How to handle a fireplace in an awkward location

Often I am asked to assist with the layout of a room when it has an awkward feature like a fireplace in an odd place.  I have seen many bizarre, head shaking fireplace placements. Here are some of my faves:

The fireplace plopped in the room like the giant box it came in:



The fireplace sitting off center in a room:

FP A 1


The corner fireplace:



I haven’t seen this one yet. But apparently it’s out there:

I understand it when I see awkward fireplace locations in the older homes: their fireplaces were used to supply heat, not provide a design feature: form followed function.  But there’s no excuse for new construction. In that case bad fireplace location is just plain laziness:  “Living room – check. Wait. Damn. We forgot to add a fireplace. Well, just stick it over on that wall so we can easily vent it outside.”

Most people  – and rightly so – try to arrange their furniture around the fireplace because it is the natural focal point in the room. But this can lead to very bizarre furniture arrangements and awkward room flow. I’ve seen rooms with a sofa plopped in front of the fireplace and then the rest of the seating flung to the far corners of the room, as if everyone were in a giant timeout.

So what’s the fix? The easiest solution is to hire a designer. Just kidding. (No really. Call me). Here are a few solutions for the most common issues above:

1. Fireplaces with the entire box sitting in the room. In this example the fireplace box was large and squat, completely disproportionate to the space. So I brought the box all the way up to the ceiling and surrounded it with a honed travertine. Now it became a good focal point, not an eyesore. Next I flanked it with bookshelves so that the entire fireplace became a builtin wall. It helped to draw the eye up and out, expanding the wall and visually enlarging the space.


MORAN FIREPLACE-with sheer curtains (1)

2. Fireplaces off center in a room. The easiest thing to do here is take the focus off the fact the fireplace is off center by creating asymmetrical drama. This can easily be achieved using a bold pattern rug or a rug placed at an angle in front of the fireplace. Here I used a bold rug, pillows and drapes to create drama. The asymmetrical furniture grouping  – with a sofa on one side and occasional chairs and a baby grand on the other –  also helped drama and helped mitigate the less than ideal fireplace placement.




3. Corner fireplaces.  The best solution here is to create another focal point in the room. Place the furnishings in the most logical seating arrangement in the room and use something else as the focal point. It could be a large window overlooking a garden,  a large piece of artwork, or a cool conversation piece. If it’s a family room then make the tv the focal point. Always keep the line of sight open to the fireplace, and if you have room, create a second seating area by placing a settee or upholstered bench in front of it.


Happy arranging!