Asked on Mar 14, 2013

Help Update My 70's Fireplace!

Suzanne W
by Suzanne W
Our fireplace is brick and the light orange color is awful! I tweeted Drew and Jonathan Scott of the Property Brothers on HGTV and got some great advice!
"Do a darker base coat with faux effects then paint a lighter coat on top and scratch away the corners and edges."
Any other suggestions that are cheap and easy (other than just painting it a flat color?)
BTW, hate the insets, wish it had a mantle, but I am planning on painting the gold frame over the firebox black.
Ugly orange brick fireplace.
  36 answers
  • TRD Designs Ltd. TRD Designs Ltd. on Mar 14, 2013
    Take out a row of brick and add a bluestone mantle that matches the bluestone hearth.
  • Kimberly Barney Kimberly Barney on Mar 14, 2013
    I am normally not one that likes to paint brick and I usually like insets. However, in this case, the fact that the brick appears to be all one color does not add to the appeal of brick and one of insets is so low that it may distract from the mantle. I definitely agree that the fireplace needs a mantle for no other reason that to provide a place to decorate. I think I would suggest that you remove the lower stone from the insets. This alone would make the insets less noticeable. The insets do not seem that large so I feel that you could easily fill them in at some point. If you can afford to do that now, I might suggest that you distract from the orange brick by adding sections of the faux stone to include the insets. Depending on how much of the brick you cover with the stone, you may be able to keep the original brick color. I see shelving on one side of the fireplace so you may also consider at some point adding complimentary shelving to the other side of the fireplace to give it a cohesive appeal.
  • Valerie R Valerie R on Mar 14, 2013
    what kind of look are you looking for? if its rock, I would suggest some rock tiles sold at home depot or lowes, also you could use quick set cement troweled on and paint it stone colors, I would add a mantel to make it look more appealing, and get rid of the gold, also a new room color would make it a focal point
  • Suzanne W Suzanne W on Mar 14, 2013
    Yes, we are definitely painting our living room. This is a house that overlooks a lake, so I'm trying to stick to "natural" paint colors. I don't want to go completely rustic though.
  • John Temmel Siding Guy John Temmel Siding Guy on Mar 14, 2013
    Try putting large round plates that look like eye balls on the shelves than add a nose. Just kidding :) I think a paint finish of sorts is the best. Another cheap method would be to tile over the brick. Having many different layered styles of tile may look cool!
  • Leslie D Leslie D on Mar 14, 2013
    I would have to see the rest of your room to make any suggestions. While the Property Brothers' advise may work great, it needs to tie in with your other decor when it comes to the lighter color used.
  • Lynn Cattin Lynn Cattin on Mar 14, 2013
    Maybe stagger two shelves, adjusting to the insets. I think this is one brick that needs to be painted. Give it a more contemporary lift.
  • Wendie Lynch Wendie Lynch on Mar 14, 2013
    Knock out the book cases on the right. Knock out the brick and plaster board the top and.and sides flush to the other walls. Then I would add a granite , marble or glass surround and a mantle. I would extend the fire box to the floor.
  • Tiffanie B Tiffanie B on Mar 14, 2013
    If you have a habitat for humanity Restore nearby GO - you will get inspired. Several ideas come to mind, depends on how much work you want to do. Thrift shops carry tons of colored ceramic plates, pottery, etc. take it home, break it and put a mosaic on the bottom. Restore has the grout. the insets have got to go, cover those up with plywood or fill in with brick - Restore. Use a thicker texture paint with whatever natural color you pick for up top and get the mantel - Restore. Get my theme. Their Restores are awesome!!! They have everything you need for cheap!
  • Trash Find Redesigned Trash Find Redesigned on Mar 14, 2013
    Ours was mid80's - the brick went all the way across. A few years ago, we covered it with wainscot added the mantel and some under counter lighting. If I had your inserts I think I might add some old wrought iron screen doors on them.
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  • Jessica Rabe Jessica Rabe on Mar 14, 2013
    You can use heat resistant paint (black or dark brown).Maybe you can use a stain and darken the brick. However I would make sure the cove shelves are solid in color (maybe go bold). And the built in shelves to the right need painted to compliment the fireplace. Make sure whatever is placed in the shelves make a statement about the room.
  • Suzanne W Suzanne W on Mar 14, 2013
    For those who mentioned the bookcase next to the fireplace, I would love to tear them down (because I feel like I have to fill them up!) But am considering other alternatives like painting the wall behind them with a pattern or maybe bead board wallpaper. For Leslie D: I'm considering posting the rest of my living room pics on my blog (although, I have to say, there's so much to work on...also our furniture is "transitional furniture" because we didn't want to invest a lot while we own a huge, drooling English Mastiff!) If you'd like to see them, you can visit my blog: Thanks for all the suggestions!
