Asked on Dec 05, 2013

Massive Brick Fireplace

Betty Stine
by Betty Stine
My fireplace in my living room is 120" high and 99" wide. This includes a 12" x 13" hearth that I can pillow for extra seating. It is well built and not the normal look for a fireplace, but the brick is dark and there is so much of it. Painting does not seem to be an option because the mortar is black and much deeper than the brick. I painted my bookcases and I painted the brass fireplace doors black and had an 7' mantel installed, painted same color as bookcases.
I am now considering installing a wood panel starting at top of mantel and going up to about 8" from the molding at the ceiling. There is approximately 8" from edge of mantel to bookcases on each side, so this would keep it precise in distance. --That would be 8" of brick showing on left, right and top of this panel over my mantel. This is the "important" part of the question because I want to know if this will look over the top/unusual/different/unappealing to have 8" of brick showing on left, right and top of panel? I want to frame it with molding, including rope molding like the mantel, install fluted legs (pilasters) from the corbels down to the hearth. Perhaps, a narrow header under the mantel. The molding at the top of the bookcases hinders installing the panel all the way to the ceiling and the bookcases.
Picture attached to show this.
Because the brick is dark and has varied colors, nothing I put on my mantel stands out unless it is black or white. I would really like more décor options. I suppose I also question if the expense merits what I want to accomplish.
I would like opinions and/or ideas on this plan.
q massive brick fireplace, concrete masonry, fireplaces mantels, home decor, living room ideas
q massive brick fireplace, concrete masonry, fireplaces mantels, home decor, living room ideas
  27 answers
  • Z Z on Dec 05, 2013
    I think it's beautiful Betty. Can you share a photo of the whole wall including the bookcases to get a better idea of the whole are in one picture please?

    • See 1 previous
    • Z Z on Dec 05, 2013
      Thank you for adding the pictures @Betty. I think the wall looks beautiful and anything you'd do to light it up more would take away from it. The bit of white wash on the bricks tie in the painted built ins and mantle quite well. But then I love the brick. Is that your problem that you don't care for the brick?

  • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Dec 05, 2013
    I do hesitate to add fluted legs/pilasters from corbels because the "soldiers" the bricks over and add the side of fire pit are electric blowers. We have never used them though.

  • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Dec 05, 2013
    The brick is used, thus the different colors. There is just so much of it. I have lived with it for 30 years with no mantel, so I guess I expected more. I have also thought of putting a long horizontal mirror over the mantel, an inexpensive one, if it does not work. I did put one of the urns on Styrofoam squares to raise it to the top the fireplace doors. I think that looks better. Will try to attach a picture showing that. As I said earlier, not sure the extra expense warrants what I want to accomplish, using different décor. I may just live with it longer, especially until after Christmas. Thanks for you comments and please let me know what you think of this picture, and any other ideas.

    • Pat Dollar Pat Dollar on Dec 07, 2013
      @Betty Stine The raised urn definately works. Personally I love the used brick. A number of years ago I bought a house that had the brick painted white. I employed a gentleman to reface the fireplace with used brick and add a hearth. I also removed the existing carpet and refinished the hardwood floors and tiled the entry (diy). I sold the house for twice what I paid for it just a year after. Please do not paint the brick. I would suggest that you add a very large mirror or painting above the mantel to reduce the amount of exposed brick and better suit your personal taste.

  • Z Z on Dec 06, 2013
    I'm guessing its a wood burning fireplace since you mentioned blowers, though maybe gas ones have those too. I wouldn't know as we've never had a gas fireplace. The only other thing I can think of would be to add a surround to cover more of the brick, but since you just got a new mantel and it doesn't extend the full width between your built ins that wouldn't work. I do like the idea of a large horizontal mirror across the mantel. I suggested that to a friend awhile back when she asked what to do for Christmas. She had a collection of brass candle sticks and wasn't sure how to display them. It turned out lovely.

  • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Dec 06, 2013
    It was a wood burning fireplace but it had gas there to light the logs so my husband and I installed a gas log fireplace to alleviate gathering firewood.. To be honest, down here, we seldom use it, not since the winter of 1997. We had a freeze and the electricity was off for 5 days. I do think raising the urn with the ivy softens it more. Taller ones would be better but they are very expensive. I scored these at a garage sale for $5 each. Did you notice the difference in the height of the urns? The right one is on about 5 pieces of Styrofoam. That was all I had handy, but I can look for risers or have one of my sons build me a couple. I see the pretty white fireplaces with beautiful woodwork and the little green envy bug starts working on me. I have to have a bedroom redone after the first of the year, walls, molding, etc. I know I will wait until then - and may just live with it after paying for that. But if you have any comments or suggestions, or see any ideas that are similar to mine, please do not hesitate to offer them. Thanks so much for your help, Betty.

    • See 4 previous
    • Z Z on Dec 09, 2013
      @Betty, ahhh... I didn't think about there possibly being loose mortar. Good point. I don't care for doing much of anything that I have to be on a ladder for. I'm not afraid of heights, but I respect the fact that they can be dangerous. I remember when my Daddy was on his extension ladder when he was in his early seventies. It was setting at garage floor level and he was working on the siding of our family home's second floor. Instead of climbing down and moving the ladder he'd grab hold tight and jump that thing over a few feet! Scared the daylights out of Mom and me. Ten years later he was helping us build our garage using only a six foot step ladder that time. He'd come up during the day while my hubby was at work and work all day on that garage, loving every minute of it. I kept a close watch on him, but was inside watching through the kitchen window when I saw him go over and down hard. I flew out the back door to help him up. His dog Sparky was on the other side of the fence from where Daddy was and I swear that dog gave him heck the way he barked at Daddy. Then ole' Sparky wined when he was done like he was crying "you scared the heck out of me". As I helped Daddy up he looked at me and said "well I guess he told me". Gosh I miss my Daddy. And my Mum too! I write for HomeSpot HQ's blog. You can find links to all my postings at the link below. There are two pages. I hope you enjoy them with my oldest being at the bottom of the second page.

  • Leslie Peoples Leslie Peoples on Dec 06, 2013
    I'd try paint in an inconspicuous spot first. Prime it first. After several years of debate I finally painted my fireplace this year and I am so happy with it! I think a good primer should cover your black grout.

    • Rebecca C de Baca Rebecca C de Baca on Dec 08, 2013
      @Leslie Peoples please post a picture of your painted fireplace. I am having mine done and am so hoping I have made the right decision!

  • Interior Details Interior Details on Dec 07, 2013
    Have you considered painting the bookcase and mantle a darker color? I would leave the brick alone, paint the bookcase and the mantle so that they do not have such a stark contrast between the dark brick and the white paint. Hang a great piece of art over the mantle.

    • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Dec 07, 2013
      @Interior Details The bookcases were a dark color, about the same color as old birch paneling, if you remember that. I wanted to lighten everything so I painted the bookcases and I do like them, especially like that I painted the brass fireplace doors black. But it did make a very stark contrast, you are right. I am still considering my options, right now I have the mantel decorated for Christmas. But later I will probably use art, I have some art I have tried, lighter pieces look better and use light or white décor on ends. Thinking of long horizontal mirror, too. Thanks for your input, I appreciate it.

  • Shelley S Shelley S on Dec 07, 2013
    I would not paint that brick. It is beautiful. Painting it is permanent and would decrease the resale value of your home. We have a similar set up with the bookcases on either side. What we did was install (not permanent) White library paneling above the mantel, then a large mirror. It looks beautiful and gave a beautiful lightness to the area. I see that you have heavy draperies on the windows. Maybe remove the sheers from the draperies to lighten up.

    • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Dec 07, 2013
      @Shelley S Great idea on the semi-permanent paneling. I was thinking of adding paneling above mantel (see original post). In fact, my carpenter told me the mantel could be removed (the way it is installed) if I ever decided to do this. I keep the drapes pulled to the edge, and the sheers (wheat color) help with the sunlight, very bright without them, I did have solar film installed on the window (huge) and that helped with the glare. And the drapes match my sofa and loveseat, guess this dates them. But I cannot afford to replace. Thanks so much, others can see things that one lives with daily and does not.

  • Beth Weir Beth Weir on Dec 07, 2013
    Betty, I wouldn't paint the brick. Like Shelly said, it would decrease the resale value. You could get some concrete paint fm your local lumber/hardware store a lighter color, like gray and use a small paint brush like one that is in a childs water color palette and paint the mortar. Yes it would be time consuming but might just give you the look you are wanting. 11 results are available, use up and down arrow keys to navigate.

