In the ongoing project that is our house, the fireplace really needed something—fire. It was a wood-burning fireplace that we stopped using after only a few fires. It made the house, and everything in it (including us) smell like a campfire for days, and made eyes burn and throats scratchy. Flawed design. We've missed a fire. The old place can be a little drafty, plus a fire is just nice, ya know? So we had a gas insert installed and it is great. And I really like how it looks. I was afraid a gas insert would look too slick and obviously fake.
Here' s how it looked before. The brass screen and doors were OK, but a little fancy—those are brass leaves twining around the glass doors. They look, honestly, like poison ivy leaves. The mantel, such as it was, was a narrow shelf. The previous owners had it painted blue. I repainted it brown, which was a little sad too. I thought the black insert would look quite handsome with the brick. I shopped around for a new mantel and found nothing really suitable, so I ended up adding more wood to the existing mantel/shelf to give it more substance, and painting it all black. Done. I love it.
My Mom's Chinese mud men and my old Japanese ceramics seem to feel happy with their updated perch. The story of the old quilt, hanging above, can be found here.