There is much more to designing a visually pleasing fireplace than meets the eyes. It is all about proportion and scale. When done well, fireplaces are tremendous, visual assets. They add presence and stature to a space. And of course the reverse is true when a fireplace is poorly designed - it can become an eyesore that is awkwardly looming over the space.  

Now let’s up the ante with fireplace design, by adding a TV to the mtx. Don’t get me wrong, from a design point of view, I’m all for TV’s being incorporated with the fireplace design (if it makes the most sense both for function and aesthetics) but it absolutely does create more of a challenge and this why:

Viewing Height: 

  • The higher the TV is placed, the more distance you need away from it to be able to view it comfortable, without causing neck strain.

  • The smaller the room, the less viewing distance there is

  • The lower the ceilings, the more limitations there are for fitting a hearth and mantel

Specifications - Hearths & Mantels:

  • The height of a raised hearth needs to fall in a range between being high enough that it doesn’t become a trip hazard, and low enough that they are comfortable to sit on. This range is usually somewhere between 15”-18” high.

  • The fireplace surround has to be non-combustible.

  • The specifications on the fireplace inserts will dictate the distance the TV can be placed above the fireplace, and mantel. This is all based on heat deflection, which helps to avoid fire hazards and heat damage to the TV. Further specifications also dictate both the depth and height of a mantel.

  • The specifications, although needed are in place for safety, and the protection of the TV, and not at all about design, balance or scale. Consequently they dictate that the TV be placed much too high. There really is only one easy way around it and that’s to use a non-combustable material for both the heath and mantel. 

Mount Valley Project Fireplace Design

Somewhere along the way the client’s from the Mount Valley Project came across this stunning photo of a limestone fireplace that they fell in love with. This made designing the fireplace much easier since the entire face would be non-combustable.



The design wasn’t without it’s challenges though, I needed to fit a monster TV on its face, all while including a hearth and a mantel. 

But wait! There’s more…as you can see from the architect’s plan, the fireplace is centered on the wall, perfectly symmetrical, with openings for some sort of cabinetry on each side. Inspired by the same photo, the clients wanted to break up the perfect symmetry by including bench seating on one side of the fireplace, and cabinets on the other side. 

So with that direction I worked to create asymmetry that made sense on an otherwise symmetrical wall. I did this by lining up horizontal lines. Scroll down to see how the top of the bench lines up with the top of the bottom drawers, and how the upholstered backrest of the bench lines up with the top of the drawers.


I explored a few design options, particularly with the shape of the fireplace. Here’s one showing it as a square design. This shape allows for plenty of space for the huge TV to be mounted on the face of it as shown.

I included floating shelves, with a four drawer base cabinet so as to balance it with the drawers of the requested bench seating, and did a raised hearth that expands beyond the fireplace detail.

And here’s a fireplace option with a tapered design and the same floating shelf, bench and cabinet design.


In the end, we ended up mixing up the design element between the plans and came up with this for the final design (minus the exposed beams).


In the design I included some favorite Circa Lighting, oversized wall-mount lights (that happen to come in four different finishes) to add dimension, but more importantly, to provide practical lighting in the space, given the 20’-0” ceiling height.



A lot has happened on the project since we did the fireplace design. At that time, the site work had just started and now we aren’t too far away from cabinets being installed.

Take a look of the great room site photos where this beautiful fireplace design will soon take its place.

  • To see the intro to this project go here.

  • For the master bathroom design, go here.

  • You can find the homework / craft room design here.

  • And more about the exterior here.

Cheers! Thanks for following along.


Photo Credit: Jessica White Photo