  • Charlotte Kent Charlotte Kent on Dec 07, 2013
    wow, gorgeous brick! Sorry, I wouldn't have gone with white paint, but it is pretty as is. For some reason, I just don't care for all these white! I must be showing my age. It does need a big piece above the mantel, either mirror or art or a collection of smaller pieces. With this weather, you might be turning that baby on...

  • Dana Shuster Dana Shuster on Dec 09, 2013
    I would not place a mirror on a mantel unless the mirror is going to reflect a great piece of art or something else that is beautiful to look at. Most mantel mirrors are too high to reflect much more than the ceiling--not exactly the focal point of the room. You can place a vignette of objects on the mantel and change them out with the seasons, etc.

    • David Jones David Jones on Apr 18, 2014
      @Dana Shuster - there are a couple of tricks to help the high mirror situaiton. First, you can simply put 1" to 1-1/2" nails in the back top corners (set in an inch or so from each outside edge) and this will cause the mirror to tilt downward. Another solution is to turn the mirror upside down and install the hanging hardware - then from a wire connected to these set at the lower 1l3 of the frame. You'll need to use hook-type wall hangars as the top of the mirror will lean out and put additional "away from the wall" pressure on the hangers. Now, your mirror reflects the activity in the room, furniture across room - and makes it easier to check your face and hair at the fireplace!

  • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Dec 09, 2013
    That is kind of what I had in mind, changing the decor with the seasons. I have several pieces of art for the middle of the mantel I can change also. The mantel is 7' long. The idea of the mirror was to show the vignette of objects on each end of mantel. Now I am even thinking of two small mirrors on each end to reflect just the vignettes, with the art in the middle. I have not seen anything like that in any of the pics on the internet. I have looked at many mantels!! Does that sound like unacceptable decorating? As I said in an earlier post everything seems to blend into the brick unless it is black or white. But whatever I do, I will start inexpensively to see how it looks. Thanks for your input.

    • See 2 previous
    • Z Z on Dec 09, 2013
      And this is just one I found online somewhere awhile back. So yes, use a horizontal mirror by all means! I bet that will perk up the darkness while it also reflects the back of all the pretties you display on the mantel too.

  • Leslie Peoples Leslie Peoples on Dec 10, 2013
    Hi @Rebecca C de Baca! Here's a link to my blog post with before & after pictures. What do you think?

  • You can paint the brick it will take longer than a smooth surface and use more materials but it can be done and after you get tired of the color it will be easier to change next time.+ I would suggest hiring a professional painter.

  • David Jones David Jones on Apr 18, 2014
    I'm moving into an apartment with a very ugly fireplace that spans the width of the wall but only 1/2 height. I'm sure I can do artwork or maybe get a free-hanging shelving unit to hang on the wall above but the brick is awful. I cannot do anything permanent - do you think just using sidewalk chalk would change the look in an attractive way and be easy to wash off when I move?? My other thought it to put a full wall of bookcases or wall units across in front of the entire wall. There is a lot of soot above the fireplace opening and I worry that it won't draw properly and make the house smell of smoke.

  • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Apr 19, 2014
    Soot on the brick does probably indicate there is something wrong. But I would scrub the soot off. I have never thought of chalk. You could try a portion and see if you like it. If this is a temporary residence, I would give a lot of thought to the bookcases. And you could take them with you when you move. Even short ones and hang art above. Or bi-fold screens, depending on the width. Maybe at flea markets or estate sales. It helps just to not have so much of the brick showing. The fake ivy put on the side of my fireplace really helped, and it was an idea from someone on hometalk to raise it to the top of the fireplace. Do an individual posting if you have not, include pics. (I did mine with my phone) and you will get some really good tips.

