Faux Fireplace, a Great Idea or a Disaster?

Dear Laurel,

It’s nearly October and well, you know what that means.

The holidays are coming…

You know… Chestnuts roasting on an open uhhh…


Okay, that was dumb.

Laurel,  like you, I live in a one-bedroom apartment in an old building. Alas, there’s no fireplace. And, no possibility of having a fireplace.

A real fireplace, that is.

And, I don’t think I can do gas; well, at least not easily.

That leaves doing either just a mantel, but that’s not really what I want.

Or, I could do one of those electric fireplaces? And, that would make it a totally faux fireplace with faux logs, faux embers, faux flames, faux crackle…

But, a very real electric bill.  haha


Is there a way to do a faux fireplace that’s elegant and affordable? Or, is elegant faux fireplace an oxymoron?


My absolute top number that I’ll spend is $2,500 from start to finish. But, that’s only if you think it’s a good idea and not too horribly ersatz. (‘faux’ real) I mean, I realize that when there’s a roaring fake “fire,” it’s not going to be anything like a real roaring fire. But, I think with a beautiful mantel, I can stage it for the holidays. And, maybe it could be nice?

Please say yes.


Faulecia Stone

PS: Ideally, I would like a TV over this, but of course, don’t want to push my luck. Oh, please do a blog post about this!




There’s nothing like being asked to do a post about a topic I know nothing about. haha Actually, it happens a fair amount.

While I do know a lot of things, about interior design, I definitely don’t know everything. However, throughout the 20 years I took on clients, there were dozens of times I needed to create or take care of something I had never done before. And, knew nothing about. That’s how one learns. And, quickly too!


So, you probably can already tell that I know bupkis about doing a faux fireplace.


Oh, by the way, that isn’t a real dear laurel letter but someone quite a while back did want me to write about the topic of faux fireplaces.

The first question is:


Is doing a faux fireplace super tacky?


And, I don’t mean the mantel, but the fake logs, embers, flames, etc.  That is, is the idea of having a fake fire really horrible?

I dunno. I think there’s far more horrible; because, if one has a really beautiful mantel and architectural features and it’s BUILT so that it looks like a REAL fireplace, then sure. Why not? In fact, it could be seen as a whimsical conversation piece when it’s on.

But, please no roasting marshmallows over it!

However, if y’all want to see the unbelievably tacky.  I have a good one for you, if you click here. And, it’s just around the corner from where I live. Wait until you see what some folks have done with this circa 1900 Sanford White gem.

There is an obvious addition to the original home. I am not sure how they could’ve made this architectural gem any uglier. In addition, somebody paid good money for this place– as is!


Okay, back to the subject at hand. First let’s look at some real fireplaces before we examine how best to create a faux fireplace.


Kuiken brothers - gorgeous fireplace mantels - mouldings - correct classical proportions

Remember the Kuiken Bros. with their amazing mantels and mouldings? We looked at them when we were discussing perfect fireplace mantel proportions.


Mark D Sikes - southern living showhouse - gorgeous tone on tone living room - fireplace mantel decorating

I love what Mark D Sikes did with this fireplace wall in a show house he did a few years ago.


living-room-McGrath-ii-english-country-house-style-white fireplace mantel decor

A beautiful new-trad living room by McGrath II. This fireplace fits on the built-out wall perfectly. It should never be larger than the built out wall. And, usually, I prefer if there are few inches of breathing room. Please note that because of perspective, the shelf is always going to appear farther out than it really is.



This is an example of a perfectly executed mantel from a photo I took two years ago on my trip to England. For more of this amazing home, click here.


via @stevecordony instagram - @ralphlaurenhome showroom palazzo Ralph Lauren Milan - marble fireplace mantel
One of my favorite posts from two months ago.


When it comes to creating a faux fireplace, we have two choices.



or Gel.

The most popular company that makes these is called Real Flame.

BTW, Wayfair has great prices on all of the Real Flame products.


