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Chic fireplace update

Joe Schmelzer After: The extended hearth creates an inviting place to hang out with friends.
A reconfigured hearth transforms a large, cold room into an intimate retreat

A cozy lounge reminiscent of a martini bar was Pasadena homeowner Carolyn Powers's wish.

The reality, however, was a charmless room with a dated fireplace covered in brick and hand-painted drywall.

To achieve her dream of a glamorous hideaway, Powers turned to designer Jennifer Charleston, who began by extending the fireplace 6 feet along the wall and adding a mantel and storage cubby for firewood. Charleston also divided the room with a sheer curtain, hung from a recessed track, that tucks into a slit in the wall when not in use. The fireplace now works as the unifying factor for the multifunctional space.

Info: Design, Jennifer Charleston, Twenty7 Design Workshop, Los Angeles (213/622-7830).

What makes it work

Here are designer Jennifer Charleston's essential ingredients for creating this look.

Simplicity: The earthy palette warms the room. A custom fireplace screen of copper mesh ( Wilshire Fireplace Shops) allows the fire to take center stage. The grain of the fir plank mantel is still visible under a dark espresso stain. Accents used sparingly make for an uncluttered feel.

Varied textures: The plaster on the fireplace wall (similar Antiqua finishes from Vero Venetian Plaster, 714/637-7341) was left unpolished for a warm, suedelike finish. Glass mosaic tiles ( Bisazza) in brown, bronze, burgundy, and white gleam in the firelight. The curtain adds softness and variable degrees of privacy and connection.

Functionality: The reconfigured space serves multiple purposes: party zone and retreat space. The low table can hold coffee cups or dinner; the mantel doubles as a ledge for cocktails.