fireplace update options

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating93 Comments

I fully realize I need to start another project like I need a hole in my head, but it’s hard to stop the wheels from turning.  If you get it, you get it.

One thing that keeps catching my attention when I looked around the living room is the fireplace surround. The color is actually quite nice, but the glossy finish bugs me a bit.  We’ve done a few bigger projects through the spring and summer and we’re not going to take on a total makeover of this fireplace, so I started researching some easy and inexpensive fixes that wouldn’t involve removing the mantle and jacking out granite.

Painting it was an obvious option and I know it can be done and done well, but I couldn’t envision it.  I don’t want a cement or delft tile look with a strong pattern.  I couldn’t picture a hand painted design.  A solid color would probably look like I just painted my tiles, which isn’t a look I want.

So, I started looking into anything I could simply stick on the tile.  Sticky-back brick panels, faux tile wallpaper, stone veneer, marble contact paper, and stick-on tile.  I finally purchased some white Smart Tile in a subway (affiliate link) from Home Depot to tape it up on the fireplace and see how it looked.

I will say, I was pretty impressed with the product itself and how nice it looks.  It really does read as tile and, since it’s heat and moisture resistant, would be a great option for a backsplash, a fireplace surround, or in a bathroom (just not in a shower).

In the case of my fireplace, though, it was just going to be too much white and the style just wasn’t right. (There are other tile designs, but I wasn’t excited about any of those, either.)

I returned the tile and shelved the idea of an easy and inexpensive fireplace makeover.  I have plenty of other things to keep me busy!

But then, I received an e-mail from a reader.  She shared how she sanded her shiny black granite fireplace surround, essentially giving it a honed finish.  I had actually looked into honing, but dismissed it, thinking it wasn’t a doable DIY project after reading some articles about honing granite.  It turns out that it really can be done with some sand paper and patience.  Well, in the case of the reader who shared the result of her project with me at least.

Soooo…  I’m going to give that a try.  I will test it out on the side of the slab, so if I just scratch up the granite, it won’t be a big deal and I can put the project back on the shelf once more and no harm done.  If it does work, though, it’ll be a completely free makeover (because I already have every grit of sand paper known to man in my stash.)

I’m still recovering from the laundry room makeover, but I’ll probably test it out in the next couple of weeks…

fireplace update options

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93 Comments on “fireplace update options”

  1. I like the idea of the honed granite but I wonder… The granite seems to have two short vertical seams, if you will. What if you filled those joints with spackle then painted the granite with MMS milk paint and add one of your hand-painted designs like that fabulous yellow dresser? Covering the joints would eliminate the look of tile, and it would read as one solid surface. Or perhaps repeat some of the elements from the dining room mural? Or blue buffalo check to match the reupholstered red paisley chairs? Just a thought. I have seen many laundry room makeovers over the years but yours is the first that made me do a double-take, I have never swooned over a laundry room before but you knocked this one out of the park. Love absolutely everything about it. Just WOW!!!

  2. Every room needs a little black. I would leave the fireplace alone. It anchors the room. Just my thoughts on your plan.

  3. Instead of actually practicing on the fireplace, why don’t you go buy a couple granite tiles that match and practice on those. That way you could try honing and painting.

  4. Yes! Just painting it black. What a great idea. I think it would look great. However I also like the idea of buying a couple of pieces of granite and painting one and honing the other before you start.

    1. I like your idea, and had wondered if that would work to give a honed look. Sanding it will also make the surface better accept paint or an adhesive for tile or brick veneer, should the sanding not give you the effect you were after.

  5. Your granite is lovely but would better relate to your style if it wasn’t so shiny. If the sanding doesn’t work you could try a matte black and paint faux marble or soap stone veining on it. Or, I think a light antique-looking Chicago style brick veneer would fit in with your style nicely. Whatever you choose, I’m sure it will be beautiful! Your home is welcoming and lovely!

  6. I am so glad you didn’t go with the white tile. Its beautiful in a bathroom or for a kitchen backsplash but not the right look for a fireplace. Have you ever considered natural stone?

  7. An inexpensive, non- permanent option would be to buy a sheet of thin metal and have it cut to the shape of the surround. You could paint it and temporarily adhere it. If there’s space and the surround is cut a tiny bit larger, you might be able to just slip it underneath the mantle. Since it’s fireproof, you could live with it indefinitely to see if you like the look (or until you get that jackhammer).

