Before and After: Brick and Stone from 1793 Look New Again in This Living Room Redo

published Aug 22, 2023
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About this before & after
Project Type
Rental Friendly

One element of historic homes — homes that are hundreds of years old, that is — is super thick brick and stone, whether that brick or stone is layered on a fireplace or standalone wall.

In this home, built in 1793, the stone walls were about extremely thick and filled with character, but the homeowners thought it overwhelmed in combination with the large brick fireplace. Adding pops of white helped to break up the space and make the vintage features sing.

Credit: Leigh Profit
Credit: Jennifer Hughes

The historic home had beautiful original details but poor insulation.

“In the living room, we fell in love with the ceiling beam, the beautiful 2-foot-thick stone walls, the original windows where you can see the bubbles in the glass, and the high ceilings,” homeowner Leigh Profit (@perennialstays, who also rents the home out on Airbnb) says. 

Although Leigh and her husband loved the ceiling beams, they knew that the insulation in the home needed addressing. “Above the living room are the two bedrooms, and unfortunately they had zero insulation and you could see through the holes in the floor,” Leigh says. “While we loved the exposed ceiling beams, we had to add insulation to give privacy for the bedrooms upstairs.” Leigh and her husband added insulation themselves, then hired pros to do the ceiling drywall. “We were able to keep the middle ceiling beam exposed, though!” Leigh adds.

Credit: Jennifer Hughes

Pops of white on the ceiling, fireplace, and curtains brighten up the room.

The white ceiling helps brighten things up in the space, as does the white paint on the fireplace, now a crisp-looking focal point in the room. “We felt that the brick was competing too much with the gorgeous stone walls, so we painted the brick white,” Leigh says. “We also wanted to clean up the interior fireplace wall, so we gave that a fresh coat of black paint.” The white paint of choice was Sherwin-Williams’ Swiss Coffee, and the black was a heat-resistant paint. 

“It was our first time painting brick, and I was fortunate to have my siblings in town to help us,” Leigh says. “The special high-temperature black paint for the fireplace box gave us some trouble initially. We couldn’t figure out why it was going on so watery. Turns out, you really have to get in there and stir it up super well. (Oops!) Once we figured that out, it went much smoother.” They also gave the walls and ceilings a fresh coat of white paint.

Credit: Jennifer Hughes

The furnishings are a mix of old and new.

Leigh says her white curtain panels, which also help brighten things and elongate the room despite its shortened ceiling height, were a budget-friendly find. “I didn’t want to spend too much on curtains,” she says. “Amazon has some nice linen ones that look like I spent way more than I did!” 

Her sectional is from the Crate & Barrel outlet, her coffee table and glass display cabinet are from Crate & Barrel, her chandelier is from Jamie Young & Company (and had to be installed meticulously because the previous owner wanted to keep the old ones), the piano is a family heirloom, and the decor is mostly antique and thrifted. 

Leigh’s decorating tip for making a space feel cozy and vintage? “I love decorating with books!” Leigh says. “I always head to the book section first when I go thrifting or antiquing. For the display coffee table, I found some vintage postcards that spoke to me (all local), and they are cheap and easy decor.”

Credit: Jennifer Hughes

The after “feels like the heart of the home.”

Leigh says if she could change one thing about “after,” it would be to refinish the floor, but it wasn’t in the budget this time around, and because the Airbnb is pet-friendly, she doesn’t worry too much about having perfect flooring. “I also wish we had the time and stamina to do the ceiling drywall ourselves — could have used that money elsewhere,” she says. But overall, she’s proud of the look and feel she’s created. 

“I think we managed to create a relaxed but elegant space that really feels like the heart of the home,” Leigh says.