Get cosy with these open fireplace ideas this winter

cosy living room with open fireplace
(Image credit: ILIV)

With the right open fireplace ideas you can create a stunning focal point that instantly adds character to any area of the home, whether you are living in a period property or a brand new modern house. 

We've been busy tracking down beautiful fireplace ideas to provide you with plenty of inspiration, whether you have discovered a disused fireplace opening that has been boarded up while renovating, or are building from scratch and want to ensure your new home feels warm and welcoming. 

We also have lots of ideas for homeowners who prefer the idea of using their open fireplace to house a stove of some type, which can seem like a more energy efficient way of introducing a secondary heat source into a room. 

Are open fireplace ideas right for you?

While the sight of a roaring open fire is hard to beat in terms of the charm and warmth it brings to a room, open fires are not for everyone. In fact, for many people, the choice tends to come down to open fire vs log burner, or even an alternative such as gas fire, electric or bioethanol. 

"In terms of energy efficiency, a wood burning stove is likely to be better than 65% efficient, while an open fire is 30% efficient at best," explains expert in sustainable building methods and energy efficiency Tim Pullen. "The efficiency of an open fire also needs to factor in its effect on the airtightness of a home.  In a room 5m x 5m x 2.4m, insulated to Building Regulations' standard, including airtightness, the peak heat demand for that room will be a little over 1.2kW. Add an open fireplace and the airtightness in that room plummets and the peak heat demand rises to 2.9kW."

You do need to take this into account when deciding what kind of open fireplace ideas will suit you.

1. Restore what you have

living room in renovation with open fireplace

Restoring an original fireplace is a very worthwhile job — if the original is missing, reclamation yards usually stock many period fireplaces.  (Image credit: Richard Kiely)

If you are lucky enough to find an original fireplace when renovating a house then you should do all you can to restore it. Restoring a fireplace is usually much cheaper than buying an entirely new one but, more importantly, it is a fantastic way of adding a sense of authenticity and history to your home — a nod to its past.

In this beautiful house, a renovated period farmhouse that once served as an isolation hospital, where original feature were missing or beyond repair, the owners spent a lot of time scouring salvage yards for suitable replacements. 

2. Take a modern approach to the arch

modern living room with arched fireplace

Curved fireplace designs can work just as well in modern interior design schemes as they can in classic.  (Image credit: Caffe Latte)

Although arched fireplaces are often seen in traditional designs, they can also make fantastic modern fireplace ideas — in fact, with their gentle curves they can provide a nice contrast to very sleek, minimalist spaces, softening the whole look beautifully. 

This fresh, all-white living room manages to feel welcoming and snug thanks to the fact that there are plenty of rounded features, including the alcoves, furniture and, of course, the fireplace design. 

3. Go grand with chunky stone

stone fireplace

This beautiful stone fireplace is the ideal choice for the peaceful, cosy room scheme.  (Image credit: Garden Trading)

Stone fireplace ideas suit all kinds of houses, from very traditional and grand properties to those aiming for a ski lodge feel. That said, there is no reason why they can't fit in with contemporary schemes too with the right approach.  

In this room, however, the gorgeous chunky creamy-coloured stone fireplace, with matching hearth, exudes charm, warmth and period character and is perfectly matched to the column radiators and elegant sash windows that also grace the space. 

4. Use stone in a modern way

modern wood burning stove in fireplace with lighting

Stone tiles or slips are a brilliant way to finish off a fireplace opening.  (Image credit: Direct Stoves)

Sticking with the stone fireplace theme, there are some brilliant ways to use stone in a way that looks fresh and modern — and a million miles apart from those intricately-carved designs that are often seen gracing period properties. 

Stick to clean lines and keep things fuss free for a fresh, pared-back look. Here, the simple near-white stone surround and hearth have been paired with split face stone tiles used to line the fire opening ensuring the final look is one that manages to feel full of texture and interest without being overly fussy. The hidden lighting adds even more depth.

5. Keep brick exposed for a rustic look

brick fireplace with wood burning stove

Exposed brick finishes are the ideal way to introduce a country look.  (Image credit: Renaissance At Home)

The warmth and texture of brick fireplace ideas can really add so much to a room, injecting it with a slightly rustic, country cosy feel. 