    1. Because it’s a well-built home with a layout that is perfect for our family. I like that it was a clean builder-grade-slate, so I could add my personal touches and make it our style. I don’t think I would enjoy buying a home that was perfect. Doing the work is part of the joy for me and also a part of making it our home.

      1. No home is perfect for any of us even when we custom build or think we have found the ideal home, so we look for other qualities be it location, quality, or potential. I love sharing your journey, Marian!

      2. We built our home 35 years ago and I have never stop changing things. I think it’s part of the joy of owning a home. I would do even more if I could afford it.

  8. Maybe you could use tin ceiling tiles which could be adhered painted, and might also slip underneath the wood work?

  9. I still think you should try to find something to cover it up. I like the peel-and-stick tile idea, but I agree the white subway tiles weren’t quite right. What about a marble look? or is there a pebble option? Every time I see a picture of your living room I love everything about it, but I’m distracted by how much the granite does not go with anything else. I look forward to seeing if your efforts to make the granite honed are successful, but I’m not convinced that will be much better.

  10. I think with the right adhesive you can use actual tile over the granite. When we had our surround professionally retired, the contractor said it is easily and often done!

    1. Yes, you can tile right over old, flat tile that’s in good condition, so we could do that. I’m concerned about the cuts around the arch, though. I’m sure a professional could do it, though. It would be much easier if it didn’t have that arch!

  11. I was etching glassware using the liquid solution and didn’t realize the bottle had a ring of solution under it (like a cup ring), which then etched the granite on our counter. Consider other ways to dull the finish, such as cream etch or applying a matte sealer over it, instead of all-out honing. I agree with other commenters that deep tones add necessary contrast and punctuation to a room, so I vote for keeping this deep, rich neutral spot in this room. It also helps visually ground the actual fireplace insert.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I wondered is glass etching solution would work. I might give that a try, too!

  12. I agree with another poster…..you need lighter….the dark, even honed doesn’t go with the rest of your decor. Nay on the subway tile, however another type of light tile, brick or marble would look good.

  13. Have you checked into smooth plastering the granite. fireplace surround. It is fireproof and you can’t it it the color of your choice. You might want to check with Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Secrets. She does amazing things with tinted plaster!

  14. I think the granite itself is lovely, I can’t imagine it painted. What about..something like, etching cream? I mean, the kind you use on glass? Instead of a mechanical solution, a chemical one? I’m sure there’s something (safe and simple to use)that would remove the shiny finish!

  15. We also have had our tile guy cut antique clay bricks into thin veneer bricks which could be adhered over the granite and mortared in. Antique clay brick like old Chicago or St. Joe clay brick come in beautiful colors that would add a lovely texture to your surround.

  16. I still think that an etching solution would be an easy approach. Can’t wait to see it all done though Marian!

  17. Has a former stone mason I’m saying how ow about popping some wire lathe on it and going with stucco it’s not too hard and adds character and dimension and can be colored however you like. Veneer stone is another option applied to lathe with the appropriate adhesive. For a skilled DIY’er it’s not too hard. You got this!

  18. I had to laugh when you said, “…but the glossy finish bugs me a bit”. I can picture you walking through the room, catching a glimpse of the fireplace and frowning slightly – LOL! When my sister built her home years ago, she just couldn’t get her dining room right. She’d walk past and think, “it’s just not pleasing to my eye!” She had it repainted so many times I told her the room was getting smaller from all the layers of paint! She finally had an artist friend paint a mural around the room above the wainscoting in a slightly primitive style that was just perfection! Anyway, we’ve used the phrase “not pleasing to my eye” many many times since then as we rearrange a room

    My 2 cents – I like the granite and would look for a way to dull the finish. I think someone else mentioned a matte sealer. Wonder if that would work. Love following you!!

  19. You are so right about the glossy granite. I hadn’t thought about it till now. It’s pretty on its own but doesn’t contribute to the look you’re creating. After looking at fireplace pictures online, I think brick would be a good option. It has a timeless appeal and offers a huge range of colors, shades and textures. It could even sport some chippy paint!

  20. Marian, I think you’re right on track! Start with something easy and inexpensive, such as etching chemical or sandpaper. If that’s still not pleasing, a light neutral toned brick would be pretty (chippy sounds dreamy as well!). I think painting black would just give you a big black spot on the wall.

    1. I would certainly make sure anything I use would be safe around the heat. The nice thing is that it is a gas fireplace and the surround doesn’t get that hot. It has a fan that blows the heat out into the room.

  21. Marian, do you ever just sit with a cup of tea, a book, a glass of wine and just enjoy the day? The things you are doing are WONDERFUL, but a little…frantic? It’s summer. Yes?

