Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Fireplace

This is a picture the previous owners took, so this is their furniture and decorations.  
Do we love that Hershey Chocolate paint?  Ugh.  The picture looks grainy because, even with all the lights on, they had to use their flash to take it in this dark corner.  The room is 25' running north and south x15' running east and west.  Their TV is on the north wall.  This space feels like a cave or a dungeon.  The only source of natural light is a sliding glass door that leads to the patio, to the right of the fireplace, and they had sliding vertical shades there that fell apart every time I tried to adjust them.  The fireplace is the first thing you see from the entry hall doorway on the west.  There is also a doorway on the south that leads into the kitchen. 

This picture is taken a year or two ago, with all the lights on, and my picture's grainy, too.  This is after the fireplace insert was put in, and after I painted over all the brown paint, which I just could not live with, except for that cabinet that's tucked into the left corner.  I've never liked those "ears" on both sides of the fireplace, and I've wanted to knock them off.  But that is not going to be possible from a structural standpoint.  So I settled for just trying to do something to make it look less "clunky".

I started looking on Pinterest and found a lot of people doing a lot of things to their fireplaces.  Refacing with wood, tile, stone.  Painting, staining, white-washing.  If they already had light-colored fireplaces they were painstakingly painting each brick dark.  And yes, I realized that whatever I did, there'd be a good chance the next owner would not like it and would change it right back to the way it was originally.  That's just the way it is, but I don't really care what people do as long as I don't have to un-do any of it.
The first thing we did was to tear out the cabinet in the corner, and to remove the clunky wood trim from around the fireplace.  That's when we had several unhappy surprises:  The brick didn't go all the way to the ceiling!  Holy Cow!  What's up with THAT?

And the previous owners smeared that Hershey brown paint on the brick all along the edges of where the trim had been, vertically AND horizontally.  And there was hardly anything holding up the mantle.  (Eeeek!  I actually had several heavy -- and precious to me -- things sitting on that mantle at one point or another during the time we've lived here!)  Annnnnnd, the person who did the brickwork put most of the half bricks cut-side OUT on the end-caps of the "ears", rather than IN, like anybody with any sense at all would have done.  SHEESH!  And THEN they added insult to injury by glopping on mortar and even a good bit of glue, apparently to help the wood trim stick to it.  That's been the trend in this house.  Dozens of nails when much fewer would do, glue added for good measure, and then caulking.  They LOOOOOOVED caulking. 

This was a gritty, messy job and I was really glad we hadn't gotten the floor all the way to the fireplace yet.

I chiseled and rasped down the height of the mortar chunks on the endcap of the "ears", some of which fell out in big clumps, requiring patching with new mortar, done with a little better "finesse", then bought a quart of brick-brown paint and painted the mortar so it would look like brick ends.  Can you tell?  (Hint:  they're the darker ones as the "real" brick ends have absorbed some gray from all the dust I made.)

I called our neighbor Joe, who is an electrician and therefore knows everybody in all the other trades, to ask him if he knew where we could get some brick, and a day or two later, here he came with enough brick in his truck to do the job.  Bless his heart.  They were not quite the right color but probably as close as we could ever hope to get.  The main concern was that the brick be the right size, and Joe measured to make sure.  Oh and they were in like-new condition, too.  I've never layed brick before, but I watched enough You-Tube tutorials to gather up the courage to tackle laying two more rows of brick.  Bricklaying is a lot harder than it looks, and I didn't do a perfect job, but close enough.  Hubs asked me, at one point, if I was tucking and pointing and I said no, I was glopping and smooshing.

I tried scraping off the Hershey paint streaks, I tried paint remover, too.  Hubs even worked on it a little with a razor blade, and it helped, but I could still see the streaks.  We were mulling this over when Paula called, and she suggested using some of the paint I bought for the "ear" mortar, and that helped.  Can you tell?  First row under the two new rows.

There were a couple of happy surprises.  One was that there was ceiling all the way across, above the brick of the fireplace.  So that eliminated any need for ceiling patching.  I've done that before, at The Ponca House, and it was not fun.  Or pretty.  The other happy surprise was that, without those wide pieces of wood trim and the painted plywood, the "ears" being there didn't look as ugly to me.

I really wouldn't see anything wrong with the fireplace color if it was in a room with lots of natural light.  Less windows in a house means it's warmer in the winter, and I do appreciate that our utility bills aren't as high as those of a lot of people we know, especially since this is an all-electric home, but it means that there is less natural light.

Still not crazy about that popcorn ceiling but maybe some other time.  Not in the mood to deal with it right now.

The next step has to do with lightening up the color, and after some thought, I decided to try the white-washing method.  Here I must say that painting one's fireplace requires a bit of courage.  What if I don't like it??  Too late to go back by the time I know.  Or maybe it's that "fools rush in where angels fear to tread" thing.  Not sure which.

A lot of what I do depends on just closing my eyes and diving in.  I guess you might say it's how I approach life, in fact.  I have learned that if you overthink it, life itself is scarey as hell.

