Is there anything cozier than curling up in front of a crackling fire, hot toddy in hand and the bitter chill safely at bay? We think not—though an especially gorgeous fireplace can only stoke all those snug-as-a-bug feels. After all, fireplaces—be they bold and contemporary or stately and traditional—are the focal point of many a living room, bedroom, and even an outdoor patio.
But what if yours lacks that special spark? Or what if you’re looking to design your dream mantelpiece from scratch but don’t know where to start? When designing a fireplace, “scale to me is the most important consideration,” says Toronto-based interior designer Colette van den Thillart. “I really like making a significant feature of a fireplace, be it gas, electric, or the real thing. It’s such a primal comfort—even an empty hearth stirs the soul.”
The designer seeks out full-height looks in lieu of sticking a mirror or artwork above the mantel—a look that’s “beautiful but predictable,” she tells us. “Plaster is my favorite medium, so naturally over the years I’ve done a number of plaster mantels and full-height mantel/trumeau installations. The result is somehow both dynamic and understated.” For a local client, for example, she created a sunburst-style surround that was inspired by one found in Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s studio.