Fireplace Accessories

By Karen Parr-Moody


Baby, it’s cold outside – and inside, antique fireplace accoutrements warm up any living room’s style. Such accessories might include antique andirons, fenders, surrounds, or tools from various architectural periods. At GasLamp, such items are easily found, and will bring handmade charm to the heart of the home.


Master craftsmen made fireplace accessories by hand during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. The popularity of ornate fireplaces was due to America’s economic expansion that began in the late 1700s. The new affluence led to the design of larger and more extravagant homes, which included fireplaces on a grander scale than before.


Popular architecture trends of the 1800s included the Federal style. In its wake came fireplace items that incorporated its Neoclassical hallmarks, including ribbon-tied swags and floral garlands. The gorgeous fireback, pictured at right, represents the period in a stunning manner ($230, Booth B-230). Forged and stamped in 1858, this iron fireback features a classical female and two cherubs. It would be a beautiful addition to a fireplace, or one might have custom supports made to display it as a piece of art.


Another antique fireback example, though less decorative, is this one, photo left, that was recently removed from a historic home ($150). It has a pierced border design with a center vertical motif.


Designed to fit a small fireplace mantel, the metal fireplace surround at right is flanked by a pair of graceful Ionic columns ($110; Booth B-230). Its style, inspired by ancient Greece, also fits in with the Neoclassical motifs of the Adam and Federal styles of architecture. Its size suggests it likely surrounded a secondary room’s fireplace in a large, well-to-do household. 


The Victorians loved to adorn just about any decorative object with an animal, and this lion face fireplace grate, below left, is one such object ($160; Booth B-230). Made of iron, it would be perfectly charming used with logs. Alternately, it could be modernized as décor in an unused fireplace; just place a basket of pinecones behind it to hint at the idea of wood.


The oldest of fireplace furnishings, andirons were used widely from the late Iron Age to support wood in an open fireplace. Since the andiron stands on short legs and usually has a vertical guard bar at the front to prevent logs from rolling off, it has somewhat doglike appearance – hence the alternative name, firedog. The guard bar can be designed in any manner; one of the more unusual pair of andirons seen at GasLamp had bars designed as black cats with green glass eyes.


This copper pair of English andirons, in the photo at right, reflects the Arts and Crafts trend in the decorative arts ($795, B-225).


Beyond keeping one cozy, an antique fireplace brings a sense of history and charm to the heart of a home. Refurbishing a fireplace with architectural elements from the past is a wonderful way to bring tradition into today's modern lifestyle.

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