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5 Fireplace Remodel Ideas

Fireplaces provide ambiance in your home. A well-designed fireplace creates a cozy atmosphere which is especially important in Pacific Northwest homes. Not only does a fireplace offer a distinct vibe, but it can also provide heat and a focal point to any room.

Vicki Enger, a Designer at Mountainwood Homes, gives us five ideas to upgrade your fireplace to create an elevated look.

VIcki Enger Designer at Mountainwood Homes
Vicki Enger, Designer at Mountainwood Homes, provides advice on how to approach a fireplace remodel.


5 Ideas to Update Your Fireplace

1. Create a Media Center Wall

When homeowners discuss updating their fireplace, they often want to change the entire look of the fireplace wall and create a focal point. It’s common to transform the fireplace wall into a media center with built-in bookcases to display items and house media components in closed cabinets. So, the project becomes less about the actual fireplace unit and more about what’s happening around it.

These homeowners wanted to upgrade their 1995 builder-grade Portland home and create a stunning focal point. The great room fireplace wall needed to transport into the current century. The wood was dated, the fireplace felt out of proportion, and was sunken back behind the bookshelves. The great room has a whole new look with painted cabinets, millwork, and wood accents.

BEFORE: The fireplace media wall was outdated.


Great room fireplace wall with TV above gas fireplace and built-in bookshelves
AFTER: Now the new fireplace media wall features a stronger focal point with a new fireplace and built-in, painted bookshelves.


2. Fireplace Remodel Designs

There are many decisions to make when selecting a new fireplace unit. Most homeowners opt for a gas fireplace, and the linear style is still trendy.

“When it comes to the hearth, that’s a personal preference,” Vicki says. “It’s about 50/50 if a client likes it and wants to keep it or rip it out and run flooring to the wall. It’s all very customized and tailored to every space.”

While there are many sources to find ideas and inspiration photos, Vicki warns that finding pictures online or in design magazines can pose a challenge.

“You’re looking at someone else’s ideas that can’t always fit into your home,” Vicki says. “Look for pictures that have a similar setup if you’re not changing much or find photos that more accurately represent your wall or home. We’re constantly running into photos taken in Canada or Europe, and we have strict codes in the United States.”


3. Balance Two Focal Points

Putting the television near the fireplace is always a challenge because you have two distinct focal points.

“I like to ask clients where they like to view their TV and at what height? When you’re sitting on the sofa, you’re about 18″ off the floor. Often, you’re standing in the room trying to decide the placement. So, get down there and decide how you like to view your screen – straight across or on the side?” Vicki says.

canyonwood great room fireplace wall
This Hillsboro custom home uses a mix of wood, metal, and stone to balance the gas fireplace and the TV.

Building codes come into play with television placement because of regulations with heat and distances from mantles. These parameters are often why some televisions are placed high on the wall. We figure all of these decisions out in the planning stage. If the TV goes on the side of the fireplace, we need it to look finished and functional, so it doesn’t look like an afterthought.

“If your television and fireplace are about the same size, then you have two boxes on top of each other. This scenario is constantly the discussion, and our job is to help our clients figure it out,” Vicki says. “We start with the function questions. No matter how good the design is if it doesn’t function for someone – they won’t like it. Most people are willing to buy a TV that will fit the space.”


4. Decide on the Look

“It’s all about the house,” Vicki emphasizes. “If a client is doing a more modern look – then the materials will often be tile, drywall, sometimes some stone, or porcelain slab. You can use all the materials to fit into a more modern aesthetic.”

Sweetbriar Custom Home
This West Linn custom home features a fireplace wall with open shelving, an inset television, and a sleek wood mantle.


fireplace ideas
This Portland custom home great room features a wall of windows, a gas fireplace feature wall, and a tile floor. Various materials on the fireplace create a focal point for the expansive space.

For a traditional look, use more moldings, surround, and have a more shaped mantle.

“Many homeowners like the chunky-cut mantle, and those can work for modern and traditional spaces,” Vicki says. “We can create a custom mantle with our cabinet maker or go for the reclaimed look.”

Most homeowners seem to be clear in their preferences for the materials of their fireplace. The hard part is putting it all together and making it fit.


5. Use Materials to Upgrade the Look

“Once we know what we’re doing for the fireplace, then we start talking about the whole look and figure out if we want to go with tile around it or solid surface materials,” Vicki says. “We discuss a lot of these options in the Design Agreement process, so we are attaching the correct dollar amount to this area of the project.”

It’s essential to design the fireplace to make it look finished. Are you going to trim the whole thing out? Are you going to stop at the mantle and do drywall above? Typically, storage is not as important as the visual. You’ll see shelves with accessories, but most homeowners are not looking for tons of storage in this space.

sweetbriar project basement media room with modern TV wall and gas fireplace
The basement of this West Linn custom home features a media room with a television next to the gas fireplace. A wall of horizontal marble ledger completes the look.


Fireplace Trends Have Shifted

Over time, there’s been an evolution of the fireplace wall. In the 1980s and 90s, the builder put in a fireplace and placed some built-ins on both sides. Then, in the 1990s and 2000s, it felt like someone looked at a plan and had to fit a fireplace in somewhere. Now, people are open to using different materials and mixing styles, which has made things more interesting. It’s not just black or green marble with a brick surround and slapping oak bookcases on either side. After 30 years, homeowners are saying, ‘Nope, we’re not doing that anymore.’

fireplace before remodel
BEFORE: The fireplace in this Portland den needed a style upgrade.
Den with marble fireplace and white paneling
AFTER: Now, the improved fireplace in the den features slab marble as the surround and painted millwork to add interest.
2004 Renaissance Home in Beaverton, OR.
BEFORE: This 2004 Renaissance Home in Beaverton had an outdated family room fireplace wall.
Remodeled Fireplace in Beaverton, OR.
AFTER: Now, the remodeled fireplace media wall incorporates an asymmetrical design with a low-slung gas fireplace, high-relief tile, display shelves, and an area for The Frame TV from Samsung.


Work With a Professional Team

There are many details to figure out with a fireplace remodel. First, you need to figure out the size of the fireplace unit and the type (gas or wood-burning). Then, we determine the placement, size, and scale of the fireplace in the space. Next, we determine what materials to use on the mantle and surround (stone or other material), type of hearth (floor, raised, or floating), television location, and cabinets to store media components. Working with a professional design/build team ensures that your vision will come to life.


Time for a Fireplace Remodel?

If you’re looking to upgrade your TV room, create an elevated look in your great room, or a new fireplace unit to function for your needs, send us a message to schedule a time to talk. We will be able to answer all your lingering questions, like the best type of fireplace for heat and what a fireplace remodel costs. Our design/build team can help you figure out what’s possible in your space and create a plan to transform your home.



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