    1. Something to keep in mind, Chris, is that in addition to home projects being Marian’s passion, this is her job and bills don’t take time off for the summer. Per her posts in the past, she seems mindful of finding balance in what she does so she doesn’t burn out. Plus, I bet that by working on projects and posting regularly, she generates more income for her family’s needs; I know that I for one check back regularly because she’s so consistent and interesting. You’re definitely right in mentioning that the things she does are WONDERFUL! 🙂

    2. Yes, of course I do! But, it’s summer in Minnesota, so that’s when you get projects done. 🙂 Also, it is my job and my hobby, so I can work on my home more than I would if I had a “normal” job or if my boys were younger. I just don’t blog about the times I’m lingering in bed in the morning or going to the movies or having a “relaxing day”. I blog about what I’m doing!

  22. Consider the Honed Soapstone look. As a designer, I recently worked with a client who has a beautiful white painted fireplace mantle but did not like the shiny marble tile inset. She replaced with soapstone, charcoal with cremy white veins. It is a classic design which would complement your decor.
    Perhaps it could be a DIYproject with paint. So glad to see you are determined to find the right
    solution. Diane

  23. Love your styling spirit and thank you for sharing. I redid my fireplace surround as part of a full remodel using leftover quartz pieces from the kitchen counters and Shaker-style framing designed to complement the kitchen cabinets. Do you by chance have any marble left over? Perhaps a bit of sweet-talking is in order? Placed over of the granite, it would look gorgeous. And maybe even a slab for the mantle? Mmmm, now we’re talking?

  24. Your creativity is endless! I can’t wait to see what you come up with for the fireplace. One thing’s for sure, it be just right.

  25. Often when I want to change the finish on an object but not the color I just spray it with a clear FLAT FINISH sealer. Have you thought of that? It has always worked for me and would be very simple and inexpensive to do!

  26. I like the mantle but to me it is not the shiny granite that is disturbing or out of place, but the fireplace itself, actually it looks more like an oven, so square, so modern

  27. What about adding a more rustic mantle. Pottery Barn has mantle shelves that might soften the look of the tile, black surround and white molding. Just a thought.

  28. I’m sure whatever you do will look great. I do like the idea of the honed granite and if that doesn’t work out, it will be back to the tile store. There are so many great choices and with that small an area the cost should be minimal and so much fun! Can’t wait to see what you do. I’m still blown away by the pantry. Love, love, love the green! Thank you for sharing your home with us.

  29. I love Carolyn’s idea about thin veneer brick as a facing over the granite. Old brick would add a country dimension as well as diminish the more modern feel. The shades of white, black, and terra cotta evoke feelings of cozy comfort.

    1. I love that idea, too. Not sure I could tackle it myself with the curved mantle, though. Maybe I just need to try it on a sample…

  30. You have many great ideas in the comments. My idea is out of the box, and doubt if you would do it. I have done some mosaics using broken plates and a acquaintance at the time did her fireplace using all white plates broken and since the are different sizes and thickness, they reflect light and texture stands out.

    1. That is a very creative idea. I think it wouldn’t work for this more traditional home, but would look great in some other spaces! Love it idea.

  31. I second the etching cream. That should take the high gloss off the finish and give you a warmer, more organic look without painting or recovering. And I’m so glad you gave up the subway tile pattern. No likey.

  32. Can I suggest leaving the granite alone & painting the fireplace a grayish blue to tie into the color of the granite?

  33. There are sanding pads that fit on your drill motor that are used just for granite. The foam pad is hook and loop and the different grits just stick to the foam pad. You buy it as a set. If I remember it was about 24 bucks when I purchased the set online.

  34. I get what you’re saying about the fireplace. I think what might make you happy is to take off the mantle top piece and replace it with a solid piece of wood running the width of the wall.

  35. Looking forward to seeing the fireplace once completed! I dislike our fireplace surround, so I’m interested to see how it comes out. Thank you for sharing. Have a great rest of the week! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  36. Hello,
    I have the same situation with my fireplace surround, a shiny granite, which, like you “bugs me”. I just read all the above comments and looked into the etching suggestion. Here is what I found:

    Marble and Limestone can etch but Granite is more acid resistant and will rarely etch. Etching dulls the surface finish of your stone and can change the texture. Acidic products such as orange juice, tomato juice, cola products, and even some cleaning products can etch the finish of your stone.

    Maybe try OJ, tomato juice or Coca-Cola first! Will save you some money and not harmful to you or your home. I’m going to try this tomorrow morning after hubs leaves for work!

