors, and your fireplace will look fabulous in the natural light. But, just because a window covering is simple doesn't imply it's ordinary. For example, dress your windows beside a stone fireplace with sage green-and-beige drapes in a leaf print to enhance the earthy feel with a touch of the outdoors. Install woven bamboo shades underneath the curtains to deliver a layered look with natural texture. You can leave the curtains pulled wide open at all times and simply raise the shades during the day, lowering them at night for desired privacy from prying eyes.

3. Furniture

Flank your fireplace with a set of matching bookshelves to visually expand its size and focal point allurement. Fill the upper shelves with your favorite books and a few collectibles, such as clocks, decorative boxes, framed photographs, pots of silk greenery, vases and pottery. Use decorative items in a variety of heights and hardbound, not paperback, books for increased aesthetic appeal. Slide woven baskets onto the lower shelves for your kids to stash toys, games and art supplies. Furnish your room with furniture that meets your predetermined needs. Arrange the seating to take advantage of your fireplace feature. For example, create a U-shape grouping by centering a sofa in front of your fireplace and placing a pair of comfortable armchairs facing each other to complete the U design. Situate a large round ottoman in the middle of the seating group to add function, visual interest and anchor the furniture arrangement in the room.

4. Mantel and Accessories

Give your fireplace mantel eye-popping magnetism by painting it in an unexpected shade. Lime green or turquoise blue paint adds a color surprise to a ho-hum mantel. Or, cover your existing mantel with ceramic tiles decorated by your kids to create a one-of-a-kind architectural feature that makes a lasting impression. Hang a large framed mirror or oversize canvas painting above your fireplace to enlarge its visual space with a bold accessory statement. Top your mantel with a fresh vase of flowers, tiered candlesticks and a favorite black-and-white family photo to add a slice of nature with a personal touch and warm glow.

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