Monday, May 24, 2010

Softly curved mantels

Last week, I posted on several fireplace mantels that were mentioned at a design meeting; one was the perfect scale (but not the right style), one was the perfect style (but too small for the room), and one was an antique (beautiful, but not the right style). The ideal situation would be to find a mantel that is all three: the perfect scale, the perfect style, and an antique.

Building and designing a house always seems to be a balancing act among time, money, and speed. If we had an unlimited budget and unlimited time, I am sure that the perfect mantel could be found. However, with groundbreaking imminent (hopefully), and a very defined budget, Suzanne (my designer) will hopefully find a fireplace that is the right scale and the right size and the right price – and available right now (or capable of being ordered).


My architect would like to select the fireplace sooner rather than later, as he likes for the opening to be scaled to the specific mantel – so the entire opening of the firebox is seen. I wasn’t sure what he meant until I saw this picture (above). Do you see how the opening of the firebox is the entire height and width of the mantel? This is one of my favorite fireplace pictures for a variety of reasons; I love the contrast of the ornate and traditional fireplace and decor with the bold and dramatic contemporary art hanging above the fireplace. I also love the soft curve of this style fireplace.


I also admire this mantel, with its gentle curves and less fussy design. This is an example of a firebox that is not sized to the mantel – which is not a bad thing, just not the look that we are going to do.


There is something about that curve in a Louis XV style mantel that really captures my heart. This mantel is much more ornate than what we are looking at, but the negative space in the firebox is so beautiful because of the curve, isn’t it? When the opening of the firebox is scaled to the mantel, the negative space of the mantle becomes just as important as the mantle itself. I can already sense a love for the fussy when it comes to mantles and chandeliers, so I am relying on Suzanne to select a mantel that is the perfect balance between classic and clean lined.


One of my all time favorite Veranda covers, featuring a beautiful mantel with an oval motif – a great way to have a bit of decoration without a lot of ornamentation. I can’t help but wish that the inside of the mantel wasn’t squared off like that, for full appreciation of the curves; of course, who is really noticing the mantel when there is a stunning Cy Twombly painting in the room?


Another one of my favorite Veranda features, a home designed by Betty Burgess, has a nice gentle curved limestone fireplace, but the lines are clean and avoid any kind of fussiness.


The living room in the same house indulges in a bit more of a fussy mantel, but I like the contrast of the clean lines in the room and the more ornate quality of the mantel and the French barometer. Suzanne says that we can go a bit more ornate in the living room given that the fireplace in the family room is going to be extremely simple; there isn’t even going to be a mantel to enable better placement of a TV.


I rarely save pictures for the fireplace, but this picture from an old real estate listing really struck me with its beautiful and softly curved limestone fireplace. It has the classic shape of a French mantel, without the overly decorated aspect sometimes seen in a French mantel.


This fireplace, although not as wide, has a similar look and feel; seen on our fireplace expedition last week. I really like this one, although it might be a bit on the small side.


This size is probably a bit bigger than what we are looking for, but I admire its wide dramatic opening. Image via Belgian Pearls.


The look of a classic curved fireplace in a simple and pared down room, with a touch of contemporary art, is a great mix. Image via Belgian Pearls.


I love this one – with a rosette instead of a shell. Shells seem to be quite common in this Louis XV style fireplaces, but I am not really a fan. Notice the beautiful pattern of the stone tiles inside the firebox – it’s a herringbone pattern done on the horizontal axis. Also note that the mantel is placed around the wall – this must be why most of the antiques I have seen have a big rectangular opening on top. Image via Cote de Texas.


This picture is so incredibly beautiful; it combines an unusually placed fireplace with those soft curves I like, a tall beautiful French door that allows the natural light to flow into the space, and one of my favorite colors, periwinkle blue. Notice how the colors of the curtains influence the color of the stone on the floor. Image via Trouvais, from La Vie en Rose by Suzanne Lowry.


