I know a lot of people with fireplaces. But oddly enough, at least half of those fireplaces—especially the ones in those dreamy Brooklyn and Jersey City brownstones—no longer work. Or at least, they could work, if their owners had thousands of dollars for things like new liners and dampers or (gasp!) a complete chimney rebuild.
My house has a working fireplace, which is mostly nice. Winter fires are cozy, even though when we use ours, I tend to worry about things like carbon monoxide and one child literally pushing another child into the flames (It was an accident being the common refrain around here).
But because I do love a decorating challenge, I sometimes feel like my friends with the non-working fireplaces are the lucky ones. Have you ever perused all the possibilities on Pinterest? There’s the simple (display candles, vases, greenery, or seasonal items), the practical (fit a wine rack or even a wine fridge inside), the artsy (make it the focal point of the room with graphic wallpaper), the kid-friendly (cover with a huge chalk/magnet or dry-erase board) and the “so cute” (turn it into a resting space for your pet!).
I was so inspired by all the above ideas that I started brainstorming my own. (It’s not like we use the fireplace all year round). Depending on where your fireplace is in the home, or what your interests and needs are, consider these.
Shrines and altars can mean different things for different people. A man-cave fireplace can be fan-boy central, a place to display the jersey of your favorite player, statues and figures of music idols you worship, and other cherished memorabilia. (You can even drop in a glass fish tank as an instant bottle cap collector).
In a bedroom or den, a fireplace can be the center of your practice. Write inspirational messages on a small chalkboard, display objects of significance on tiered stands, and fill with framed photos of loved ones. Add some floor cushions on the hearth for comfort.
Let me preface this by saying when it comes to my home and furnishings, I am not a fun mom. (Example of a this kind of fun mom: my best friend, who literally created a ball pit in an alcove for her kids when they were toddlers).
If I were of the more footloose and fancy-free sort, I’d look at that fireplace and think, Wow, that would be an awesome goal for their hover soccer ball. I might also think, Wow, we could cut holes in a large board, stand it upright over the fireplace and it would make for some awesome Nerf gun target practice (just stick a basket behind to catch the darts and you’ll be ready to go again!).
I saw a lot of converted-fireplace shelving units in my research, which made me think of one of my favorite converted-shelving unit projects: the DIY doll house. Add shelves, wallpapered backdrops, and furniture to the inside of your fireplace and create various rooms for Barbie, superhero figures, and more.
This may not be the most exciting or creative idea, but if you live in a smaller apartment, it may very well be the most useful. Affix a curtain rod and an attractive fabric panel cut to fit across the fireplace and boom!—you can “hide” whatever you want (and whatever fits) behind it.
What are your favorite ways to use a non-functioning fireplace?