Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fireplace: Lookin' Hot, Hot, Hot

I had big plans for spring break--lots of projects I wanted to do around the house. Not all of them got done (I may have been a little ambitious thinking I could quickly repaint the dining room, considering that I also had around 80 exams/papers to grade--which also didn't get completely done!), but I am really pleased with how this one little update turned out.

You may remember our fireplace in the living room.

I love having a fireplace, but the brass surround was looking pretty dated and the mismatched brick surround and hearth was not super attractive. Not to mention the reddish/orange brick wasn't doing the warm-colored wood stain any favors. I decided that the fireplace needed a little contrast.

I was dreaming of tearing out the brick and putting in glossy marble tile surrounding the fireplace doors, but that project seemed (1) ambitious and (2) expensive, so I decided to start a little smaller and just paint the brick with a semi-gloss paint to hopefully mimic the look of subway tile. I chose the same white that we put on the walls--Dover White by Sherwin Williams. But I decided to save a few bucks and the extra stop when I was running errands, and I just had Home Depot color match a Glidden semi-gloss paint+primer. I knew that I didn't need an exact color match since it wouldn't be right up against the wall and it would be glossier than the flat wall paint. Plus I totally like living on the edge.

I taped off the edges while David was making dinner (Zuzu helped me because she is a SUPER good helper) and then I painted on the first coat after Zuzu was in bed.

After getting the first coat up there, I was already loving the way the white draws the eye to the fireplace and totally makes it more of a focal point, but it was obvious that we were going to need one or two additional coats to get good coverage on the brick. (I was expecting this, since brick is porous and soaks up paint.)

This wasn't a big deal since it's such a small area it only takes a few minutes to slap a coat of paint on, even with the extra effort to get good coverage in the grout and along the edges. The biggest pain was having to wait the recommended four hours in between coats!

After three coats of paint, I still had a few touch-ups I needed to do, but I was already pleased with the improvement.

It became glaringly obvious, however, that something had to be done about the dated brass surround. I'm not anti-brass exactly (I love it in certain light fixtures, for example) but I definitely felt like this had seen better days. So I picked up a quart of high-heat tolerant black paint while I was at the Depot. This is the kind of paint you can use to cover a BBQ grill, and a little googling assured me that other people had used it on fireplace surrounds also.

Although the Glidden paint I got for the bricks was zero VOC, the high-heat paint is more chemically, so I slapped on a mask, opened windows, and was thankful that the room is quite open and well-ventilated.

I started by wiping off the dust and then lightly sanded the brass surround with fine sandpaper.

Then I used a foam brush for first coat, which was pretty messy and awful looking. Of course, this is when my process got interrupted by the invasion of a small rodent (we determined that the "mouse" was actually a baby squirrel--slightly less gross, but no less terrifying, since this scene kept running through my mind). I was too distracted by RODENT INVASION and TORNADO SIRENS to get photos of the first coat of black. So you'll just have to trust me that the paint is super thin and runny and goes on really yucky looking at first and you have to be patient in waiting for it to dry or you'll just smear it around.

The next day, the rodent was gone. Because the glass doors were literally taped shut with painters tape, we're confident that there is no way it could have escaped into the house. David brought home a humane trap that we baited with peanutbutter and he put in the fireplace while I took deep breaths in another room. The trap remained empty for a 24 hour period and we heard no more scratching or scampering.  Our theory is that the poor little squirrel was seeking shelter from the tornado, fell down our chimney, was scared and disoriented, then managed to climb out the next day when the sun came up and it could climb toward the light. Perhaps Mama Squirrel assisted in rescue efforts? I don't know--I'm just relieved it was gone.

So after that small delay, I could get back to painting. I put the second coat of black on the front with a foam roller, which went on really smooth and looked great. I did have to watch out for drips since the paint was so thin, but it took a while to dry so mess-ups were an easy fix.

I thought I could get away with leaving the doors on the fireplace while I painted, but no such luck. The brass edging was still visible, especially since we leave the doors open in the winter when we're using the fireplace. So the next day, David removed the doors (I was slightly freaked out just imagining WHAT IF those doors had been off when the squirrel was in there??) but we had no more rodent spotting.  I put a quick coat of paint on the tops of the doors and around the opening of the fireplace after Zuzu had gone to bed, and one more quick coat before we went to be, then let it dry overnight.

The next morning, I thoroughly cleaned the glass doors before David reattached them, I touched up black paint in a couple spots and... TA-DA!

My hope was that the black trim would sort of fade into the background and let the white glossy brick make a pretty contrast with the wood and that duo could steal the show. And while it's not quite the stunner that the bathroom grout is (haha), I have to say that it makes me happy every time I walk into the room. Total cost of two quarts of paint, one roll of Frog tape, a foam roller, and two foam brushes came to right around $40, which I think is a good deal for a nice little fireplace update. Hooray for budget spending.

And how about a quick before and after?

I may not have gotten all my exams and essays graded over spring break, but at least I knocked out this little project. I'm also quite pleased that my list of 8 big projects I wanted to accomplish this year has been almost entirely crossed off! Granted, my craft area still needs more organizing, but I've made some good headway down there, so the only other thing on the list that I haven't gotten to at all is possibly locating a buffet for the dining room. That has fallen lower on the priority list right now because if I'm going to drop a big chunk of change, I'd rather buy a new rug for the front room (I'm so over the rug in there. Seriously.).

Of course, the list of projects continues to grow... I need to think eventually (hopefully) about what we are going to do to create a space for Rerun in our bedroom and how we'll want to set that up. I also want to repaint the dining room (I have a new vision!) and freshen up the kitchen (still can't decide what color...) but the house really is starting to feel like ours with all the updates we've managed to do on a pretty tight budget.

Here's to small changes that make a big difference!


  1. Love it! The white brick totally looks subway tile-y!

  2. Looks nice! I do like the white brick!

  3. It is ridiculous how different that looks!! I love it!!

  4. That looks FANTASTIC. Excellent work, my handy friend!

  5. Like woah. Way to go, friend. I'd say that was a super investment of $40.

    I never thought to paint our old, dated brass fireplace cover. We ditched ours and bought a black one. I think it was broken so not quite salvageable, but genius!