By Popular Demand: Fireplace Before and After

OK, “popular” might be a little strong. Actually “demand” might be a little strong. The truth is I’ve gotten a few random casual inquiries about that fireplace I was whining about painting a couple of months ago,  like, did I actually ever finish it? In my book, that translates into Popular Demand, so here you are.

Also in the interest of full disclosure, lately I have been poring over a lot of home decorating blogs and I really love those ‘before and after’ photos! I’m the kind of person who needs to actually see an example of something in order to successfully mentally translate it into what it might look like in my house. (Looking at a 5 square inch wallpaper sample does me no good, but seeing a photograph of a whole room covered in it gets my creative juices flowing… OK, wallpaper is a bad example– after stripping 4 rooms full of wallpaper when we moved into this house because I’m too cheap to pay someone else to do it, I doubt if I will ever use it in my life!) Decorating blogs are so inspiring to me. I’ve made my peace with the fact that any house I ever live in will never be totally “done” as far as decorating goes; it will always be a work in progress, because I keep changing my mind every time I see some wonderful picture of a particularly stylish/unusual room. Also, the voyeur in me just loves a peek into other people’s houses! So, in case there are any fellow nosy people reading the ‘bloomr this morning, this one’s for you.

Now, let me go on record as saying I have nothing against brick fireplaces, or brick in general. Gloria Gaither has a beautifully weathered old brick floor in her kitchen that I just love, and my mom’s house has a great brick fireplace in the living room that matches the brick counter island in her kitchen. But the den in our house– which is between the entry hall and the kitchen with french doors that lead out onto the deck– isn’t a huge room and the wall o’ brick seemed a little overwhelming. It has cherry-stained wood wainscoting and crown molding that would probably make the whole room kind of dark  if there weren’t the french doors and another window in there to let light in. And I am all about the light, folks– I always gravitate towards natural light, and in my opinion there’s no such thing as too much of it so I want to maximize what I’ve got. The brick fireplace goes all the way up to the crown molding, and trust me, it’s a LOT OF BRICK. I toyed with several ideas (Box it in with wood and then paint it? Tile over the brick with marble or travertine?) before coming up with the idea of just painting it to match the walls, which are a warm, light gold color called Warm Muffin. I wanted to keep the mantle, which is a big chunky one stained to match the wood in the room.

**Here are a couple of ‘before’ shots. This one is from Christmas a few years ago–there IS a mantle in there somewhere, it’s just kinda buried in nutcrackers.


** Prepping everything before I started painting took a while. That big honking mantle just lifted right off, but Madi and I almost dropped it because we sort underestimated the WEIGHT of it.


**I meticulously taped everything off with painter’s tape, which takes forever but I really didn’t want to get any paint on the wainscoting or the rug.


** (I like that bright blue painter’s tape better than that boring ol’ tan masking tape, don’t you?)


**Next I removed the grate, cleaned and swept out the interior of the fireplace which was really messy. After sticking my head waaay up inside of it with a flashlight, I finally figured out how to get the glass door unit out, too. I’ve never liked those doors, they were shiny ‘builder’s brass’ and those little wire mesh curtains that keep the sparks from popping out were permanently off the track and coming apart. Once I finally got the sucker out, I could see that the strips of insulation inside were shredded and just filled with ash and dust. All in all, the whole thing was in bad enough shape to justify replacing it with something newer and less… shiny.


**I prepped the brick by using a wire brush to get rid of any loose mortar which was actually messier than cleaning out the dang fireplace! It left a fine layer of mortar dust EVERYWHERE, but luckily I had already covered most everything in big plastic sheets. The brick soaked up the paint like crazy– I used a roller with a really thick nap and it took at least two coats. I let the first one dry overnight and finished up the next morning. Madi helped me put the gargantuan mantle back up, I replaced my art deco watercolor (another 1920’s pensive woman, go figure) and my two Old Time Pottery vases, and voila! Finished!


**Here’s a last shot (in natural morning light– I just love how this paint color changes subtly during the course of the day) with the new plain black glass fireplace doors. In person the doors are not as stark and black-hole-ish as they look in this picture, it’s just kind of a more understated, unadorned look and doesn’t draw attention away from the other things in the room, which is what I was going for.


So, whaddya think? Opinions are welcome– I understand that to a lot of people painting over brick is a criminal act, so you won’t hurt my feelings if you prefer the ‘before’. Also, let me know if this kind of post is remotely interesting to you or not… I’ve got a lot more ideas percolating around in my head (fed by my new diet of home decorating blogs), so nothing in this house is safe right now… There might be a lot of ‘before and afters’ to come, if you’re interested!

21 Responses

  1. nashbabe

    This is making me think of that home at the corner of Franklin Road and Murray Lane. And you know why. :-) Your decorating skills are quite knifty. :-)

  2. bettyrwoodward

    I hated the idea of painting the brick fireplace but the final result really justifies doing it. It looks great and has really lightened the room. Love the fireplace doors as well. Wish I could get to see it in reality but you live a bit far away!
    Hope you have Russ home soon and that the recording is going well.