  • Alternatives to demo keeps things affordable as well as current. Begin with a color palette that features three of your favorite designer neutrals to create a contrast. Assign one to the bricks, one to the backs of the brick shelves, and one to the bookcases. How about larger crown molding above the fireplace and bookcases, and decorative trim on the fronts of the bookcases? An architectural salvage piece or iron pieces mounted on either side of the fireplace screen will instantly add character. Pattern or wallpaper added to the back of the bookshelves is a great idea, Suzanne. The all important pop of accent color can come through this way.
  • Audrey Audrey on Mar 14, 2013
    What about if you chiseled out some of the brick to square off the niches to make one large niche then inserted a mirror, trim out with molding. Paint the brick and bronze the insert you may can stain the hearth. Good Luck.
  • Denise aka Nise Denise aka Nise on Mar 14, 2013
    we took all the brick off. it came off really easy. new gas fireplace insert. then we put mantel....i would recommend you do the same!
  • Z Z on Mar 14, 2013
    Well I couldn't find the room pictures on your blog, but I did gain a dozen pounds or so looking at all the goodies you make. LOL My suggestion would be to forget the traditional mantel and maybe have wooden boxes made to slip inside the current cubbies and if you still want more space for decorative items then you could do something like shown in the photo below. I know there are ways to repaint/stain the brick to keep a natural look, but change it's color too. I tried to find some info for you, but wasn't able to. Yet.
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  • Ann Bartlett Ann Bartlett on Mar 14, 2013
    I agree that you should paint the brick and for the inserts I would put a mirror in both of them and put candles in them to reflect the light. A mantle is needed and I would put up black fire doors to make them pop. Good Luck
  • Mary Murray Mary Murray on Mar 14, 2013
    I'd pain the bricks white get rid of the cut outs..and put in a mantel, then put a very colorful picture that opens to reveal a large flat screen tv...get rid of the fire place screen and put a beautiful insert in..
  • Suzanne W Suzanne W on Mar 14, 2013
    Becky: Sorry! Photos are going up on the blog tomorrow, but thanks for all the thought you put into helping me. Everyone: Here's a real game changer. Money IS an issue, so this is not a "tear it down" kind of reno. However, I just found extra bricks in my basement, what if I chiseled off those inset ledges, added the brick to flatten entire surface, paint the brick and then put up a HUGE framed mirror? But then I have a flat screen TV, huge mirror and built-in bookshelves are smashed against each other! I think I just created another possible dilemma!
  • Kim C Kim C on Mar 14, 2013
    I would hate to see you cover up the brick with any kind of paneling because brick is such a nice 'natural' element, I would recommend painting it and I liked what Ann suggested for the cubbies. As a diy project you can paint your brass surround just make sure the paint is 'high temp'.
  • Pattyscastle Pattyscastle on Mar 14, 2013
    We actually love our 1970 fireplace! We have left some much of our 1970 house in place and just try to update the paint.
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  • Sara Glenn Sara Glenn on Mar 14, 2013
    I would spray the hardware silver, black would only creat a dark square hole. Add lots of silver, pewter, and gold decorations, along with nature, and mirror and the monster will be tamed.
  • Ss Ss on Mar 14, 2013
    Hi, Suzanne you never said what "look" you are going for in the room...shabby chic, rustic, cape cod beach, "family" , that would affect how you treat/paint the hardware. Also, do you use the fireplace with wood or just gas? (affects what kind of paint you might choose). We have painted brick slumpstone--the first time we painted it because we forgot to prime it--it took loads of paint! Are you going to change the hearth in front? (looks pretty...stone?) We used semigloss paint because it was easy to dust and wipe clean if any soot got on it. Maybe you could add some interesting flag stone or tiles--make a cool tile surround that you could make on plywood with some moulding edge and attatch around the opening of the fireplace? Becky's idea to line the open areas above with wood or something is good...even if you plastered them like in some southwestern themes.Then put something that goes with the room--shells, candles, rustic things--in the alcoves. Play with it on your computer first...see what looks good. Have fun!
  • Suzanne W Suzanne W on Mar 15, 2013
    Ss: The fireplace is a wood-burning one and we love to use it! I hate to use the word "rustic" because it makes me think of deer antlers and stuffed and mounted trout on the walls. How about "cozy" or "comfortable?" If you want to see more pics, stop by my blog and let me know what you think of the entire room!
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Mar 15, 2013
