Living Room Update + Some Fireplace Ideas

Whew!  After a whirlwind romance with primer and paint, we are FINALLY done painting the living room.  Ok, so there a few spots that need to be touched up like where I accidentally got some trim paint on the ceiling but they're not noticeable to anyone but me so I'm going to push them off like a lazy person.  I need a break from touching paint brushes and rollers to any part of this room.  ;)  It was a doozy of a project that required lots of painting after lots of bedtimes because of oil-based paint fumes but hip hip hooray.  We're over that mountain.

I took this a few weeks before we started priming:

So. Much. Wood.  Not even our modern-era furniture can make a dent in those aesthetics.  Instead of the furniture pulling the room more towards 2020, the room pulled the furniture back towards the disco age.  ๐Ÿ’ƒ

Sometimes I feel bad for even wanting to paint over stained wood in great condition but, in this case, we're both so glad we did.  It's like a completely different room!


wall color:  China White by Ben Moore (color-matched and mixed into Valspar paint in eggshell - get the code here)
trim paint:  Pure White by Sherwin-Williams (also in Valspar paint but in a satin finish)
ceilings paint:  Pure White by Sherwin-Williams in their Master Hide flat paint  

rug:  Dirt Cheap but originally from Target* (in ivory) // similar in wool! // similar
chairs:  Target*
couch:  locally bought but by Advantage Furniture // similar
ottoman:  secondhand coffee table turned ottoman - tutorial here

With the painting (mostly) behind us, we're now entering the fun, decorating phase where there will be some easy-ish reupholstering, new pillows made, art hung, a fireplace makeover, etc... so there will be a bigger reveal down the road.  Get excited.  I know I am!

One of the things I was most excited to do after we finished painting was hang curtains.  I feel like it's one of those little things that can make the biggest difference in the coziness factor of a room (hung the best way, of course).   I've had the curtain rods and curtains for this room stored away for months and it was hard to not just hang them on the unpainted walls but I knew that I'd regret it when I'd have to paint around the curtain hardware.  

Want to see proof of that coziness factor upped?  Here's that fireplace wall sans curtains:
The walls and trim are just primed and the pile of plastic drop cloths don't really add anything special but...

here's that wall plus curtains (and paint):

Much more cozy/homey/pretty, right?  Curtains.  I'm telling ya.  They're a big deal.

curtain rods:  Dirt Cheap but originally from Target* // similar* // similar*  
curtain rings:  Dirt Cheap but these* are similar
curtains:  secondhand but these from Ikea, hacked with this idea from YHL 

You probably noticed we didn't paint the baseboards or the part of the window trim yet.  Hopefully within the next year, we'll find new flooring and will replace all of the carpet in here with that (it'll all continue into this entire half of the house).  Since we'll have to take off the baseboards to put in the new flooring, it seemed pointless to paint them and then need to take a razor to the paint later to pry them off the wall.  We'll probably just paint them when they're off whenever that flooring situation happens.  As for the windows, seven of the eight window panes in here need to be replaced because they have fogged up over time.  We have the new glass panes currently sitting in our bedroom awaiting install.  That will be a project for a cool fall day or two.  I'll paint the trim around the glass right before we remove the old panes to install the new.  That way, I can paint without having to tape off a ton of glass.  Oops, I got paint all over the edge of the glass!  Who cares?!  It's coming out anyway!  Maybe it's lazy but maybe it's just efficient.  ;) 

Let's just zoom in on the fireplace though, shall we?


With the walls a fresh white, it's become quite the elephant in the room.  It's not ugly but it's definitely not the best it could look within it's new surroundings.  We knew going into this room that we'd want to do something with the fireplace but we didn't realize how off it would look once we painted.  So, we've been scheming and have come up with a few options.

1)  The mortar is dark; too dark for this room.  For an easy upgrade, we could just whitewash the mortar alone.  It'd be a tedious project armed with a small paint brush but it'd look much better.  A whitewash would keep the mortar from looking too stark white because it wouldn't be an opaque color.  It'd be more of a transparent white.  A heavy, opaque white might make the bricks themselves look dirty and dated.  It'd be super cheap and we'd get to keep the bricks as-is, which is nice since they match the bricks on the outside of the house.

2)  We could go with a german schmear (some people say "smear") - this is when you fill in existing mortar joints with more mortar, overfilling as you go so that you get some mortar on the bricks.  I'll be honest, this sounds the most fun to me.  I've probably done it a thousand times in my head and have a pretty good idea of how we could accomplish this the best (do you smell a tutorial?  I do.)  It'd still be a tedious project and would cost a smidge more than just whitewashing the mortar lines but it might look fantastic.  Here's a quick photoshop rendition:      



The one hesitation we have about going with a german schmear is that it'll look too modern farmhouse.  Modern farmhouse is not our niche so we're a little scared of getting a real-life result we won't like...which brings me to...

