Home / articles / Chimneypiece Chunterings

Chimneypiece Chunterings


When we moved into what was then our newly-built home just two days before Christmas, 1985, I was delighted that at last we had a proper fireplace.  In our previous home, a 1964 bungalow we had originally had a tiled fireplace installed, which was what was available at that time.  In the 1970s we removed this and had a wall-hung gas fire installed. It was plain and simple, certainly not one with flame-effect or with a plastic or faux-wood surround on which quaint knick-knacks would be placed.  Perish the thought!  But there is nothing like someone else’s excruciating taste, is there?  Our own taste is always impecable, is it not?

The builder who built our Close of just 20 houses was creating his own fireplaces constructed out of stone, as one might a crazy-paved path or garden rockery.  They were not things of great beauty, and some of them extended along the wall to the window, and around a corner so that it presented somewhere for the wood-framed TV to sit and the 1980s music centre.

As we would be moving into a brand new house – joy, oh joy – we visited show homes of other builders’ at that time and in one of them saw a lovely fireplace, certainly in a different league from the crazy-paved monstrosities our builder was providing.  And so we asked him that instead of one of his creations we might have a Minsterstone fireplace.  Yes, of course, we could but it would be an ‘extra’. This we didn’t mind. It was worth it not to have our eyes offended every time we gazed upon grey crazy paving which would’ve been an insult to the garden let alone our sitting room.  Although we have a proper chimney and not merely a flue for a gas fire, we have never had an open fire, but we do have a living flame gas fire in the hearth which looks pretty in winter, and augments the heat from the central heating.


The fireplace has served us well. It still looks attractive – well, it does to me – 32 years later.  And the mantelshelf has given me scope for many a floral arrangement.  I dare say I’ve shown some of these photos before, but new readers might like to see them for the first time and readers who have been looking at my blog since I started will, I hope, forgive this repetition.

The first arrangement above shows a summer display.  I think this also shows how just a few flowers (these all came from the garden at that time) can make a difference to a room (a difference in the nicest possible way, I mean.)  All the ceramics here are inherited piece – at the end of the mantel is one of a pair of Sitzendorf vases, formed as if folded napkins held up by putti.  The central two-handled ‘vase’ is a loving cup, and the cups and saucers are pink lustre.

Still using the pink lustre cups and saucers, but with a Crown Derby ‘box’ (it is ceramic, but looks like tin, there’s even a faux-dent in it!) as centrepiece with two little Oriental figures.

It’s surprising how just four heads of white antirrhinums can be made into pretty floral displays and here I also used some buddleia from the garden. The two square sand-blasted vases were originally a present which held narcissi bulbs.

Still using these sand-blasted glass vases, another summer arrangement with sweet Williams, alchemilla molllis, and Brompton stocks (bought stocks, the rest from the garden).

I love Fulham pottery vases which were made especially for flower arrangements and this is one that my mother had.  Years later I saw another one in a charity shop, it matched it exactly, but husband said, “What do you want another one for?  You’ve already got one!” and stupidly, I didn’t buy it.  Pairs of things are always nice to have and I could’ve used them at either end of the mantel, especially at Christmas, overflowing with greenery.  I mentioned this to Himself and he said, “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that …”

I think this arrangement (above) might’ve been an early autumn mantel arrangement as I have used copper lustre jugs, and two tiny matching jugs beside them.  I love to use copper lustre in autumn, it just seems right somehow, even if shop-bought roses aren’t quite ‘autumn’ flowers but their colour is right, I think.

And here flowers just on one side of the mantel, balanced by two Royal Doulton vases on the other and a small copper-toped ink well to echo the colour of the copper lustre vases.

We must be into late November or early December when I took the photo of white cyclamen above.  These two white cachepots normally reside on the kitchen windowsill, containing basil and parsley, my two most frequent go-to fresh herbs, and they are a bit on the heavy-side for the mantel, but I like the way they echo the white of the cyclamen.

Another made-for-flower-arranging vase, but this time not by Fulham Pottery, but I quite like the spray carnations which echo the color of the two small cranberry glass miniature decanters (again inherited pieces.)  Again, this vase was a charity shop ‘find’ a few years ago.

While I’m not particularly fond of house plants, although I admit some are beautiful (especially if they have flowers) I thought this fern looked nice and summery.  I treat such house plants, which are not expensive, as flowers and when they have become too large or have lost their initial vigour, they are dispensed with.

And finally  an autumn arrangement with Michaelmas daisies and two spelter figures representing night and day.

