12 empty fireplace ideas to style up that vacant opening

empty fireplace filled with candles
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Empty fireplace ideas are really sought-after by many homeowners, keen to create a focal point in their room or make the most of an existing opening without the trouble or expense of installing a real fire.

While some of the cosiest fireplace ideas feature roaring flames and crackling logs, there is a degree of maintenance involved with having a real fire. Ashes need to be regularly cleared out, the chimney needs to be swept and there are a range of fire accessories that go hand-in-hand with fires too, such as pokers and fire guards. 

It is mainly for these reasons that many homeowners choose to fill their fireplaces with alternatives and there are plenty of beautiful ways to do this that result in a super stylish fireplace that commands attention and adds lots of character — all without any upkeep requirements at all. 

We have pulled together a whole range of great ways to use your fireplace, from those that still feature flickering flames to ideas that add a striking point of focus — there is sure to be something to spark your interest. 

Empty fireplace ideas that still kick out heat

Before getting started it is useful to bear in mind that shunning a real fire in your fireplace need not mean giving up on the idea of having something in there that gives off warmth.

Many alternatives to real fires require no maintenance and can easily be installed without any professional input. You might like to consider an electric fire, or perhaps a really contemporary style of bioethanol fire — both of which will emit a good amount of heat into the room with very little fuss. 

1. Use your fireplace as a display case

contemporary timber cladding on modern fireplace

A stack of neat firewood along with a collection of glass bottles and a vase of fresh flowers really draw attention to this already eye-catching fireplace.   (Image credit: Jonathan Gooch)

Both modern fireplace ideas as well as those more traditional in design can be used to display all kinds of objects or to store items stylishly. From sculptures, to collections of decorative objects, artwork or books and magazines, an empty fireplace can make the perfect spot to show them off.

In this 1970s home, the striking timber-clad fireplace has been used to house pretty glassware and a stack of firewood to be used in the open fire elsewhere in the property. Painting the inside of the fireplace opening a dramatic slate-grey really draws the eye to the feature. 

2. Pack it full of twinkling candles

Empty fireplace ideas

The star-like design of the tiles used to cover this fire surround pair perfectly with the candle arrangement.  (Image credit: CTD)

One of the prettiest ways to fill an empty fireplace is to cluster a range of candles here. While they look good unlit, once the sun sets, a beautifully cosy, twinkling effect can be created once they are all burning — with no need for a chimney.

This gorgeous fire surround has been finished using stunning blue and white tiles from CTD and one of the best fireplace hearth ideas we've seen is to match the tiles used on the surround to those on the hearth. 

3. Give your fireplace an eye-catching lick of paint

empty fireplace with painted stripes

An empty fireplace can still be a focal point in a room when finished with interesting paint effects.  (Image credit: Richard Kiely)

An empty fireplace need not be boring — with the right treatment they can actually be just as much of a focal point as those fitted with open fires or log burning stoves. One of the best ways to really bring a redundant fireplace to life is by painting the inside of the opening — either in a shade that heavily contrasts with the rest of the colour scheme in the room or by getting creative with paint effects. 

Here, diagonal candy-cane style stripes have been painted on, giving the whole area a greater sense of space and ensuring the room has a strong focal point.

4. Enjoy the warmth of a bioethanol fireplace

bioethanol fireplace

Bioethanol fires are a brilliant option for those without working chimneys or flues.  (Image credit: Go Modern Furniture)

An increasing number of people now choose to fit bioethanol fireplaces and it isn't hard to see why. "There is no smoke, no particulates and no carbon monoxide, meaning that it does less damage to air quality use," explains expert in sustainable building methods and energy efficiency in residential homes Tim Pullen. "The CO2 emitted is the same CO2 that was absorbed by the plants used to make the bioethanol, plants that took months to grow."

There is also no need for a chimney or flue and yet they still give out heat — typically around 3kW. 

Here, the Ascot Lux by DecoFlame, from Bioethanol-fireplace.co.ukhas been fitted. It gives out approx. 2.4kW of heat and costs from £1,529.

5. Let the character of a cast iron fireplace shine

small cast iron all-in-one fireplace in bathroom

Cast iron combination fireplaces come in all kinds of designs and sizes to suit most rooms.  (Image credit: Richard Kiely)

During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, cast iron combination fireplaces were really popular. They are complete fireplaces, all-in-one. Some come with tiled cheeks and a mantle, while others can sit behind a surround meaning you incorporate your own mantlepiece ideas

Due to their charming good looks, there really is no need to fit them with a working fire — in fact you could simply track one down at a reclamation yard and fix it into your wall for instant character. 

