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Fireplace Facelift

Updating your living space doesn’t have to be a huge project. With a weekend or two of small fixer-upper improvement projects, your home can feel like new again. A great place to start is the focal point of your room -- updating your fireplace can give your entire living room a facelift.


When redesigning the space around your fireplace, also known as the fireplace surround, it is imperative to use materials that are labeled as heat-resistant. This is especially important if you have a wood-burning fireplace. Gas fireplaces are measured by design to put out a controlled level of heat, and can therefore be remodeled using a wider variety of materials. The most popular heat-resistant materials to use when revamping a fireplace are:

  • Heat-Resistant Paint

  • Tile

  • Stone

Painting Over Brick?

In older homes, the existing fireplace surround may be bulky, dingy, and an eyesore you wish didn’t exist. Recent trends dictate more homeowners may wish to makeover these older brick surrounds to be lighter, cleaner, and give the room a more airy feel. One easy and inexpensive option for updating outdated brick is to use paint that is specifically formulated for high-heat areas.

Choosing a bold color for your surround, such as navy blue, can turn an old coal-charred monstrosity into a beautifully dramatic focal point. Contrastingly, painting old bricks white can brighten the entire room, and gives the appearance of subway tiles for a trendy, clean, and modern look.

Looking to add a unique element to your fireplace? Consider painting the inside of your brick fireplace with a dark color such as black. This will draw guests’ eyes to the fire itself with an extra bit of flair.

Paint can alternatively be used to add age to your brick fireplace, if a more traditional or rustic design is more up your alley. Using white paint to imitate a German Schmear finish, you can create an old-fashioned European cottage-style brick fireplace.

Rather than slathering the bricks with thick paint, which can diminish the natural texture of the bricks, one of the more appealing aspects of brick fireplaces, we recommend thinning your high-temperature paint with water before coating the bricks of your fireplace. The ratio can be 1:1 (paint to water) or 1:3, depending on the finished look you are after and how much of the natural color you want to show through. Using thinned paint adds a slight tint, similar to whitewashed brick or a faux German Schmear, which will bring out the natural dimensionality of the bricks.

Majestic and Woodsy Stone Veneer

Another option for covering an unsightly fireplace surround is to install a stone veneer. As a naturally heat-resistant material, stone is also the best choice for high heat wood-burning fireplaces. A stone veneer fireplace is a thin stone cover that is installed over an existing fireplace facade, eliminating any need for demolition. Many stone veneers require applying mortared stones to a basic wood cover over the existing fireplace surround, but some veneers come ready to install as a full sheet of layered stone, similar to tile. These stone sheets work very well with light covers of paint, making them a flexible choice for your fireplace remodel.

Finding the right stone for your textured stone fireplace veneer can make this project work for many different style applications. Large and round, river rock stone fireplace surrounds give off a charming cottage vibe, while stacked stone made of thin slate can be a clean and modern highlight to your living room. Jagged dark stones give the room a masculine and modern appeal.

A mantle made of wood or industrial metal finishes this look flawlessly. Stone fireplaces look exceptional with the convenience of a matching built-in log storage area. Extending the fireplace stones all the way to the ceiling can add height and architectural appeal to this area.

Trendy or Textured Tile

Tile is an excellent option if you are needing to add drama to a flat fireplace surround. It is a versatile material that you can use to meet any design needs. There are countless designs, sizes, and textures of tile available to suit your personal style. Use a bright or bold tile pattern to quickly transform your boring fireplace into an eye-catching element that all your friends will swoon over. Larger tile patterns and cooler tones will bring an artistic element to your living room without overwhelming the overall design.

Tile can be a labor-intensive material when revamping your fireplace exterior. If you are looking to add a subtle pop without having to lay too much tile, try simply tiling your hearth pad with a fun pattern for an instant update. Not afraid of tile work? Go big! Try laying a large textured tile past the traditional surround to create a bold feature wall. This adds architectural interest to your room, instantly taking its aesthetic appeal up a notch.


A fireplace and mantel are a traditional pair, much like peanut butter and jelly. They work together perfectly, calling attention to the fireplace and providing display space for your decor. A fireplace lacking a mantel can look bland and flat, almost like an afterthought in a well-designed room.

If you’re not looking for tradition, say you’re more of a peanut butter and banana kind of person, then removing a mantel is a fireplace update idea that you should seriously consider. Taking away the mantle eliminates unnecessary clutter and allows your fireplace surround to shine.

A fireplace makeover doesn’t have to involve the fireplace surround directly. Choosing to update your mantel design can make your living room feel brand new, without having to deal with high labor or costs. Deciding whether or not a mantel is right for your fireplace is up to your personal design style, but can also depend on the layout of your living room.

The Pro Mantel Position

A wrapped wood mantel is the most traditional route you can take when updating your fireplace. Connected down to the fireplace surround, this can also be taken as an opportunity to cover smoke damaged stone or otherwise unattractive brick. Adding a glossy finish or finding ornately carved wood can step up the glamorous appeal of a traditional wood mantle.

