Contemporary Fireplace Ideas

By Kate Riley July 16, 2014

One more project on our To Do list this month and next at the fixer house is the fireplace. It’s an architectural feature and focal point so we want to get this right.

This one is in a corner position in the family room which is never my favorite location, I do prefer a fireplace that is flush against a wall but I’m not totally opposed to this one especially since just to the right there is a 48” space for a media console below and flat screen above which means I can avoid hanging the TV above the fireplace. Not that it would be bad or wrong, quite the opposite, hanging a TV above the fireplace is a common these days and one of several ways to decorate around a television. I still plan to put some art or a mirror there instead.

corner fireplace

There are several issues here, the first is that random niche off to the right side. I apologize for swearing but What The Hell. I don’t understand the rationale of that niche so it’s the first thing to go with a framed sheetrock patch. Before it goes, I may stage some random vignettes on Instagram for fun, I have the perfect empty liquor bottle + fake flower combo in mind. Or perhaps a shrine of thrift store animal figurines.

fireplace 2

The boring beige tile is next to be removed followed by a restructuring or rescaping  (just made up that word) of the mantel surround. My first idea is involves very clean lines and an extension of the gas line to make it less visible by repositioning it. I like the idea of a box of framed smooth textured wall (inexpensive) for the surround, perhaps with a tile inset, or a stone mantel (way expensive). These ideas caught my eye.

contemporary fireplace elledecor

elle decor

mod fireplace paper city

paper city mag

house beautiful 

modern fireplace facade

 sweet something designs 

modern fireplace styleathome

style at home 

contemporary fireplace


(in white)

modern organic fireplace

modern organic interiors 

stone fireplace facade

elle decor

clean lines mantel

see materials

Another look I’m considering is the smooth texture on the vertical sides and a rustic wood for the mantel to add contrast and warmth. We don’t have a raised hearth like these examples so ours would go straight down to the new plank wood tile flooring, but isn’t the contrast of wood and white wonderful? 

fireplace farmpretty

farm pretty

white brick wood mantel

jessica helgerson

  sarah richardson wood mantel

sarah richardson

I know the last thing anyone wants to think about in the middle of summer is a hot roaring fire but come Christmas (and our family reunion!) the mantel will be important so that’s why it’s high on the list of things to fix sooner than later. Thoughts? ..



  1. Once again, you’ve given me some good food for thought for my townhouse (soon to be rental) of the same vintage and I’ll be following closely to see what you do here. I’ve never seen an asymmetrical niche above a fireplace quite like that but I think it would be kind of fun to decorate with. Or maybe not. But trying for symmetry with a corner fireplace next to a window is a losing battle and I love the way Sarah Richardson worked with it in that last image.

  2. If I could add anything to our house, it’d be a fireplace. (Actually, the people two houses down did that in their living room! Maybe I’ll copy them…) Anyway, I’m glad you don’t have to put the TV up there because depending on the height of the fireplace itself, looking up all the time can cause neck strain. Bummer, right?

  3. I’ve always loved that room Sarah Richardson did! I also love the ones with a different texture above the mantle. I think the plank/beadboard look in the 3rd to last picture could add some interest and give the allusion of a higher ceiling. And you wouldn’t have to deal with patching the niche, just go over it!

  4. And here I thought I had an ugly, contemporary corner fireplace! I love the choices you’ve come up with for this space, especially the wood planking with the stained wood mantel. I can’t wait to see what you pull together.

    We opted for stone for our fireplace, as it was more in keeping with the style of our home. I love it, although it was definitely the biggest and most challenging DIY project we have ever done to date. Totally worth it (now that it’s done). ;-)

  5. Just a thought, could you rip out the rest of the wall and create chunky, wooden, floating shelves that go the length of the whole space back there?

  6. I had to chuckle when I read your words “what the hell”. I’ve said those very same words wondering what was a builder thinking. I, too, love to put art work over a fire place. Sounds like it is going to be beautiful. Good luck!!!

  7. While I love rustic, I find the deep toned wood jarring in combination with a contemporary white look. Plus, for resale I think the wood wouldn’t be everyone’s cuppa tea and they might think to themselves “love the house, must get rid of that dark old wood on the mantel first thing.” Although Farm Pretty if I understand the captions right, is pretty great. Probably because the mantel is echoed by the wood beam?? Anyway, good luck. Vicariously enjoying the ride!

  8. That niche is a pretty standard “design element” in large apartment communities built in the 1990s. Back in 1998 we looked at about 10 different communities and they ALL had a weird fireplace niche. The majority also had the fireplace offset at an angle instead of flush against the wall. I wonder if that’s why to this day I hate that.

  9. I love Sarah Richardson. I would see if you could somehow incorporate media storage in the niche and hide it with a hinged mirror or art work. A triptych may be a really great solution.