There are actually many different ways to create a brick fireplace. In some cases you may just be able to strip away the plasterwork of your existing chimney breast and clean up the bricks beneath. Brick slips are an easy way to make-over a chimney breast or surround or you might like to start from scratch. 

In this example, the entire fireplace has been constructed from rich brown bricks, while a reassuringly solid oak mantle tops the whole thing off. 

6. Create a warm feeling in the bathroom

traditional bathroom with restored fireplace

Retaining the fireplace in this former bedroom gives the new bathroom a lovely, warm feel.  (Image credit: Rachel Smith)

Fireplaces in bathrooms instantly add a sense of warmth — even when they are not lit. In many renovations of period properties, it is common to find fireplaces in bathrooms. Original fireplaces in bathrooms also crop up where a bedroom has been converted into a bathroom — often the case where there is no first floor bathroom, making it necessary to sacrifice a bedroom to make way for one. 

The first floor of this Edwardian house was reorganised as part of its renovation to create a new family bathroom — the rolltop bath and black brassware sit really well with the original old fireplace.  

7. Fill an empty fireplace with an electric stove

small electric stove in open fireplace with oak mantle

Electric stoves are a fuss-free way to fill a fireplace opening.  (Image credit: VonHaus)

If the thought of clearing out ash, cleaning the glass of stove doors or having to buy logs or fuel for a real fire don't appeal, you might like to consider filling an open fireplace with an electric stove instead. 

Here, the large fireplace opening has been painted an inky shade of blue all over while a small 1500W electric stove from VonHaus provides a low maintenance, portable heat source. 

8. Incorporate some log storage into your design

hole-in-the-wall fireplace with log storage beneath

Building in somewhere to keep your firewood as part of your design is a great idea.  (Image credit: Garden Trading)

Log store ideas don't have to be reserved for outside. Keep firewood close to hand and stacked in a neat and tidy way as well as turning it into a bit of a feature by including somewhere to store it within your open fireplace design. 

Here, the hole-in-the-wall fireplace sits above a useful nook that makes the perfect place to keep logs or kindling warm, dry and ready for use. Note too how the alcoves to either side of the chimney breast have been used to place handy shelves. 

9. Cut down on maintenance with a smart fire

modern electric fire in stone surround

An electric fire is a clean and easy-to-install alternative to a real fire.  (Image credit: Charlton & Jenrick Ltd)

Those keen to avoid the maintenance of a real fire can still enjoy flickering flames and a good heat output in their fireplace — as well as easy control over the whole set up. 

This smart fire might not be fuelled by logs but it still a great focal point. With a heat output of up to 1.5kW, the Opulus 16" from Charlton & Jenrick Ltd features realistic flames along with a whole host of other extras. Shown here with the Beckford Limestone Surround, the woodland log set, with pulsating log lights, creates an eye catching feature. In fact there are 16 different colour options each available in five mood settings — all of which can be controlled using an app, which also allows you to turn on a crackle sound effect. 

10. Pair a traditional surround with a modern stove

original stone fireplace with log burning stove

Combining a classic-style surround with a modern stove creates lots of visual interest.  (Image credit: Rachel Smith)

Sometimes a complete contrast in styles can work really well — highlighting each feature due to the juxtaposition. This is particularly true when it comes to fire surrounds and the fire that sits within them. 

Here, an original Edwardian fireplace has been restored and fitted with a modern log burning stove. The result is that the details of the decorative surround remain the stars of the show, while the pared-back and refined design of the stove sit in crisp contrast.

11. Match a cast iron all-in-one design with a simple surround

cast iron all-in-one fireplace in bedroom

Combination fireplaces were popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  (Image credit: Lime Lace)

Antique cast iron combination fireplaces are complete fireplaces, all-in-one. While no separate surround is always required, it can be if you wish. Some come complete with tiled cheeks and a mantle, while others, such as this one can sit happily behind a surround and can incorporate your own mantlepiece ideas

While it is a real treat to find an original one ready to be enjoyed in an old house, it is also possible to find many restored antiques and replicas if your's is missing. 

