Fireplace mantels are for hanging Christmas stockings, right? In many ways that's true because the original function of a fireplace mantel was to catch smoke, and today's fireplaces no longer need help. Fireplace mantels like many other functional features of a home, remain as a decorative feature and many homeowners use them to display collectibles year round.
Along with Christmas trees, fireplaces are popular because of the warmth they give off during cool (or cold depending on where you live) winter nights. While fireplaces are no longer a source of heat like they once were, it's still important to think carefully about the materials you want for your fireplace mantel as it will get very hot whenever the fire is going.
Fireplace Mantels For Decoration
Fireplace mantels are often the focal point of the room where they're found. The mantel provides an opportunity to create a personal statement about the room, the home and the family that lives there. Fireplace mantels should be consistent in design with your home's style ranging from traditional to more contemporary designs and everything in between.
If you're renovating your home and want a fireplace that matches the period when your home was built, you'll find lots of fireplace mantels at your local architectural salvage company. The challenge is finding one that fits your fireplace opening so be sure to take measurements before you go and don't forget that doorway or counter top you've always dreamed of replacing as these finds are one of a kind.
Other sources for fireplace mantels are online stores offering hundreds of choices, like MantelsDirect.com. You'll find many choices:
- Fireplace mantel shelves
- Fireplace surrounds that include the mantel, the header below the mantel and the legs (also called pillars) that surround the fireplace opening.
- Material choices for fireplace mantels range from different types of wood and finishes, to marble and stone.
For more custom fireplace mantels, you can build your own fireplace mantel or hire a remodeler or carpenter who specializes in custom fireplaces. The benefit of working with a seasoned remodeler is you can add more function to your fireplace wall with window seats, custom bookcases and more. For example, during the Victorian era, it was common to create an ornate frame above the mantle for the family portrait and in many homes today, you'll find a flat screen television above the fireplace.
Note: When installing or replacing a fireplace mantel, check local building codes that regulate fireplace mantels in the types of materials and setback distances from the firebox opening.
Fireplace Mantels and Holiday Traditions
For young children, the fireplace chimney is how Santa arrives to leave presents on Christmas eve. Everyone knows you need to leave cookies and milk for Santa, and sometimes they'll be left on the fireplace mantel.
If you don't have a fireplace mantel, there are lots of alternatives for hanging your Christmas stockings until you get your fireplace (twinkle):
- Bookshelves or a shelf in an entertainment center (these can use the same Christmas stocking hooks you would use on fireplace mantels).
- Hang from stairs, a ladder near the tree or dining room chairs – anyplace where you can tie the stockings.
- Borrow a coat, hat or mitten rack or anything that will hold the weight of the stockings once Santa fills them.
- Tied to beds or bedroom door handles are my favorite as it seems to me, stockings are meant to keep the children busy on Christmas morning so parents can get some extra sleep.
Your imagination is all you need to create new family traditions so if you find yourself reminisce about camping and campfires, an outdoor fireplace is the next best thing to roasting marshmallows on the campfire.