Chipped bricks, a stained hearth, and years of accumulated soot can turn what should be the focal point of a living room into an eye-sore. Replacing a hearth and surround, or resurfacing the entire fireplace—either with ceramic or stone tiles, stone, stucco or even barn wood—makes a big difference in the way a fireplace looks. And, if the fireplace is the focal point, it can make or break the feel of the entire home. This blog showcases the double-sided fireplace in my one of my rental properties that was a t.u. orange eye-sore.
When I decided to remove the mid-century from my mid-century modern, altering the orange brick fireplace was the first place I started. The rental property was built in the 1950s, so keep in mind that the fireplace is not a working fireplace so just knocking it out and opening up the room was my first choice. However, built by an Aggie architect professor, his ingenuity in space usage and minimalistic design made the fireplace loadbearing and thus, an expensive feature worth keeping.
After researching ‘modern design using rustic materials’ on web sites like HOUZZ and Pinterest, I settled on using a combination of barn wood and stucco. Remember – designed as a load bearing wall - the fireplace is 8-feet tall by 8-feet wide by 2-feet deep - double sided – one side facing the entry door and living room; the other facing the dining room and kitchen. I had a professional stucco company come and coat the dining room fireplace section and end piece with stucco in order to create a smooth, seamless finish that I painted the same color as the walls. Then I got to work.
Realizing the expense of reclaimed lumber, I went in search of a comparable wood – and decided that the free pallets from the landscape store were the most economical choice. The hardest part about using wood from pallets is removing the wood from the pallets – as each piece is nailed three times into the main pallet frame. So, using a circular hand saw, I sawed off the two edge pieces that were nailed, thus only leaving about 3-feet of usable wood and 1 nail to remove.
Having an 8x8 fireplace to cover meant I needed to disassemble about 60 pallets – so several days later… my wood pile was ready and I began sorting through the pile for the most rustic, usable pieces. I laid these out in exact order of how they would be attached to the fireplace. Most people suggested I stagger the pieces; however, I wanted a very modern finish, so I lined up each section, creating three distinct lines.
The next challenge was how to adhere the wood pieces to the brick… and as this was a one-woman project, nails and drills did not sound fun! So I invested in a product called liquid nails and am a HUGE fan! Coating each piece with the gummy solution and sticking to the brick took another full day.
Next up was how to cover the brick hearth (that was seamless to the floor) as well as how to give the fireplace a modern, finished look. Walking through Lowe’s, perusing every aisle for inspiration, I came upon actual 2-feet x 3-feet flat sheets, and 8-foot x 2-inch flat rods and corners of stainless steel. Seriously – I started a happy dance in the middle of the store! I bought enough stainless steel pieces to cover the brick hearth and edge both the inside of the actual firebox as well as the newly covered exterior.
Not having a metal saw (nor having any idea how to use one), I had to ask for help from my neighbor (the sweetest cowboy-type grandpa with every tool imaginable). He cut a little over an inch off of my corners to ‘picture-frame’ the metal edging, and cut one of my 8-foot flat pieces into three so I could mimic the ‘picture-frame’ look on my firebox.
My trusty liquid nails worked its magic again and the sheets and flats and corners were glued to the barn wood. I then glued the 2x3 sheets on the brick hearth and stood back to admire my handiwork. The fireplace looked rustic, but the color made it feel ‘too rustic’ and at first I was extremely disappointed in my choice. I think my neighbor would have loved it – it was very brown – very cowboy… and I wanted the antiqued/weathered Restoration Hardware look. So I decided I needed to paint or stain the wood a light color. This is the part where I realized I had no idea what I was doing, but I wasn’t giving up!!!
My last trip to Lowes included the purchase of pot-belly paint – a jet black fireproof paint – which I used to paint the inside of the actual fireplace box and a gallon of white wash stain. I taped off the steel pieces and used a foam brush to paint the firebox black – super easy!
I then grabbed an old shirt and began white washing the wood to the Restoration Hardware look. Each coat lightened the pallets to a soft grey, antiqued look. I stood back to admire my handiwork. I LOVED it… the fireplace looked rustic and modern, and soft and masculine – it was the perfect combination – and it made for the perfect focal point to the home.
Keep in mind that the entire project cost me less than $500, and most of that was spent on the stucco guys and the stainless steel surround pieces I picked up on Lowes. I did not waste a single second on demolition or planning… I simply started with an idea knowing I could always stucco over the brick if the barn wood idea was a disaster!
I love the look of this room, especially at Christmas when the garland and lights shine off the stainless steel and the natural look makes you feel like you’re in a Restoration Hardware catalog shoot! And, the best part is that I had leftover wood – so I made some sliding barn doors to complement the fireplace!
All you need is a little faith and, of course, liquid nails and you too can create a rustic-modern masterpiece!