Okay, they talk about the Gel, (you can watch a video here) which comes in cans and is a lot like those things they put under chafing  dishes to keep the food warm. However, it’s apparently a different faux fireplace insert from the electric insert. And, I could not find out, despite a good hour of searching, where they sell them.

Here’s the Real Flame website. I’ll give you a gold star (no, two gold stars!) if you can tell me how to get an insert that uses the gel instead of electricity.


I’m surprised that they don’t have signs all over the place shouting out, DO NOT USE THE GEL CANS IN OUR ELECTRIC FIREPLACES OR ELSE YOU MIGHT DIE!!!


I mean,  I don’t think you can use the gel in the electric fireplaces. Therefore, let’s just faux-get about the gel fireplaces.

Oh, you knew it was coming. Please forgive me; I couldn’t resist.


So, let’s stick with Real Flame ELECTRIC faux fireplaces, for the most part.


I actually love several of the mantels, but we’ll get into some of the drawbacks and benefits in a sec.

The other option is to go totally ala carte. You can just get the electric faux fireplace insert and build out the entire thing from scratch like these folks did.

But, that’s a LOT of back breaking work. And, the electric fireplaces from Magic Flame are great looking and all well under $1,000.00.


Now, it’s time to look at some of these electric faux fireplaces from Real Flame.


beautiful real flam Harlan fireplace mantel in white - faux fireplace electric insert

Well, we might as well start out with my favorite. How pretty is that!  I love this mantel. The proportions are lovely, and no, the flame could never be construed for a real fire. But, it does look similar to a gas fireplace.


Laurel, doesn’t it use a lot of electricity?


No, actually not more than a small appliance. That’s what they said. And, you have the choice of using it as a source of heat or turning the heat completely off.

Let me keep going, okay? I will link to lots of information that should answer a lot of your questions.

I’d like to start out by talking about what I don’t think you should do with a faux fireplace.

And, that is doing something weird to make it shout out




Unfortunately, like a lot of things in the home furnishings industry, there’s the good, the bad,

And the really bad.


Actually, this one doesn’t need to shout out, FAKE. A wimpy whisper will do. Whenever something looks like it should be shrunk down and put in a dollhouse, I suggest running as far away from it as possible. It’s not even attached to the wall. And, that crown is a big no-no.


But, believe it or not, there’s worse. A LOT of worse.


wtf - fireplace in media cabinet - faux fireplace - yathink?
Please tell me what genius dreamed up this idea.

“Hey, Joe. I’ve got it. We’ll put the fireplace IN the media cabinet. The media cabinet that looks like a barn door. hehe. They’ll love it!”

Please do not pin these bad examples unless the description clearly points out that what’s here is horrible!

Okay, so what DO we do instead? Let’s look at another beautiful electric faux fireplace from Real Flame.



Maxwell Grand Electric Fireplace in Blackwash by RealFlame

Handsome! Kind of like the boyfriend I wish I had, but don’t. :/


One thing that makes this fireplace look special is what is not happening in the one below.


It’s not that it’s bad because it looks like it’s falling apart. Or, wasn’t put together correctly. The larger issue is that it looks like it was just stuck to the wall. There is no build-out that is typical for most fireplaces.

We saw that in the real fireplaces above. And, also the faux fireplaces from Real Flame.

Plus, the one above has no hearth.

Shameful, is what it is.


Fireplace wall built out. Original source unknown - faux fireplace
What I think is ideal is to have someone do a little build-out of the wall behind the faux fireplace. Something like the one above would be incredibly lovely. And, actually, it’s possible that this is a faux fireplace. Just one without any insert. Could you put one in? I don’t know. Maybe.


But, there is one big problem with the ready-made electric fireplaces looking real.


A real mantel, not counting the shelf and base mouldings is usually not more than an inch or two thick. If you scroll back up, you’ll see that in the real mantels.

These babies have a box that’s about eight-nine inches in depth, not including the shelf. The Harlan shelf is 13″ deep. That part is good if you want to display things up there.