I am now contemplating a different arrangement for the mantel, maybe tall white Bohemian glass vases, or Chinese blue and white ginger jars, I’ve not yet decided, but I think it’s time for a real change.  Watch this space.

Have you a favourite place for displaying flowers?

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

Check Also


People have often asked me who has been most influential in English interior design, both on …


  1. These arrangements are all beautiful Margaret. Your artistic eye and love of flowers and nice things is very eminent. X

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Dot. I love both flowers and colour and how even small posies of flowers can bring life to a room.

  2. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    What beautiful displays. I have never thought to pick buddlia -it looks so pretty. White or purple cut flowers are my favourite. I like to have a vase of flowers in one corner of my fireplace. At present there are white roses there. We too have a living flame gas fire. We replaced the White fire surround last year with a light oak one and I’ve been very pleased with it. The chimney is uusable but we haven’t done so. I do love an open fire and have fond memories of the same in my Victorian house. Memories of cleaning the grate are somewhat less fond!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I have to say buddleia is a bit iffy as an indoor flowers, Eloise, as it doesn’t smell pleasant, but just a few stems is all that it needs. Yes, having a vase of flowers by the fireplace would be lovely as we do tend to face towards a fireplace, it being the traditional focus of a room since time immemorial, and you would therefore notice the flowers on the fireplace wall. I do like them in corners of the room; indeed, corners are often neglected places in rooms. When I was ‘dressing’ our bedroom for an article in which I needed to photograph it some years ago (before we re-decorated last year) I made sure that there were vases of flowers on the outer limits of the bedside tables. These drew the eyes to the corners of the room and there made the room appear wider than it actually is.
      Yes, when I was a child we had coal fires and cleaning them out and relaying them, and then not allowing the fire to go out during the day was a job in itself, and a messy one, too. The light oak fire surround sounds really attractive. I have to say the living flame fire is a very old one, installed when we moved here more than 32 years ago, I am sure they are much-improved today.

  3. how lovely your arrangements all are, Margaret. Inspiring.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Ratnamurti! All of them were just a few flowers, sometimes from the garden, sometimes a bunch from the supermarket. I have my late mother to thank for so many of the ornaments and pictures in the house. She always had a nose for a bargain and a good eye for something attractive, and it’s nice to be able to use the things she loved but in a different setting and sometimes in a different way.

  4. How lovely to see your flower displays season by season and you have a very good eye for coordinating colours Margaret.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Elaine. I just use whatever I have to hand and which flowers look in the best of condition when I buy any in the supermarket (although I’ve had some which weren’t good lately – the problem is that they are so tightly bunched the poor flowers often have their stems and buds crushed.) I have always enjoyed colour and coordinating flowers and objects into what I consider are pleasing arrangements. I’ve done this since I was a child – my bedroom in my parents’ newsagent’s shop was my sanctuary, a place where I could escape from all the boxes of stock that were often piled in the hall and our small living room.

  5. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Beautiful floral displays Margaret, I particularly like the white cyclamen. When making your displays do you use the oasis floral foam for arrangements?

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      No, I haven’t used oasis floral form for years, Marlene. I used to use it, but I didn’t particularly like it, it usually disintegrated in the water. The flowers somehow look OK without it.

  6. Your photos are always beautiful. You have such an eye for colour and balance. I tend to display items which have sentimental value and if colours match well then it’s a bonus. As a result it pleases my eyes but I’m not sure our house would ever make a photo shoot haha. I love fresh indoor flowers but they are more expensive here in Australia, as I’ve commented before, and as I’m no longer working full time our household budget is tighter. Having said that, I bought a small bunch of Asian lilies which are yet to open but appear to be bright yellow when I was in Aldi (our version of Lidl) yesterday. $AU4.99. I hadn’t bought flowers for a couple of months. I’m looking forward to seeing them in bloom.
    Thank you for the displays. They are beautiful and your home always looks warm and inviting xx

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Lara, and I’m so glad you like the latest photos although most of them are quite old, taken over a period of about seven or eight years. The pieces on the mantel are of both of sentimental and also decorative value as they belonged to my late mother, who loved ceramics. I’m glad you were able to buy some flowers this week. I didn’t know you had Aldi in Austrlia. We have Aldi stores here, as well as Lidl. I assure you, our home isn’t always as tidy as on the photos! But after today our hall carpet should look cleaner – we ate having it professionally cleaned. We have considered hard flooring in our hall, but we like the comfort and warmth of carpet even though it’s not always the most practical of flooring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *