Nov 04, 2011

Family Room Makeover: A New Face for a Funny Fireplace

For our latest True Value blog squad project, we decided to tackle our fireplace. In our 1960s-ish family room addition, the fireplace takes up a lot of visual attention, and its size and placement make it clear the previous owners built it as a focal point. Here's what we were dealing with:

Our old fireplace, yuck!

(Note: this picture is about four years old)

Last year we decided to paint the fireplace white, but it still lacked some appeal.So, it's not surprising we often chose to 'hide' the fireplace by stacking our daughters various toys in front of it:

What? There's no fireplace here...

The list of things we didn't like about this thing would go on and on. Here are a few photos that are worth a thousand words:

Lots to hate.

... the horribly-painted post. The sooty chain-mail grate that wouldn't slide open or closed smoothly...

Ahh! Don't eat me!

... what is thing thing? It scares me just looking at it.

Clearly, something needed to be done, and since we NEVER actually burn anything in this fireplace, we decided we could just repurpose it for some simple decor.

I started by removing all the old, sooty stuff:

Removing the old chrome


Once everything was out, Alicia (my wife) vacuumed it out and cleaned it with a brick-cleaning solution we picked up at True Value

vacuuming the fireplace

Then, she painted the interior and the metalwork using a high-heat black paint recommended to us by the paint department guy at True Value:

Painting with high head paint

Even though we don't plan to use the fireplace again ourselves, we figured it'd be a good idea to use a paint that would stand up the to heat, in case someone else decides to after we move on.

Now the fireplace looked a little neater (certainly cleaner), but we needed to put something in it. After surfing around online for inspiration, we decided to make our own decorative logs. We picked up a few packs of 'holiday birch logs' at True Value, along with some white paint, and got busy with the sandpaper:

Decorative logs

sanding the logs

Then we slathered them with white paint:

painting the logs

Then came the fun/frustrating part; our original plan was to do some kind of organic-looking pattern or print on the logs, so we picked up a can of coordinating blue paint and a cool-looking stamp, but the results were, um...

print = bad

print = bad

... horrible.

Undeterred, Alicia tried free-handing a design on the ends:

freehanding it

Time-consuming. Still ugly (sorry honey).

Finally, we decided simpler is better, and I just cut all the ends off the logs, leaving a nice, uniform, natural-wood colored face:

Chop chop.


Then I just rubbed the exposed ends with wood finishing paste, and stacked the logs up in a fireplace log bin I picked up for $12 on sale:



So, what do you think! Overall, we're pleased with the effect. I kind of wish we have more logs to fill up the space better (it's a big hearth, after all), but I'm NOT willing to put in the work to make a dozen more...

Sanding, painting and sawing the logs was no small amount of work (especially with all the false starts), and in retrospect, I don't know if I'd do it again. Anyone have other (easier) ideas for creating a decorating log display?

Thanks to True Value for sponsoring this post and letting us be a part of the 2011 True Value blog squad.


Post Comments

Add Your Comment!

(2000 character limit)

Vanessa on Nov 12, 2011:

I actually like the stamped wood. I think it's kind of cool. Either way, excellent job on the makeover. You've inspired me to get to work on mine!

pamela on Nov 11, 2011:

We had one of those corner fireplaces. Operative word there is "had." We never used it, not once, because (1) I have asthma (2) there are local laws regarding fireplace emissions that would require lots of retrofitting (3) fireplaces suck warm air out of the room and up the chimney. (Don't believe me? The Mythbusters took on this question, and what I already knew from personal experience is a proven fact.) The fireplace is gone, and we recovered roughly twenty square feet of space. I will not regret this choice. I intend to live in this house until I die, so if there are any resale reprecussions they are not my concern. 

kelsey on Nov 08, 2011:

love it.  modern looking and very clean.  cool!

ohjennymae on Nov 08, 2011:

i love the change. no tips for making it any easier, here.


we have a low profile fireplace in our tv room & the ENTIRE WALL is brick. ugh. i can't decide if i want to paint it or not. your transformation is helping me get closer to buying paint...

bruno on Nov 08, 2011:

@anonymous: actually, I was aware that the pipe rack was intended for that. It just never really worked (the few times we had fires in there, it had no effect). I ended up having to cut it in two to get rid of it, and it wasn't copper; it was steel.

Regarding the warmth factor: we technically could still have a fire, but they're smelly, messy, and don't really warm up the room (more heat ends up escaping through the chimney than comes off the fire). Also, we recently installed in-floor radiant heat in this room, so it's pretty comfortable. Thanks for the comments!

Cepheide on Nov 08, 2011:

That's a nice work, but I just wonder why you don't do fires. That creates such a nice ambiance....

Jess on Nov 07, 2011:

Thats an amazing transformation!

Anonymous on Nov 07, 2011:

Wow it is really a shame that you did not know what that pipe rack was.  It is a heat distibution rack and designed to make the fireplace more efficient.  Additionally it was probably made of copper, making it both expensive and rare.  I only wonder that in such a cold looking room, you wouldn't welcome a bit of warmth, ambiance, and heat.

rach on Nov 05, 2011:

Stand them all up in a row and spray paint them? You could always cover the ends with tape instead of cutting but I always like a saw ;). To be fair I also love the natural colour of some logs- silver birch is a really interesting log to look at. The best thing about this is that you can paint them again and again when you change the room or when it comes to christmas. I also always love the smell of fresh pine when we get logs in for our wood burning stove- it seems to soak up any other funks in the room too!