Projects & Improvements

Before and After: Peel-and-Stick Products Help Turn a Bland Fireplace into a Colorful Focal Point

published Apr 6, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Living Room
Mid-century Modern
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
plain living room fireplace before makeover. Bare white room, one floating shelf over fireplace
Credit: Jessica Lind

One living room or basement (or sometimes even bedroom) feature that’s a total asset, especially during cooler weather, is a fireplace. Fireplaces can serve as a focal point in a room and their mantels provide ample decorating space —  and, in the case of working fireplaces, they’re great for staying warm, too. 

Jessica Lind and her family frequently used the fireplace in a previous home, but once they moved away, they had to go without for a few years. When the family moved once again into their current townhouse co-op and saw that it had a fireplace, they knew they were in for a treat.

There was just one problem: The fireplace didn’t exactly look or feel like a treat yet. “When we moved in, everything was white and pretty clean slate and the previous family had installed a hacked IKEA floating shelf as a mantel,” Jessica explains. “Having to start in such a modern, simple setting was a challenge for me as I’ve lived most of my adult life in character-filled spaces that were far easier to decorate around and with!”

Credit: Jessica Lind

The fireplace’s off-center position also bugged her. Although there was nothing she could do about the location, Jessica decided she could add major personality and character. “I knew I wanted to make the fireplace wall the feature and kind of go really wild with it,” Jessica says. “I also knew we needed a more functional mantel that fit the wall properly.”

Over the past two years, Jessica’s been sprucing the fireplace up slowly, thanks to paint, a custom mantel, peel-and-stick wallpaper, and peel-and-stick tiles. “There were some pretty big chunked out holes from the IKEA shelf mantel that needed some major patch work,” Jessica recalls. “Once that was done, I went ahead and painted the wall and the adjoining ones in the meantime knowing wallpaper was down the road. Having the wall painted was a nice change immediately. The color is Behr’s Undersea, which is navy but with a hint of green in there.”

Credit: Jessica Lind

Jessica says one of the hardest parts was picking the right wallpaper to create her feature wall. “I had been obsessing over a bunch of peel-and-stick wallpapers … but the price was steep even for such a small wall, so I started saving and bookmarking ones I loved,” she says. Her final choice? A mod-looking floral pattern from Spoonflower.

“Patterns are pretty forgiving,” Jessica says when it comes to selecting wallpaper. “Dip your toes in! It looks daunting, but start small. Just do a little wall first. I was able to knock this one out myself, and I’m 5’2.” You can do it! Watch a lot of YouTube instructional videos, too!”

One thing that Jessica says she would change if she were to repeat the project is to spend a little more time mending the holes from the initial IKEA mantel from the get-go. “They became pretty apparent as I was installing the wallpaper, and I cursed myself a bit there for not giving myself an easier surface to work with,” she says. 

Jessica used peel-and-stick to customize the tiles on the fireplace, as well. “The tile we had originally is very nice and neutral, but I was really curious about peel-and-stick subway tile and figured, ‘Hey if it doesn’t work out, I’m only out $30,’” she says. “It was basically just a ‘I really want to see if this works out’ low-risk project.” (Hooray for DIY experiment successes!) 

Jessica says that so far, the tile has held up just fine. She cautions that she probably wouldn’t add it to drywall because it was so incredibly sticky, but that it holds to the tile really well. “I’m not worried about removing it down the road,” she adds. 

Credit: Jessica Lind

The new mantel puts the old one to shame. Jessica got it from Etsy, where the seller cut and stained it exactly to her liking. “It matched the flooring almost perfectly which was fantastic,” Jessica says. 

Lastly, Jessica wanted to upgrade the fireplace screen. She didn’t like how ornate the old one was, and she was eyeing sleeker ones online. A clever workaround helped curb extra spending. “One day, I realized I could probably remove the gold detailing on it, and it worked!” Jessica says. “I popped all the orange details off and saved myself $100 by not buying a new one!”

Now, Jessica has a fun floor-to-ceiling feature wall. “We love the wallpaper!” she says. “It gives the room a little more whimsy, makes it feel taller, and gave it some personality. My kids think it looks like the wallpaper of a ‘Mr. Men’ book character, and I totally agree, and that makes me crack up!” 

Here’s to lots more laughs and family time around the fireplace. 

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