An Arts & Crafts Fireplace | Design Stories

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An Arts & Crafts Fireplace 

Design Stories Series: Featured projects from Motawi’s design department


Arts and Crafts-style fireplace by Motawi Tileworks

This stately Arts and Crafts-style fireplace, one of our all-time favorites, embodies the classic style Motawi is known for.

Talk about cozy! This historically inspired fireplace, one of our all-time favorites, belongs to an Arts and Crafts-style home in Northville, Michigan. There have been only three owners — in fact, our design clients were the first owners who weren’t related to the original builder! This beloved home was entrusted to their care in 2015, and a gradual finishing process began.

The Challenge

“Respect and renew” was the mantra from the start. The new owners were committed to maintaining their home’s original quality and style while adding modern technology and finishes. One of these: a fireplace update in which Motawi was fortunate to be involved. The fireplace, converted to gas, would return to its woodburning roots. And while the tile would be brand-new, the goal was to achieve a design that fit the period of the home and looked like it belonged.

We reviewed several historic fireplace designs. Our clients were drawn to one with multiple tile sizes and an inset tile “rug” on a raised hearth. (Ultimately, they would raise their own hearth and firebox even more.)

Arts & Crafts fireplace surround detail

The “platform” provided by a raised hearth can enhance the character and effect of a fireplace design. This one is accentuated with multiple glaze colors and a tile “rug.”

Arts & Crafts fireplace hearth detail

Details, details: Note the edge-glazing along the tiles’ sides.

As is often the case with historic homes, a surprise was in store during the renovation process. When they removed the wood trim and tile installed over the fireplace, the owners discovered a “stepped back” brick structure. Since it was original to the house, we decided to incorporate it into our design. This created the handsome “layered” look of varying depths around the recessed firebox.

The Design Process

“Arts and Crafts places emphasis on the material being true to itself,” said Motawi Senior Project Designer Morrin McGunagle. “Clay tile should look like it is made of clay and wood should look like wood. Craftsmanship is paramount, and the design should let the materials and joinery speak for themselves.”

When designing for a classic Arts and Crafts aesthetic, we pay close attention to color palette, emphasizing greens, golds and blues. In the early design stages, our clients were interested in subtler shades like Lichen green and Oak. As we drew closer to a final design, we introduced the stronger Lee Green as the primary color, with Midnight and Sepia (remastered to Cedar) accents — a true homage to the era of the home.

For the tiles themselves, we recommended our single-colored relief tiles. Motawi does offer multicolored art tiles with intricate designs, but there is more than one way to add visual interest to a project.

“With Arts and Crafts projects, less is more,” advises Morrin. “Pare down the color and look at what complements the rich wood tones.”

This fireplace makes a statement with sculpted pieces that add depth and texture. Our clients chose relief tiles from our Sullivanesque series, all based on the design elements of their namesake, famed Chicago architect Louis Sullivan.

Arts & Crafts fireplace surround detail     Arts & Crafts fireplace surround detail

A “layered” surround with varying depths, Sullivanesque relief tiles (specifically 4x6 Halsted and 4x4 Sullivan tiles) and Oxford Trim add texture and dimension to the design.

The Final Product

Arts & Crafts-style fireplace by Motawi Tileworks

We were thrilled with the finished fireplace! The overall design is subtle, cohesive and balanced, while still achieving a dramatic effect. Our clients realized their vision of incorporating statement-making tilework that elevated the space while also honoring their home’s historic roots. We loved it so much that we took our office on a home tour to see it in person!

This project was featured in an article and on the cover of Old House Journal magazine! Read more about it in the full Old House Journal article.

Photography: Justin Maconochie


More Information

Motawi tiles for home projects/installations like these are made-to-order. Interested? Contact our friendly design department: or 734-213-0017. Whether you are ready to order tile for your project, looking for a designer or wondering where to begin, our designers are happy to help!

Motawi catalogs are available to download here.

See our full collection of Sullivanesque relief tiles here.

Browse our portfolio of design project photos here.

What we used (tiles and glaze colors):

  • Primary field tiles: sizes 4x4, 2x4 and 2x2 in Lee Green.
  • Sepia tiles (remastered to Cedar) in sizes 4x5 around hearth perimeter, 2x4 and 2x2 for rug inset.
  • Accent tiles in Midnight: 4x6 around the sides and top of stepped-in area, 2x6 around hearth perimeter, 1x4 as liner around “rug” inset of hearth.
  • Relief frieze above firebox: 4x6 Halsted in Lee Green.
  • Accent relief pieces at top: 4x4 Sullivan in Lee Green.
  • Oxford moldings used around stepped-in portion (in Midnight).

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