Wooden fireplace mantels originated in Italy during the Renaissance. Before this time, dwellings had an open hearth in the middle of the primary living room where the smoke was guided away with the use of canopies. The smoke canopies were better supported by moving the fireplace to a wall.
The development of the fireplace mantel or fire surround was inspired by classical Greek and Roman architecture. With the fire located next to the wall, architects of the 16th century could embellish the fire surround with columns, pilasters, carved figures and decorate the chimney breast with a wooden or stone fireplace mantel.