From the very first time we saw our house, it was obvious that something needed to be done about the fireplace. I remember wondering, when we decided to buy the house, what we could possibly do to improve it, and all my brainstorming got me nowhere. It was just so big, and so dark, and I couldn’t come up with any ideas to improve it that didn’t involve a lot more time and money and talent than we have. But we got distracted by more pressing needs in the house—new carpets, new floors, new paint, new kitchen—and I more or less forgot about the fireplace until my mom mentioned recently that she thought it might look nice painted white.
I was a little nervous about this, but one of the side effects of having an interior designer for a mother is learning to just agree with whatever she says without thinking too much about it. She’ll always be right. It’s like when people try to argue with Stacy and Clinton on What Not To Wear. Come on, folks. Even if you don’t see the vision, just accept that these people know more than you and go along with it. Trust the professionals.
Even though I trusted that my mom was right and it would be better after we were finished, it was a bit of a nerve-wracking project. The stone fireplace was ugly to start with—I don’t even like this stone on the exterior of the house, and certainly don’t want it inside—but painting it felt so permanent. What if it looked silly? I doubt we’d be able to undo it.
Luckily, I don’t need to worry about undoing it, because it turned out beautifully. (Mom was right. Thank you Mom!)
Now that, my friends, is a change for the better. Mama knows what she’s talking about. I shouldn’t have been nervous. Even the TV, which I’ve never liked above the mantel (but there really isn’t anywhere else we can put it), looks like it makes more sense up there now.
Once again, I will assault your eyeballs with the unappealing image of the ‘before’ fireplace. This is what we started with when we purchased the house. Pardon the small child walking through the frame. (Look how teeny he is!!!)
You can barely see, on the far right of that picture, that there was a very awkward wall partway through the room that blocked it off from the rest of the house and gave the room a funky shape. We knocked that wall down, which opened the room up to the hallway and a few stairs that lead to the kitchen, so this room is now partially visible from the main floor (which should have been an incentive to get moving on making the fireplace look better, but wasn’t).
We also tore out the carpet and replaced it with a dark wood laminate, painted the room a soft blue (a little softer than I had intended, actually—I don’t think a single paint color in this house came out as deep or impactful as I had planned), and replaced the big, dated fan with a pretty schoolhouse light fixture from Barn Light Electric. The room was definitely improving by leaps and bounds, but the fireplace still just seemed like an eyesore. I never could figure out a way to decorate it that made it seem less gigantic and intrusive, so I gave up and ignored it for a long time. Two and a half years, to be exact. (And once again, the universe gets a nice chuckle over Jeff and I thinking when we purchased this place that we would be done with our renovations within 4 months of moving in.)
And then comes mom and her crazy ‘paint it white’ theory. We got together last week, distracted the kids with snacks and Netflix, and got to work. We wiped down the stone to make sure it wasn’t overly dirty or dusty, and taped off the firebox and edges of the fireplace. We taped around the mantel, too—we originally planned not to paint the mantel, and changed our minds later. We started with a coat of Kilz Premium Primer, and let me tell you, those first few strokes were scary with a capital S. (And by the way, we brushed everything on by hand with 2” brushes—the rocks were too bumpy and craggy to use a roller, so it had to be done by hand . . . and yes, it was slow going. Thank goodness Mom was willing to help out.)
After the primer dried, we followed it up with 2 coats of Valspar Ultra Paint + Primer. The hearth required 3 coats of paint. I had thought, when we started, that I might like it with the mantel left natural, but after painting the fireplace and peeling all the tape off, neither of us liked how the natural mantel looked. So we went back and primed and painted it, too. (And while we were at it, we repainted all the trim in the room, too—it looked so dingy and yellowed next to the bright white fireplace.)
My mom has had two older, espresso-colored ladder bookshelves sitting in her garage for a few years, unused and unloved. She donated them to the cause, and we gave them a few coats of white spray paint while we waited for the fireplace paint to dry, then brought them in and put one on each side of the fireplace. My mom styled them (sadly, I have no talent for this sort of thing), and we couldn’t resist decorating for Christmas just a little bit early.
This room is sort of long and skinny—out of frame in the picture above, we have a very old piano (we think it’s about 100 years old!) (and has probably been tuned about 3 times in those 100 years—just another item on the to-do list). And I couldn’t take pictures with the piano in the frame because it’s currently covered in toys and all the fall decorations we took down to put up our Christmas décor.
This picture is horribly out of focus but I had to include it because I’m so excited to finally have a use for these adorable Coke crates I’ve been hoarding for years without ever using. The Coke boxes were the perfect way to bring some color to the shelves and keep some books corralled. I can’t even tell you how pleased I am that all my books are actually part of our house/décor now, instead of being hidden in boxes in the basement.
What do you think of our fireplace’s facelift? And what was your scariest home makeover project?