A Whitewashed Fireplace Makeover

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Some things in a house are negotiable when you’re looking to buy. They kind of bug you, but you decide in your mind that you can fix it. I mean, I’ve watched countless people on HGTV do it. I’m basically a trained professional, right?

Fast forward to me aaaaaactually doing said project. Our kitchen in Virginia was nice, but it needed some lovin. Namely, the kitchen cabinets and the fireplace. Have no fear- I WILL detail the kitchen cabinets for you at some point. It’s just one of those projects that resides in the dark places in my mind. Once I start talking about it, I just can’t stop. Anyways, I digress.

The fireplace was a huge focal point in our kitchen. When you entered through the back, it was right there. The whole wall to the right was the fireplace. It was made of this orange and brown brick like the outside of the house. It was pretty when the kitchen was red, but once we painted the house a cool shade of gray, it was just out of place. I was reading a book on redecorating at the time, and I was convinced it was time to re-do the fireplace (side note: if you’re looking for an excellent book on getting out of a decorating funk or trying to do so on a budget, I HIGHLY recommend “The Nesting Place” by Myquillyn Smith).

You guys. It took like a full year for me to work up the courage to paint the fireplace. Once you paint brick, there’s really no turning back. I decided I wanted to whitewash it, and I told myself that if everything went south, I’d bail and just paint the whole thing white. It seemed basically fool proof.

I started by taking down the mantel and the fireguard. Mine came down pretty easily. It was hanging on some screws, so with a screwdriver and a little muscle, it was an easy job. The next step was a little (a lot) harder. Per Pinterest/Google, to get the whitewashed look, you do a 50/50 ratio of paint to water and you’re supposed to sponge it on. So, I decided to make a little bucket of the above mixture, and I began to paint one…brick… at… a… time. Think it took forever? It did. I got about a quarter of the way done and couldn’t stand it. Someone online said it looked better without the grout painted, so that’s the look I was going for. I bailed on this plan. Then, I painted everything- bricks AND grout. It just wasn’t looking like I envisioned it. It was coming out too white. So, I tried the third method. Guys. I’m embarrassed to admit I even tried this. I put my paint mixture in a spray bottle, and I sprayed a separate section of bricks. Yes. I sprayed the paint from a spray bottle onto my brick and thought it would look good. At this point, it looked like I had basically spray painted a small portion of my fireplace.

When I stepped back and looked and the fireplace, this is what I saw.

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I look back and this picture now and think it is hilaaaarious. However, this was about the point I began to panic. It looked AWFUL. After a rather long call to Paul, I was able to calm down and re-evaluate. I decided to take my original paint mixture and put it back in my little bucket. My new (and final) strategy was to take a sponge, dip it in paint, and run across a small section of both brick and grout at a time. Once I did that, I went back over the same section of brick with a wet sponge. This ensured that the paint soaked into the fireplace, but it took off the excess to give that sort of translucent look. Once I started this, it was a breeze. It wasn’t took dark, but it wasn’t too light, either. It covered up dirt in the grout and made the brick look clean.

I finished up, and once I got all my decorations back up, I thought it was really cute! Here’s the final product.

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I do want to note something here that can be seen in this picture. At this house, there was shellac everywhere (a second note to stay tuned for my cabinet makeover). If you look really close, you can see that the marble under the fireplace is super yellow. I’m pretty sure they put shellac over the marble (it hurt our feelings when we realized it). We sanded it down a little on the edge, and it was so beautiful. The stone was perfectly white. It took us a little while, but we eventually sanded all that shellac off. Here’s a couple of pictures of the before and after of the stone.

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And there you have it! If you’re looking to do this project yourself, here’s a brief step-by-step guide along with supplies you’ll need:

Supplies:

  • white paint

  • 2 sponges

  • 2 small paint buckets

  1. Take down all decorations and the mantel (if it comes off). Make sure you get help if you need it- they can be heavy!

  2. Double check to make sure your brick is clean of any dust or cobwebs.

  3. Fill one paint bucket with water. In the other bucket, make a 50/50 mixture of paint and water. Make sure to stir well. This will ensure your paint mixture is thin enough to get that whitewashed look. If it seems too thick, add more water. It’s better to have it too thick in the beginning rather than too thin. You can always thin it later.

  4. Working in small section, take one of your sponges and dip it in the paint mixture. Rub the paint over the brick. Working quickly, take the second sponge, dip it in the water bucket, and run it over the freshly painted brick. This will make your color just a little lighter and take off any excess. As a side note, you don’t want your sponge dripping wet, but just wet enough to do the job.

  5. Repeat until entire fireplace is completed making sure to work quickly and evenly.

  6. Once the fireplace is dry, re-hang mantel. Ta-da! Project complete.

Once I figured out what did and didn’t work, this project was pretty easy and didn’t take much time. I’d say this project (once I figured out what I was doing) probably took me about two hours plus time to sand the stone. Not only that, it was pretty cheap. I used left over white paint from the trim of our house, some water, and a couple of sponges. It was essentially free! Using the left over trim paint also ensured that the house had a cohesive feel to it.

This project really brightened the house up! It brought in so much more light, and I’m all about that natural light in houses. Our winters were cold, and we needed all the sunlight we could get in that house. I’d do this project again in a heartbeat.

Have you tried re-painting your fireplace? Have you taken the plunge to finally tackle that intimidating project in your own home? Have questions? Comment below!