I think this DIY idea could be best way to add festive cheer to a rental – without losing your security deposit

Faced with trying to introduce the Christmas spirit into a bland rental property, this trending idea could be the answer

A living room with a faux fireplace
(Image credit: Iwona)

If, like me, you live in a rental property, making the space feel like home at Christmas isn't too difficult. Mostly, festive decorations don't differ between rented and owned homes, but there's one thing my London apartment sadly lacks character-wise that would become the heart of my Christmas decor - a fireplace.

However, as it turns out, there are ways for renters to introduce this element into their homes. While scrolling through Instagram recently, I came across some wonderful ideas for faux fireplaces, that can make your living room seem charming and warm, and inject a festive spirit.

The idea of a DIY faux fireplace is interesting for so many reasons, least of all because it can really make a focal point for a living room, in particular. And there are all sorts of ways to make one. 

With this in mind, take a look at some of the ideas I came across, backed by expert suggestions as well, adding value to your Christmas decorating ideas as you go along.

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari
Aditi Sharma Maheshwari

Aditi is a homes writer and editor with several years of experience. Her articles, backed by expert insights, offer suggestions aimed at helping readers make the best home design choices. For this article, she suggests DIY ideas and tricks to create a faux fireplace in a rental. 

How can I create a faux fireplace?

'Of course, there is nothing that can replace the appeal of having a fireplace in your home,' says Reena Sotropa, principal designer at Reena Sotropa In House Design Group. 'While many would agree that the main benefit lies in the warmth and coziness a fireplace creates; designers appreciate the added architectural presence, and how a fireplace creates a natural focal point and grounds a furniture layout, especially in an open concept space.'

'If you are not lucky enough to have a  working fireplace in your home consider making your own,' says Reena. 'While the warmth is taken out of the equation in the literal sense, a faux fireplace can be just as charming and hardworking as its fuel-burning counterpart. Faux fireplaces can be created around any design aesthetic ranging from clean-lined and minimal to the most over-the-top reclaimed antique or reproduction pieces.'

'Fireplaces give a space a cozy feel and pending their style can bring a touch of tradition and warmth even if it’s not operating,' says interior designer Jennifer Morris, founder of JMorris Design. 'Faux mantles have a lot of history to provide an elevated look.  Finding the right wall is the most important consideration. Find a prominent space where your faux fireplace can be seen and enjoyed. I think having loose lounge chairs or a purposefully placed ottoman is good to group around a mantle. I also like to embed mantles around custom bookcases so that you are using the wall space to the right and left.'

If you don't have a mantel, find one in a thrift store, and restore it with some patience. This a fun activity that might take some time but trust me, is therapeutic. Sand it, paint it, and place it in the living room as a focal point.

What should I fill a faux fireplace with?

A living room with fake fireplace made with candles

(Image credit: Elleestpas Belle La Vie)

'The beauty of a faux fireplace is that you are not confined to non-combustible materials for construction or staging,' says Reena. 'There are many charming examples of faux or non-operational fireplaces filled with perfectly placed firewood or carefully curated antique books.'

Take a look at this space designed by Elleestpas Belle la vie, with neatly curated white candles and firewood placed inside open shelves, adding to the Christmas living room ideas. Layer the lighting scheme with lamps for a cozy and romantic room.

White battery-operated pillar candles, Amazon
Get the look

White battery-operated pillar candles, Amazon

These battery-operated candles have a realistic 3D wick that gives the feeling of a real candle burning and can go on for hours and even days. The perfect addition to a faux fireplace. 

A digital fireplace in the living room

(Image credit: Living with Lolo. Photo credit Life Created)

Not all fireplaces need to look the same. Oddly exhilarating, I am drawn to the idea of an electric fire as part of my Christmas fireplace decor as it is innovative and serves as a major interior design statement, created to dazzle and impress both homeowners and guests.

These nifty, high-tech contraptions can be purchased in the market, and all it takes is a nearby electrical outlet to add some tastefulness and toasty charm to the room. Eco-friendly, hassle-free, smoke-less yet cozy, this is a great option for those who want the visuals of a fire burning by the seating area, without the headache of a real one.

'A faux fireplace can be really transformative in a living space, and an electrical one is a great way to update an existing one if you don't have the budget to remove and replace it completely,' says Emma Deterding, founder of Kelling Designs. 'There is so much great design talent out there, and it's amazing what can be done by using materials and paint techniques in innovative ways.'

Speaking of faux fires, two other alternatives that are simpler in installation, lower in maintenance and ease of use are the ethanol and gel-fueled fireplaces. 'For those who simply cannot fathom going flameless, a faux or non-operational fireplace can be retrofitted with a DIY ethanol burner just as long as the surround is non-combustible,' adds Reena. The former is a stainless steel unit composed of a burner tray, a cover or cowling, and typically a protective screen. The combustion only produces heat, carbon dioxide and steam, and so the fire does not need to be vented to the outdoors.

The latter is either liquid bioethanol or gel alcohol, made by fermenting plant by-products like sugar cane and grain with yeast. This is an eco-friendly, carbon-neutral fuel.

Barton Electric Fireplace from Target
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Barton Electric Fireplace from Target

This electronic space heater is built with LED technology that emits the most authentic-looking flames that emulate real fire. It also has dimming options and is ideal to create a cozy living room.

Or other creative ideas

Candles and logs aside, another way to create the feeling of a mantle and fireplace is to add string lights, along with decoratives. Or, place a basket inside the fireplace and let the string lights cascade out of these, as a pretty visual. 

Add some Christmas crafts to the space with DIY wreaths, flora, baubles, and more. 

Also, consider placing a fire fender that is used for stacking logs. 'This is ideal from a practical perspective, but it also adds texture and dimension to the fireplace as it's always beautiful to see firewood stacked up,' says Emma. 'It also means you do not have to have a basket or box adjacent to the fireplace, taking up precious room. Choose a pretty, gold-brushed one to add that extra sparkle to the room.

Want to create a space that radiates warmth? How about placing a heater inside the mantle? There is just something about the heat that transforms the feeling of the space. 

What can I put in a faux fireplace?

Several things! Once you have a lovely faux fireplace, get creative and dress up the area like never before. I suggest you have a special Christmas checklist for your faux (but very real-looking!) fireplace. Create a nice, cozy seating area with accent chairs, ottomans and stools, as if you're seated by the fire. 

Stage the place with the best mantle decor ideas, with large vases, candelabras, greenery and more. Maybe create a nice floral arrangement – choose fresh flowers, add in pampas grass and have a nice, winter vignette.

Have shelves flanking either sides of the fireplace? Create an entertainment center with books, decoratives and family portraits. Place the Christmas tree next to the fireplace, to give this area prominence. 

A mirror placed inside this faux fireplace adds dimension and an unexpected flow of light in the room.

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.