Fireplaces add so much character to a room. Even if they aren't working units, their sheer presence exudes warmth and evokes sentimental memories spent in front of a roaring fire. Maybe your fireplace actually works but it isn't used for majority of the year. If so, you can turn it into a focal point with some decorative touches that don't require keeping a fire extinguisher nearby.
Fireplace openings make great places to stage your accessories. A group of vases or pottery in varying sizes makes a great visual statement, especially if complemented by the items on your mantle. If you're an avid antiques collector, display some of your favorite pieces in your fireplace. Throw in an assortment of pillar candles to add a little glow and scent coming from your hearth. If you're a literature lover who's short on bookshelf space, create stacks of your favorite hardcovers to add some color to your fireplace area.
Plants and flowers bring in a natural element that's always visually appealing. You can make a bold statement with a single large, leafy green plant, like a fern or a peace lily. Or you can create a vignette of smaller plants in baskets and fresh flowers in vases that can be changed up to fit the seasons. Add branches and baskets of pinecones for a little fall drama. Fireplaces also make great storage for firewood out of season, and the added plus is that piles of raw wood create an interesting visual. Wrap some Christmas lights around the logs for a little fire-like sparkle.
If you're like many home dwellers these days, your flat screen television may have made its place hung over your mantle. So the interior of the fireplace can be a great place to store your cable box and the rest of the ancillary electronics that hook up to your TV. Just be sure to install a chimney pillow, which seals up the fireplace and prevents leaks. It will also keep critters from making a nest in your stereo equipment.
But what if your non-working fireplace is a big old mess, with chipped cement and caked-on soot? In that case, your best bet is to cover up the opening. Find a piece of fabric that complements your décor and hem three sides to fit the interior dimension. Not much of a seamstress? Use no-sew, iron-on tape to seam it up. Then take an inexpensive tension rod that fits inside the opening and hang the fourth side over it. Once you have the perfect fit, add more no-sew tape, leaving a hole to slip onto the rod.