  • Centrd Centrd on Jun 11, 2014
    It's a clever idea to install paneling in the configuration you describe. It could look really nice if you do it right, but it also might look top heavy with the wood just at the top unless you really make that backdrop look like it's part of the mantel itself. You might need to add some moulding below the mantle to prevent it from looking out of balance. But since that's not a really tall space, it might work just fine. Hey there are all kinds of mantels out there, very few rules. In fact, Victorian Mantels often have a built up back like that, sometimes with a mirror insert, which achieves the same effect..but they also have more moulding underneath including wood surrounds, small pillars, etc. This is what I'd do. First get a cheap piece of beadboard in the size you're considering (home depot will cut it), or even some of the beadboard wallpaper and apply it to a thin backer board. Then lean it up there to see if you like the effect. Another, much simpler option would be to get a large mirror and set it right on the mantel horizontally (securing in the back to prevent toppling) and then you can put your decorative items in front of the mirror. You can even lean small artworks against the mirror. As you can see below, they even put mirrors in front of mirrors. I've seen this look done beautifully. Not only does it allow more versatility for your decor, but it reflects light which is always a good thing. :) I think you've done a great job so don't doubt yourself. :) I'm attaching a few photos, most are very different from your fireplace, but they're good for inspiration.

  • Centrd Centrd on Jun 11, 2014
    One last thougt. Another way to lighten up a dark wall is to use artwork that has very large white matting. Or white background. You can use one large piece or a grouping of smaller pieces. You can then set your other items in front of the artwork and the white backgrounds will allow them to be seen.

  • Dee Lowe Dee Lowe on Jun 12, 2014
    I painted my book cases yellow because my rm is so dark. I would love to paint the fireplace-hubby says no. How do you attach the shelf to the brick?

  • Betty Stine Betty Stine on Jun 12, 2014
    @Dee Lowe Actually, I never knew either. Just wish I had looked into it sooner. (Been in this home 30 years) I thought it had to be installed when the fireplace was built. I had a carpenter install it. He knew how to do it. Sorry, this is not a very good explanation, I am challenged in this area. The back of the mantel is open, like a box. He installed, for me 3 because mine is 7', pieces of wood like boxes attached to the brick and slipped the mantel on them. (I think these came with it, not sure now) He then screwed the mantel to these to hold it. Then he put the corbels under the mantel. They are just for looks. The carpenter told me that if I moved and wanted to take it with me, it could easily be removed. For that reason alone, I wish I had gotten 6' one. . Picture of the one I ordered I called this company and they were very helpful, and believe me, I had some very dumb questions.

  • Ozzys Girl Ozzys Girl on Jun 12, 2014
    We have a brick fireplace too and it needed updating and painting just was not going to be enough. So we put Air Stone from Lowes. All you do is glue it on. Cut with a hack saw. We got a bladefor our saw we had alot of cuts to make. And totally changed the look. We went with lightest color.

  • Dee Lowe Dee Lowe on Jun 13, 2014
    Ozzy Girls & Betty Stine-thanks so much for your replies. Betty love the links you included as I am a visual person and seeing the process helped alot. Thanks again :)

  • Ozzys Girl Ozzys Girl on Jun 15, 2014
    And I'm looking for corbels for under the mantel. I want wood and will age them.

  • Myrna Engle Myrna Engle on Nov 02, 2014
    I have exactly the same fireplace. I'm so happy you haven't yet ruined it's classic looks and the dollar value by painting it. We all know what a fireplace like that costs to have it put in now. There's only one thing I'd consider and that's to clean it and seal it with a slightly shiny look.

    • Angela Angela on Nov 09, 2014
      @Myrna The only time that painting over this style fireplace would be an issue in selling is if the fireplace had been built with quality stone. This kind of brick is cheap to buy and that fact will prevent painting it from devaluing the home in question. This look is not old enough yet to be ''classic'' but give it another thirty or forty years and you never know :) Painting this style brick will in fact help in resale of the home as most people do not like dark brick walls anymore. You could even drywall over it and then install an attractive fire surround, which would certainly update the look of the fire wall.

  • Myrna Engle Myrna Engle on Nov 09, 2014
    @Angela, Only meant to point out the extreme popularity of working fireplaces. It's high on the list of what people are looking for. I think it's absolutely beautiful. It's certainly not a decision that one can take back if they paint it.

  • Teddie Simpson Teddie Simpson on Nov 15, 2014
    Sounds like my fireplace; mine spans the whole length of my living area and goes clear to the ceiling. I also have the long hearth in which I place my candles, a lamp, and some plants. I wouldn't dream of painting it. Give it a few years and painted brick will not be the in thing and it will ruin the brick.

  • Connie Connie on Feb 01, 2015
    I really like your painted light and bright bookcases and white mantle. The white mantle pulls out the lighter colored brick in the wall. Pretty work!