I included this picture in my ‘virtual house’ because there are so many qualities about the room that I love; the tall window with light streaming in, the light palette of the room, and the soft curve of the mantel (with a mirror above, of course).


Another image from Trouvais (if you have never visited her blog, you are in for a treat – it is incredibly beautiful and one of the places I go first for visual inspiration). This is from a house in Belgium, and every room is incredibly beautiful. To see the post, click here. I love the floors and the mantel in this space – I image that this is the scale that my architect wants to find, with a wide opening.


This room was from the a Christmas showhouse a few years ago, with interiors by Suzanne Kasler. I am not sure whether the fireplace was already there, or whether Suzanne and her team selected it for the room (I suspect the former), but I loved it in the showhouse.


Here is a close up; I liked it so much that I included this image in my ‘Virtual Home 2010’. The mantel is by Francois & Company, and has the perfect combination of the curves and straight lines. Suzanne and I looked at this in the Francois showroom; if we were to go in this direction, we would order it without the ‘tabs’ in the sides, and we would make the base a bit more squared.


Last week, we went over to the design center to look at Dennis & Leen fireplaces. I love this one – this is the only picture I have seen of it in a magazine. Image via Veranda.


Here is a closer view of the mantel, although it is almost entirely obscured by the plant on the table. The tear sheet for this mantel is in my file at Suzanne’s office, but hopefully this picture conveys the feel of the piece; it is both curved and angular, both feminine and masculine. I think it is really beautiful, and is a great scale for the space. Image via Veranda.

Antique fireplaces are still in the running, but my budget is a bit more geared towards reproductions than antique mantels. However, the family room and outdoor fireplaces are going to be very, very simple, so we might be able to swing something. Suzanne and Stan would ideally like to see an antique mantel in the space, but we are going to keep on looking and see what we can turn up.

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  1. Oh all those mantels are so pretty - I just love the one you chose - its the perfect combination of softness and sophistication, with out being fussy!! Great choice!!

  2. Suzanne hasn't chosen one yet! We spent most of the time at the last meeting finalizing the kitchen, so did not leave much time for the mantel. But, we at least have some options.

  3. Oh, I just love fireplace mantels! The colors on the ones you picked have a warm feeling even though they are made of stone.

    If you are going to have a butler's pantry, I would love to see some inspirational pictures sometime.

  4. The curves and the texture of the mantels make them look soft to the touch, even they obviously aren't.

  5. lovely post!!!

    everyone please follow my blog!



  6. That is such a great point that you show about the inner fire box taking away from the inside curves of the mantel. Your inspirational photos are all wonderful and I'm anxious to see what Suzanne is able to find for you. Terri

  7. Great post. I really love your first choice.
    I also think that Dennis & Leen antique reproductions are among the best in the industry.Happy hunting!

  8. The "hunt" is certainly part of the fun in the design process! And, that cover of Veranda was always one of my favorites too. Can't wait to see the final outcome!

  9. Wow, every one of them would be stunning. What fabulous mantels. I'm sure you will find the perfect one. Hugs, Marty

  10. Definitely contact Mary Jeanne Kneen, Au Coin du Feu, for antique surrounds. Based out of Chicago, she is extremely reputable, and her antique fireplace surrounds are gorgeous (and, of course, ready to go). I know she ships around the world. Looks like you are on the right track - your images are beautiful! www.kneenandco.com

  11. Your mantel selection runneth over. Make sure it will look great with a Giant Robert Motherwell over it.

  12. dying...oh to be able to make such a decision. i envy you bigtime.
    can't wait for this to happen...

  13. I was just looking at mantles w/ a friend who is renovating a home and your inspiration pics are just what she's looking for! I'm a fan of the first one SK did for the Christmas show house. Such pretty lines.

  14. Love the curves on these! I think that was why I preferred #1 and #3 over #2 in your other post. The gentle curve at the top makes a tremendous difference. I can see so many similarities between your last example and #2, but I say go for the curve, particularly in a formal living room. Beautiful!

