Is your fireplace tired and dated? If so, then a fireplace makeover may be in your future. Sometimes the fix is very simple— several coats of white paint on old bricks or a worn oak mantel is often enough to give the fireplace a fresh new look. But sometimes a more dramatic change is desired. If that’s the case for you, your only limitations are your imagination, and of course, your budget, as there are myriad choices of materials available, from traditional to modern.

Your first decision is whether to keep your wood-burning fireplace or have a gas insert installed. To keep our air clean, California has instituted many restrictions on the use of wood-burning fireplaces, so converting to gas may be the right decision for you. Depending on their size, gas inserts can provide heat for 1000-3000 square feet, while also emitting very little pollution and smoke into the air. They are also very convenient to use. Just flip a switch, or press a button on the remote control and you’ll have a lovely fire in seconds.

If you have not been shopping for tile or stone recently, you’ll be amazed at how many choices you have for your fireplace. If you prefer natural materials, among your many choices are marble, granite, slate, limestone, and stacked stone, all of which are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. There is also a large selection of unique materials available: metal tiles in stainless steel and copper, glass tiles, and porcelain and ceramic tiles in every color, style and shape imaginable.

For contemporary styling, consider large porcelain tiles with some wavy textures, or narrow stacked stone. With this style, less is definitely more, so forgo the heavy wood mantel and keep your lines very clean and simple.

For traditional styling, look at natural stone such as marble, which is a very classic and timeless material, and add a beautiful, ornate wood surround in white painted, or dark stained wood. Curved lines and carved details are common features in traditional decor.

Most of us prefer “transitional” styling, which is a blend of both traditional and contemporary. Clean lines, combined with traditional colors and materials allow for a look that pleases just about everyone. “Floating” mantel ledges are a great choice for transitional rooms the lean toward contemporary, while full wood surrounds with simple lines works best in transitional rooms that lean toward traditional.

The possibilities are endless, so consider your overall decorating style, look at lots of photos for inspiration, and treat your fireplace to a whole new look.

ICP_7353Interestingly, Benjamin Moore named “Simply White” their color of the year for 2016. Other paint companies like Sherwin Williams, Behr and Gladden have also listed versions of white in their their forecasts for 2016 and going forward. Why white? It’s part of a larger societal trend favoring simplicity and timelessness. White is recognized as a fantastic backdrop color— one that sets the stage for everything else that will be happening in the room.

ICP_5806White and all of its many iterations can be terrific wall colors— white with a hint of yellow, pink or peach can add so much subtle warmth to a space, while white with slight undertones of blue or green can cool off a room. White also sets off other colors beautifully— think of crisp white crown molding or a fireplace mantel contrasting with the deeper wall color behind it. But white is not just for trim and moldings— furniture, walls, window treatments, tile, and cabinetry all look terrific in tints, tones and shades of white.

Using white in your interior design allows you to be more adventurous with the other colors in the space. In one recent project, the client loved bold colors like purple, red and cobalt, so we used crisp white on most of the walls, then used those bold colors strategically on accent walls and even some ceilings to create a modern, “art gallery” type of look.

If you want a mix of colors, but don’t tend to like bold, bright hues, use white and creams, paired with light grays and tans to create a very elegant and restful interior. In another project, we used a variety of whites, creams and other soft neutrals for the fireplace mantel and tile, the finish on the chairs, the upholstery fabric, window treatments and area rug. The result is a beautiful, inviting living room that will stand the test of time.

ICP_7193White kitchen cabinets are hugely popular right now, as they coordinate with almost any other color and work in almost all design styles from contemporary to traditional. In this kitchen, the crisp white cabinets coordinate beautifully with the aqua blues in the backsplash tile and the quartz counters, while the wood floor and island add warmth and contrast to the space.

ICP_2827And there’s no way to go wrong with a white bathroom. White tile always looks clean and fresh, and you can add a lot of personality with wall color, window treatments, art and accessories.

Some advice to clients who are afraid of color: if you’re defaulting to white for your walls because you are afraid to take a leap and try color, please get over that fear! Most people love colorful interiors when they see them, and just need a nudge to try something new. That said, if you are intentionally choosing white for your interior design, then go with it wholeheartedly and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it. If white is the color of the year for 2016, then you know you’re in great company.

Fabulous LivingroomEarlier this year, a client hired me to help her update her home. She had inherited her childhood home and was ready to make it her own. The house was quite outdated, and in need of some repairs, as well as redecoration. Her task to me was to make it modern but comfortable, with a Japanese flair (she is Japanese), in neutral colors with some accent color thrown in. Her favorite accent color? Red! She asked me to incorporate some of her favorite art pieces, such as the Japanese screen and scrolls, and I was happy to honor that request. I also reused her existing coffee and end tables, as they were in good shape, and their clean lines complemented my design.

Fast-forward a few months, and the living room is complete. Gone is the paneling from the 70’s, with a rich red accent wall in its place. Slate stacked stone transformed the old brick fireplace, and neutral carpet replaced the worn-out gold carpet. While the furniture arrangement stayed basically the same, most of the furniture was replaced with new custom pieces. Her comfortable swivel chair was given new life by reupholstering it in red. Her favorite artwork and accessories added a personal and perfect finishing touch.  Design lessons to take away from this project:

1) Symmetry adds a sense of calm to a space. Notice how the sofa is flanked by two matching end tables and two matching lamps. The symmetry of that arrangement makes the room feel balanced and restful. Please don’t think I am suggesting that everything in a room has to match! It certainly does not.  Items should coordinate and blend together well, and not necessarily match.  However, in this case, I intentionally chose matching pieces to create overall  calm look and feel.

2) Repeat an accent color several times in a space. Notice how we distributed the color red throughout the room. There is a red throw pillow on the sofa, a red accent chair, a red dish on the coffee table. This repetition helps the eye travel around the room.

3) Emphasize the focal point. In this living room, the fireplace was already the focal point, although it was a bit small and unassuming in its original state. By taking the stacked stone all the way to the ceiling, we gave the fireplace more presence and brought more attention to it. The red wall color accentuates it even more.

4) Try using the color gray instead of brown. In this space, I chose to mix gray with cream, brown and taupe, instead of using all browns and tans. I could have selected a dark brown sofa, however, using charcoal gray instead adds a contemporary and sophisticated touch. Gray works well with most other colors, so even if this client changes her color scheme in the future, her gray sofa should still work well for her.