6. Use an old fireplace to house your cooker

kitchen with double sided fireplace with range cooker and large kitchen island

A redundant chimney breast can make the perfect spot in which to position a range cooker.  (Image credit: Richard Kiely)

A really popular way to use now redundant fireplaces is to use the space left behind to install a cooker — and they look particularly good when fitted with a traditional range or range-style cooker. 

If you are citing an electric cooker within the old opening, things should be pretty straightforward and while it is also possible to locate gas cookers here, do consult with a gas safe engineer when it comes to installing it. Don't assume that you can fit ducting for your extractor hood into the old chimney either — again, ask for professional advice. 

7. Kit out a contemporary home with a fierce focal point

contemporary fireplace and modern internal timber cladding

When the fireplace is as stylish as this, there is no need for a real fire in order to make it stand out.  (Image credit: Jonathan Gooch)

Fitting a new fireplace presents you with a brilliant opportunity to use your chimney breast ideas to pack maximum impact to the overall interior design scheme of the room. In period renovations, don't be afraid to install something highly modern – the juxtaposition between the old and new works so well. 

In this renovated and remodelled 1970s house, a reassuringly chunky slate fire surround has been fitted into a wall finished with warm, timber strip cladding. Using polished concrete flooring as a backdrop allows the whole set up to sing. 

8. Take a two-in-one approach to your fireplace

modern fireplace with log burning stove and log storage

Alcoves within the chimney breast are the ideal place in which to keep firewood close to hand.  (Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

If you have a fairly sizeable chimney breast to work with you might like to consider using it for both a log burning stove or some open fireplace ideas, as well as somewhere to store all the firewood you will be needing to fuel the fire. 

Here, a wood burning stove sits in the centre of the chimney breast, while alcoves have been carved out to either side in which to stack a good amount of logs and kindling. 

9. Pair a traditional surround with a modern insert

contemporary grey fireplace

Simple, classic fire surrounds can really benefit from subtle, modern inserts.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Period marble fire surrounds, as well as those crafted from solid wood, add a sense of grandeur and luxury to a room — and are perfect for those after living room fireplace ideas. However, a really great idea is to fill them with something more modern in style in order to fully show both elements off.

In this fresh living room scheme, a classic marble fire surround in a soft, creamy shade has been paired with a pale grey timber insert before being filled with candles. 

10. Let the fire surround itself do the talking

marble fireplace

If you are lucky enough to have a striking natural stone fire surround, there may be no need at all to fill it with anything.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

In some cases, there is absolutely no need to fill an empty fireplace with anything at all — you can just allow the fire surround itself to shine. This is a particularly good idea where the fire surround ideas you are working with feature lots of detail or are made from a material that is highly patterned. 

Here, the stunning marble fire surround features a great deal of natural striations and variations in tone meaning it was best not to detract from its intrinsic beauty by filling the opening with anything overly distracting. 

11. Display your prized possessions

empty fireplace in farmhouse renovation

Empty fireplaces can become perfect picture frames when finished off with crisp plasterwork.  (Image credit: Simon Maxwell)

In some cases, the best course of action is to create a clean and crisp opening around your existing fireplace before placing just one single item within it in order for it to gain maximum attention. 

In this renovated farmhouse, the owners have cleverly combined character and contemporary details throughout at the same time as being bold with their colour choices. Their stylish selection of decorative objects can fully be appreciated within the simple openings that have been created within the old chimney breast. 

12. Stack logs stylishly in the opening

Empty fireplace with stacked logs

Get some rustic, cabin vibes going by stacking your fireplace with logs.  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Using an empty fireplace to artistically stack firewood is a really popular idea at present. Even if you will never have any need for the wood itself, there is something warming and welcoming about a stack of logs.

If you like the idea of creating a little cabin chic in your home, use clean cut logs and stack them to at least midway up the opening — filled to the brim has the most impact, although if you have decided to paint the inside of the opening in a shade that will complement the rest of your room scheme, as has been done here, then you may well like to leave a little exposed. 

FAQs

Can I fit a bioethanol fireplace myself?

It is very unlikely that you will need the help of a professional to install a bioethanol fireplace within an empty fireplace. Most freestanding bioethanol fireplaces come fully or partially assembled.

Do bear in mind the recommended safety distance around the fireplace (usually 5-10 cm from non-flammable materials on any closed sides and 1m from flammable materials on open sides.)

It is then simply a case of filling your bioethanol fireplace with bioethanol fuel.

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.