  15. Good luck finding the perfect mantle! It's like Goldilocks -- you have to find one that is just right (and that can be tough on limited time and budget). So many great inspiration pics here though...I'm going to have Louis XV fireplaces on the brain for the foreseeable future.

  16. You have great taste...can tell by your inspirational photos! Gorgeous! I love everything about a fireplace...the mantle, the screens, the fire, the times spent around the fire, the heat...oh, so nice to be working on this project!

  17. This is a wonderful post! You posted beautiful mantels!I am always attracted by beautiful mantel pieces!
    And thank you so much for mentionning me!!

  18. I was hoping to see some pretty vignettes on the mantle pieces, but almost all had a very simple clean look with a mirror or picture above the mantle.

    I liked the uniqueness of the vignette in the last 2 pictures of the Dennis & Leen mantle with the swan. I want to try similar bowls with flowering plants (these are more interesting than the usual planters). Of course, I will take any of the beautifully-framed mirrors.

    Can you do a series on what you like above the mantle (art, mirrors, vignettes, candles, architectural features) and in & around the fireplace (fire screen, candles, just logs to show off the brickwork)?

  19. Anon, quite a few people have emailed me privately asking for this same topic! It's a great idea.

    It's funny, I didn't even notice what was on the mantle as I was focusing so much on the mantle itself!

  20. This was absolutely lovely! I love dreaming about possibilities.
    We have a 1914 Craftsman. Our fireplace posed some challenges. When it came down to it - I applied a faux finish. I didn't want to change it's structure.
    I came by your way through A Southern Daydreamer. I am a fellow Georgian!

  21. Love this post. Very inspiring ... I don't have a mantle, we live in a 70s home, but it has great possibilities! Fun post!

  22. Those are so beautiful! Now I just need a fireplace, so I can have a mantle like that. :)

  23. Hi Holly. One of my biggest regrets is a gorgeous French cast stone mantle I bought at a sale in Napa...only to have my salesperson "overridden" by the manager inside that had just sold it to another client. It was $200...I was going to lean up against my stone wall in the backyard. At the time I was obsessed about outdoor fireplaces. C'est dommage! Trish

  24. Hi,

    I have a beautiful marble fireplace with deep, deep brick insert in my house in Belgium, similar to the one you show of Greets from Belgian Pearls, oh how I miss those winter evenings with a great log fire burning.

  25. How will you ever choose, these are all so gorgeous! I am really very partial to the chevron brick patterns inside the fireplace...which is what we have in our own living room. Good luck!

  26. Those are GORGEOUS! I love how sculptural but refined they are. Now that I'm not writing my blog I have the luxury of reading every word of your super prolific blog posts. Delightful!

  27. Check out the post on beadboardupcountry.blogspot.com from Saturday. I thought of you when I saw this. The way they handled the mirrored window above the sink was a unique idea. It’s been such fun being privy to your house building project. You have a dream team for sure!!

  28. Wow, these curved mantels are gorgeous. I want one.

  29. Holly,

    I can't wait to see your plans and house. It is going to be beautiful. I just know it. And, most importantly, it sounds like you have the right approach, a team of people all thinking about your house from different perspectives. It's the best way to go. So smart you are!

  30. Beautiful post! Can't wait to see what you end up selecting. Have fun with the process.


  31. What a wonderful post. I love that you walked us through your thinking and ADORE the pictures you chose to illustrate your point.
    I agree with you and your architect. The full width (and height) of the opening is important and can really give a room a 'lift'.

    I can't wait to see your 'after pictures'. I hope you will share.

    x Charlotta

  32. I learn something new from every post you write Holly. I've never ever thought about the siz of the space _inside_ a fireplace!

  33. the dining space is very classic!!

  34. You cannot go wrong with any of those - all gracious and fine. Love the slightly simpler styles also. What a fascinating process of house development you are documenting here....learning so much from you. xo Terri


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