Debbie Travis: Switch to gas fireplace without losing traditional style

Dear Debbie: We have been debating fireplace types for our home renovation. We have always had a log-burning fireplace but think maybe it’s time to switch to lower-maintenance gas.

Will we regret this decision? Our style is traditional, with some Victorian furniture pieces.

article continues below


Generally, what we love about a log-burning fireplace is the smoky smell of the burning wood and the crackle and pop of the fire.

They do present challenges in terms of maintenance — buying or cutting the logs, stacking and building the fire, tending to the flames and protection from random flying sparks.

Switching to gas means that you simply flip a switch and presto — you’ve got flames. That welcoming warmth comes with wood and gas, most providing options for heat control and output. It’s up to you to decide which source of heat best suits your living conditions.

Designers of gas fireplaces are continually striving to build products that are both energy-efficient and stylish.

There are the slim-line models that fit seamlessly into a contemporary setting. Some are multi-sided and see-through to provide views from two rooms.

Standard and large-format models are available with a choice of components. The Windsor Arch from Valor’s Portrait Series, shown here, is a classic example of old-fashioned charm that would enhance your room’s style.

Fireplace fronts vary from clean line to traditional. The fire bed can be coals, driftwood, logs or rocks, and the liners come in fluted black, red brick and reflective glass.

Dear Debbie: I am always on the lookout for ways to freshen up my family-room fireplace. It’s a central feature and we stare at it when the fire is glowing. I’d like some ideas on how to treat the mantel.


Even when the fire is not lit, a fireplace usually takes centre stage in any room. Mantels come in different materials and sizes, but each begs to be decorated. It comes down to personal choice whether you take a minimal approach or create a display.

Pick a theme, which can be seasonal, and choose materials and colours that produce the mood. Winter whites, blues and greys combine for a quiet feel.

Use an edited list of vases, candlesticks, books, a lantern, snowball flowers and winter greens to fill the space. Add some silvery metal for sparkle. Don’t overcrowd.

Another wintery option is to play with mirrors and glass, then introduce one or two hand-hewn wooden accessories that will warm up the arrangement.

Or feature seasonal photos that show family and friends enjoying a game of hockey, a favourite ski hill or a walk in the snowy woods. Frame the pictures in black and white, always a stunning combination. Wrought-iron candlesticks and a black-framed mirror complete the look.

When it’s time for spring, you can simply create another vignette. Change up the colours and add a small bouquet of fresh flowers.

Play with contrasting materials, metal with wood, ceramics with glass. Vary the height of your display items, but don’t get top heavy. A tall vase of branches at one end of the mantel can be balanced by a large mirror on the wall above the mantel beside the arrangement. Your eye will tell you when you’ve got it right.

Enjoy your winter fireplace.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email decorating questions to Follow Debbie at,,

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Most Popular


    The Times Colonist is looking for newspaper carriers to work in the Reader Sales and Service Department.

Find out what's happening in your community.