  3. teegees

    Tori, what a drastic change. I can’t believe how it opens the room up. BEAUTIFUL. Kudos to you!

  4. Cynders

    Incredible improvement!!! It makes the fireplace blend well with the room while still making its own statement.

    Lvoe the color!

  5. auburn60

    Look at you–posting again!
    The colors in the room really do change with the light–who’d a thunk that much,though?
    So, this leaves me with lots of questions: What did you find was the best method of removing wallpaper? I have a couple of rooms I want to re-do. Did you find there were any prep. steps you could have skipped or were they all necessary? Do they hate to see you coming at the local Home Depot or have you made new BFF’s? I always have wanted to get their advice on my projects but am afraid they would pat me on the head and think I’m hopeless.
    My mother is like you about the ‘natural light’ in a room. She goes around throwing open my heavy curtains and wants me to paint everything pink. I,on the other hand, would be perfectly happy in a heavily panelled library in a medieval castle in the British Isles with heavy damask curtains at the leaded-glass windows.Sort of a ‘Cathy and Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights’ environment. And I know how odd that is,thank you very much.
    I look at houses for sale on-line so I can see how other people decorate–so I have that same voyeur-istic gene–so *yes*,any successful decorating projects are interesting to me.

  6. grfdave

    Very nice. I would have fallen into the ‘LEAVE THE BRICK ALONE!!!’ crowd, but that looks really good and I might have to change my stance!

  7. delightedabroad

    That definitely is an improvement ! I didn’t know you could paint brick successfully. Your room now has a more harmonic look and is obviously brighter. And I especially like the new look of the fireplace itself because I’m not a friend of this brassy frame thing…
    This type of post is interesting for me – usually. At the moment my thoughts and interest focus on my English exam, I’m sorry I’m a bit (more) self-referential :-/ (is that the correct expression?)

  8. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Probably showing my age but I cringedat the thought of painting the brick; however, I absolutely love it….and those black doors are exactly the right finish.

    I love decorating ideas, so bring it on!

    My one suggestionmight be to take everything off the mantle…then put back one of the large potteries off to to one side. If I were to put something of equal size at the other end it would besomethingquite different but of equal interest….or just some low interesting pieces. It’s a great place for a floral arrangement over on the same side with the pottery….keeping the center free, as you have, so it doesn’t fight with the painting above. And since you already have a large painting hanging over the sofa, you might even want to put a groupingover the mantle instead of another large painting. Unless you wish to change the one over the sofa.

    Hey, I like it just as you have it, but I love to decorate…so I’m just throwing out some things to you….for fun.

  9. tori

    Keep the ideas coming, Momma Lloyd- love ‘em!

  10. LindaB

    Holy Martha Stewart!!! What a difference that made!!! I love it! I don’t think I could do it though—–I’d worry that if I didn’t like it, I couldn’t undo it!!! I have commitment issues, I know.

    That sixth picture from the top is GORGEOUS!!! That room says, “Come in and sit down! Make yourself comfortable! You’re gonna like it here!” Have you ever been in someone’s home that all you could think of is, “Don’t touch anything! Be careful!!” I don’t like those.

    Momma Lloyd, I didn’t know you were so good at decorating! Do you make house calls? I need help! And Martha Stewart won’t answer my calls. (I thought you couldn’t see well? You sure saw a lot in that room!)

    I used to think a lot about decorating my home. When I drove by my neighbor’s houses, I’d wish I could go inside and see how they decorated. Now, I just think about surviving! I’m doing good if I keep it picked up and relatively clean.

    Great post, Tori! Keep ‘em coming!

  11. LindaB

    Did you use a special kind of paint, Tori?

  12. LindaB

    My daughter bought a house a few years ago whose owner had a wallpaper fetish!!! EVERY room was wallpapered—-in different styles of wallpaper! The family room was a geometric print. The dining room, which was adjacent to the family room, was a southwest print with cactus and such. The kitchen, right next to that room, was done in chickens! It was a country print with lots of chickens and chicken fencing and the like. The living room was in that impressionistic splashes of pastel colors. The coat closet in that very same room was papered in ivy and violet paper. The bathroom, off the family room, was done in paper featuring fishing gear and swimming fishes! Their bedroom was covered in pheasants and grass scenes. The main bathroom was adorned with paper having simply clouds floating by! One of the other bedrooms has a wall covered with a lakeside mural with dogs and canoes. And I forgot what the third bedroom was papered in. Geesh! I hope that lady is getting therapy. I almost hated her when we all got to work removing all the wallpaper in the place! She even papered the ceilings, inside the medicine cabinet, the waste baskets, closets, EVERY FLAT SURFACE AVAILABLE!! Needless to say, my daughter will not be wallpapering anything in her house! Ever!

