What to Do With an Offset Fireplace

Our efforts to create balance when decorating a room with an offset fireplace are sometimes defeated not by the fireplace, but by the design of the room itself.

Achieving Visual Balance

Balance can be achieved without symmetry.Balance can be achieved without symmetry.
The fireplace is the usual focal point in a room, but even if it is centered, poor dimensions, awkward placement of doors and windows, or available wall space can limit choices in the arrangement of furnishings. However, although balance is critical to successful decorating, symmetry is not.

Whether or not your fireplace is centered on the wall, if the chimney face extends farther beyond the fireplace opening on one side than on the other, it creates imbalance. You can compensate for this offset by placing an object such as a set of fire tools against the extended chimney face. If the object is of similar height to the fireplace opening, it will restore balance. Even a stack of wood piled on the extended hearth next to the fireplace opening gives the illusion of continuity. By mimicking the height of the fireplace opening with an unrelated object, you will achieve visual balance, according to interior designer Peggy Oberlin.

The Corner Fireplace

A corner fireplace can be awkward whether or not the fireplace opening is offset unless the room is perfectly square. Unless doors, windows or the arrangement of the furnishings distract the eye, a fireplace in the corner of a square room is a natural focal point, although some people prefer to focus on a large-screen TV. "Don't allow your room to boss you around," says interior designer Erica Ward. She suggests designing your space the way you want to live in it. Although both are prominent features in the room, the fireplace and the TV can coexist harmoniously.

Balancing with Windows or Wall Ornaments

If a fireplace is close to the corner of a room, there isn't enough space on the wall side of the fireplace for furniture without it overlapping the fireplace opening. If the side wall has windows, the windows will create the illusion of balance with any furniture facing them on the opposite side of the fireplace. If the wall has no windows, compensate for the imbalance with wall ornaments -- a painting, a collection of small clocks mounted on the wall or sea shells on a narrow shelf, possibly recessed into the wall if space is really tight. If you need height, consider a tall, narrow grandfather clock.

Balance with Mantel Ornaments

When the fireplace mantel extends beyond the fireplace opening more on one side than on the other, a subtle arrangement of ornaments on the mantel detracts from any imbalance. Group taller ornaments on the extended end and shorter items near the opposite end of the mantel, for example a group of three tall objects such as candles opposite one low object -- a large shell or a figurine. The clean lines of the asymmetrical arrangement are restful and suit the informal design of the offset fireplace.

About the Author

Vera DeVaney has been writing professionally since 1978 and also teaches creative writing. She was a feature writer for the "Lomita News" and served in the editorial department of "The Desert Sun" in Palm Springs, Calif. DeVaney holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from California State University Long Beach.