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What to Do With a Non-Functional Fireplace

what to do with nonfunctional fireplace

Many people once used their fireplaces for cooking and heating over the winter. Today, many homeowners have electric heat and only use their fireplaces for decorative purposes. Not to mention your fireplace may not safely operate any more, or a previous owner closed it up. Still, a fireplace is a beautiful focal point and makes every room feel cozy — even without an actual fire.

There are so many fun ways to style a non-functional fireplace. With some creativity and a few simple supplies, you can design your fireplace to suit various styles and personal needs. Fireplace ideas range from functional lookalikes to creative storage solutions. Here are ten different things you can do with a non-functional fireplace.

1. Style With Candles

You can replicate the warm glow of firelight with strategically placed candles. If you are not comfortable with fire indoors, you could also fill your fireplace with electric candles. Some product options even have remote capabilities so you can quickly “light” your fireplace on a cozy evening.

Choose candles in the same color but have different shapes and sizes for variety. This is a great opportunity to look for vintage candle holders to keep up the classic look of your fireplace. You can set some of the candles in light-colored lanterns for a more relaxed look. 

Note that we don’t recommend keeping candles near fabrics or on the floor at all if you have pets or small children who could knock them over.

2. Stack Firewood

Looking to keep your non-functioning fireplace as close to its original purpose as possible? Another way to decorate your fireplace is with wood. You can stack birch logs inside it for an elegant look reminiscent of the fireplace’s original use. Set them on a metal grate or stack them so only the ends are visible. 

You probably don’t want to just grab firewood that’s been sitting outside for this purpose. Spiders, termites and other pests love to make their home in logs. If they’re small enough, you can consider slowly baking your logs at a low heat in your oven to kill pests. 

Don’t care about being rustic? You can also find decorative logs for sale in many marketplaces.

3. Fill With Plants

If you prefer nontraditional decor, try filling your hearth with live plants. A large fern can completely fill a small fireplace. Alternatively, you can mix and match a variety of plants to create a beautiful garden spilling out of your fireplace. 

Choose a variety of heights and textures for the best effect — dried plants and vases also look beautiful.

4. Upgrade Your Mantel

To make your fireplace more of a moment, consider changing up the mantel. You can replace the mantel or update the frame to elevate your hearth’s aesthetic. Customization can modernize a rustic fireplace or, conversely, restore the detail of original architectural details. If a complete redo is too much, painting or staining millwork can add contrast and refresh your design, too.

From here, your mantel can hold any number of decorations, from family photos to candlesticks to miniature statues. This move will make your fireplace the perfect focal point.

5. Turn it Into a Bookshelf

Another creative solution is to build a bookshelf in the empty space. You can either create a shelf that slides into the area or make it a permanent part of your home. Fill it with books, vases and other items you need to store. 

Arrange your favorite classic hardcovers or go hunting at sidewalk sales for beautiful books. For a neutral look, turn your books backward so the pages face outward. 

6. Go Coastal

If you live near the ocean or love going to the beach, consider decorating your hearth with an ocean theme. You can use driftwood, seashells and pottery to create a coastal look that reminds you of your favorite place. 

Some mantels have seashell motifs that tie into this theme perfectly. Coral, lanterns and bottles filled with sand are other great additions to this theme.

7. Install a Heater

Some manufacturers design electric heaters to look like tiny stoves or the interior of a wood-burning fireplace. If you want yours to look used without having to worry about chimney maintenance, consider installing an electric heater. You’ll be able to enjoy the warmth without the mess or potential fire hazard.

8. Make a Board

If you need to hide the inside of your non-functioning hearth, consider making a stylish cover. Measure the fireplace’s interior and cut a piece of wood to fit the opening. 

You can paint your cover with chalkboard paint or finish it with a sheet of wallpaper. Some homeowners glue wooden rounds to a board for a faux-fireplace look.

9. Display Art

An empty fireplace also makes an ideal shadowbox. Display your favorite piece of art inside for a minimalist feel or try layering different pieces of art to create more interest. Candles, sculptures and large prints work well together. You can also line the inside of your hearth with a fur rug or wallpaper for additional contrast.

10. Arrange Suitcases

Homeowners who love vintage items could consider stacking old suitcases inside non-functioning fireplaces. You can place three or four bags on top of each other or arrange them in a group. 

Leave these suitcases bare or style them with candles and flowers for a fuller look. This offers hidden storage as well as a style upgrade for your space.

Frame Your Decor With a Non-Functioning Fireplace

An empty hearth is a natural frame for items you love to display. If you love functioning fireplaces but yours just doesn’t work, try replicating the glow with logs, candles or an electric heater. You can cover old wood or unsightly paint with a pretty board or built-in shelf.

Your fireplace can house an indoor garden, highlight artwork or reveal your love of the ocean. Updated millwork can turn even a fake fireplace into a valuable part of your home. However you choose to style your fireplace, keep your overall decor in mind and try new ideas.

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