However, real fireplaces sometimes do come out that far and sometimes do not have the wall built out.


ranch house_Fireplace_schoolhouse.com - plaid jack chairs

We can see that in these two examples above and below from Schoolhouse Lighting.


ranch house schoolhouse.com - great lighting - living roomThat is, if these are real fireplaces. Who knows?

However, by building out the wall, we can also create a niche for our flat screen TV.


via fireplacerus.net - faux fireplace with builtinssource unknown


And, then we can have built-ins made. Or, we could do two free-standing cabinets, of some sort.


long living room wall - chests

Remember the post about the long uninterrupted living room wall? Here, in this moodboard, you can see that indicated that the fireplace wall should be built out. If you don’t remember this post, or you’d like to review, it click here.

And, for a ton of ideas about what to do if you want to put your TV over the fireplace and have it concealed beautifully, click here.


Let’s bring down that first faux fireplace


beautiful real flam Harlan fireplace mantel in white - faux fireplace electric insert
I did do some digging and they say that you cannot embed these electric fireplaces into the wall. I thought that might be a solution to make them look less deep. However, the moulding should never go behind the faux fireplace. It needs to stop right at the edge, just the same as it would for a real fireplace.

Umm. No. The moulding in a real fireplace would not look like this.  (I like the mantel; however, I do wish I could understand what is going on with that bizarre, peeling surround. Is that supposed to be like tree bark? Me confused.)

Therefore, the mantel should sit flush against the wall. I am sure there’s a way to secure it firmly. And, actually, it’s now the law that it must be secured. It’s not the law that it must be flush. That is, unless you ask me. haha


Let’s take a look at the little hearth. The problem is, it’s too little. It should extend out about a foot in front of the mantel.


What I would do to fix this is get a piece of wood about 10″ by the length of the current hearth. I would nail it and/or glue it firmly to the piece that’s there and calk and sand. And then paint the whole thing a matte or eggshell black. Maybe the front edge should have a bevel to make it less of a tripping hazard.


These mantels can be painted, I’m quite sure, if you’d like to change something.


If you don’t want a TV over the faux fireplace, then of course, there could be a mirror or artwork.


What else can we do?

Well, these fireplaces do have glass in front and that has to be there. If it gets damaged, it needs to be repaired before it can be used.

But, you could still do a nice fireplace screen for realism.

OR, how about an antique fireplace fender.


over mantel gilt mirror England home

I’m not talking about the English kind, like the one above. I’m sure that they are quite expensive. This was taken on my trip to England two years ago!



Ash Tree Cottage

I’m talking about this charming kind of fender. I found a whole slew of them on Etsy and they are quite reasonable priced.


fender in front of faux fireplace
Here ya go. Well, with the current furnishings, that neo-cassical style fender looks a little fancy.


Greek Key fender
Oh, me like this one. It’s actually bigger than I made it. But, you get the idea.

Okay, those are my ideas and thoughts about doing a faux fireplace. I think it’s possible to do it and have it look quite nice. I’ve fantasized about doing this very thing in my apartment. But, geeezzz, I’m having trouble getting my super over here just to fix the bathroom!


Doesn’t he know who you are, Laurel?


I don’t know. Who am I? ;]

Enough silliness. Below is a widget I made with nine lovely electric faux fireplaces.



Now that you’ve seen all of this. If you didn’t have a fireplace and wanted one, and couldn’t do gas. Or, didn’t want to do gas, would you do an electric faux fireplace?

And, does anyone have one? And, if you do, how do you like it?

In the meantime, if you’d like to see some other beautiful mantel inspiration please check out these older posts:

The Most Beautiful White Mantels

The Most Gorgeous Stone Mantels Ever

Smoulding, Sexy, Dark Mantels

The Ultimate Guilde To Fireplace Mantel Decorating


Okay, that should keep you busy for a while. ;]

But, please do check out the hot sales. There are over 40 new things to see this weekend!



Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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