3)  Painting the brick.  Here's what will get us to just painting the entire fireplace - we go with a german schmear, realize we don't like it as much as we thought, and so we'll just paint right over it with an opaque white.  It's the perfect plan b.  If we were to just rule out options 1 & 2 and just paint the brick, we'd have to take the first step of filling in the mortar lines anyway because we prefer the look of painted brick with shallow mortar lines over that of deep mortar lines.  What's the difference?  

This right here:   


Both of these brick walls are painted, but the one on the right has mortar lines that are filled in (semi-messily) so that they're almost level with the bricks.  That's the look for us.  This brick wall at Architectural Digest makes me swoon.  

I'll keep you posted on progress along that avenue (just don't hold your breath for it...ha!) but on top of the brick, we've got a new mantel floating around in our brains.  Lucky for us, we've been around this block once before when Chelsea helped me build a new mantel for the fireplace in our old house (pssst, she has free plans on her blog).  I kind of feel like this makes us look like we're stuck in a rut since we're going for the same idea but we both really loved how that mantel turned out and, when you've got a big old brick fireplace, it's nice to just add a little something to it without taking away the entirety of the brick.  Ya know?  Either way, we like it, we're going for it, and here's what we're thinking: 


Something simple and modern but substantial.  The existing iron curtain will get replaced with a glass fireplace surround we picked up on Facebook marketplace for $20 a couple of weeks ago.  It needs some TLC (aka, a good cleaning and a coat of gold spray paint) but it'll be more functional in keeping the air of the fireplace separate from the air in the living room (that curtain is doing nil for that right now).  Plus, it a better size for our fireplace opening - the existing cover is the exact width but several inches taller than the opening which has always bothered me.  You can kind of see how much taller it is in the photos.  Once we have the new cover on, more brick around the opening at the top will be exposed.

I haven't even shown these mock ups to Anthony yet but I know that he'll like this greige mantel even more than the white:  


And maybe I do too.  I'm glad we don't have to make that decision yet.  

Just for kicks, I also whipped one up that's even a little darker:

Black might even be on the options list too though it would definitely be the bold way to go.


But sometimes the problem with too many good options is that nothing happens because you can't decide.  Hehe.  Good thing we never have that problem.  *crossed fingers behind back*  Good thing we have time to sit on that idea.  Time solves all dilemmas...or something like that.

Which one would you choose?  Maybe we can lean on the popular vote...  :)


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12 comments

  1. It looks so so amazing!!! Such a huge difference. And I vote for either all brick painted white or the white wood mantle on the German smear๐Ÿ˜Š

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  2. Of the options presented, I like the German schmear with the black mantle best. But I would first try out just painting your existing mantle black, see how you like that. And I think the brick might look fine as it is if you switched out the crisp white mirror for a more muted painting and painted the mantle black. It’s a nice brick.

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    1. Huh, I didn't think of just painting the existing mantel. We were planning on taking it off and selling it so I'm not sure how that would affect the resale value but it really doesn't matter if we end up liking it. We'll have to think about that...thanks for the idea!! I agree with swapping out the mirror. I actually have another, less bright, vintage gold mirror I had planned on hanging up there but a piece of art might be nice too. I love your thoughts!!

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  3. tarynkay said exactly what I was going to type!
    Room looks sooooo much better - can’t imagine how light and bright it feels after all this time.

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    1. I like her ideas! It is so much lighter! It's a south-east facing room so it makes such a difference and really showcases all of that sunlight that already streams in so much better than it did before.

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  4. Oh my gosh, GO BLACK WITH THE MANTLE!!! I think a high dash of contrast would look SO good in there, especially since you're keeping the fireplace the focal point of the room -- and would look so cozy with a fire in there too. :) The paint overall makes such a big difference to that room, congrats on getting it all done!

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    1. Ooh Hannah, as much as like the idea of going bold, I'll admit, black was probably lower on my faves list. But now, just because you said that and I really trust your eye, it just climbed the ladder a few. :)

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  5. Wow Sheena! What a difference! ���� I like the German schmear, because the brick is a nice shade and if you don’t like it, you can always paint it. But then again, we demoed our brick hearth and painted our fireplace black, so you might not want to trust my judgement ��

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    1. Haha!! The brick is a pretty brick so it would be a shame to cover it up! You're right about that! German schmear is a good first step and maybe the last step too...

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  6. Black mantle!! We're building a new house with a PEACOCK fireplace! ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

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