As with any beautifully designed hearth, a modern farmhouse fireplace will instantly bring a room together. A place to gather on chilly nights, either in the city or the country, a roaring fire has the power to transform even the plainest of spaces into a charming and characterful room. Whether sleek and minimalist or set in rugged floor-to-ceiling stone, farmhouse-style fireplaces come in many guises, and can really set the tone of an interior.
Interior designer Leanne Ford installed a retro-futuristic Malm gas fire in her rustic, whitewashed LA bolthole. She felt it was the perfect mid-century piece to complement a series of 1970s references dotted throughout the house, which she affectionately refers to as her ‘space cabin’.
On the opposite coast, in Maine, architects Maria Berman and Brad Horn, of Berman Horn studio, designed an industrial-style chimney out of concrete blocks, which contributes a utilitarian edge to their contemporary, cedar-clad island bolthole. ‘Our goal was to create a home that feels timeless, that captures the spirit of Maine's historic structures, but is unbound by staunch tradition,’ Maria explains.
If you’re updating your fireplace on a budget, then a simple timber beam is an ideal solution for a pared-back mantelpiece in a modern farmhouse style. Consider sourcing reclaimed wood to give your mantel extra patina. When tackling a brick fireplace, a coat of paint is another highly effective and affordable option if you don’t like the color or style of the brickwork. Just be sure to use an appropriate heat-resistant paint: latex is normally recommended, and only for the external surround, not inside the fireplace itself.
10 MODERN FARMHOUSE FIREPLACE IDEAS
1. REFERENCE RURAL ARCHITECTURE WITH TRADITIONAL MATERIALS
Located in Amagansett, Long Island, this contemporary farmhouse sits on what was once grazing pasture established by early settlers. ‘The goal of the project was to reference the agrarian history of the site,’ say Bates Masi + Architects, who looked to vernacular barns for the building’s design.
‘In the same way that traditional forms are adapted, so too are historic materials transformed,’ explain the home's designers, referencing the traditional thatch that’s been used both indoors and out, and the clay tiles that cover the large central fireplace in this modern farmhouse living room. ‘Natural materials reinforce a connection to the landscape and a mood of warmth and comfort in the home, while oversized fireplaces celebrate the family gathering together.’
2. CREATE TIMELESS TEXTURE WITH VENETIAN PLASTER
Villa Mara is an intimate Californian getaway in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Designer Lisa Koch is behind the interiors, which take inspiration from estates in the Hamptons as well as European boutique hotels. This is a prime example of modern farmhouse wall decor - pared back, simply curated, and characterful.
‘We designed the living room area to build community; the fireplace is a focal point and really brings people together,’ says owner Dev Patel, who wanted the color palette to reflect the surroundings and seascape.
White Venetian plaster covers the walls and ceilings, adding warmth to this serene and inviting space, while a simple timber mantelpiece completes the fireplace hearth. ‘The mantle is made from a fallen native cypress tree. We decided to keep it raw and look forward to seeing it patinate over time,' adds Dev.
3. HARNESS MID-CENTURY STYLE WITH A MODERNIST FIRE
‘This 1906 hunting cabin was on a large piece of land in L.A.'s Echo Park and being sold as a tear down. Being emotionally involved in all things old I couldn’t let that happen,’ says interior designer Leanne Ford, who spent the next year and a half fixing the structure up.
‘My favorite feature is this stone fireplace,’ she says of the rustic hearth, which has been carefully restored to its former glory. ‘We found all the old stone out in the yard and put it back up on the wall, then installed a beautiful mid-century gas fire by Malm,’ she continues. ‘There’s a few 70s touches in here - I call it my space cabin.’
4. UPDATE A BRICK SURROUND WITH A COAT OF PAINT
When Ali Davin of Jute Home embarked on a complete renovation of this waterside home in Lake Tahoe, the aim was to capitalize on the incredible views while creating enough space for a large extended family.
‘The small living room fireplace was an original feature of the house and could not be moved,’ explains Ali, who wanted to create a light and cozy lakeside retreat. ‘To help it tie into the redesigned space, we stained the brick a warm off-black and sourced a reclaimed douglas fir beam for the mantel from a local wood yard.’
5. USE CONCRETE BLOCKS FOR A UTILITARIAN FEEL
‘We think of Little Peek as a bridge between the traditional forms of architecture in Maine and the more contemporary spaces and shapes we are drawn to as designers,’ says Maria Berman of Berman Horn studio, who designed this contemporary cedar-clad farmhouse on Vinalhaven island.
