Before and After: A ’70s-Style Wood Paneled Fireplace Gets a Classic-with-a-Twist $600 Redo

published Nov 29, 2022
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Before: wood paneling around a fireplace
Credit: Karen Tahmoreszadeh

Wood paneling was a staple in 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s homes, when it cozied up living rooms, dens, kitchens, bedrooms, and more. But the wood paneled look doesn’t have to stay in the past.

Of course, wood paneling, like all home decor trends, isn’t for everyone. And rather than stick with the retro-style wood veneer fireplace surround that was original to her 1976 abode, homeowner Karen Tahmoreszadeh decided to give her fireplace a more contemporary look and a pop of color.

Credit: Karen Tahmoreszadeh

The look of the fireplace before, in Karen’s opinion, “was dated and dismal,” she says. “Carpet had been removed from the hearth, and it was bare wood.” (Thick carpeting everywhere: another hallmark of the ’70s.) Because of its bare-bones wood look, the fireplace wasn’t doing any color favors for the beige and off-white room. And in addition to looking dated, the fireplace switch had stopped functioning.

After Karen hired a pro to get the electric fireplace working again, she decided it was time to modernize the outside, too, with the help of her son.

Credit: Karen Tahmorezadeh

After a week of planning, Karen and her son got to work. They knew the materials they wanted and needed (backer board, a subway tile in dark navy, and an antique beige tile for the hearth, plus mortar and grout), and they were able to buy them for about $600 total.

When it comes to selecting tile, Karen’s advice is to bring a sample into your home before you install it all “to check how it looks in the lighting,” she says.

“We expected our tile to be to look like it did in the show room but it was much darker,” she adds. But in this case, she actually likes the deep blue of the tile in her home even better than she liked it in the showroom — phew! The elongated subway tile shape is a classic look without feeling overdone or boring.

Credit: Karen Tahmorezadeh

Karen and her son installed the backer board over the wood veneer, then placed their tile with thin-set mortar and grout. To complement the blue tile surround, Karen chose a textured subway tile in a warm beige color. The neutral tone goes with everything, but the mix of patterns — more than six in all — bring a bit of subtle personality.

White paint on the walls around the fireplace help give the blue tile some extra contrast and help the room feel less yellow-y overall.

Karen’s proudest accomplishment? That she was able to complete such a room-transforming project on her own with a little help from her son. “I love how it has become the focal point of our living room,” Karen says.