  10. I really love photo 1 but it would be hard to implement in that corner space with the same look. We have done a similar mantle to photo 1 with my firm and it turned out beautifully in carrara! Perhaps you could box out the mantle using salvaged wood or a natural birch to mimic the look in photo 2? The same could be done to get the look of photo 7… and wood is so much more cost effective than stone! I also love photo 5!
    I enjoy watching your flip journey! I would love to be able to do more projects like that myself, but its just not that time in our lives just yet.
    Best of luck!
    -Corinne at

  11. I’m not a fan of a tv above the fireplace either. I love the tiered mantle. I was actually considering one like that for my fireplace. I have the ugly corner fireplace too. Finding the right mantle for them is such a pain. All your inspiration photos are beautiful.

  12. Late 70’s contemporaries in Maryland included niches in fireplaces. I have a friend that uses hers to display her nutcrackers at Christmas. glass shelves and interesting items might make it look fine. A A surround sound speaker could go in a basket, maybe? I always think that whatever direction I take, it will be dated again in 10-15 years! Not in love with corner fireplace, but think it is better than putting tv over the fireplace. At least you have wall space for tv. Also, you could consider taking it all out and using a gas fired stove that looks like a wood stove. You should have the gas there and you should have the proper ventilation, so it may not be too expensive. We did that in a lower room and love the look and the convenience of the enamel stove with glass doors. Since the stoves don’t get that hot, they do not need much clearance like wood stoves too. Look at the Napolean Castlemore in summer moss color.

  13. I’ve always loved how cozy a fireplace can make a space feel. My favorites were the one with with sunburst mirror and the one with the bold black mirror.

    Maggie A

  14. I’ll go you one better. We have that fireplace, with an Arch cutout and the the whole fireplace walls not only soar up to a 14ft ceiling, making it an expensive nightmare to cover it in anything (stacked stone, tile, Venetian plaster, even bead board, any of which will need us to rent scaffolding to do) but it ALSO WRAPS around on the sides, so we have like a half hexagonal jutting mantle thing that needs to go too and I’m not even sure where to go with THAT.. :-)
    And our house is only a year old !! So bad builder design isn’t confined to days past *sigh* .. Luckily there are so many other nice things about the house, but our whole fireplace gives me hives.
    I really love the first one, but I think you need the coffered ceiling to get away with it, because it’s all very French country.
    I also like rough cut, Stacked Quartz or Carrera, a fave of Candice Olsen, which is a clean, but interesting textured look and love it with a rustic mantle (which can always be painted white if someone’s not into rustic).
    I’m hanging to see if you cover the mantle or cut it off and re-do. That’s my first hive-inducing dilemma :-)

  15. I too have the boring beige tile on a corner fireplace surrounded by an oak mantel piece. I personally like the dark wood mantel so I will follow this closely for ideas of redesigning my fireplace. I am not a fan of the TV above the fireplace (much prefer art) but my living room is too small for any other option.

  16. Kate, you crack me up! Can’t wait to see those Instagram vignettes! This may be hard to explain but an idea would be to build the fireplace out further so that it would look more like photo photo #3 where the actual black fireplace is recessed. If you did this the surround could just be painted and then inside could be tiled like in photo #3. Also if you did this you wouldn’t necessarily have to take off the tile surround because it would be hidden by the new bumped out one. Maybe this was along the line of what you were already thinking but if you have any questions feel free to email me! :-)

    • Really smart idea Tamara! We have to be careful since the sliding door is right there on the left! I think I’m going to knock out the existing mantel that is sheetrocked and redo it all in a flatter more contemporary design… something similar to the Style At Home pic. I do like the idea of a subtle tile pattern inside, something modern …. much to think about! Thanks so much for your input (and everyone!!)

  17. Oh my Chez, that is a headache! Ohhh stacked quartz sounds GORGEOUS – pricey. How to mimic with just smooth texture? That will be the trick!!

  18. Hi Kate, would you kindly put pictures and info on how to take down those beige old tiles? I have the same fireplace and want to take them out and out some new tiles but I am afraid of damaging the dry wall and i’m not sure how to do this. Would love to learn a little from you if possible. Thanks! :)

  19. Very nice ideas for a fireplace. They look really good and are inspiring. Beautiful pictures, thanks for this post!

  20. Personally, the Sarah Richardson mantle (from last photo) with fireplace surround (from first elle décor photo). Simplicity goes such a long way with stretching the ‘final’ décor options!

    Oh, and that ‘niche’ – that’s for storing cats. LOL!;)

  21. I totally agree with you on the corner fireplace. I have one in my home and it is such a pain to decorate with. There is a small wall off to the side, but I am struggling finding something that will fit on the small wall and hold my husband’s “60” TV :(

    We have been in the home since February and I am still struggling with the design, I am starting to think that a custom built-in is my only option (but not sure if we have the funds in our budget).

    To make matters even worse, I live in Phoenix, Arizona. When am I ever going to use a fireplace! Other than that the house has great bones. Thanks for letting me rant.

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