Updating the Fireplace

Since moving into our current house I’ve found plenty of projects to keep me busy.  From painting rooms to building furniture with Pieter, to fixing, decorating, decluttering and always, organizing.

We’ve updated our daughter’s room, From Office to Bedroom, we changed the paint color throughout the house, Changing the Paint Color: Yes or No? and most recently, changed the carpet on the stairs DIY Stair Runner Refresh.

Updating the fireplace in the family room wasn’t really on my initial list of items to do, but after painting the walls grey and trim white it became obvious that something will have to be done to update the fireplace.  The stone was just too orange for my liking.  I do love the rustic, dark wood mantel, but never got around to properly style it.  We had one of Pieter’s favorite Karoo photos printed on canvas and the plan was to use it to fill up the empty space above the mantle.  As you can see below that hasn’t happened yet 😉  The picture on the left was my final version of mantel decorations…

Fireplace - Before

The Plan

I played around with options for updating the fireplace and settled on whitewashing it.  I discussed my plans with Pieter but he didn’t like the idea of painting the stone at all.  I showed him some photos I saved for inspiration and asked him if it was still a no from him.  Since he didn’t give me a hard no and was conveniently away on a business trip to England this week, I decided it was time to tackle the eyesore in our family room.  I’m sure he would love it once he sees it (whether on this blog or in-person, surprise!). Oh, and my plan included spending as little money as possible on this.  I hope that softens the blow a bit…


I gave the whole fireplace a good scrub down with warm water and dish soap.  I had no idea how dirty it really was, since washing the fireplace never made it onto my House Cleaning Plan!  After giving the stone a full day to dry again, I completed the rest of my prep work.  I didn’t have any drop cloths or plastic sheets, so I improvised and cut up some heavy-duty trash bags.  I taped them to the mantel and covered the carpet around the hearth.  Lastly, I moved all the furniture out of the way and brought in my step ladder.

Fireplace - Prepwork


I had some leftover white paint from my previous projects so I just mixed that with some water.  I used half paint, half water and mixed it up in a small plastic container with a lid.  Shaking the container did a good job of mixing the paint and water.  I did let it separate a bit by letting it sit before starting the whitewash process.  You might think this is a bit crazy, but I used the more watery paint on my grout lines and just dipped my paintbrush a bit deeper to get the thicker paint for the stones themselves.

I started right at the top of the fireplace and worked my way over and down.  I have to confess – that first painted section scared me!  It was very white against the rest of the stone.  My initial thought was “Pieter is going to hate this.  I should have left it alone…”.  And that is not a good thought to have when starting a project.  Especially one where you can’t really undo your work.  Stopping was not an option anymore so on went the rest of the paint mixture.  The watery paint penetrated the grout lines a bit more and gave me the grey contrast I wanted from the start, without adding an additional step to the painting process.  I completed most of the fireplace on day one and the hearth and some final touch-ups on the second day.

Fireplace - During

Finishing Touches

This might be hard to believe, but by using my “settled” paint mixture I was able to complete most of the fireplace with just one coat.  Yes, one coat did the trick!  I made sure to step back from the fireplace often during the whitewash process to identify individual stones that needed some more highlighting.  For those, I just dipped my paintbrush a bit deeper and applied a bit of extra white paint to give some contrast.

Fireplace - Whitewashed

Styling the Mantel

Whitewashing the fireplace gave me the dramatic change I was looking for.  Visually, it lightened up the room but I knew I needed some more decor items up there to break up the white.  Since this was one of my “as cheap as possible” projects, and I completed the whitewashing portion without spending any money, I sourced the rest of the house for items.  The candlesticks came from the dining room table and the small red candle from the foyer.

Fireplace Mantel - Styling


I couldn’t find artwork to use as a centerpiece, so I decided to go look for something at my local thrift store.  Almost immediately I found what I was looking for – a nice silver frame in the appropriate size.  The artwork was all wrong, both in design and color, but I thought I could do something with it at home.  Of course I also came home with some other odds and ends – more on their transformation later.

Updating the artwork was the last “to do” item for this fireplace makeover.  I removed the backing from the frame and took out the mount and artwork, which turned out to be glued together.  I reused these and just painted my new “SJ Original” over the existing print.  After the painting dried it went back into the frame and up on the mantle.

Fireplace Mantel - Artwork

The End Result

I’m extremely pleased with how this fireplace turned out and even more so with how little money I spent on this project overall.   Since I used paint and supplies I already had, this whitewash portion came to $0.  I did spend $13 on “new” decor items which included the artwork, flowers and the cute metal basket on the hearth.  The rest of the items came from elsewhere in the house or was on the mantel before. Can’t wait to decorate it for Christmas!

Fireplace Mantel - After

Fireplace - After

How did you update your fireplace?

4 thoughts

  1. At first, I thought “Oh, no … that’ll ruin the stone” but it turned out that and I love the pops of red!!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s