Brick Fireplaces, How to Create A Warm & Cozy Living Room

A new take on a traditionally classic brick fireplace.

I have a tendency to gravitate towards traditionally designed and styled homes. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate clean lines, new products, and finding ways to integrate modern elements into that design. Brick fireplaces have been around for hundreds of years. Some of those years weren’t so good to the brick fireplace, so we’ve spent the last decade (or two) painting over them. As we set out to design one of our new model homes, I wanted to incorporate brick inside but with an updated feel.

One of the best parts of working with a builder who has multiple model homes in many different areas, is the freedom to experiment with different materials and applications. I’ve had homes that we’ve ultimately described (in rather rudimentary terms) as “beachy”, “woodsey”, “lakey”, etc… anyway, you get the point. But the reality is, you need to have a general design concept and the rest tends to fall into place as the project evolves. This idea not only applies to new construction but also renovation, re-vamps, and re-decorating projects as well.

when you decide to switch gears midway:

This particular model home, in my mind, started off heading in a completely different direction. But, as the construction progressed, we made a couple of changes along the way that transformed overall the feel of this home. In the beginning, we had planned to have a gorgeous painted white brick fireplace with the cool gray stained built-ins and a floating mantle with a stained wooden herringbone inlay above. Paired with the white distressed flooring, it had all the makings of a modern beach house (which works well for us since we’re living on the coast).

However, once we showed up onsite and saw how awesome the natural brick fireplace looked, especially with the stained accents and painted gray cabinets, we couldn’t bear to paint over it. It added a layer of warmth to an otherwise cool space. The beauty of building a home from scratch is it allows you to see the entire design plan come together as the house progresses.

(Note: Building also gives you A LOT of time to over-analyze your design choices. If you have a hard time making decisions quickly, this can become overwhelming at times so using a trusted professional {builder, interior designer, Realtor, etc.} to guide you is a great way to alleviate your New Home Anxiety.)

In this case though, by making the one decision to go with a traditional brick in place of the painted white brick, we were able to plan our furnishings and decor around that traditional feel allowing us to create a warmer cozy space.


How to style the room around the brick fireplace:

You can see in the photo above the mounting bracket for our floating mantle as well as the framework for the eventual herringbone inlay. It is important when adding any type of floating shelving to make sure it is braced properly and secured to the wall so you can be confident it will support the weight of any items placed on top.

The living room in this house is relatively small. By using strategic furniture placement and accessories to the scale of the room, we were able to create an inviting space that still allows seating for multiple family members/guests. The 11 ft. sloped ceilings make a huge impact on how the space feels when you are standing in it. A lot of times people assume that a small space = the need for small furniture. I tend to think the opposite can be true. One great thing about designing a home with more compact rooms and square footage is that the pieces in the room command more attention. You are also able to fill the space with less furniture and it can help the room feel more complete.


Traditional brick fireplace with updated design elements including a decorative herringbone inlay and gray stained floating mantle

After we moved all the furniture and accessories into the house it really started to take shape. To me, it ended up with an almost nostalgic feel. It was reminiscent of my grandparents’ home with a living room focused on the centrally located brick fireplace. I love that this room has that traditional feel but it still incorporates modern elements. The white flooring, inlay trim, floating mantle and the gray stained accents ensure this space is up to date.


Layered sisal and cowhide rug with leather chair, slipcovered sofa, around brick fireplace.

The importance of accessories:

The color palette in the home were mostly cool tones of whites and grays. I really wanted to incorporate some neutrals and natural materials that help warm it up. In a living room, I always end up gravitating to layered rugs. When layering, I recommend a tighter weave base layer like a sisal. I also think it is so important to have a good sized base that is proportional to your space. Then you can add your accent with a smaller piece on top. Of course I love the cowhide rug in this space to help accentuate the leather pieces and dark wood.

(**Note: When I ordered these rugs, I completely thought the top rug was just a standard cowhide piece. However when you look closely you can see the gold embellishment detail on the entire thing. I about had a heart attack when I unpackaged it on move in day. Once it was in place though, it just felt right! Whew…)

I love this seating set from Pottery Barn. It included a big leather recliner, paired with a set of sea grass chairs and a white slip-covered sofa. The bar against the back wall and the coffee table both feature distressed darker wood. They compliment the neutrals while contrasting beautifully with the sleeker elements. Adding different textures to your furniture with throw blankets and accent pillows can transform any basic seating into something worthy of any designer showcase. If a Pottery Barn sofa isn’t quite in your budget and you are looking for some designer look-a-likes,click here.

Green is good:

I think regardless of design style, the importance of greenery is apparent. It becomes a necessary staple go-to item for me. (I just bought 3 houseplants this weekend from Home Depot …  so wish me luck keeping them alive!) Whether or not you have a green thumb or you can kill a houseplant just by looking at it, you can find ways to add these elements into your own space.

Truth be told, I’m half & half in my personal home.

I’ve found some pretty realistic looking faux options that I know I can’t mess up.  BUT, I also take pride in the fact that I have one plant I’ve kept alive for almost a year-and-a-half! I guess we all have to start somewhere. When you have a space that is mostly muted tones of beige, gray, or greige, adding that pop of green just breathes life into the room. The tree pictured below is the Faux Potted Fiddle Leaf Tree from Pottery Barn, but at $299 it can take a big chunk out of your decorating budget.

I have found some great alternatives at my local HomeGoods and Hobby Lobby that range in price from $69 – $129 each based on size. (Don’t forget your 40% off weekly coupon from Hobby Lobby to get an extra discount). The one I found for my personal house at HomeGoods had a small chip in the pot. All I had to do was ask and I was able to get an additional discount at the checkout counter since it was damaged.

why it matters in “real life?”:

I know for many people, building a new home from scratch is not an option. But in true “fixer upper” form, there are so many cool ways to update any home. Even when forced to use potentially dated features, like a brick fireplace, you can turn it into a focal piece with the decor around it. I really enjoyed putting this model home together because it was a new take on a traditional coastal home. It was “outside the box” compared to some of the other “new home models” we see from some of the other builders. With any model, it is so important for me that a client can imagine living there. It is too easy to go with a “decorator showroom look” where everything is matchy matchy. But the reality is that very few families live in homes like that.

The furnishings and decor inside any home tell a story of the family that lives there. I love to see how homes evolve as they age. Acquiring furniture and accessories over the years is part of the fun in decorating. It may be a flea market find, or a precious family heirloom. Figuring out how to bring these pieces together in one space is always a welcome challenge for me.


Resources for this project:



  1. Debbi Cooke
    February 26, 2018 / 6:44 pm

    Great ideas from start to finish!

      February 26, 2018 / 10:49 pm

      Thanks! This was a fun project.

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