Fireplace Mantel is the attention-grabber in any space, so the wall surrounding it becomes a focal point as well. Painting that wall requires a hard look at the style of the firebox, mantel and hearth. A contemporary Fireplace Mantel bears little resemblance to a carved traditional framework of moldings and columns. A stone chimney breast and surround is a far cry from classic brick. Play off the Fireplace Mantel treatment to decorate the rest of the room.
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Make it Disappear
A Fireplace Mantel that is too prominent in a small room, or an older Fireplace Mantel framework in poor condition benefits from an all-white, same-shade paint job. Use the exact same hue for wall, mantel and surround, selecting from warm or cool whites after determining which is cleanest and closest to pure white in the light of that space. Vary the finish to highlight the mantel or details of the Fireplace Mantel surround -- glossy white on a carved wood frame against matte paint on the walls draws subtle attention to the decorative flourish. "Painting out" the wall with white-on-white is a minimalist treatment that lets you go modern for the rest of the decor. The cloud-like expanse of wall and firebox surround erases any flaws in a less-than-perfect surround and mantel, and works with a Romantic or Shabby Chic-style decor as well.
Complement Rugged Stone
A stone Fireplace Mantel is rugged and elemental and overpowers the rest of the room if it is not handled strategically. The surrounding wall may be pretty thin real estate when the stone extends wide beyond the sides of the firebox and to the ceiling. Stone colors and shapes are additional considerations. Your aim is to integrate and complement the spectacular decorative feature so it won't stick out like a sore thumb. In most cases, this means avoiding a strong and vibrant color for the wall. A field-stone Fireplace Mantel, with its mottled grays or tans and chunky surface, is tamed with a softer shade pulled from the stone. Try dove gray or matte maize paint for a hint of color that won't compete. Limestone is so light that its hints of yellow or blush are flattered by a creamy white, pale whipped-butter or merest hint of apricot paint.
Enhance Conspicuous Brick
Brick might be really red or worn, faded and full of character. If it surrounds your Fireplace Mantel, your choices are to paint it out or enhance its appeal with the wall color. White wall paint is a default, but it has no nuance or subtlety as a background for brick. Consider a versatile neutral such as gray. A whisper of pale gray gleams alongside vintage brick, allowing the variegated clay to show off its hues and softened shapes. Bolder pewter or charcoal modernizes that traditional brick Fireplace Mantel so it fits into a contemporary room. Delicate and dusky greens -- complements of brick reds -- are quiet enough to avoid clashing. A light sage or pastel mint-green wall around a brick Fireplace Mantel is tactfully dynamic but not assertive.
Highlight Magisterial Marble
Marble can't be painted over or ignored; a marble Fireplace Mantel dominates a wall or the entire room. Pick a color in the veining and matching it with wall paint to revel in the richness. Very subtle or neutral colors push the marble Fireplace Mantel into the spotlight. A stronger blue, purple, cinnamon or jade sets up a yin-yang tension that slightly subdues the Fireplace Mantel to balance the room. In a cozy or formal room, a strong gem-like wall paint in a deeper shade of a vein color -- sapphire, ruby, green tourmaline or imperial purple -- tends to close the room in on itself and works well with heavier or aggressively modern furniture. Pale walls surrounding a marble Fireplace Mantel offer more of a backdrop to spare contemporary decor, fragile antiques or romantic fabrics and furnishings.
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