Master the mantle: Take your fireplace from boring to brilliant
The time has come for stocking up on briquettes and kindling, getting ready for crackling fires to make the evenings cosy in the long winter ahead. In my book, there's no better way to spend a cold weekend afternoon than curled up in front of a roaring fire with the newspaper.
One of the best investments you can make is opening up your fireplace to allow a real fire to burn there.
However, not all fireplaces are created equal; most are outdated and many are downright dreary. Winter's hottest accessory ought to be as chic as the rest of our homes, and they can be with these simple ingredients.
First, make sure you have a stylish place to stack your wood. Line up a few interesting accessories to sit on the mantle, and add a mirror to really open up the room and reflect the flames. Stock up on candles of all shapes and sizes to add twinkle on the darkest of nights. When the temperatures climb again, stand candles of varying heights in the grate for a year-round focal point.
Choosing mantelpiece artwork can be tricky, but Greg Spring and Russell Simmons, the duo behind Dublin clothing shop This Greedy Pig, have recently launched the online print shop Hen's Teeth Prints to spice up your artwork options. Their aim is to collaborate with Irish artists to offer great artwork in limited edition print runs, at affordable prices.
Explains Greg, "We've always had a hankering for strong and interesting art works and really enjoyed curating sellout pieces for This Greedy Pig. With Hen's Teeth Prints, we wanted to take it a step further and actually commission pieces directly with artists we love and respect."
Find your new mantle show stopper at www.hensteethprints.com.
Fireplace options have improved greatly in the last decade, and limestone adds a decidedly modern yet timeless feel. This stone fireplace is a splurge at €3,800, but try Dublin's Ballymount Fireplaces (ballymountfireplaces.ie) for equally classy but more affordable options.
Buy it: Limestone fireplace, €3,800, housingunits.co.uk
picture: Housing Units UK
My grandparents had a ticking clock on their mantle that they wound every evening. It was a beautiful old-school item, both in looks and tradition. Mantle clocks can be a thing of beauty, but heavy wood pieces can ruin the edgy look you're striving for. This mantle clock from Marks & Spencer - which measures 18cm x 18cm - harks back to previous generations without looking too stodgy.
Buy it: Charleston mantle clock, €55 from Marks & Spencer
With Christmas gift-giving season just around the corner, it's always smart to be on the lookout for those few people on your list who already seem to have it all. Well, odds are they won't likely have a Linley match holder in ivory ostrich! For €250, you could give them the most exquisite match holder on the block.
If that's a little outside your budget, consider clever alternatives by keeping your eyes peeled in charity or gift shops for antique trinket dishes or vintage medicine tins that can hold matches on the mantle. Unexpected dishes will give a little quirkiness to any mantle display without breaking the bank. Irish brand Maguire & Paterson make extra-long matches that can be bought in supermarkets nationwide.
Buy it: Linley Ebury match holder, €250, Amara, amara.com
Storing wood stylishly is topping the interiors trends at the moment, and this circular wood stacker is a gorgeous option. Don't have much space? Opt for a chunky rattan basket that will give the room a cottage feel. If your fireplace isn't functional, simply stack wood inside the fireplace itself.
Buy it: Circular log holder, €75, The Great Gifts Company, thegreatgiftcompany.co.uk
Candles are the must-have fireplace accessory, both on the mantle or under it. They instantly add a little extra twinkle to the room whether you have a fire lit or not. In fact, candles can make a great replacement for the real thing when you don't have the energy to build a roaring fire. Create quick ambience with 10 or 12 pillar candles of differing heights. These gold pillar candles from New Look would be perfect for a festive holiday dinner-party when you aren't keen on tending the fire all evening.
Buy it: Gold pillar candle, €10 from New Look
Mirrors are one of the simplest and least expensive ways to open up a space. A mirror might seem a traditional choice for over your mantle, but choosing a modern shaped piece will keep your fireplace from looking dowdy. Steer clear of heavy, overly ornate frames, and instead opt for clean lines and metallic finishes with a little patina.
This rectangular mirror from April and the Bear looks best leaning up against the wall and its diminutive size leaves lots of room for artwork and other pieces to be placed alongside it. For a slightly bohemian look, layer art prints and mirrors on the mantle, and finish the look off with a selection of mismatched candlesticks with taper candles and a handful of tea lights for added cosiness.
Buy it: Rectangular glass mirror, €42, April and the Bear, aprilandthebear.com