The fireplace in the open-plan living room area was built using simple concrete masonry blocks. ‘We considered painting them, or cladding them in tiles, but when we saw the texture and scale of the fireplace we decided to leave them as they were,’ says Maria. ‘We love their modesty and how they bring a touch of industrial interior design to an otherwise spare interior.’
6. ANCHOR THE ROOM WITH AN OVERSIZED HEARTH
The designers of INNESS – a contemporary country hotel in Upstate New York – wanted to create a warm and welcoming space that felt like a home away from home. The work of Post Company and Taavo Somer, this beautifully designed destination features 28 cabins and a central 12-room farmhouse that overlooks mountains, rolling fields and the surrounding organic farm.
In the convivial lounge area, a monolithic hearth extends up into the textural timber-clad roof. ‘Design elements like vintage living room rugs, exposed beams and a roaring fire add a sense of familiarity to this welcoming space,’ say its designers.
7. MIX LUSTROUS BRASS WITH PAINTED PANELING
Untouched since the 1950s, this three-bedroom apartment in Crans Montana was given a new lease of life by London-based design firm Turner Pocock.
‘We combined complementary textures with sleek lines and metallic details, including the modern fireplace,’ say designers and studio founders Bunny and Emma, who integrated a brushed-brass surround into inky blue wall panelling, which also features built-in log storage.
‘The finished project is now a contemporary and refined escape in which to relax and appreciate the meticulous attention to detail and the truly spectacular views.’
8. USE ART TO ELEVATE A SIMPLE FIREPLACE
Carefully positioned sculptures turn an understated fireplace into a focal feature in this white living room in the Hamptons, which was designed by James Huniford.
‘I liked the idea of a minimalistic fireplace,’ says the New York-based interior designer, who made the geometric artwork using resin boxes and metallic car paint.
‘I brought together ideas of function and form in the room to enhance the double height-ceiling—making the fireplace an element to incorporate both furniture and furnishings,’ he adds. Large alcoves flank the fire, providing ample space for both a log store and an oversized antique chest that serves as a sideboard.
9. TRY A STATEMENT WOODBURNER WITH AN INDUSTRIAL EDGE
On a quiet, tree-lined street in Toronto, sits a former bungalow, which has been transformed by Ancerl Studio into a two-storey family home. 'Inspired by farmhouse living, we took a contemporary approach but utilized a traditional layout, while playing with varying heights and volumes of space,’ says practice founder Nicholas Ancerl.
‘In the living room, expansive wall-to-wall windows and a statement fireplace provide a backdrop to the layered and collected soft furnishings that bring the space to life.’ A low window seat, which runs the length of the Crittall-style windows, complements the graphic back fireplace and flue pipe.
10. DIVIDE AN OPEN-PLAN SPACE WITH A DOUBLE-SIDED FIRE
When the interior architect behind Domstay&live, Marta Nowicka, redesigned this former St. John’s Ambulance station in Rye, East Sussex, she removed a dividing wall to create an open-plan living space with a modern farmhouse kitchen on the ground floor.
‘A double-sided Ekol wood burner sits on a large concrete plinth in the middle of the space, which is a nod to the medieval hall houses that can be found in this area,’ explains Marta, who was able to use this zoning to create a modern farmhouse dining room area. ‘In these traditional buildings, the hearth was positioned at the center of the home, dividing the space into zones for cooking, eating and living.’
How do you decorate a farmhouse style fireplace?
Modern farmhouse fireplaces are not set in stone - or at least, not always. They can either be stone, or wood, or even a more industrial material. But what puts them into the farmhouse decor world is their lack of bold, bright color.
'The best way to decorate a farmhouse style fireplace is to leave it as plain as possible,' says Livingetc's editor, Pip Rich. 'Rustic finishes like untreated stone or plaster or wood are ideal. Then, for accessorizing, think foliage - some dried flowers in a colored glass vase are ideal, and perhaps a small piece of art leaning on the wall instead of hung. Farmhouse style lends itself to a more casual, thrown together look, and items like this you can move around and curate as your mood changes fit the theme perfectly.'
Tessa Pearson is an interiors and architecture journalist, formerly Homes Director at ELLE Decoration and Editor of ELLE Decoration Country. When she's not covering design and decorative trends for Livingetc, Tessa contributes to publications such as The Observer and Table Magazine, and has recently written a book on forest architecture. Based in Sussex, Tessa has a keen interest in rural and coastal life, and spends as much time as possible by the sea.
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