9 Ideas for Fireplace Built-Ins That Add Character and Storage

Want to snag a bit more storage and display space from your home? Try fireplace built-ins. They're often easier to integrate than you might think and offer a great spot for showcasing favorite accessories.

Finding storage in your home can be difficult, especially if space is at a premium. Fireplace built-ins offer much-needed storage while keeping style and your favorite accessories at the forefront. Whether you're looking for closed storage to hide cords, gaming equipment, or electronics, or open shelving to display your collection of memorabilia, built-ins around a fireplace can solve both. Fireplace built-ins can be recessed or flushed, symmetrical or asymmetrical, and feature a wide variety of finishes based on your design vision. Increase your home's storage potential with these 9 tips for fireplace built-ins, including ideas for updating existing fireplace built-ins and solutions for building and installing new fireplace cabinets and shelves.

Editor's Note: Always keep safety at the top of your mind when designing and installing fireplace built-ins. Your local building codes and ordinances might specify materials and required dimensions to maintain noncombustibility.

living room with yellow chairs blue couch
Adam Albright

1. Determine storage needs.

Before you add a fireplace built-in, consider the rest of your home. Do you need just a few key spots for books? Or does your home already feel overcrowded? Are built-in cabinets around a fireplace essential for storage? That might help you decide how much storage to add and whether it's floor-to-ceiling units or a simple, low bookcase or bench.

white painted fireplace floating mantel shell decor blanket ladder chairs
John Bessler

2. Focus on the mantel first.

Mantel-only fireplaces are one way to grab a sliver of storage but maintain an uncluttered look—a particularly important goal in small rooms. Adding decorative items to your mantel helps make your fireplace the focal point in any room. Use small, color-coded stacks of books or accents in a contrasting color to draw eyes toward your mantel. Focusing on mantel decor allows you to easily switch out items for each season and holiday, keeping your home fresh and festive with minimal effort.

white brick fireplace
Kim Cornelison

3. Choose between recessed and flush fireplace built-ins.

Many built-ins around fireplaces are stepped back by several inches to accommodate the depth of the fireplace while providing usable storage that isn't too unwieldy. Other built-ins are in the same plane as the fireplace. Stepping back the built-ins offers a bit of visual relief, particularly useful in a small room. However, recessed built-ins can be a large renovation project if your home doesn't already have them, whereas ready-made bookcases are an easy addition if your room has space.

living room with colorful decor
Annie Schlechter

4. Decide on symmetrical or asymmetrical fireplace cabinets.

Where your fireplace is situated will influence where your built-ins go and whether they are uniform on both sides. There are no rules: Do what works with your house and your needs. Contemporary fireplace built-ins might work well just to one side, particularly if the design is sleek and unfussy. More traditional homes might feel best with a symmetrical fireplace with built-ins on both sides.

modern floating shelves by fireplace
Kritsada Panichgul

5. Boost the base of fireplace built-ins.

If your fireplace hearth has an elevated base at low-seating height, you might be able to extend that to both sides for low shelves or drawers that add storage (and more seating, too). Extending the hearth can add a spot to sit if you love being close to the warmth of the fire. Cozy up with a book and a blanket for the perfect reading spot. Adding drawers underneath the extended seating is a simple way to increase living room storage.

grey orange living room turquoise accents
Kim Cornelison

6. Mix and match the base and shelves of built-ins.

Concealed storage and open shelves work well together, particularly with fireplaces that are centered on a short wall. It's a look that's often seen in traditional or cottage-style homes and can give a space visual balance. Shelves on the side of this living room fireplace showcase colorful accessories while helping opening up the space to make it seem larger than it is.

living room black white accents with fireplace
John Bessler

7. Close up storage as needed.

Doors—those with glass, metal, or solid fronts—are another fireplace built-in option and a way to add visual variety. Solid doors contain and conceal clutter, while more glass doors provide display space. Don't be afraid to mix and match closed doors with open shelves. Built-in cabinets around a fireplace are great storage for books and games, while the mantel and surface of cabinets can provide an area to display photographs and decor.

blue mantel and living room
Michael Partenio

8. Pick materials and design details.

Whatever fireplace built-in setup you decide on, use your home and your fireplace for cues on materials and details. Built-ins are a good way to repeat certain design elements—for example, a material or molding type found elsewhere in the room. Incorporating details that are already present throughout your home in your fireplace built-in keep your interior design consistent. This way, your rooms have has one fluid style and color scheme.

white sitting room with white brick fireplace
Annie Schlechter

9. Install open shelves.

Open shelves are a simple fireplace built-in idea and a practical, adaptable way to gain lots of storage. In narrow fireplace nooks, they work well to fill up what would otherwise be dead space. If there are no windows to the side of your fireplace, consider taking the shelves from floor to ceiling. Open shelves provide the opportunity to create a symmetrical fireplace with built-ins on each side. Otherwise, ending them at mantel height is a good way to meld the look of the built-ins with the fireplace.

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