A fireplace can be a charming bit of old-school design in your home, evoking cozy winter evenings and simpler times when we lacked things like central heating. It’s not uncommon for newer homes to have fireplaces incorporated into their common areas—often a decorative electric or gas-powered model that serves as much as a lighting feature as a heat source—and in older homes, a wood-burning fireplace is a pretty common find.
While these old fireplaces can be attractive, sometimes they’re problematic from a design and layout point of view. If you have a huge fireplace in your living room but your family typically focuses on the television, for example, or if your old fireplace is non-functioning and kind of ugly, you might find it a bit of an eyesore and an irritation as you try to devise a furniture plan that makes sense. Tearing out an old fireplace is a lot of trouble and expense, so you might choose to simply de-emphasize the fireplace, or hide it altogether. Here are your best options for pretending that fireplace was never there in the first place.
Closing it off
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If you’re going to permanently hide your fireplace behind something like a wall, you should close it off first. This means sealing up the chimney to prevent airflow (and keep critters out of your house), which can be accomplished in a variety of ways depending on whether you want to keep the option of opening it up again someday. If the ugly fireplace you’re hiding is a gas or electric insert, you should disconnect it from its fuel and power sources before covering it up—or remove the insert entirely.
Once that’s done, you can get to work making sure no one ever notices this enormous eyesore.
Wall it up
If your fireplace is really a problem, you can consider walling it up. You can frame a bump-out wall over your fireplace by first removing the mantel, if possible, and then attaching furring strips to the wall and remnants of the fireplace. If the fireplace is flush with the wall, you could simply glue drywall into place. Then tape and mud as you would any wall.
While that will certainly hide the fireplace, having an odd bump out in your living room might not be desirable, so you could go halfway and fill in the firebox. This will have the effect of transforming a useless fireplace into a wall feature. You can buy decorative inserts (or build your own), or brick up the firebox and paint to match the rest of the wall.
Fireplace screens exist mainly to keep sparks and embers from invading your home (or to keep pets and children out of the firebox), and many of them also serve as attractive ways of obscuring or at least beautifying a fireplace. But you can purchase many that will also serve to seal off the firebox and help to hide the fireplace itself.
One of the simplest ways to hide a fireplace? Arrange your furniture in front of it. A couch or sofa placed in front of a fireplace will certainly hide it, and there’s absolutely no rule that says you can’t do that if you have no interest in using that old fireplace. A tall freestanding shelving unit, sized to completely cover the fireplace, can also work gangbusters while providing you with extra storage. You could also consider building or purchasing a low storage unit and placing your television on top, which can completely obscure your fireplace and replace it as a focal point in the room.
A quick, cheap way of de-emphasizing a fireplace is to clean it thoroughly and then prime and paint it. Simply painting it to match the rest of the wall color will go a long way toward invisibility. Combined with the removal of the mantel, if possible, and a painted screen or insert, this project can almost completely erase an unsightly fireplace.
A closed-off, unused fireplace can also become a shelving unit for books or anything else. Shelf brackets can be installed in the firebox just like anywhere else, or you can build a custom insert. With a coat of paint or some tiling work, you can turn that fireplace into a built-in shelving unit that won’t look out of place in your room.
Flowerpots and art
If you don’t have the time or budget for a project, consider using it as a frame for some sculpture or a painting or photograph. A large-enough frame can cover the entire fireplace, or you could place large pieces in front of the fireplace with complementary pieces on the mantel to tie everything together into a cool art installation.
Similarly, large flowerpots with smaller plants on the mantel can be arranged to turn your fireplace into a beautiful indoor container garden. Neither of these approaches will completely hide your fireplace, of course, but they will definitely change the conversation from “wow your fireplace is hideous” to “wow I want to do that in my house now.”
If you’ve cleaned your fireplace thoroughly and simply want to give it a purpose in your room, install a pet bed in the firebox and on the floor in front of it and let your cat or dog camp out in there. Again, this won’t necessarily make your fireplace invisible, but it will make it a more seamless and organic part of your room’s flow if your puppy sets up in there every time you have guests.