The end of the 19th century saw a transition from marble fireplace mantels to elaborate mirrored mantels made of wood. But the rectangular tile that surrounds the coal-burning fireplace insert shown here was just as important. "Tile was popular because fire safety was a big concern, especially in cities," says Brent Hull, founder of Hull Historical, which sells reproduction
moldings and millwork. "Tile manufactures knew this, and they started pushing their products as a safe but more attractive alternative to stone or brick."