DIY a High-end Look With an Inexpensive Fireplace

Hi Liz here from SimpleDecoratingTips.com.

With the wonderful choices in electric fireplaces out on the market now, a world of ability has opened up to us to add a fireplace to any room. With a little carpentry you can DIY a high-end look with an inexpensive fireplace.
Now we can create a cozy room, highlighted with the focal point of a fireplace, all the while being able to have an additional heat source. To add a fireplace to any room, there’s no need to build any sort of chimney or drill through the wall for exhaust… in fact, all you need is an outlet.

(To see everything we did in this amazing condo renovation, check at the end of this post for the link.)

Just a quick rundown of that condo project… it is a 1980’s small condo that we renovated into a ‘Modern Swedish Farmhouse’ style.

This is the living room space during the de-construction:
The wall dividing the kitchen from the dining area, that flows into the living room area was removed, opening it up to one great room.
There is a large sliding patio door on the far end of the space. However, an important feature that was missing in this space is an axis to that strong visual line from the kitchen to the sliding door.
By creating an axis in the living room area with an addition of a fireplace, it allows the space to be balanced and visually defines it.
The first thing we did was to determine how much space would be the living room space. That way we could center the fireplace on that space… hence the ‘axis’.
Then we went fireplace shopping…
Well I went fireplace shopping, online… and forwarded the choices to them. Knowing that they were going for a more streamlined modern look, I was thrilled to find the one I did, (see link at end of this post to see sources)

These are the pictures from the link for the fireplace:
This electric fireplace is visually very appealing, but also is a solid heat source for the space, it even has a thermostat.

Once we had the fireplace determined, although at that point we could have just hung it on the wall, plugged it in and called it good to go, I really wanted to create a very strong visual axis in the living space, and the carpenter was already there doing everything else, so I had him build a faux fireplace chase:
This was the first chase he built, but it had a mistake…

In keeping with the clean steamline ‘Modern Swedish Farmhouse’ I didn’t want any kind of a hearth that jutted out. I had designed it to be a solid flat plane with an inset only for the fireplace unit to hang. There was a wee bit of communication confusion from me, (the designer) to the carpenter and the homeowner to the carpenter. Of course the homeowner always has the final say… that’s clear to understand. They’re the ones that will live with it day in and day out, so they’re the ones that must like it… plus whoever signs their name on the bottom of the check is the one that has full veto power. (as a designer, I understand and respect this fact completely!) This wasn’t a case like that, this was just a matter of the homeowner not having a clear understanding of the vision, but was very open and in full agreement to the original design of the flat plane chase once I explained it again.

All that being said, it was fairly easy for the carpenter to fix the jutting hearth mistake and create the flat plane front of the original design:
The entire faux chase was then covered with the same wonderful whitewashed planks that were installed in the hallway and on the kitchen island. Repeating an element like that gives the space a sense of congruity and flows from space to space.

This is the inset panel for the fireplace to mount to.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have the fireplace in hand before one builds a chase for it to fit in. I just don’t trust the specs that are listed on the website, not only could they be wrong, there could also be a problem with stock, backorders etc. and you wind up never actually get the fireplace you thought you were going to get. (the old adage ‘a bird in the hand verses two in the bush‘ is solid advise for making custom designed items like this)

I’ve had orders never come to fruition and had to re-order so many times for different jobs… I never trust for sure I’m getting something, until I have actually received it. Don’t build this until you have it in hand!
Here is the fireplace mounted:
There is a special backlighting feature of this fireplace, so we built the inset a little larger to showcase that subtle lighting.

This chase is flanked with built in bookshelves on each side.
The living room space now has a strong axis creating a floor plan that visually seems to push the walls out and gives a sense of balance to the living room space.
By adding a fireplace to this space gave us the features we were looking for. The wonderful options that are out there for us in the world of electric fireplaces is fantastic… giving us tons of choices to easily add a fireplace to any room… living room, or master bedroom… how about a dining room, with an antique mantel? lovely! So many options!

Thinking you may want to order a fireplace for you space? 


Suggested materials:

  • Electric fireplace
  • Barnwood

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Liz at Simple Decorating Tips

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

10 questions
  • Linda
    on Feb 19, 2017

    Hi, I wanted to know if your contractor would be willing to share how to build the chase? Thank you.

    • Hi Linda. I'll try to pin him down for details... but you know, contractors can be hard to communicate with sometimes. They are typically so busy. But if you have a contractor, he probably can look at the pics I posted here and figure it out. Basically it's a matter of building a frame and covering it with barn boards or whatever type of material you prefer.

  • Mamabear318
    on Feb 24, 2017

    where are you hiding the cable box, blu-ray, etc. I presume there is some type of access thru the side of the chase, but I don't see it...which is probably a good thing

    • Hi! :) yes it is through the front of the chase behind the back of the TV the cables can go down from there and then go over to where they need to mount into the wall. Because it's an electric fireplace the inside of the chase is free space.

