Fireplace Design Considerations

By Kate Riley October 16, 2017

I woke up this morning to the news that most of the wildfires are reaching containment here in California. I know the firefighters are exhausted and people want to return to some sense of normalcy so that is good news.

A design project landed in my lap over the weekend, it was the perfect diversion for me. I’ve helped my brother Nate on his home renovations before, you’ll recall his beautiful kitchen makeover last year. In anticipation of winter, they want to give their fireplace wall a makeover and it’s my job to help them again.

Nate’s house is ranch style so he has flexibility when it comes to choosing materials, they can opt for traditional, craftsman, or transitional. Here’s a peek at his wood burning fireplace wall. They are removing the old vents (grates) and the wood burning fireplace insert.



They’re also having a gas line put in with this direct vent gas insert. I love the contemporary fluted back and the clean lines of the black iron trim kit which we may or may not include.



A fireplace is always a focal point in any space. When choosing fireplace design materials there are a few considerations: the overall aesthetic sought by the homeowner, the architectural style of the home, and proper scale of the surround. What will hang above it (if anything) is an additional consideration, whether it’s a TV or decorative objects like a mirror or art.

In my brother’s case, he wants to do the same as before, display family pictures/art on a mantel so I’m incorporating that into the new design. I’m considering replacing the neutral floor tile if necessary, but the big question is the design of the fireplace surround, specifically the style, color, and texture of the materials.

One look I’m drawn to personally is this more contemporary wrap around look. The clean lines are appealing but I’m not convinced it’s quite right for their home.


d stone builders


style at home


veneer designs

When choosing the decorative stone or tile, scale is always an important consideration. Smaller scale mosaics like this dark herringbone look fantastic when the surround is 12-18” around the firebox insert.


anvil fireside

Larger scale rectangular porcelain tiles work well when installed from the floor/base of hearth all the way up to the ceiling. I did something similar in my master bedroom earlier this year, I used large scale marble tile from floor to ceiling to give my master bedroom fireplace a more modern look.


homes to love


The classic pairing of white painted brick and a rustic wood mantel is always timeless. The simple materials allow the art and decorative objects to take the spotlight.


house of jade


sarah sherman samuel

For Nate’s fireplace, I’ll likely steer them toward a pale marble or stone mosaic similar to the one I used on this marble fireplace makeover at the flip house my own family room fireplace makeover.


Finally there is also the option of incorporating more dimension with traditional millwork in a neutral palette. More formal but equally lovely.


park and oak


The installation will happen next month, and have a great makeover to share as soon as it’s done!


Weekend Reading

By Kate Riley October 13, 2017

I’m a very positive and upbeat person, but the last two weeks have dealt me a few serious blows. The inconceivability of the Las Vegas shooting. The devastation from the Wine Country wildfires. And my best friend diagnosed with a serious stage of cancer. Please 2017, tell me you’re done delivering bad news.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer especially when most of you are preparing for the holidays, creating, decorating, living your lives. I’ve been reading your posts about home renovation and fall home tours and Halloween decorations. They make me smile, knowing so many of you are making your homes beautiful and enjoying this time of year.

Sorrow hits us all at different moments and while we’re feeling it we still watch the rest of the world going on around us, and it’s surreal when you’re stuck in the middle of an ongoing sad situation. This last week my town has felt like a war zone with the smoke in the air and the stories of evacuation and destruction. From my porch, I can see the smoke and ashes have settled all over my home. Never have I been so touched by tragedy as in the past week. The stories I’m hearing all day from friends and neighbors are overwhelming, recounting the harrowing stories of escape and the incredible amount of devastation.

I went to my regular fitness class this morning in an attempt to feel normal again, and it helped seeing some favorite faces. Still, we’re all so mournful because these wildfires have touched all of our lives. Everyone knows so many families that have lost absolutely everything. The encouraging words people are saying include “I’m just glad to be alive” and “we will rebuild”. The wildfires aren’t contained yet, but we hear the aircraft flying overhead and it keeps us hopeful. It will probably be a decade before my beautiful Sonoma County returns to its former glory. I will be involved and in the trenches of the rebuilding efforts.

I’ve been out of it for a few weeks due to the circumstances but I know you all understand why. I will remain strong and continue to blog about home design and DIY projects. Thank you all for extending love and support here and on Instagram and Facebook, I do appreciate it so much.

Favorite links from the week below:


This dark and dramatic tablescape is fresh take on Halloween.

Will’s beach house kitchen is perfection.

People painting their walls white for Instagram. :)

A family friendly farmhouse renovation.

I find this tip so helpful when it comes to removing clutter.

I love this striking vertical stack bond tile installation.

Definitely trying this refreshing sangria recipe.

These baked donuts look delish (just need that donut pan!)

Inside the Wine Country fires.

This travel Instagrammer makes me laugh.