Mountain Fixer Upper: Family Room Fireplace Design Process
A mountain house must have as many fireplaces as possible to keep your body parts as warm as possible…and we are up to four (living, family, master interior and master exterior). I wish that designing a fireplace were as easy as throwing in a box and tiling around it, but making sure that they work for code, work with the materials already in the space and yet are custom and not builder-grade takes a lot of time. Let’s walk you through the whole process.
This is the space we are calling the family room. It’s off the kitchen and dining and will have huge scenic doors out to the lower deck. This space will be mostly dedicated to rec, meaning Brian’s yet to be purchased pinball machine, but will have a TV for movie nights if the grownups are in the living room and we want to not parent. The copy on the above photos was before you guys suggested to get rid of the stairs altogether—YAY, so those are now totally gone.
As you can see, it’s a pass-through room in a way, but also where most of the kids’ toys will hang out. Here is where we are in the house:
Below you can see what the space looked like when we first bought the house and where we landed with the layout, better symmetry and flow of the room to the outdoor spaces.
We seriously debated putting the fireplace in here as it is mostly a family room, but then as we were up there this winter, before the demo, we realized that fireplaces are magical and change the ambience and mood of a room in an instant and this room is cozy and likely where the whole family would hang out and play games. This one would be gas-burning (so it’s easy to turn on and off with a switch) and it will have a screen for protection. It can’t be opened and has a protective glass front, but we’ll obviously not leave it on if just the kids are playing.
We chose the , which you can see here:
She arrived and is currently being installed, but before we could tell them where to put it, we had to actually design it.
First things first: the height of the box. This had to be determined by whether we wanted a hearth underneath (for code). The width of the box would also be dictated by the materials that we chose to surround it in. Plus, we had two windows flanking it, so…what should happen underneath those?
I tasked Julie from the design team to start pulling together some inspirations. We wanted to keep it clean and minimal but with some warmer elements and it still had to speak to the living room fireplace (which we still might change).
While the above would be too cold for us (there’s NO WAY Brian would go for something on the opposite spectrum of “rustic”), it did give us the idea to try for a plaster finish in white. It would still work in the house in terms of design vibe and be SO pretty.
The above and below photos are pretty similar to where we landed. We love the combination of plaster, black box and firewood under some built-in benches/ledges. I want to note that most of the fire boxes in the inspirations here sit high enough off the ground that we didn’t need a stone hearth intruding or jutting into our beautiful wood floors.
There was also some talks about going with a gray plaster which has a bit more movement and visual texture, like this one below.
Regardless of color, we did decide on the plaster, so Julie started creating some renderings of design options…let’s walk through them.
1. We knew we were going to put a TV above the box and liked the idea of having benches below so that the fireplace didn’t feel lonely. It needed more to ground it in the space, but it didn’t feel finished and the TV really got all of the attention.
2. Then there was the possibility to continue the center piece all the way to the ceiling line but that made it feel very top heavy and would place the TV further into the room, making it hard to watch from the sofa.
3. We played around with the idea of vertical storage for pretty logs off to one side. This asymmetrical layout works but you could only have the option of storing wood and nothing else, so that felt pretty limiting.
4. By adding two vertical structures on the sides, the TV felt more balanced, but it was still too heavy for the space.
5. We liked the open look of the “floating” bench but that felt too modern for the overall style of the house. And those log holders are pretty much perfect but again, they would leave us without the storage functionality we would really need for this space (we need somewhere to store games, toys, etc).
6. Moving away from the overall shape of the fireplace and onto what material it would be helped make the final decisions. The benches now would work style wise but it felt unfinished and still too heavy in the middle section in this option.
7. Lowering the middle of the surround helped to move the TV further back onto the wall and it felt way more balanced. Just need some storage…
8. The glass cabinets flanking the benches added the necessary storage and balance to the overall space (and we could store logs under the benches which is good for practicality and also just feels really…mountain-y).
So that’s where we landed…#8. It has a great focal point of the fireplace, balanced out by the bookshelves full of storage and the TV is at a great height but isn’t the only thing to look at.
The depth of the bench is 18″, making it deeper than your average bench but not daybed depth (I love a daybed depth, but it would encroach too far into the room). We have a leather pad on top to add more warmth and of course a few pillows, in a fabric that is still TBD.
The black color of the cabinets helps to tie in the interior black brick panels of the fireplace. We didn’t want your eye drawn to a big-black-hole-of-a-fireplace in the middle of the room, especially since we get to use The Frame TV by Samsung in the space (again my design prayers have been answered with this TV).
The opening under the benches are 12-inches high by 53-inches long and the depth, again, is 18 inches. It can either store our birch logs (purely for decoration, of course), although now I am pretty terrified of a bug infestation after all the comments from the previous fireplace post, or we have the option for a couple of baskets underneath to hold all the kids’ toys.
Since the living room fireplace got a revamp with the ‘German schmear’, we wanted the family room fireplace to look cohesive in the house and the white plaster here helps keep it clean stylistically but gives it the texture it desperately needed.
The texture of the plaster in the renders isn’t the exact look we are going for. We would do something a bit smoother without looking too much like a new build.
The cabinets have a lot of open shelves for all those pieces that we would want to style out for shoots but also has a lower cabinet for games, toys, and extra blankets for those chilly family movie nights.
In the lower part of the cabinet, there is an 8-inch deep drawer and then two shelves that are 30-inches wide and 15-inches deep.
There you have it, we are about ready to send off the plans to Jeff our GC so if you have any suggestions, leave your ideas in the comments below.