    • And the DVD player, cable box etc. is sitting on the shelf to the right of the chase. :)

    • Lynn
      on Feb 25, 2017

      When I mounted my 55" tv, we searched for a DVD (I haven't jumped into blu-ray yet) that could be mounted horizontally. So on my wall I have only the TV and a couple of black floating shelves that hold my DVDs. Neither my cable box nor DVD player require a direct site remote 😊 and are mounted behind the TV the coax & surge protector wires are hidden in the tree trunk.

    • Lynn
      on Feb 25, 2017

      When I mounted my 55" tv, we searched for a DVD (I haven't jumped into blu-ray yet) that could be mounted horizontally. So on my wall I have only the TV and a couple of black floating shelves that hold my DVDs. Neither my cable box nor DVD player require a direct site remote 😊 and are mounted behind the TV the coax & surge protector wires are hidden in the tree trunk.

  • Betty Bennett
    on Feb 24, 2017

    I am a little curious as to why you chose not to inset the tv?

    • Great question Betty. My friend's husband who owns the condo is legally blind so if he sits really close to the TV he can see it. Up until the very last planning they were going to mount the TV on the Shelf next to the fireplace but change their minds. I don't think it being in set would have helped him to see it. Plus to have a big long flat Chase is what I was going for in the design, to increase the visual vertical, and to play off the look we were going for which was Modern Swedish farmhouse style. I think to in sets on the fireplace Chase, even if it would have worked for his sight, would have made that long simple plane start to get busy and less simple like modern Swedish farmhouse.

  • Melody Warren
    on Feb 24, 2017

    WOW! What a difference! I love the warmth it made. I would like to know where you got the picture above the tv, please.

  • Colleen
    on Feb 25, 2017

    Where did you find the Grandma Moses printed fabric for the picture over the fireplace?

  • Andrea
    on Feb 28, 2017

    How did you hide the cables for the TV?

  • Kim
    on Mar 9, 2017

    Does heat effect tv above it?

    • No, the heat of the fireplace is diverted to mostly come straight out instead of up, due to the combination of the fireplace design and chase insert design.

  • Suz1301961
    on Apr 1, 2017

    Curious as to why the carpenter wasn't insteucted to wrap the sides of the chase to match the front. Doesn't look as professional as it could. Boards should have been matched up at the corners.

    • The homeowners weren't worried about micro- managing some of the design details, allowing for a more informal finished look.

    • Style-Sack
      on Dec 30, 2018

      That I noticed as well... spoils the whole look of it..

    • Style-Sack
      on Dec 30, 2018

      @Simple Decorating Tips, I guess you will have to explain that to everyone who see it in r/l then..


    • Style-Sack... I'd be thrilled if this post or picture of the fireplace make it to Ralph Lauren... matched sides or not. :) Oh... sorry, I bet you didn't mean that for r/l did you? :) J/K :) Seriously, it looks really great in real life. The wood came from a barn, and home owners wanted a very casual homespun feel to the condo renovation. A feel that scrap wood was used. They weren't going for a finish like how one would side the exterior of a house taking care to match the planks.

    • Style-Sack
      on Jan 26, 2019

      @Simply Decorating Tips, LOL let us know when it makes it to Ralph Lauren..

    • 😂 LOL

    • Jane
      on Mar 15, 2019

      no not having it match on the sides would drive me crazy or put the built in all the way up or figure out how to hide it somehow


  • Soleil
    on Aug 14, 2018

    Can you add a wood fire place

    • A wood fireplace needs a full and properly built chimney, and fireplace. That is a whole different thing... although the finished look is similar. That's the beauty of an electric fireplace like this one, it makes it super easy to add it and get the look without having to do major reconstruction.

  • Jane
    on Mar 15, 2019

    move the fireplace down or the tv up to meet the specifications?

Join the conversation

3 of 32 comments
  • LaVerne Peterson-Jackson
    on Sep 23, 2018

    I’m waiting on the delivery of my fireplace (electric).Looking for someone who can do the work.I am a DIYer but this is a little much for me. I want to place TV above I am now learning I may not be able to use the heat option since The unit I ordered is top vented. I live in Florida so that may not be a problem. I have also been advised I may be able to use the heat option with tv above, but it will need to be three feet above unit. Any advice. I really wanted it for the look.

    • LaVerne, I'm sorry for the delay, for some reason this didn't show up for me until now... It may be too late as you wrote back in September, but I'd really consider getting a front venting FP. Then you can get a zero clearance model that can be inserted safely in a wood chase.

  • Charise.
    on Feb 14, 2020

    DIY?! You mean DICarpenter.

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