  37. First of all, your utility room project was an outstanding transformation! On the fireplace not only the surround but the rest of the fireplace needs to look more like Marian. You are good at staying true to your style. I’m thinking a pine mantle, gray blue painted fireplace, and. brick veneer with German scmear surround. I also think the ceiling tiles might work.

  38. This post had lots of feedback. It will be interesting to see how it transforms. I think I would put a custom cut marble up that could fit right over the granite. I’m sure it could be done and worth a fitter to do it. The same guys who did your counters could probably cut and install it. It’s a focal point and a perfect cut would be outstanding and worth the expense.

  39. I totally agree on s oapstone. We used s oapstone kitchen countertops in our renovation of my Grandparent’s 100+ year “young” farmhouse. That would be beautiful!

  40. Be sure that whatever you choose is easy to clean. The granite above my fireplace gets black and needs cleaning at least once a winter.

    Some of those mail order catalogs sell six-inch stick on tin tiles pretty reasonable in price. They come with little stick on tape, discard those and glue them to the wall.
    I put them around the bathroom sink at our mountain cabin. They have different patterns embossed on them. Mine have fleur de lis.

    I would buy a couple of granite tiles and experiment on those for any of these sanding or chemical options.

  41. I know this idea is a little out of the box but what about some AGED mirrored subway tile? I’ve seen it used online and it is absolutely beautiful.

  42. I painted my black granite with Annie Sloan graphite lightened up just a tad. It looks like a dark slate tile and I love it!

  43. Hi Marian, Before you make a decision on your fireplace, please look at Inglenooktile.com. A small artistic company in the Lancaster, PA, area. I sent them photos of a brick wall in my 1961 colonial and they created a gorgeous brick tile floor for the adjacent room that would complement the wall. I think you would enjoy hearing any suggestions they might have about your fireplace.
    I look forward to reading your blog every day. I share your love of old furniture and household items with character. You are quite talented and I have learned a lot from you. 🙂

  44. I like the idea of soapstone for your fireplace, it would be lovely I think.
    . I have a fireplace that is really weird. My mantle is an old railroad tie-down to having a couple spikes in it still (the railroad is close by). Then it has a flat slate surround that has a crack in it (damaged) to round it all off, it has a old brass and glass surround. IF I had the money (I don’t) I would put river rock over the slate (if that is possible) and take out the glass/brass thing but I don’t know what I would put there instead…anyone have a suggestion? I’m thinking of getting faux river rock that is easy to apply if it exists and trying this on my own, it could hardly look worse…

  45. I believe brick veneer can be easily cut with a hacksaw, although my choice would be chippy metal ceiling tiles…..they come in all colors

  46. I miss the furniture makeovers for Luckett’s, the business end of MMS, etc. It’s depressing and frustrating to me when I don’t have the time, resources, or help to complete my projects, let alone just do a minute color change. I need to step away for awhile and hope the fun “other” makeovers reappear. Love you, but not the direction this has headed lately. Just my own opinion. Some will say I shouldn’t share my feelings, but I am a long time follower and miss the old posts.

  47. That curve in the mantle adds charm and character. A couple of suggestions. Marble look like your countertops or stacked faux stone that comes in many colors/styles.

  48. Just a suggestion. Take a look at Layla’s fireplace makeover at The Lettered Cottage. She did a great job.

  49. Marian, there are so many wonderful suggestions above! I read them all, lol, and got to thinking about the entire wood mantle and surround, and how cool it would be to find an antique one and eliminate the “builder grade” look that is just too clean and new looking. I realize this would involve even more effort and expense than maybe you’re looking to get into at this time! And then you’re still faced with replacing or covering the granite with one of the amazing suggestions made by your readers. I just feel like no matter what you do to the granite, the surround will still look too newish. Just another opinion. I am certain that whatever you choose to do, it will look great! xo

  50. I like the tin idea! Also my son used the Chicago brick actually shipped from Chicago to build his fireplace. They used it in their mud room also. They had to have the brick cut vertically, so thinner slices, to use in some places. The thin brick would work for your fireplace! I can’t wait to see what you do!

  51. I ordered hand painted Delft tiles from Designer Tiles at Etsy. He was so easy to work with and he gave me the historical background of the design that I picked.

    Whatever you choose, I know it will look great!

  52. With your skill in painting, could you paint marble and/or soapstone on paper cut out to the shape of your fireplace and see how it looks? Maybe it would be possible to paint either one on a thin board that could be mounted on the granite with mounting tape.

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