Design/Build: These mantels illustrate not only the range of independent design options, but also the plug-and-play aspect of fireplace-surround composition.
The fireplace is typically the focal point of the room. For this reason, we tend to give special attention to fireplace surrounds. These trim details historically have embodied and supported the architectural style of the house, from a few simple trim pieces added to Georgian paneling to the ornate, sculpted marble surrounds of Victorian and Italianate homes.
Today’s homes are less tied to traditional styles, but designers still look to historic precedent for design guidance. The details go wrong when profiles and moldings are assembled without reference to these practical foundations. While there are many variations and styles to work with, the surrounds illustrated here primarily reflect Georgian and Federal details.
Entablature = Architrave, Frieze, and Cornice
Traditional fireplace surrounds are derived from the orders of classical architecture with pilasters supporting an entablature, which includes the architrave, frieze, and cornice. Though the entablature is often stylized, these three parts are typically distinguishable. For example, you may elongate the frieze and extend the cornice projection, while minimizing the architrave and cornice height. No matter how you adjust the entablature, though, make sure that the frieze either aligns with or is inset from the edge of the architrave, pilaster, or casing below.
Most codes require a minimum of 6 in. of clearance around the firebox and a lintel of noncombustible material. Codes also limit the projection of the combustible material within a certain distance of the firebox, commonly a 1-1⁄2-in.-maximum projection within 12 in. of the opening. Start with 8 in. of clearance around the firebox and you can create better shadowlines with a little more projection. The decision for how to finish the clearance-zone area often comes down to a preference in style.
For more details, including architectural sketches showing the options described, click the View PDF button below.