Like it or not, winter is here. But winter isn’t all so bad! Who doesn’t like bundling up in front of the fireplace with a blanket, your favorite PJs, slippers and a steaming cup of coffee or hot cocoa?

Chances are, however, that in the warm spring and summer months the trusty old fireplace didn’t get a lot of attention. Maybe it hasn’t gotten a lot of love since the house was built or since you moved in. In any case, if you plan on spending a lot of time gathered around the fireplace this winter, why not take a little time to spruce it up? After all, in most gathering spaces the fireplace is (or can be) the focal point and where visitors’ eyes will likely go first and expectations for warm gatherings are held.

Add character to the mantle

A fireplace mantle is a great place to display family photos, art, knick-knacks and holiday decorations. If your fireplace doesn’t already have a mantle, have one put in. You will be surprised to see the difference a few new decorations, and especially updated and framed family pictures will make.

Have a mantle already? Many times, replacing stagnant pieces with items that have height, i.e., unique candle fixtures or sculptures, or art pieces made of natural wood or stone will add interest.

Screen it in

Adding a screen to the front of your fireplace is a simple, yet effective enhancement. Not only does a screen improve safety, both while in use or not, it also personalizes and adds dimension. There are a great many varieties of styles and materials; find the screen that fits stylistically into your space.

Place a cool rug

When done right an area rug can infuse character or a particular theme. Like any well-placed accessory, a rug should tie in accent colors in and/or around the fireplace. A rug will soften the area as well, both underfoot and possibly acoustically as well

Update your fireplace accessories

Updating accessories like pokers and shovels can help to establish or reinforce a design theme. Black iron pokers are great for more outdoorsy vibes while steel and brass-finished accessories may be better for a more modern or formal aesthetic.

The accessories you choose also allow you to get creative. Is your wood or kindling just stacked up by the fireplace? Find some baskets or repurpose old wood crates as bins for housing wood and kindling.

Get it cleaned

Maybe that tired old fireplace just needs a makeover? When was the last time you had your fireplace and surrounding area cleaned? Soot buildup can be unsightly in the fireplace and any rug or carpeting that has rested in front of the fireplace for several years may be discolored by smoke. Give them a thorough cleaning.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends fireplaces and chimneys should be inspected once a year and cleaning recommendations vary depending on use. Next time you have a professional out for an inspection, see if it’s time for a fireplace deep clean.