To create a bold focal point, choose a wood mantel that is out of the ordinary. A rustic slab of driftwood is a popular option to add farmhouse charm to your design. Contrary to its unique appearance, this look is very easy to achieve. Simply stain and distress a regular wooden board that is the desired size and shape of your reclaimed mantle. With a minimal amount of effort, you can achieve a mantel that looks like it was plucked right out of nature.

Adding a mantel to your fireplace doesn’t mean you have to stick with a traditional or rustic design. A small, free-floating mantel is perfect for a modern design that still requires storage space. This is also a great choice for smaller spaces. Choosing a warm wood can help balance out a cooler palette, preventing your living room from feeling cold and uninviting.

If your room layout has your fireplace between two large windows, incorporating a mantel can break up the flat panes by adding dimension and character to the fireplace. This fireplace remodel idea can be implemented subtly by painting your mantel a shade that blends naturally with the wall color. If a neutral mantel is not your style, try using a color that contrasts with the wall or exterior through the window.

The Anti-Mantel Angle

When you eliminate the mantle from your fireplace, you have several design options. You can take your fireplace out of the limelight, leaving it simple and neutral on the wall. This works very well if you are also re-arranging your furniture to change the focal point of your room, or if your fireplace is in an awkward location. Painting the fireplace surround a matching or complementary color to the wall can help it blend in, becoming an element of the ambiance when lit.

Another fireplace surround idea that does not involve a mantel is to have a smooth or jagged stone that runs the length of the wall. This can be done vertically to add height and luxury to your room or horizontally to play with symmetry. A smooth stone, especially in white, looks impeccable in a minimalist modern living room with a gas ribbon fireplace. A rough-textured stone veneer can become the focal point of your living room without needing additional decoration.

Removing a mantel can also be the perfect fireplace makeover if you have artwork to feature. Using the wall space to hang art is an excellent way to draw attention to your decor at the same time as your fireplace. Creating an accent wall out of your fireplace surround using large patterned tiles is another mantel-free fireplace remodel idea that will make your living room stand out. Patterned tiles also give you the freedom to choose a texture, color, and style that suits your overall design goals.


How you redecorate your fireplace defines how it will play into your overall room design. Before you begin, you need to know which direction you want to take your fireplace. To create a warm ambiance without any bold features, it is essential to work with the colors and textures already present in the space. This helps you avoid any clashing between fireplace and furniture. For a room that requires an eye-catching focal point, a fireplace redo is perfect to boldly update the entire living room.

Bring on the Drama

Bringing bold drama to your fireplace doesn’t have to mean breaking your budget or venturing out of your comfortable palette. Classic color contrasts such as black and white look timeless in any living room. Paint or tile the interior of your fireplace black while painting the exterior surround a clean white. Add a black floating mantel for an even more modern touch.

Unique fireplace surrounds, such as dark textured stone or smooth reflective tile, can also turn your fireplace into a dramatic focal point. Don’t let yourself feel imprisoned by the traditional barriers of a fireplace surround. Extending your tile or stone beyond the expected area makes the featured design pop. You can also use this as an opportunity to add modern asymmetry to your living room. Apply the material further to the left or right of your fireplace for a simple, but original, design.

Your fireplace makeover can also be seen as a chance to add architectural interest to your living space. Think outside of the wall with non-traditional fire pits. Or, consider a peek-a-boo fireplace. Installing an artistic and moveable panel over a gas fireplace lets you choose when you want to feature your fireplace or your artwork. Adding a fireplace screen that has a dramatic pattern has a similar effect for a lower price.

Slip Into Calm Spaces

If a bold focal point isn’t your style or your room layout isn’t conducive for one, incorporating your fireplace as a calming addition to the design is important for the overall space to flow. Be sure to use colors that compliment and blend with the color palette of the room. White is an excellent choice for a neutral fireplace surround.

A calming addition doesn’t have to mean boring, though. Add luxury to your design by using marble and wrapped wood to surround your fireplace. Changing the shape of your fireplace can also add subtle whimsy to your design. Consider a round fireplace to bring a modern flair to your room without taking over space.

You can use your mantel to tone down an otherwise focal fireplace. Using thick, reclaimed wood will add warm tones and rustic charm to a stark black and white fireplace. Alternatively, stray from the traditional without overwhelming your space with a floor level platform mantel instead of positioning it above the fireplace. This adds glamorous space for large decorations or additional guest seating with a few throw pillows.


When you take on a project like a fireplace remodel job, you know that you’ll be changing the appearance of the entire room. You have the flexibility to choose a modern accent wall to boldly call attention to your fireplace or a traditional stone veneer fireplace to bring an air of relaxation to your room. Mantels, materials, height, and architecture - all of these are important aspects to consider when bringing your personal style to life. Let us know how these fireplace ideas inspired you as you give your fireplace a facelift!

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