Fireplace Facts: Which Way Should Chairs Face and Other Dilemmas.

Nostalgic today, but essential for heating once upon a time.
I've just returned from a local tour of historic homes. I can't get enough of these places. It's like a high for me.

I would not want to own and maintain any of these 200- and 300-year old houses, but walk through them? I'm first in line! I never miss our annual Spring Tour of Historic Homes and Gardens.

Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to photograph the interiors. One year I took a sketchbook, and scribbled line drawings and notes, but people glared at me and wondered if I was up to no good, so I didn't do that again.

But, oh, how I wish I could have brought you all along with me today. I think you would have been swooning with me over the priceless antiques, the gorgeous colors, the exquisite craftsmanship, the variety of architectural styles, the art collections, the floral arrangements, and even the charm of the not-so-perfectly-restored homes.

Of course, most of these old residences have multiple fireplaces. It's common to see chairs flanking the fireplace. Sometimes these chairs face the fireplace, and sometimes they face out. Sometimes there's nothing at all near the fireplace, and sometimes all the furniture in the room is arranged in front of it.

None of the showplaces I walked through today were homes on the market, but my tour made me think about fireplaces. I decided to blog about how to stage a fireplace to accent this asset, whether it is a wood-burning one, gas logs, or even a non-functioning one.

If you have a fireplace to stage, the good news is there's no right or wrong way to feature it as long as you feature it. Don't hide it behind a mountain of books, a cluster of kids toys, a jumble of media boxes and cables, or heaven forbid, a big ole piece of furniture. Here are some pointers to guide you.
  • Anchor it. Make the fireplace the focal point of any staged room. People love fireplaces and they are a natural, architectural focal point. In a very large or multi-purpose room, a fireplace might be the secondary focal point, allowing house hunters the pleasure of discovering a bonus.
  • Add weight. Start by placing the largest piece of furniture in such a way that it emphasizes the fireplace, either visible immediately when someone enters the room, directly facing the fireplace, or even perpendicular to one end of the fireplace.
  • Experiment. Every room and every fireplace is unique. Fooling around with different pieces of furniture and different arrangements is a technique for finding the perfect grouping that even the experts use. Get your sliders out.
  • Refresh it. When it's spring and summer, it's time to exchange the logs and fireplace tools for a seasonal touch -- flowers, a plant, or a painting that says "fresh."
  • Break rules. If the fireplace is in the dining room or bedroom, there may not be room for the usual chairs flanking or facing the fireplace. In that case, stage the mantel to be the star of the room.
  • Be creative. A corner fireplace can be tricky to stage. Keep the furniture pieces small to solve any traffic flow problem.  Limit the number of pieces at the fireplace to avoid a lopsided look to the room.
  • Stage the mantel. The mantel is usually the icing on the cake. Choose accessories that emphasize the special features of your home -- contemporary prints if your home is newish or recently remodeled, charming antiques if your home is a cozy cottage, beachy items in you live near the coast, or period art work if your home is historic like the ones I got to peek into.   
    Don't be afraid to limit seating to one chair beside or even facing the fireplace. Keep it from looking lonely with a side table, bookcase or lamp. Photo: Mantels Direct.

    Just because chairs face away from the fireplace, does not mean they detract from its importance. These two generously-sized chairs frame the fireplace. Photo: Meredith Corp.
The most common approach to staging a fireplace is to group the conversation area directly in front of it. But this is not a hard and fast rule.Photo:Traditional Home.

When a fireplace is so massive it rules the room, furniture has to be spaced accordingly to bring balance to the room. Photo: House Beautiful.
This movable, mirrored screen actually conceals a television that sits in the nonworking fireplace of a bedroom featured on Apartment Therapy. Photo: The Lennoxx
One way to dress up an unused or off-season firebox is with a colorful screen like this, a standard screen, spray painted a fun color that ties the fireplace to the room. Photo: Apartment Therapy.

Two couches run perpendicular to this fireplace, as if to point to its location. Two stools near the hearth also draw attention to that end of the room. Photo: Coburn Architecture.

Springtime makeover: Hydrangeas are one foolproof choice. Allowed to dry, they will stay handsome all summer long, giving the black hole of a fireplace some life. Photo: Country Living.

A fireplace is such a selling point in a home for sale, that not staging it beautifully represents a missed opportunity. Is there a fireplace in your home for sale? Do you have it staged to sell? 

When you order my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, you'll receive chapter after chapter of helpful hints and DIY projects to let you stage your own home on a dime. You can download it now and begin immediately to see how many economical and quick projects there are that add value to your home on the market.

Top photo: House Beautiful.

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