By Hebe Hatton
Tiled fireplaces are a growing trend right now, while we still appreciate the beauty of a marble surround and the detail in an ornate wooden mantle, tiles are fast becoming the go-to material for updating a tired-looking fireplace. And they aren't just being used within in the interior of the fireplace but coming out onto the surround, the hearth, and chimney breasts.
It's a style that can suit all, from rustic encaustic tiles that are perfect for modern country homes, to sleek and simple large-scale designs for a more minimalist aesthetic. 'Who says gorgeous tiles are just for bathrooms, think outside of the box when it comes to tiling your fire surround it’s the easiest way to give it a facelift.' says designer Abigail Ahern. 'From pearlescent tiles to gorgeous herringbone patterns, from porcelain tiles emulating wood to a beautiful selection of glazed tiles. Tiles literally transform any fireplaces into the most fabulous architectural feature.'
Agreed. So we've pulled together all our favorite tiled looks and fireplace ideas to inspire you to add some instant color, pattern, and texture to your space.
1. Give a traditional fireplace a modern update
If you have inherited an old fireplace that's not quite to your taste or is in need of an update, tiles can quickly transform a hearth with color and pattern. Consider creating a subtle clash of styles by tiling the firebox and hearth of an original fireplace with more a more contemporary tile.
See how in this living room, that's actually quite contemporary in style despite being in a period home, the original features have been given a modern twist – the woodwork with a coat of steely grey and the fireplace with the blue tone geometric tiles.
2. Tile the chimney breast
Tiled chimney breasts seem to be everywhere right now. A much more interesting way to do a feature wall than with paint or wallpaper, tiles add that 3D texture that works so well in softer rooms like living rooms or bedrooms. They are also a nice way to cover up the most traditional, rustic brick chimney breast for a more minimalist design.
'Think about tiling the chimney breast as well as the fireplace surround to really make the fireplace a focal point of the room.' says Fired Earth’s Creative Director, Colin Roby-Welford. 'Chevron or herringbone layouts are perfect for contemporary chimney breasts and fireplaces since they have a crisp, architectural finish and they’re ideal for introducing subtle pattern and a sense of texture to a scheme. For a more decorative look, Mexican or Moorish-inspired designs offer an alternative to the classic Delft designs that have graced fireplaces for centuries.'
3. Give original tiles a chance
It's not always a case of ripping out what was once there, sometimes you need to give original fireplace tiles a chance. See if you can clean them up and work them into your room's style. In this boho-style living room, you'd never think the original bland, beige metro tiles that lined the fireplace would work, and yet they do, adding warmth to the crisp whites of this neutral living room.
4. Add texture with zellige tiles
Zellige tiles are having a bit of a design moment right now and their imperfect nature and varying colors and glazes are a lovely way to add texture to any room. They are really hard-wearing, hence why they are so popular in kitchens and bathrooms, and they are heat resistant too so work well in fireplace surrounds. Consider using them to add depth to a modern living room and take them floor to ceiling on a chimney breast, or even just as a surround they would add plenty of soft, natural texture.
5. Embrace the trend for square tiles
Fireplaces aren't just for living rooms, they are such a cozy addition to a bedroom too, and in period properties you'll often find they are already an original feature. The simple design and square teal green tiles of the fireplace in this bedroom designed by Lisa Stanton, feels quite contemporary, despite being original to the house. The simple wooden surround was updated with white paint, and the tiles were cleaned up to become a real focal point of the room.
'The fireplace is original to the house, as is the embroidered wallpaper.' says Lisa. 'To juxtapose the more layered details of the old house we chose furnishings that were open airy and casual and then placed modern artwork above the mantle.'
6. Tile up a unused fireplace
If you have an unused fireplace, rather than staring into a dusty abyss, tile the space to make it more of a feature. Tiles make disused fireplaces so much more functional too – they are easier to keep clean and you can add in decor like logs, plants, flowers, and vases to add extra interest to the empty space.
The black matte zig-zag tiles, with the matching black grout, used here add some interesting texture but doesn't overwhelm the already bold and busy space.
7. Add a pop of color with a fireplace surround
With old Victorian and Edwardian fireplace designs, you'll often only have a small space to tile running down either side of the fire. So with such small surfaces, why not go bold with the color? See how the green metro tiles in this cool grey living room both stand out, adding a much-needed pop of bright color and yet blend into this space, adding a hint of color where it's needed but not taking up all the attention.
'Fireplace tiles are a great place to add impact in your room and introduce color and pattern on a small scale.' says James Arkoulis, Creative Director of Howark Design. 'As a focal point it's an ideal place to make a statement. We would suggest being bold and choosing something that you will enjoy looking at all through the year. We love Balineum for their amazing range of handmade tiles!'
8. Pick contrasting tiles for the hearth and surround
The tiles you use for the surround needn't always match the hearth tiles, bring in more pattern and texture by choosing different styles with a similar color palette. Picking something more statement for the hearth means you can go bold at ground level without the pattern overpowering a room.
Take inspiration from this fireplace tile idea and go for a monochrome scheme for the wall-behind the a wood burner (or for the surround if you have a fireplace) and pick up that same color but in a pattern for the hearth.
9. Give old tiles an update with paint
Not too long ago we would never have advised painting tiles, but now with new innovative paint formulations designed to stick to these glossy surfaces and last, it can be a quick and easy way to update a fireplace. It's a weekend project that even a DIY novice can do, just be sure to clean your fireplace tiles first and always read the instructions on your paint tin – lots of brands offer tile specific paint that doesn't require priming or sealing but always best to check the steps they recommend.
The tiles in this fabulous pink bedroom were painted the same shade as the surround and a very close match to the walls to create an eclectic, monochrome space.
10. Switch wall tiles for floor tiles
Switch traditional ceramic tiles for floor tiles and recreate this fabulous herringbone fireplace surround. It's quirky and unexpected but doesn't feel out of place and adds so much texture and coziness to the space with all the different wood tones. The pop of neon makes it less rustic and more contemporary but this is a look that could work with so many styles, so simple really and yet so effective.
How do you choose the best tiles for a fireplace?
'The starting point with choosing tiles for a fireplace is always to make sure that the tiles you have in mind are suitable for fireplaces and hearths since heat can cause cracks, melt adhesives and damage glazes, while smoke can discolor tiles. Even suitable tiles should be kept a minimum of 30cm away from direct contact with flames or the main heat source.' explains Fired Earth’s Creative Director, Colin Roby-Welford.
'Look for tiles that enhance the welcoming sense of warmth created by a blazing fire on a chilly day. For example, iridescent glass mosaics or copper-colored tiles will look particularly mesmerizing when they’re shimmering in the golden glow of a crackling fire. There’s also something pleasingly ‘elemental’ and natural about seeing flames surrounded by richly colored metallics, wood-effect planks, or timeless stone.'
Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
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