My last blog on mantels ended with the Victorians and images of Highclere Castle”s gorgeous fireplaces and their mantels.  We won”t be seeing the next installment of Downton Abbey until January of 2013 in the US, so what other series is gorgeous to look at, including its fashions and interior design, but represents an entirely different esthetic??    Why “Mad Men,” of course!


The Smoking Room at Highclere Castle – from the Adeeni Design Group Blog

Contrast the above with…something from the 1960s/1970s (or in the style of “Mad Men”):

A 1960’s or early 1970’s living room (from










Season 5 of “Mad Men” started on March 25, with a fabulous new apartment for Don Draper and his new wife, Megan. I was hoping for a clear image of the white-painted brick fireplace surround in Don Draper”s new apartment…but alas, the vast majority of images show the sunken living room (which is wonderful…) but very little of its fireplace and wide, raised hearth:

Don Draper’s living room – fireplace is hardly visible on the left – from the LA Times:

The fireplace is a tad visible in the following two images, from

Don Draper’s apartment – fireplace on the left…

Don Draper’s apartment – white fireplace surround on the right

Here”s an example of a vintage 1960 white fireplace surround;  (from the great website,


As a product of the mid-century myself, I know in the 1960s ranch house where I grew up, the original brick fireplace surround (without mantel shelf) was red brick when it was installed in 1964, but at some point prior to 1970, my father decided to paint it white, and even went so far as to paint the brick on the outside of the house white (in the breezeway and he even painted the chimney itself, that rose above the roof line).  Was this a trend?  My father, always interested in the arts and design, passed away in 2000, so I can”t ask him what prompted his move to cover any brick that was “natural.”  My sense is that some people decided to paint their brick surrounds, and some didn”t.  Certainly, the natural, “bringing the outdoors in” sentiment was exemplified in the ranch house of the 1960s – sliding glass doors, decks, stone entries and other components appeared that allowed the occupant to feel more connected with the outdoors, even in parts of the country where cold weather was dominant for 6 months or more out of the year.  This would speak more to stone or natural brick fireplaces and their surrounds, like the one below:

A 1960’s Sherwin-Williams Living Room from


But what mantel styles came in-between 1900 and the 1960″s?   And beyond??

Briefly, “Art Nouveau” (1890-1910) was characterized by its flowing and often undulating organic forms, “Arts and Crafts” (starting in the latter part of the 1800″s with its effects felt until 1920 or so) represented a reaction to industrialization and was exemplified by handcrafted designs, with simplicity of style and line, and “Art Deco” (1920″s into the 1940″s) was the opposite of the organic design of Art Nouveau;  geometric forms and symmetry predominated.  Where Arts and Crafts was subtle with the line and rhythm, Art Deco was bold!  All of these movements originated in Europe, with North America following, often with modifications.


Art Nouveau – Two British examples:

A replica of an Art Nouveau mantel (









Art Nouveau mantel refurbished –








The Galleria Park Hotel in San Francisco, installed an Art Nouveau style fireplace in its lobby:

Art Nouveau style stone fireplace mantel (









Arts and Crafts examples:


Images from Charles and Henry Greene”s amazing 1908 Gamble House (

The Gamble House Living Room Fireplace Mantel


The Gamble House Dining Room Fireplace Mantel


Art Deco style example (


Art Deco Fireplace Mantel










Original Art Deco mantel:

Art Deco Fireplace Mantel…very green!


And now we”re back to the 1950″s and beyond;  with tile as well as brick:

1950’s Alabama home – fireplace mantel – brick and tile









And, without bricks at all!  Malm freestanding fireplaces have been manufactured since 1960 in California, and gained in popularity during the 1970″s, and they are still being made today (


A Malm Fireplace today –











Another Malm today..











There are so many choices today for fireplace mantels and surrounds, both in design and materials;  heat sources vary with gas inserts being popular and less messy than wood.  But this blog post is really about the esthetic of the fireplace mantel and surround and doesn”t address how well any given fireplace heats.

I will finish with some images of Richard Neutra homes;  Mr. Neutra (1892-1970) was a distinguished architect, born in Austria, who became an American citizen in 1929.  The houses he designed  (many in California, but also in other areas of the US and Europe) from the 1930″s through the 1960″s reflect his design philosophy and he is credited with the  “California Modern” style,  if you”re not familiar with his work.  To characterize his philosophy:

“He worked with an incredible sensitivity towards melding the interior and exterior of a space such that it would place man (sic) in relationship with nature; that”s where he developed and where he feels most at home.” ” (

The images below in some cases, show some renovations that have been done to the original Neutra designs, but still capture, I believe, even with an eye focusing on the fireplace mantels and surrounds, Neutra”s sensitive and progressive work (

Singleton House









Troxell Residence 







Rentsch House 







Bucerius House