Carved Mantels

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Carved mantels are especially effective in any design scheme. After all, fireplaces--having been the natural focal point of any room since the first was cut out of a castle wall 900 years ago--continue to set the design tone for the entire room, even of the house. The other architectural details and furnishings complement it. Look closely through architectural and interior design magazines or websites, and you can see this.

Several Styles of Carved Mantels

Perhaps you're a traditionalist, most comfortable with hardwood floors, neoclassical detailing, antique furniture, Oriental rugs, and oil paintings. Marble or faux-marble facings do very well with wooden carved mantels in setting such a tone. Several others do as well, truth be known. Brick and wrought iron are especially effective if the look of interiors in Colonial Williamsburg or Boston appeals to you.

The most elaborate fireplaces featuring hand carved wood or stone work are Baroque and Rococo. At the other end of the scale are the simple lines of gray Romanesque stone, which continued into the 17th century in England and France. Think of the great halls of medieval castles, or even the great rooms of Connecticut farm houses with sandstone or field stone mantels, and you can imagine such a look.

Perhaps you're now thinking of a stone fireplace rather than one of wood. The cool elegance of the marble carved mantels in the summer "cottages" of Newport, Rhode Island is, after all, impressive. Genuine stone--whether granite, marble, limestone, or slate--is much heavier and harder to work with. It's therefore expensive. Cast stone--a fine-grade concrete--is an affordable alternative. Originally used on building exteriors, it has moved inside to the fireplace.

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