colonial fireplaces

Thanksgiving has come and gone but traditional ideas in design plans remain on our minds year round. In terms of tradition, Colonial Fireplaces certainly offers a design element that imbues the modern home with both the spirit and the reality of the Colonial Period in America. So let’s take a brief look at it’s origins and how it can be interpreted today. For this post, consider the starting point of the Colonial design period as the establishment of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia in 1607 and its rough end as 1776 with the commencement of the Revolutionary War.  Even with that historical truncation, that is still a lot of years to think about. No less an authority than the classic of the genre, The Elements of Style, states that “it is helpful to divide this period into two phases: a frontier or settlement phase and the Georgian (or classical or Palladian) phase”. We will think of the latter for the moment.
Independence_Hall_1776_Philadelphia It is very important to understand the role that Colonial Fireplaces played in every day life. Again to quote The Elements of Style,“as the social center of the household, the fireplace always received some decorative emphasis in Colonial homes”. At the very top of this post is the bedroom in the Joseph Priestley House in Pennsylvania circa 1794. The design, by Mrs. Priestly, is generally considered Georgian with Federalist influences. Note the essential lack of extravagance.  Immediately above is the Assembly Room inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia built between 1732 and 1756. Notably Georgian overall, the decorative aspects of the fireplaces are prominent. Lastly, have a look at the the fireplace in the restaurant of Mt. Vernon the home of George and Martha Washington. Please note that all three examples here are from the Middle Atlantic region and therefore are more indicative of English influences rather than say the Dutch proclivities of the Hudson River Valley. Perhaps that is another post for another day.

the colonial fireplace


Our sister company, Materials Marketing, takes prides in its vast catalog of natural stone fireplaces. A large percentage of these are custom designed to the individual needs of the client.  There are ten luxury MML showrooms in present day America where the fireplaces of Colonial America can be artfully and tastefully reproduced. Stop in and visit one of them or reach out to me at Thanks!

Summer Style for Your Fireplace

As we reach the Father’s Day weekend it is most certainly summer time and as they say,“the living is easy”. We can also assume that most fireplaces will not be getting much use, so why not turn them in to a design focal point for summer.There is a very fun site called the adorable home and they recently posted some suggestions on this topic. So here we go with summer style for your fireplace.

Be creative by adding some painted logs. Adorable Home suggests that “for an unusual fireplace display, logs are a fairly common sight around the fire but with a coat of paint they will really stand out. Stack them in or around the fireplace for the best effect”

Be more creative with vases matching the painted logs. Again from our friends, “how about using matching vases with twigs or flowers in them to make a pretty feature of your fireplace for the summer?”

summer style for your fireplace.

Find an alternate use for your mantel.  A good friend of mine fills mason jars with beach glass and sand for a lively color addition to the fireplace area. Coordinate these colors with the painted log suggestion and now you are really having fun!

Don’t stop there. Adorable Home concludes with, “other easy and quick ways to decorate a fireplace for summer include positioning a beautiful statue inside the fireplace for a large and simple feature, installing a mirror which will bounce natural light around and make the whole room appear much larger plus adding depth or having a display of church candles that can be lit for a special occasion and will change the mood of a room.”

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy your Father’s Day and let us know any great ideas that you have for your fireplace’s summer vacation.

The Custom Fireplace: Five Tips from a Professional!

The disciplines of architecture and design circle around style and substance. For example, in Chicago where architectural style is taken very seriously, the Louis Sullivan commandment that form must follow function reigns supreme. We turned to a long time stone industry veteran in Chicagoland, Ms.Katie Pomroy, to get some help on how the homeowner can personalize a space by customizing a functional element within it like the fireplace. So here we go with a little bit on the custom fireplace: five tips from a professional!

The legendary Louis Sullivan

“One of the things we take great pride in is our ability to customize a natural stone fireplace for our clients”, said Katie. OK, but let’s drill down a bit. So here are five great tips from on how to get that accomplished.

  1. Design a firebox opening that allows for equal pieces of cladding to surround it. Think about this instead of using a standard opening dimension.
  2. Make your fireplace design more your own by adapting its size to the scale of the room. According to Katie, “this is something we do all the time”. For example, in a very large room with high ceilings we often suggest increasing the depth of the pieces composing the surround.”   This minor change creates a more unique piece that also fits the space more perfectly.
  3. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, why not borrow a section of a fireplace you have seen and redo it as your own. According to Miss Pomroy, “use the header you love with the legs you saw somewhere else.”
  4. The crown molding in the room can be incorporated into the design of the fireplace. Again, delivering a more one of a kind piece.
  5. Katie also says, “make a statement with a full wall of stone including thin veneer and a carved fireplace to complement one another and create a substantial focus in the room.”


