Before and After: This Bold Living Room Fireplace Redo Features Zero White Paint

published Mar 19, 2021
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Before: red brick fireplace with wood shelving on the sides and a brass fireplace insert
Credit: Jared Ashby

A living room fireplace can be a design focal point — or it can be an eyesore. Homeowner Jared Ashby’s was the latter. Before Jared moved in, the house had been pretty much untouched since it was built in the 1960s. While mid-century style can be pretty groovy, it missed the mark here. “The cheap built-in cabinets around the fireplace were asymmetrical in the worst way possible,” Jared says. “The fireplace was a very lackluster basic red brick no dimension or interesting texture to it.”

Credit: Jared Ashby

Plus, the brass insert screamed dated 1980s and the thick beige carpet — which covered the hardwood floors — had seen better days.

“The day I closed on the house, I ripped all of the carpet out of the entire house,” Jared says. “It had to go before I could even think about how I wanted to design the space. That same day, I took a sledgehammer to the ugly built-in shelves.”

The leap was worth it: Jared discovered the floors were in great shape, albeit stained a honey-orange color that was popular in the 1960s but less so now. Jared hired pros to refinish the wood, choosing a custom stain to get an ashy blonde tone.

Next, Jared set his eyes on the fireplace. His first try didn’t get him where he wanted. “I tore out the ugly brass insert, and painted the entire fireplace white, but the look just really wasn’t doing anything for me,” Jared says. “I had a vision in my head of this moody and cozy living room.”

So for round two, he went bolder.

Credit: Jared Ashby

Jared used fast-drying concrete to smooth over the brick on the fireplace below the mantel; he left a bit of texture behind to accentuate the concrete. Then, he painted the lower part of the fireplace matte black, and painted the brick above a dark, mossy green.

Jared also painted the walls on either side of the fireplace black (Sherwin-Williams’s Greenblack). But with the built-ins gone, he says, he felt like the walls were missing something. So he used wood trim to create the geometric Art Deco-inspired accents on either side. “I love it because it’s something you only notice subtly when the light hits it,” Jared says. “It makes an otherwise blank wall look like it has an interesting history to it.”

The final touch, though, was a tiled hearth set into the wood floor. “I felt like the fireplace needed its own little area, and the hardwood right up to the fireplace just felt a little plain,” Jared says. “The black and white hexagon tile adds character and feels like it’s been there for generations.”

Jared decorated with a mix of faux plants and vintage pieces, including an Art Deco Jadeite glass lamp he and his partner JD found while on vacation in Wisconsin (JD surprised Jared with it that Christmas).

Mixing new and old helped turn a once unremarkable fireplace into a centerpiece. “The fireplace was such a game-changer. When I just painted it, I felt like I wasn’t doing the fireplace justice. But with the new clean geometric shape, it elevates the entire living room,” Jared says. “It was relatively simple and inexpensive, and to me it now looks so much more special than an ordinary painted brick fireplace.”

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