One Room Challenge

Before and After: A Lifeless Living Room Gets a DIY Fireplace Focal Point

published Aug 11, 2023
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Working from a blank slate with an all-white and beige new-build or rental? DIYers Adaeze and Chad Brinkman would tell you this isn’t the end for creativity — it’s an opportunity. 

Adaeze (@adaezenoelle) and Chad’s home was built between 2022 and 2023, and was “pretty much a blank slate,” and they recently personalized it for under $2,500 with DIY and renter-friendly techniques, starting with the living room.

Adaeze and Chad decided to do this renovation as part of the One Room Challenge. Chad is big on modern, simple decor, and Adaeze loves bold Afrohemian style, so their goal was to marry these two styles “so that we’re both represented in our home,” Adaeze says. Their design goal was to create a space that was the perfect blend of what they both love — a style Adaeze calls “CHADAEZE.”

The couple’s redo fuses sleek modern silhouettes and metal finishes with boho plants and patterns, as seen in the new ottomans and armchair, pillows, blankets, baskets, and more, but the biggest change the couple made to their living room was building a floor-to-ceiling fireplace to serve as a focal point. (And no, that’s not two more windows added to the space! It’s actually two mirrors about the same size — a great room-brightening trick to steal from this redo!)

Even though the fireplace was the biggest undertaking of the project, the process went more smoothly than the couple had anticipated. That was in large part because Adaeze and Chad built the lower half of the fireplace (made from a 2×4 and plywood framework wrapped in faux black stone) while it was still off the wall; after that, all they had to do was attach one large piece. 

The fireplace isn’t just decorative; the electric insert offers up plenty of cozy warmth on chilly days. Adaeze and Chad made their mantel a hollow box that can open from the front, thanks to hinges. This way, they can place things atop the mantel while still being able to access the electric fireplace unit if needed. They also left room behind the unit to access the outlet on the wall. 

Up top, Adaeze and Chad added wood strips to bring the feature all the way up to the ceiling. “We painted the background of the fireplace top black, so that any wall showing through between the long wood pieces we used would show black,” Adaeze says. “Once the long wood pieces were painted black as well, we attached them to the wall using wood glue and a nail gun.”

Covering the fireplace with the faux black stone ended up being the only . It took a couple of tries to get the placement exactly right. 

Adaeze’s advice? Plan, plan, plan. “My advice for people considering the same type of renovation project is to measure everything for that fireplace,” she says. “We also used painter’s tape on the blank wall for the fireplace before starting any work on it to see what we wanted, as well as drawing a rough sketch with measurements on a piece of paper.” 
She also recommends reusing materials from earlier projects as an easy way to save money. For instance, she and Chad used leftover black paint from a previous project (Behr’s Warm Onyx) for their wood slats and background above the firebox.

“The living room ‘after’ functions better for us, in that our fireplace hides our TV when it’s not in use, which is something I wanted,” Adaeze says. “I don’t love having the TV be the focal point of the living room, and our Frame TV perfectly fades visually into the black wall behind it as a piece of art.”

After completing the project, Adaeze cites the cohesiveness of the open-concept living room and kitchen as one of her favorite outcomes, in addition to the teamwork that went into it. “My favorite thing about all of it is that Chad and I created it all with our own hands,” Adaeze says. “It is a perfect reflection of us in our home, and I haven’t seen the same thing in any other home. It’s uniquely us.”

This project was completed for the Spring 2023 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.