The Saga of the Truly Ugly Fireplace

by Debi53
2 Materials
1 Week
We bought a 1974 split ranch--yeah, I can't believe we bought this either. On the outside it was orange brick with (are you ready?) purple trim! Inside we were blessed enough to have not one but two orange brick fireplaces. We changed the upstairs fireplace not once, not twice, but thee times. Come follow the journey from uuuugly to, if not gorgeous, at least attractive.

This is what we started with. The fireplace sits in no man's land between the living area, to the left, and the dining area, to the right. The fireplace juts out into the room and the hearth stuck out even further. The room is long and narrow and the fireplace hearth was basically a tripping hazard in a bowling alley shaped room. Oh, and did you notice that the fireplace isn't even centered between the windows?
Side view of fireplace
This view is from the living area through the dining area to the back porch. Does anything look good with orange brick? The mantle is not wood, but some kind of weird composite material with "scoops" carved into the whole thing. Nothing would sit up straight on it because of the uneven texture. You know the chips that are scoop shaped to use with dips? That's what the fireplace carving looked like. What were they thinking?
Dismantling the hearth
We converted the fireplace from wood burning to gas. Since there would be no sparks from wood, we decided to get rid of the hearth. The living area is only 14 ft wide and the fireplace plus hearth jutted out about 3 ft. Hubs had to use a jackhammer to break up the bricks. As you can see, prior to removing the hearth, we stained the brick with a semi solid charcoal stain. I'm sorry I don't have a better picture of the fireplace. This was done about 8 years ago and I never thought I would be posting to a site like Hometalk.
Fireplace from Dark to White
Just as we finished our whole house remodel, we thought we were going to have to relocate to another state and so put our house on the market. Even though I really liked the dark fireplace, I felt that most buyers would prefer to have it lighter, so we painted the fireplace white. You can also see that we removed the ugly mantle and have replaced the stained carpet with hardwood floors.
Here is a closer look at white fireplace. After we decided not to move, we took our home off the market, but then I was left with the white fireplace--which I hated!! I know a lot of people might be ok with it, but it stood out in the middle of the living/dining room like a big white elephant. Our room is not very large and the fireplace seemed to dominate the entire area.
Third time is the charm!
I wanted the fireplace to be less obvious so I finally painted it a shade that is just a tiny bit lighter than my wall color. To 'shrink' the fireplace, we framed out an area just slightly larger than the actual firebox and trimmed it with a simple surround. I painted the inside of the firebox and the brick around the edge of the firebox in black. The white trim covered the area between the gray paint and the black brick. Now the eye is drawn to the dark firebox and white trim instead of the entire fireplace, reducing the apparent size of the fireplace.
Simple Surround
My Hubs used three flat wide boards to surround the fireplace. On top of the boards he used a nail gun and glue to attach trim pieces on three sides and used corner pieces to join them. Very simple carpentry. I don't personally care for mantles, so we chose to just do a surround, but no mantle.
We used a solid block to finish off the bottom of the surround and a strip of shoe molding to bridge the small gap between the hardwood floor and the brick fireplace.
Molding between the fireplace and wall
To give a clean look to the sides of the fireplace, we ran a strip of concave corner molding that we painted the same color as the wall. We could have painted it white like the trim in our house, but we wanted it to blend, not stand out. So if you're stuck with an ugly fireplace, don't despair. A little stain/paint, a little trim, and some hard work, and you can transform your fireplace into something you can be proud of. Jackhammer optional!
Resources for this project:
Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
Hometalk may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.More info
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Susan Domenico Tillison Susan Domenico Tillison on Jan 09, 2018

    What did you use to paint the fireplace..mine has the black soot all over is gray and I would like to keep it gray but don't know what I need to paint it

Join the conversation
4 of 6 comments
  • Wendy Wendy on Dec 17, 2017

    Fantastic makeover! WOW!

  • Diana Deiley Diana Deiley on Dec 18, 2017

    Oh my, I love the makeover. It's perfect. The detailing is spot on. Great workmanship. You two thought of everything. I hope you kept your home after all the good work. You've got an eye for remodeling. Thanks for sharing.

    • Debi53 Debi53 on Dec 18, 2017
      Thank you Diana. Yes, we are still here. If you would like to see one of my other posts, about this same house, you might like "Banishing the Boring Narrow Hallway."