  13. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Guess I’m for understating rather than overstating…but I do believe you can bring out some things and tie them together in a room. For example, it it is not a valuable print on the wall, say, You can take a half-inch velvet velvet ribbon and paste it around the inside of the frame. Then take that same ribbon and paste it around the bottom edge of a couple of white lamp shades in the room. This also is nice to do if those white lampshades are in frnt of a white wall. If you have a hanging lamp, you might also use that same velvet ribbon and put it in a wider piece around the light bulb holders. I used navy blue in one home and tied together the living room and dining room…casually. You could probably do that around the bottom edges of the lamps on either side of your sofa, Tori, only using perhaps a burnt orange (or whatever that color is in your sofa) velvet…kinda matching one of those pillows. Or use that soft green that is alongside your fireplace. Then I would put the painting now over the sofa…I would put it over the fireplace. Then I would take the painting now over the fireplace and put it over the sofa…but with several other painting…in a gallery of shapes and sizes with two or three other very interesting things like a little antique mirrow, one sconce and candle, etc…..things brought back from your trips to other places. These being little things to insert here and there inbetween those marvelous paintings. Maybe even an exotic piece of jewelry against a velvet and framed for the occasion. Making the gallery a focal point of conversation when guests come…as well as fun for the family to look at because it is meaningful. Galleries most always gather more attention than single paintings.

    Oh my dear, sweet pea. You did ask…but, of course, I am no professional decorator. Just having fun with you…because I love you.

    Sweet Linda, truthfully, a friend or someone can give you some ideas to think about…but I believe every woman’s home should reflect the personality of her and her family…andnot the decorator’s. I can remember going into three different homes in my little town where they used the same decorator. He did the same thing in all three homesexcept he changed the color. As I said, I like to see the personality of the family….and especially the lady of the home.

    Tori, you have great ideas on your own and you are not afraid to go bold and take a chance. Just like my daughter. I am a bit more concersative than my daughter. You would enjoy her ideas I feel sure. Sometimes when she runs something by me I silently gasp…but when I see it, I absolutely love it…for her.

  14. Barbara M. Lloyd

    P.S. I love the way you have your painting practically sitting on the mantle….and the one over the sofa at eye’s level. So many people have their paintings stuck way up on the wall….when they are supposed to be low, being part of whatever is below them.

    I also (and remember I am speaking personally about what appeals to me) also enjoy a place in the house where there are just dozens of family pictures of all sizes and shapes. I have mine on both sides of the wall between two bedrooms. I’ve seen them on one wall coming down a stairs. I’ve even seen (in another of my homes) and in another home, I had them all over the powder room walls. Problem was when we had a party, people complained about not being able to get into the powder room…and I onece had to change a picture on the wall behind the toilet. A man felt as if the family were staring at him.

  15. Barbara M. Lloyd

    I will just say one more thing and then be quiet. You know how it is, keep looking at it and realized I should say that if you were to keep what you have over the mantle, then you could move that painting over to one side (not in the middle) and leave one large pot and the chandle-like thing at the other end. Maybe even put something interesting in the pot…some kind of greenery….and a couple more lower interesting things alongside those two tall things. You would need nothing at the other end in front of the painting. You might be able to do the same thing if you used the ainting over the sofa, too. It would depend….you’d have to look at it, might not work because of its large framing. Some things you just have to look at…like put them there, go out of the room for awhile and then come back in and decide. right?

    I’m having fun, folks….come on and make some suggestions to Tori.

  16. jonny

    I’m just wondering if God has before and after shots of our hearts = /

  17. LindaB

    Suggestions? Well, Tori, I have a paint-by-number picture that I painted………..and a lamp shaped like a woman’s leg. You can borrow them if you want.

  18. LindaB

    Good qustion! I don’t know, Jonny! But I would hope if He does, that they are vastly different!

  19. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Bless your sweet heart, Johnny….you know He wipes all that before-stuff right out of His mind, so why would He want to keep all that ugly-stuff around? Even so, He keeps working on us…even with our new hearts.


    Wow, Tori! That was alot of work! Gorgeous, though. I LOVE, REALLY LOVE, curtain rods (?) at the windows. They appear to be able to swing towards the window. Have never seen anything like those before.

    The fireplace looks great. (not as great as mine! hehehehehe)
    And, though it is a lovely color – has anyone ever seen a muffin that color before?

    I think you did a great job! Thinking about trying to put a mantle up on my fireplace. Haved nothing to hang it on, though, like you do. Have been thinking about buying one of those that i just stand up in front of/flush with the firplace, but dont want to cover much of my brick.

  21. MostlySunny

    LOVE It!!! It’s makes that wall look bigger and the gorgeous windows and French doors “pop”. I’m a brick-painter; especially if its boring brick. I also love it when the outside of a brick house is painted then has started to peel a bit. Very quaint and revolutionary-era-ish.

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