12. Line your opening with stone tiles

woodburning stove in fireplace with hidden lighting

Split face stone tiles look great combined with hidden LED lighting.  (Image credit: Direct Stoves)

The materials that you choose to create your fireplace back panel ideas, or to line your opening with, will have a huge effect on the final appearance of the whole feature. 

Split face stone tiles are a brilliant option, adding plenty of texture and really drawing the eye towards your fireplace. Split face tiles come in all kinds of colours and finishes, from those with a little sparkle to slate versions that add a good dramatic finish. 

Here, the Portway Arundel Deluxe Wood Burning Multifuel Ecodesign Stove from Direct Stoves is shown in an opening that has been lined with creamy-coloured stone.  

13. Inject contemporary style by going full width

contemporary open fireplace

Taking your fire opening the full width of your chimney breast makes a real statement.  (Image credit: Charlton & Jenrick Ltd)

An open fire that spans the entire width of the chimney breast will really pack a visual punch and is perfect for those after contemporary chimney breast ideas with a difference. 

In this living room, the Luminosa 150 from Charlton & Jenrick Ltd has been installed. This is an electric fire that it is possible to install in three aspects, making it ideal for a media wall, feature wall or dividing wall.

14. Use a dainty all-in-one design as a focal point

small cast iron all-in-one fireplace in bathroom

Smaller fireplaces were common features in bedrooms of period houses. (Image credit: Richard Kiely)

Cast iron combination fireplaces were common during the Edwardian era. Larger, more elaborate designs tended to be reserved for ground floor, more 'public' rooms, such as the living or dining rooms, while bedrooms were often fitted with smaller models. 

In this Edwardian renovation project, the original fireplaces have been restored wherever possible — and this dainty little design makes the perfect addition to the new bathroom.  

15. Use an empty fireplace as a decorative feature

empty fireplace with painted stripes

Use an empty fireplace as a focal point or as storage.  (Image credit: Richard Kiely)

After some alternatives to fireplaces? There is no reason why a fireplace has to be fitted with a fire at all. In fact, homeowners are getting more and more adventurous with how they use empty fireplaces, turning these unused spaces into eye-catching features.

Here, the elegant arched former fireplace has been painted in diagonal candy stripes and is now used to house a chunky wooden storage chest. 

16. Strip back a stone fireplace to its former glory

original stone fireplace

This stone fireplace was once covered up by plasterwork and wallpaper.  (Image credit: Marptree and Stuart Cox)

Stone fireplaces provide an instant hit of grandeur and importance to a room and if you are lucky enough to have one already in place in your renovation project, or happen to find one lurking beneath old plaster or paintwork, then bringing it back to its former glory will be well worth it. 

In the living room of this old cottage, the original Bath stone fire surround was covered up. The owners carefully stripped it back and it now forms the focal point of the room. A slate hearth and chunky wood burning stove complete the look. 

Is it safe to open up a fireplace?

Opening up a fireplace is one of the most popular jobs undertaken by renovators. 

"Before you take a sledgehammer to what you believe to be a blocked up chimney or fire opening you should first ensure you familiarise yourself with the associated Building Regs, costs and how to do it safely to make sure you don’t end up with a whole lot of mess," says chartered surveyor Ian Rock.

"A bolster and club hammer are the best tools for localised demolition where old fireplaces have been bricked up," continues Ian. "Having exposed the original ‘builder’s opening’, large deposits of accumulated soot and rubble will likely need to be removed before the chimney can be swept and the flue lined.

"In most properties built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the opening will be spanned by a load-bearing brick arch supported on a curved steel former. Exposed brickwork can look very appealing, but if the size of the opening needs to be altered, a concrete lintel can be inserted and the masonry plastered over."

Can I replace a gas fire with an open fire?

While gas fire removal is certainly possible, this is not a job to be undertaken on a DIY basis. 

"When it comes to safely removing a gas fire, it is crucial to entrust the job to professionals who are qualified and certified in their respective fields," says Calvin May, head of technical services at HETAS. "Gas work, including the disconnection of gas pipes, should always be carried out by a Gas Safe engineer."

Many people choose to replace a gas fire with a log burning stove, but it is also possible to use an existing opening for an open fire, providing you have a working chimney. Be sure to get a professional (such as a HETAS engineer) to check the state of your chimney first. 

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.