    @Suzanne W the pics you posted help a lot. I did some searching on 'cozy' decor. I will add some links at the end. When I compare your pics to what others have done, I would suggest you make a few other changes before deciding to paint the brick. One of the common elements I found was that they all have some type of drape on the windows - mostly open drapes. You could get some inexpensive panels from places like Walmart or Target etc - decide on what colours you want in the room prior to purchasing. I have done most of our bedrooms and our family room for $20 or less - did I say I was cheap LOL. You could also place an area carpet under your coffee table to change the whole look of the room. I have picked up some pretty thrifty finds from HomeSense, Walmart and Home Depot. You may even want to start with that to be able to pick up some of the colours as accents in the room. I would suggest a patterned area carpet. Then you can choose some accent cushions in those colours. So far I have found Walmart and HomeSense the best stores to find economical cushions.Maybe even a couple of accent throws to drape over the chair or couch etc. They can be found for about $10 or less in many stores - especially the clearance areas. All of this can be done over time so that it is not so expensive to do all at one time. It also gives you the chance to shope the sales and clearance centers. It usually takes me about a year to complete, but everything is on sale :) Once your accent colours are chosen you could shop for a colour coordinate inexpensive picture or mirror for the fireplace, as well as some accent pieces for you cubbies, looking again for clearance pieces - I usually find something at Home Sense, not when I really want it but I see the colour of the inexpensive object and just comes to me where it would look great in one of our rooms! After all of this you can decide to paint the fireplace or not. As promised here are some interesting sites I found - one with a painted mantel and one with tips as well as others. As long winded as this is I hope this is helpful - please post updates as you go - love to see them. Thanks for posting :)
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Mar 15, 2013
    @Suzanne W oops, just looked at your blog pics again and noticed you do have drapes, but they were very close to the background colour and faded into it. So I guess I would change my suggestion to changing the colour to one of the accent colours you choose.
  • LeeAnn M LeeAnn M on Mar 15, 2013
    I like your idea of tearing out the built-in bookcases. I would try to get rid of the two ledges on your fireplace. Then you could hang two big pieces of art (do our own canvass, framed fabric, mirror, etc.) to cover those cutouts and add balance to that end of the room. I would check garage sales, thrift stores, home recycling store, etc., to keep the cost down and get inspired. Most important...Have Fun! :)
  • Suzanne W Suzanne W on Mar 18, 2013
    LeeAnn M: Absolutely hate the cutouts!
  • Diane Kuzilla Diane Kuzilla on Apr 07, 2013
    I would tear out bookcase, cover the two shelves, then use the "faux-but-looks-real" slate to cover the entire fireplace, adding a large, weathered wood Mantel and an appropriately large stretched canvas photo, with some containers of sea glass and a plant to finish it off. :)
  • Leigh Rowan Leigh Rowan on Dec 25, 2014
    @Suzanne W have you done anything in this room? I would love to see what you decided on.
    • Suzanne W Suzanne W on Dec 29, 2014
      @Leigh Rowan Hi Leigh, the only thing I did was spray paint the brass front black. We ended up taking on other projects (like creating my home office) so the fireplace has been put on hold!
  • Sillysyl Sillysyl on Jan 08, 2016
    Tear out the hearth. Use some of the bricks to cover those niches. Paint the whole thing and add a mantle. If you want cheap tear out the hearth and drywall the whole thing, paint it out and add a mantle. Also you can have faux marble added. Measure correctly go to a supplier and they'll do any color you want. It makes it a little less expensive to do thinner on the sides and back but if you are going to keep the hearth do a thicker piece so it looks substantial. Any one can use mastic (glue). Just draw out a picture and soon you'll know what fits your design and color scheme. Let us know. Anxiously awaiting
  • Sillysyl Sillysyl on Jan 08, 2016
    Btw. Tear out the book shelves too. Honestly when I tore out the hearth and replaced the fireworks it made a beautiful update with a large picture over it.
  • Cindy Parker Cindy Parker on Aug 24, 2016
    Use the wall inserts as shadow boxes and put various memorabilia in it; or change it out seasonal loo you, like for football season. Could al s of put family picture collage in that space, or hurricane lamps of different sizes with a little greenery. Since the wall is brick, they would be functional & you can create a romantic or just cozy atmosphere.
  • Cindy Parker Cindy Parker on Aug 24, 2016
    I would put grey stone with black grout over the brick.
  • Deb K Deb K on Nov 02, 2022

    Hi Suzanne, you could paint it grey or a color you like, and add lighting to the insets and put item you love or memory items in them.

    You could also put some wall panels over the brick, remove the shelves from the niches and cover them with the wall panels, paint the panels a color you love =or leave them white. Add a mantle and it will look like a whole new fireplace.

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 04, 2022

    If you want a whole new look consider a skim over the brick so you have a plaster finish then you could add a nice chunky mantel.