Are you stuck with an ugly fireplace? Maybe it’s dated or doesn’t fit your décor but you don’t know what to do with it to make it the stunning focal point that it should be. I know the feeling!
Would you like to know how to get a custom look for your fireplace, even remodel brick fireplaces inexpensively? Then read on because this site is jam packed with fabulously frugal fireplace makeover ideas and photos of fireplaces you won't find anywhere else!
Towards the end of this page you'll find step by step instructions on how to remodel fireplaces using Venetian plaster, and there's even more ideas on the next page, plus a video.
The fireplace surround and hearth were both painted with semi gloss, white, latex enamel. Talk about a white elephant in the room - see the exciting fireplace makeover below....
"Before" remodel fireplace photo
Also, taking off the fireplace doors is a big No-No because you can loose up to two times the entire volume of air in your house overnight. Wish I hadn't tossed my first set of fireplace doors because replacing them will be expensive, but hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. On the companion page to this, I share remodel ideas for fireplace doors, trim, and show you how changing the inside, can better match your style and room color scheme.
My experiment using Venetian plaster techniques to remodel fireplaces turned out great! I used a special high temperature stove paint on the interior bricks and all metal surfaces, plus added logs, glass fireplace crystals, and embers, to have a working fireplace. Faux paint finishes were added to the walls and we spray painted cabinets with tinted, matte, varnish to darken and remove scratches. Note: Light kit on the Casablanca ceiling fan was removed because it visually competed with viewing flat screen TV over fireplace.
When looking for living room decorating ideas, I priced custom built wood fireplace surrounds, but at close to $2,000, we needed to wait a couple years to tackle that project. Stone fireplace facades were even more expensive!
One day the thought hit me, "why can't Venetian Plaster be used to remodel fireplaces?" I had already seen the amazing results you can achieve with plaster and it seemed like an inexpensive way to transform the look of the entire room.
Since we already knew a gifted painter/plasterer, I told him how the finished fireplace should look: “leathery”, like an old wood fireplace that had years of wax, grime and soot built up. (The opposite of white!)
My remodel fireplace idea was much more affordable than a wood alternative, and ended up costing about $500 for labor and materials. It would have cost more if the job was bid separately, but because our plasterer was already working on other things in the house, he could spend an hour or two on the fireplace every day. It took a little over a week to complete, and approximately 10 hours of labor.
Another great living room idea is to make the fireplace extend up to the ceiling or do the whole wall.
I used this remodel fireplace idea for a master bedroom makeover (photo right) where the wall is slightly indented from the fireplace up to the ceiling, AND did this all by myself!
The fireplace facade was pre cast "greige" (gray/beige)concrete that is supposed to mimic stone.(cha cha cha cheap!) By doing the whole wall, it went from hardly noticeable to WOW! The rest of the bedroom walls are next on the list of things to do.
Design Tip: If you want to make your fireplace appear to be floor to ceiling, use the same Venetian plaster colors on both, being careful not to cover any of the metal parts of the fireplace with plaster.Venetian Plaster Can Remodel Brick Fireplaces Too!
For a brick or stone fireplace remodel, use my plaster ideas below to give it a modern new look. You can have just about any look you want from faux wood, to polished stone, or sleek and shiny like glimmering metal, to industrial/ grunge.
You could even use stencils with an accent color to add decorative elements from different time periods, or raised designs.
It's best to use cheap drywall mud to fill in the mortar joints and apply the base coat to the bricks.
For dark Venetian plaster colors, tint the base coat of drywall mud/joint compound to save time and money.
Find your inspiration ~ I picked out two shades of brown from a paint fan that matched our newly re-varnished cabinets, and then ordered two quarts of Venetian plaster to be custom mixed with those color formulas.
On the hearth area of the living room fireplace, which was also painted gloss white, we used two light beige colors of Venetian plaster which were left over from our kitchen backsplash. (note: they appear "warm" in tone because of the wax sealer)
Start by making a sample board out of a drywall scrap about 2' x 2' in size, and you can work on it simultaneously while doing steps 2-4. See how the Venetian plaster colors you picked look with different techniques and then seal all of your examples. Which works best with your living room decor?
Cover the existing brick, stone, or even the entire wall, with primer, after removing any peeling paint, grease, wax, etc. Let dry for 24 hours. Be careful not to get any primer on the metal part of the fireplace that is exposed to heat. You will need to use a special fireplace paint if you want to change the color on those areas.
Apply cheap drywall mud or joint compound, to build a base and save your expensive Venetian plaster colors for the finishing coats. This "fill" process may take several days on decorative recesses like fluted columns, or mortar joints when you remodel brick fireplace, because thicker coats take longer to dry.
Lightly sand trowel marks and high points in between coats, unless it's part of your design, and it shouldn't take more than a couple minutes.
Use a 6” flexible, drywall taping knife to apply the plaster. Sometimes you need to get creative with kitchen utensils for curves and raised panels, etc. We used a rubber cake spreader type of spatula with a rounded silicone edge to spread material on the inside curves of the mantel.
Start with one Venetian plaster color at a time and apply a thin coat which should be dry in several hours now that your thicker base coat is built up. Lightly sand and go on to the 2nd and 3rd coats using the same, or different Venetian plaster colors if you’re layering.
After the first coat, it appeared that the lighter brown shade was a little too light, so I needed to order another quart of the darker brown for the last two coats.
Don’t be afraid if before the sealer is put on it looks like tempera paints from kindergarten. It doesn’t take on that rich, finished look until it’s sealed, and the type of sealer you use determines the sheen.
If you want to intentionally distress or age your fireplace remodel, use antiquing material or paint thinned with glaze. I did this part myself and added extra darkness in the crevices and up the front to simulate years of soot accumulation. The antiquing should complement the color of plaster you used. (lighter colors need lighter antiquing)
Don’t forget about covering the hearth area if it is not working in its present state. Ours was also pre cast concrete with seams of mortar between the joints and painted glossy white. By covering it with two shades of beige plaster, lightly swirled together, it now looks like travertine. Note: Follow your local building codes! Our codes require a fire resistant material 16” or more, out from the fireplace.
The Final step: Seal your fireplace remodel. Our plasterer mixed a custom antiquing wax and hand buffed it, which is an aerobic workout in itself, but it gives a nice eggshell finish. There are many acrylic sealers designed for Venetian Plaster which are easier to use, and they run the gamut from no sheen to satin, gloss, or even pearl and metallic. Test them out on your sample board ahead of time and you can even mix two or more finishes of the same product (like part gloss and part matte).
I hope you enjoyed learning how to make your fireplace fabulous on a frugal budget. Check out the companion page to this in the links below, called "More Fireplace Ideas".