There are no words for how much Mr Moregeous and I have enjoyed having our new wood burner glowing merrily away this December, our first Christmas for two years with actual heat on site. It’s been quite hard to drag ourselves away from the living room, even though the floor isn’t yet glued down and the sofa’s only the old and very mucky beige number (new one planned for 2017, now agonising over colours!!).
Thinking back over all my renovated properties, I’ve probably opened up at least one of the fireplaces in every single one. You might say it’s become a bit of a habit, but a good habit, as habits go. Fireplaces aren’t just for Christmas you know.
Those lucky homeowners whose hearths have retained their gorgeous Edwardian or Victorian tiles are good to go, but what happens when the tiles have long since been removed or damaged? When a real fire or log burner is involved, one of the most sensible choices for flooring are tiles: heat resistant, hard wearing and easily wiped clean of soot & grime. If you’re definitely not fitting a fire then there’s no reason not to go wild with materials, but that’s a whole other blog post.
So there’s the sensible side of things covered, now to move on to the fun stuff! Not only are tiles practical, but they’re also amazingly versatile, with literally thousands of styles available. Rather brilliant if you’re the decisive sort, but not so brilliant if you’re a design ditherer, which is why I’ve come up with this post to help steer you in the right direction when it comes to hearth tiling.
Most of you know that the things I’m whittering on about are usually the things I’m actually doing so it can’t come as any surprise that we’ve a couple of fireplaces here at Moregeous Mansions to finish. Video Bloke Matt & I had fun getting mucky making this video on this subject for Real Homes magazine….
When you think about it, the fireplace is often the focal point of a room and getting it right is super important as the area contributes so much to the overall design. That said, getting it right is also a highly personal and subjective thing and one person’s perfect is another’s one-to-avoid. The choice is ultimately yours, but here are a few pointers to help you along the way.
- PERIOD OR CLASSIC TILING
The Victorians took advantage of new innovations in ceramics to create beautiful tiling, often highly patterned. Once these decorative tiles had been used in high profile and influential buildings, their popularity spread from palaces down to more affordable terraced homes.
If you have a listed building or want to stay true to the period, your only real choice is to pick classic Victorian or Edwardian tiles like the ones above I saw online. These can be picked up on antique or restoration sites, or you could decide to buy good reproduction tiles which are copies of originals. Like these here. There’s generally only about 1-2msq of tiles required for a fireplace hearth so even the most costly ones shouldn’t break the renovation bank.
If you’re really lucky, you might unearth some original tiles under the carpet or layer of paint as I did in our house below, needing only need a few new edging tiles to replace the ropey red painted 1960 additions.
- ECLECTIC VINTAGE STYLE
A modern day twist on a heritage look is to mix up vintage tiles of differing designs and even eras. I installed the look below for a client who’d invested her valuable time collecting enough individual tiles for a living room hearth and it looked fantastic. You can personalise the choices to suit your interior scheme in different ways. Choose a multitude of different colours or find a theme like floral, monochrome or single colour, there’s no end to the variations. One great tip is to lay them out first to get the perfect pattern, as we did in the image below.
This look is similar to the mixed pattern encaustic tiled effect, but with more fireplace authenticity.
- BRICK IT UP
Tiling with a brick bond effect is hugely popular at the moment but is also a classic style (think Tube station design). To remain ‘authentic’ in the fireplace, you could use unpatterned square or rectangular original tiles. Both standard sized metros and mosaics work as brilliantly on hearths as they do in bathrooms and kitchens.
The Victorians created many single colour glazed beauties, traditionally in red and green, but you certainly don’t need to be shackled to a period colour. Pattern is not obligatory in fireplaces and if pattern’s not your thing, worry not. Sticking to a single colour can be stylish and effective as these fireplaces show. Choosing a bold, less traditional colour ensures a more contemporary feel, like the yellow below.
The Victorians adored encaustic tiles and the look is definitely having a bit of a design revival. Both the original Moroccan / Spanish styles where the tiles are traditionally made with the pattern running the full depth of the clay or contemporary versions in cement with overlaid pattern give a fantastically strong look in fireplaces, adding panache and personality. Whether muted, monochrome or vivid in colour, these tiles make a fab statement and can now incorporate an on-trend retro or graphic vibe too.
British period styling tended to put encaustics in hallways and glazed ceramics on hearths but hey, the rule book got ripped up years ago right? Amazing effects can be achieved by tiling part of the external face of the chimney breast rather than just the floor area. If doing this, make sure you have new plaster or board for the tiles to stick firmly to, as the weight of the tiles might bring old crumbly plaster off the brick.
- HERRINGBONE STYLE
Setting out metro tiles into a herringbone style is happening on floors all over the InstaGlobe and they look just as delicious in fireplaces, whether in neutrals, jet blacks or rich colours. This pattern of tiling take skill and time to get spot on and equidistant, so if you aren’t DIY savvy then get a professional to assist.
They look superb on hearths, set within the vertical surrounds or even on a full chimney breast. I’ll be DIYing and posting my bathroom chimney breast soon… guess what’s going on it?
I have absolutely no clue why I can’t find more images of hexagon tiles set in fireplaces as they are simply made for these mini-spaces. Way more versatile than straight-edged tiles, hexes have the potential to provide both pattern and individuality and a fireplace area is after all almost like mini room. It’d be rather marvellous to start seeing some colour and vibrancy on sexy hearths, wouldn’t it? Who’s going to be first?!
Cast iron fireplaces look super dramatic when paired with simple black and white decor and nothing whispers elegant simplicity more than monochrome. The Scandi look is very much of the moment and nails this look perfectly. If you have a huge amount going on in your room decoratively speaking, it might be good to keep the fireplace simple, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve tiled my living room hearth in classic black marble. Natural timber looks just gorgeous with monochrome, with splashes of greenery thrown in.
- ‘MAZING MARBLE
I know there’s no *actual* woodburner in this stunning Ann Sacks image but this has got to be one of the most stunning fireplaces I’ve ever seen. Hugely inspiring as I tackle all our fireplaces here at Moregeous Mansions.
So what’s your style? The secret is to take your time, think about the style and age of your home, consider the vibe of how you want your life to look and gets lots of tile samples to test out the various choices. I can’t wait to share my choices with you, so keep popping back to have a nosey!
Happy fireplace planning! x