Fancy Up That Fireplace: Modernizing an 80’s Leftover
I’m so excited to finally be sharing our fireplace update with you! If you’re one of those people (I don’t judge), skip to the bottom for a before and after comparison. 🙂
When we first moved in, the paint colors in this house were pretty in-your-face. Case in point, the yellow in the fireplace room. It wouldn’t have been so terrible if it were the only problem, but it was far from the only problem with this area and it brought out the worst hues in the wood paneling. Just like the myriad of different finishes on the front of the house (see my post here), there was just too much going on here for my taste: brick, brass with wood door handles, slate, brick, cement (?!), and wood paneling. Yikes. It screamed 80’s to me, and I wanted to modernize it without a huge monetary investment. (Sorry for the bad image; this is from the real estate listing.)
Just getting rid of that Skittles yellow made the fireplace a million times prettier, but I still managed to find fireplace updates on Pinterest that got my project itch to itchin’: here, here, here, and here. Time to fancy up that fireplace. I had already been planning on spray painting the surround with high-heat spray paint, so when the weather warmed up, it was go time. Are you ready? Here we go.
First things first, spray painting the brass surround. One of my brothers spray painted his, so I picked his brain. Heck, he said, he just spray painted in the house, opened the windows, and put a fan on. This was music to my ears, since the other two options I explored were not panning out. I knew from trial and error that once you have a flopping plastic tunnel taped in place, theoretically to catch all the overspray, actually getting the spray paint on the surround was near impossible on your own. And anyway, most of it went on my arm. That option was not sounding good. And the other option, removing the surround, was just as sticky. It was complicated to take off and difficult to reinstall—especially on my own. So I jumped headlong as soon as I had just one credible source saying he spray painted in the house. Can you feel the fail coming?
The black surround is such an improvement. However. Lesson #1: Do not spray paint in your house. Hasn’t everyone ever in the world told you that? Doesn’t it go against all your good instincts to even think about it? Well. Listen to your instincts. When I did this, Virginia’s primary mode of movement was crawling. Her hands and knees kept getting really black and I washed my floors in the kitchen a few times, where she crawled around the most, pretty disgusted with how dirty I apparently kept the house. And then it hit me. On a hunch, I swiped my hand across the floor near the fireplace and it came up black. BLACK. I couldn’t believe how much had blown so far into all of the rest of the house. I had to 409 the entire first floor foot by foot, do the fireplace room 3 times over, wipe down every surface in the room (including the bookshelf, which was a giant pain), and double vacuum the furniture. Take it from me: Don’t spray paint in the house.
And if you simply must, don’t put a fan on for a few hours after you spray. I’m pretty sure that just made my problem worse.
Next up, the apparently simple white washing of bricks. Here we go again. This part wasn’t as bad as the spray paint, but you really do need a few spare bricks to practice on to see if your mix of whitewash is the right strength. This first night I was working, what I mixed up (just water and paint) was pretty much just paint. The bricks were well covered, even after the paint absorbed into the brick. The second night, it was way too watery—a much more difficult to use medium. It dripped and splattered everywhere. By the third night, I had figured the whitewash out, as well as some brick-painting techniques. (That sounded like some weird version of Goldilocks.)
Lesson #2: Use the right type brush for painting bricks. I started out with a foam brush, thinking it would smear on nicely. *Buzzer sound* Wrong! The bricks tore it to pieces. I switched to these super cheap chip brushes, and they worked well. You’ll need a couple, since they get pretty beat up by the bricks.
Here’s how it looks with the fireplace taped off and the whitewashing completed.
Lesson #3: Go slower than you think you have to and be extremely careful at edges. As for technique, I thought it would be quick, slap-it-on-work, but I found I had to go even slower than regular painting. Since your paint is thinner than usual, if you flick that brush around trying to work the paint into the mortar quick and rough, you get splatter everywhere. Also, since your paint is thinner than usual, it can seep under the edges of painters’ tape much more easily. I wound up with a ton of edge seepage on my wood floors (that, embarrassingly, remains to be cleaned up).
But as always, the moral of my story is: Carry on! No matter how many mistakes you make or how much of a Pinterest-fail you think your project is, in the end, you’ll be happy you put in the work. Even if you have to put in more work to get it there. 😉 Believe me, this project had me tearing out my hair over and over again, but I’m so happy I stuck with it!
What do you think? I think it’s a world of difference! Have you ever whitewashed brick? What’s your story?