A Comprehensive Guide to Reinventing Your Fireplace Elegance

A century ago, fireplaces adorned almost every room in a London home, serving both functional and aesthetic purposes. Today, many inherit ‘the hole’ rather than a source of warmth. However, transforming your heart could be the ultimate home investment. According to Tom Jackson, director of Jamb, an antique and reproduction fireplace specialist, the chimneypiece is the anchor on which to build your room’s decorative scheme, akin to a sculpture.

Uncover the Hidden Gem:
Less than a century ago, a London home would have had a fireplace in almost every room. Now you’re far more likely to inherit ‘the hole’ than anything that puts out heat. But could beautifying your heart be the ultimate home investment? For centuries the chimneypiece was the most important part of the decoration of a room, Think of it as the anchor on which to build your scheme.

How to Open Your Hearth:
A protrusion in the center of a wall typically indicates a chimney breast. Your chances of uncovering a glorious vintage hearth diminish quickly if your home was built from the Fifties onwards, but a knock can tell you if it’s been bricked up or not. Ask around to see what neighbors have discovered – chances are someone’s had the same idea.

Check permissions if your home is listed and always proceed with caution if you’re removing a gas fire first, as a gas-registered engineer will need to cap the gas off before anything else can be done. Costs will likely depend on going rates for the right tradespeople – you may need a gas specialist, electrician, or chimney sweep; you’ll almost definitely need a plasterer – rather than fireplace-specific fees.

When is Reconnecting Worth It?
Londoners are increasingly turning to alternative fuels as Sadiq Khan aims for fresh legislation on particulate emissions. The Clean Air Act says that you must not emit smoke from your chimney if you live in a smoke control area, which applies to almost the entirety of London. Smokeless coal is your only option if you’re set on a traditional open fireplace; make sure the flue has been re-lined first. Smokeless coal cannot be used in wood burners, which has become a heated topic in the capital.

How to Jazz Up an Existing Hearth:
If your home is Victorian, Edwardian, or even Georgian, you might have inherited an original surround that’s seen better days. Victorian Fireplace Store and Tile Heaven are good for antique tiles, though finding exact replacements can be needle-in-a-haystack maddening. Earlier mantelpieces might be marble or stone, but these were later usurped by cast iron designs with a wood surround. 

Whether you’re uncovering hidden gems, reconnecting with traditional hearths, or jazzing up existing mantelpieces, the transformation can be a significant investment in your home’s ambiance. So, consider these tips and embark on a journey to breathe new life into your fireplace.