There are an estimated 358,500 home fires every year in the USA. While only a fraction of those—4 percent—start in the living room (the kitchen is the biggest culprit, responsible for 50 percent), if you do have an open fire, a screen, guard or curtain that stops hot embers scorching the hearth rug is a good idea.
For a simple, construction-free option that you can literally unpack and use straight off the bat, look for a free-standing screen or guard. These may be made of three hinged panels so that they can wrap around the fireplace, or even have a door (or doors) built into the center so that you don’t have to move them entirely when you want to access the fire.
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution than a screen, you might want to consider metal mesh curtains. They are, exactly as they sound: curtains, usually made from twisted, interlocking spirals of metal, which hang from a rod and can be opened and closed in the same way a regular set of curtains can. They might not be so good at stopping smaller sparks from flying—they tend not to be as tightly woven as the mesh you might find on a screen—but they will definitely keep embers where they’re meant to be.
For the ultimate in safety, you can turn your open fire into an enclosed design by retro fitting a glass frontage to it, so that it will function more like a stove than an open fire. You don’t necessarily need to have something custom built as many of these types of fireguards are designed to be adjustable to fit the opening required. But if you want the best of both worlds, look for a design that comes with doors that can be left open so you can still see the roaring flames once the pets and children are safely out of the way.