Over the centuries, fireplaces have evolved from functional necessities, required to keep us warm during colder months, to highlights of our homes. We still enjoy cozying up next to a roaring fire, but today’s fireplaces are as much decorative and architectural focal points as they are heat providers. In many older homes, they’re also dated. If that’s the case for your fireplace, consider giving it an update. Many options for brining your fireplace into the 21st century exist. Pick the one that’s right for your budget and your style and customize it to make it all your own.
Colour can have a dramatic impact on every part of your home and the fireplace is no exception. First, determine what, exactly, needs a colour update. Is it actually the fireplace itself, or would painting the surrounding wall, trim, moulding and mantle do the trick? Painting most fireplace materials, like brick, is essentially an irreversible process. Taking brick back to its original colour will be an incredibly arduous task for you or any future owner of your home. If you decide to take the plunge, be sure to clean the brick thoroughly before painting. Start with a wire brush to remove any loose dirt or dust. Then, apply a heavy-duty cleaner and allow the brick to dry thoroughly. Apply a stain-blocking primer and, finally, your top coat.
Another option is to whitewash your brick fireplace. This creates a more natural look than pure paint by allowing some of the natural colour and variations of the brick to show through. There are a number of techniques for whitewashing brick. Most involve either diluting paint with water or brushing paint on, then wiping the brick down to remove most of the paint. If possible, experiment on extra bricks or an inconspicuous spot. This will allow you to experiment with the paint-to-water ratio, how to wipe the paint off and how many coats to apply.
Brick fireplace surrounds can also be stained. While paint coats the brick and changes its texture, stain soaks into the brick. As with painting or whitewashing, the brick needs to be thoroughly clean before you start. Brick stain is available in a variety of colours. Choose one you like or choose several and stain different bricks different colours for variety. You can choose whether or not you want to stain the mortar in between the bricks.
Slightly more expensive and complicated than a paint job, but still reasonable, stone veneer installed over an existing surround, completely changes the look and feel of a fireplace without having to demolish it. Stone veneer covers the existing surround with a thin layer of manufactured stone, which mimics the look of real stone. The process requires preparing the surface and cutting the veneer to fit, although, it’s much easier to cut than natural stone. Mortar holds the stone in place and, in some installations, grout is installed between the stones.
Tile is another great way to cover up an old, dated fireplace. Tile allows you to incorporate your own personal style, whether it be subway tiles, more natural-look tile, hand-painted terra cotta or any of the other options available in tile. If you’re tiling over brick or another uneven surface, you’ll want to create a consistent substrate by applying a layer of thinset mortar to the surface. Set the tiles in another layer of mortar and finish by grouting between the tiles.
A fireplace’s mantel is its crown. It can add tremendously to the overall impact your fireplace has no your home. In terms of materials, profiles and styles, the options are many. Depending on your style, a rustic, single piece of timber secured to the wall above the fireplace may fit the bill. Then again, an ornately carved wooden mantel that surrounds the top and sides of the fireplace may be a better fit. Not into wood? Stone, concrete or steel may be options for you.
The impact of a fireplace need not end at the surround and mantel. In many stylish homes, the entire wall becomes a focal point with the fireplace at its center. Adjacent built-in shelving or cabinetry can be a great compliment to a fireplace. Paneling, wainscoting and moulding can be carried out from the mantel to expand the focal point. Dimensional wall panels are a modern version of paneling that many designers have utilized in more modern applications. When you’re planning your fireplace redesign, you don’t have to stop where the surround ends.
If it’s not already, your fireplace has the potential to be a major focal point in your home. It may not currently fit your personal style, but there are many options for updating it. Take the time to pick the one that’s right for you and bring that fireplace from drab and dated to the epicenter of your home.
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