The Beauty of French-Country Fireplace Mantels

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Last updated: March 11, 2023

French artisans of the Renaissance used their skills to carve elaborate designs for fireplace mantels. Structured beams, using natural materials like marble, granite, or wood, defined the fine art of noteworthy artists.

The beauty of French country fireplace mantels is unquestioned for some homeowners. These mantels are still a significant part of interior design as a focal point of the French country style. The details and ornamentation can be a great start to decorating your living room with natural beauty and the taste of Old World France.

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The beauty of French country fireplace mantels

How do you go about decorating these mantels? My simple fireplace had a single board as a mantel with no frills, and this worked fine for my contemporary decor, but I really liked the French country look. I found a website that offered handcrafted fireplace surrounds to accent many styles.

In addition to the traditional fireplace surround, French style in limestone and different colors were shown. The price was reasonable, and there was free shipping on some promos. I already had the perfect gold ornate mirror selected to hang. Vintage candlesticks on both sides of the mirror can give a nice touch of elegance.

fireplace mantel with framed pictures with vintage candle sticks on each side of mirror

What is French mantel

A French mantel is a chimneypiece that was popular in the 18th century. Usually set atop stone fireplaces, artisans made them elegant with embedded sculptures of natural scenes and delicate swirls. Over the next two centuries, the French mantel became a mainstay in French country fireplace mantels. 

Why would you need a fireplace mantel

Although we may think that fireplace mantels were created as a design statement, there was a reason mantels were first built. Once upon a time, no mantels or chimneys were used to disperse the smoke, and outdoor fireplaces or one-room round homes with a hole in the middle of the ceiling kept the smoke from getting trapped.

As homes grew into different shapes and multiple rooms, fireplaces were still used, but with no ventilation. Mantels were created with an extended lip to help catch the smoke and redirect it to the chimney. It was during this time, in the 12th century, that stone hearths and surrounds started appearing.

The stone helped hold the heat and keep away from any wood construction. It didn’t take man long to realize how different stone types and carvings could add lovely decoration to this hole in the wall. A French fireplace mantel became a masterpiece of design and expanded further with time.

What are the size dimensions for mantel

Today, fireplace mantels come in different styles and sizes according to a home’s decor. They have become a secondary means of heat or to add a classic romantic look. The firebox size is an excellent place to start for sizing up a mantel, and 6 to 8 inches longer than the firebox is a suitable measurement. If you divide your mantel by two and it extends the length of the fireplace, it is too long.

I had a fireplace insert that measured 36 inches in length and 54 inches tall, which is the standard size for most units. However, custom orders can be made if your room is too small or large for a specific piece. The depth of the overhang should not extend 7 inches and possibly be shorter.

A surround and hearth will add a beautiful outline to your mantel and fireplace. A back panel can also be fitting to bring more character to your fireplace. I wanted to replace my dreary wooden surround with limestone and a coat of paint to make a striking rustic fireplace mantel. If you decide on a natural stone, be sure and get a shipping quote. Stone is heavy and expensive to ship.

What are the two types of mantel

There are two types of mantels that you can select from; the first includes a surround that commands attention with lots of decorative appeal. The second is a mantel shelf that provides a floating appearance above the firebox. The mantel shelf is not as distinguished as the firebox and the surrounding wall space.

The classic mantel with a back panel and surround almost always serves as a focal point. Stone and wood are popular materials for creating a natural atmosphere of many styles. Carved stone brings elegance to a wall with a majestic feel, while wood delivers a warm and inviting look.

a gas white fireplace with mantel in a new constuction house

Contemporary and new-age homes may downplay the wonder of natural resources by choosing a thin metal or wood piece for a mantel. The backdrop for this type of mantel can vary from a whole wall painted in a neutral color or a sleek, simple firebox with a thin mantel. The only rules for keeping contemporary are leaving 12 inches open from the firebox to the mantel and going 3 feet from the mantel shelf to the ceiling.

Different tastes can dictate what type of mantel best suits your style. For instance, a white fireplace mantel with a green marble surround adds a fashionable statement to a French country decor where framed art and colorful glass antiques soothe the coolness of the two colors.

Minimalism is not to be forgotten with a fireplace flush with a wall. A thin metal strip for a mantel keeps in line with the sparsity of the room. The urban industrial style also uses an iron pole as a mantel surrounded by hanging wood and metal pieces surrounding the fireplace.

Unlike many options in a living space, a firebox and fireplace mantel can always flow with whatever interior design you choose to have. Style, scale, and size are essential to update a room to include a fireplace.

I took a simple contemporary style and changed everything into a French country presence without much trouble. If you are considering using stone for your new surrounding fireplace, check with local fireplace dealers and get ideas online. This move could bring a sweeping change to your living space.

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