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The New York Times

Market Ready: Nonfunctioning Fireplaces

By: Tim McKeough
Published: 3/14/2013Source: The New York Times

Q. What can I do with a nonfunctional fireplace to make it look like an asset?

A. Even if you can’t use it for wood-burning fires, a fireplace that is merely decorative can still be an asset to your home. “It enhances the room, makes it seem more cozy and adds charm and character,” said Barry Rudnick, a senior vice president with Corcoran Group in Manhattan. “In general, people really like them.”

Far from being a problem, he said, a nonworking fireplace can enhance the price of your home, particularly if it is set off with an attractive mantel.

Alex Papachristidis, a New York interior designer, agreed. A nonfunctional fireplace is “a wonderful thing,” he said. “It’s something that can really add to a room.”

For some of his clients, Mr. Papachristidis has gone beyond merely decorating nonworking fireplaces; he has added mock fireplaces to rooms that didn’t have them. “I put fake fireplaces in,” he said, because “it adds an architectural focal point to the room.”

For one client in Manhattan, he installed a nonfunctional fireplace along with other finishing touches, like crown molding, to give a modern apartment a traditional look. “We put in a beautiful 18th-century French stone mantel,” he said, to create the impression of an aged fireplace.

The trick to maximizing the appeal of a decorative fireplace, Mr. Papachristidis said, is to treat it as you would a working fireplace. “I put white birch logs on firedogs inside, and then I put a fire screen in front of that,” he said. “I’ll often even put out fire tools and a log basket, so that it all looks real.”

Although you’ll never light it, the presence of those accessories creates the atmosphere of a real fireplace, he said.

For a more sculptural statement, especially in the summer months, Mr. Papachristidis sometimes puts away the fire screen and replaces the logs with ones made from the mineral selenite, which he buys at the Upper East Side store Creel and Gow. “They kind of glisten and just add a layer of lushness to the room,” he said, at a time of year when few people want to think about a fire.

Whatever you do, don’t shy away from making the fireplace the focal point of the room. “If you try to hide it, it looks worse,” Mr. Papachristidis said. “If you embrace it and make it into something, it can look fabulous.”

Questions about repairs or redecorating in preparation for putting a home on the market may be sent to Unpublished questions cannot be answered individually.

Copyright © 2013 The New York Times Company. Reprinted with Permission.

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