The most-recommended method of watering down the paint to a ratio of 1:3 was not satisfactory.  Apparently some of the bricks have been sealed and some have not, meaning that there is no paint absorption on the sealed bricks.  Using the paint right out of the can didn't work well, either.  About half and half was right for soaking into the grout, and then a careful wipe-off of the excess on the brick faces, to let some of the brick color show through.  I used some of the same cream-colored paint that I had left over from painting out the one orange wall and the orange woodwork on the cream walls in the dining room, which I color-matched, and did before I even allowed our stuff to be brought into the house.  It was THAT ugly.  This cream color was originally on all the walls and woodwork in this house, when it was rebuilt after the fire, which I do think was a little overkill since there are so many rooms in this house.  I don't mind it on some of the walls, and I like it on the woodwork.  It seems to go well with lots of other colors.  The little bit of paint I had left over from the job has sat on the garage shelf since then, almost 5 years now, and the can has gotten rusty around the rim.  I'm trying to get in the habit of storing my leftover paint in plastic to avoid the rust problem.  Coffee tubs (with lids sealed with duct tape) and peanut butter jars (with a ziplock bag "buffer") are good, big juice bottles are better but my source for them has dried up.  I think Sherwin Williams sells paint in plastic jugs with plastic screw-on lids.   Wish everyone would do that.  Oh, but then the prices would all go up.  Maybe Lowe's will do it next time they need to hike up the price of their paint.  Not sure if those new containers hold a whole gallon, though....

I wonder if you've noticed that my recent experiences with Lowe's products are making me fall out of love.  Unfortunately, we have to drive all the way to Tulsa in order to go to Home Depot or Sutherland's.  If decent competition ever makes it into Bartlesville, it might be "seeyalaterbye" to Lowe's.  As you know, I'm already not buying my paint there anymore, since they don't carry anything that doesn't have primer mixed into it now.  What a rip-off.

At this point, I was still kinda scared.  In this picture there's a little shine to it because the paint's not all the way dry.  I wasn't sure if I liked leaving the brick natural around the opening and on the hearth. 

But you know me.  I can't have an uncluttered surface.
This is the mantle.  I thought maybe after we took it down we'd find out it was just a bunch of two by fours disguised to look like a big chunk of wood.  But it IS a big chunk of wood.  And heavy.  Another happy surprise.  Except that then I couldn't bring myself to paint it black, like I was thinking.  And Hubs had to figure out a better way to attach it to the fireplace.  I even thought about leaving it off entirely.  But WHERE would I put my STUFF then?

I bought that fireplace tool caddy at a garage sale.  The two pieces were originally hinged to fold together but I like them better apart, and they will be more conveniently located on the "ears".  I think the curved "handles" on the top make them a good fit to the design of our fireplace.

Fortunately, we finally got a day that was warm enough to spray-paint a few things with heat-proof black paint, otherwise known as "stove black".  Mostly I just wanted to cover over that piece of fake brass trim that was on the fireplace insert.  Tacky.

And after that it was just a matter of putting everything back together.  You may notice that we put the mantle a little lower than it had been before.  It was just too high, before.
There's still a little gap between the brick and the ceiling.  I'm not sure I mind it so much, but maybe that's because it's sooooo much better than an 8" gap.  Hubs said he could put up some narrow trim, and if he does, I'll paint it the same color that I used for the whitewash.  I bought that little coal bucket at a flea market.  Hubs uses it to carry the ashes and coals out to the burn barrel.  So it got spray-painted with heat resistant paint, too.

I'm still not crazy about that sheet-metal that the stove installer put in, and then painted black, to fill the opening around the stove.  I saw something on Pinterest where they left this stuff off and you could see the inside of the fireplace and the sides of the stove.  I liked how that looked.  The only problem is, the stove installer packed this space with insulation and I'm not sure but what this space would be really drafty without it.  Lowe's sells heat-resistant primer that is gray.  Maybe it would look better painted that color.

This is giving you a "sneak peek" at the floor.  Heh.  By the time I do The Final Reveal, you will have seen almost everything already.  ....Is this what they call a "spoiler"?  Heh.

Next project report coming up in a couple days.  Stay tuned.....   xoxoxo


  1. WOW! What a fantastic job!!!!!!! You did GREAT girl! I love the new look of the fireplace, and the glimpse of the floor makes me know it looks wonderful too.

    You've just inspired me to do my own projects. Thank you ~ FlowerLady

    1. Lorraine, you are one of several people that I know that I feel like has a great eye for design and so your comments have made my day! Thanks for checking in. Hugs xoxoxo

  2. It looks wonderful! If I wasn't so lazy, I would paint our woodstove wall. The living room is very dark and that would help.

    I am so impressed with all that you have done. What an improvement. That little bit of the flooring looks great. You better hurry up so you will have time to garden!

    1. Oh, Glenda, you are certainly NOT lazy!

      I'm glad you like what we've done, you have a good eye for color, and I did so love that sage green paint you used in your bathroom and those new chair pads you made. But you are so busy there on the farm, I don't know how you have time to get anything else done. I doubt I would. We are just about finished, I think. Yesterday we took a day off from the project and I did some work in the garden. Hubs used the day to clean out his workshop, lots of sawdust! Still waiting on the furniture to arrive. It's been four weeks now.


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