So there you have five tips on customizing your natural stone fireplace while abiding by solid design ideas. Katie Pomroy can be reached in the Chicago showroom of our sister company, Materials Marketing and at If you are outside of Chicagoland, then Materials Marketing has 10 showrooms across America where there are design professionals like Katie who will be happy to help you!

rustic fireplace mantels

In a design sense, many images come to mind when one hears the word “rustic.” For example, picturesque natural outdoor America with its mountainous terrain, canyons cut by meandering streams and snow falling coolly. These visions and others may serve as the inspiration to create your own rustic design plan. The organic outdoors should be considered when you formulate and conceptualize plans for the production of rustic fireplace mantels.

Importantly, the location of a property is usually a primary inspiration for a truly rustic design. The natural surroundings become a part of the interior space and a cabin in the North Carolina mountains contains different elements than a New England farmhouse.

rustic fireplace mantels

Specific materials are needed to achieve a carefully considered rustic ambience. Choosing the right stone texture is one important step. A weathered or aged look should be accented. Flaws and imperfections in the stone contribute to the plan. Distressed wood as well as oxidized metals can be coupled with these stones creating a focal point.

Defining the correct architectural stone is a key piece to this puzzle. Quarried stones such as limestone, marble and travertine all express their own character traits. Color, texture, veining, voids and movement are all a part of the details.

Rustic fireplace mantels generally express a somewhat weathered appearance. Pitting, chipping, veining and shading contribute mightily. As reclaimed timber may generate an antebellum plantation ambience so too should your stone.

Many times a client comes into a stone showroom hoping to achieve a “rustic” style of some sort. Perhaps the best piece of advice they can be given is to go with what they see around them. Mother Nature will be their best and truest guide.

Naturally we feel that Texas limestone creates almost perfect rustic fireplace mantels. Our sister company Materials Marketing has ten showrooms around America. The design professionals in those locations will be happy to help you. Thanks for reading.


The Pasadena Showcase House of Design enjoys an almost fifty year legacy of excellence in design and philanthropy. This event is thought of as  “one of the largest, most successful and oldest house and garden tours in the United States.” It is organized and produced by the all-volunteer Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts. All  proceeds from the House are used to fund  a variety of non-profit organizations that focus on musically oriented programs, such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Needless to say, A.J. Brauer and its unique Texas limestone blocks was pleased to be a part of all this.

Materials Marketing, a sister company to AJ. Brauer Stone, had been previously involved in the production of this great effort, and in the 2013 version, MML collaborated with David Reaume of Reaume Construction and Design. As one of the finest home builders in Pasadena, Mr. Reaume has great experience  in the market and acts  as the Design Liaison for the project  working “side by side with the featured designers and the Showcase board”. This is meant to “ensure that the quality of design complies with the integrity and style of the house”. Of course, Materials Marketing was also proud to be in such fine design company and to be flying such high cultural air!

A.J. Brauer Pasadena-Showcase-House-of-Design in Texas Limestone Blocks 2

Given all of this history, Kristen Shuma and Chuck Carstensen, two experienced  sales and design professionals from the Materials Marketing showroom  in Newport Beach, CA. joined the project with a great sense of pride and passion . Ms. Shuma said, “Chuck and I drove to the house to check out the space and the plan for the overall house- we met with David and his designers and took a few pictures and measurements of the existing conditions”. After much deliberation, a Texas Cream limestone from A.J. Brauer was chosen for the master bedroom. This particular fireplace  was a modification of Material Marketing fireplace #640 and the stone was naturally produced from Texas limestone blocks.

The 2013 Pasadena Showcase House of Design was open from April 21st to May 19th and according to media sources was very well attended. As contributors to this charitable effort, A. J. Brauer and Materials Marketing hope that the fine attendance translated into excellent funding for the causes it is meant to benefit.

A.J. Brauer Pasadena-Showcase-House-of-Design in Texas Limestone Blocks 3

Materials Marketing has ten showrooms around the USA that feature A.J. Brauer stone, produced from Texas limestone blocks.. Visit with the design professionals there. Ask them to show you the material used in the Pasadena Showcase House!