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Big brick fireplace ~ what to do?
Tara Stefanoff
February 21, 2013 in Design Dilemma
Our living room has a huge wall of brick ~ I would love to have a mantel... Any ideas?
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mmilos
What's your design style? I like the color and the long, linear proportions of the bricks...I think it would be a very cool room if you go mid-century modern furnishings. Remove the brass fireplace screen. A few staggered shelves (plain, slab style with no mouldings) in different lengths about the width of the bricks would give a nice clean look and in keeping with the style of the fireplace.

You could instead add a bold abstract art piece above the firebox. This would keep the look even cleaner.
February 21, 2013 at 8:13am     
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PRO
A. Peltier Interiors
Yes, mmilos is on the right track. This fireplace screams mid-century modern. However I am looking at the few pieces you have in the room and it doesn't seem like that is your style. So the question is, how do you meld the two? I would do as mmilos says, take out the F.P. inset and replace it with something more modernized. Then a simple big long mantle going all the way across the part of the brick wall that bumps out. Keep it very plain. Just a piece of wood. I would also paint the brick. Unless you are going totally vintage and true to mid-century, this brick style and color will always look outdated. Paint it a shade darker than your walls to make it a focal point in your space. I would start with those things and then take a step back and revaluate or post again for how to accessorize and finish off the space. When you do that add a little more of what the rest of your room has so you can get suggestions that match what you currently own. Good luck!
February 21, 2013 at 8:23am     
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bevballew
I would paint the brick to change the look. Not sure where the wood goes. As a mantle? I have painted brick in my kitchen and then had a good painter white wash or do something to give it a old world appearance. You need to paint to remove the dated look.
February 21, 2013 at 8:33am   
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sharpkl
Similar layout---balance will be the trick for the mantle.
February 21, 2013 at 9:27am     
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PRO
COASTROAD Hearth & Patio
I love the horizontal proportions of the Roman brick. It's a great mid-century modern look.

I agree that the antique brass doors need to go if you want to update your look.

I think the best thing for that wall would be a stained slab shelf about 5" thick and 8" deep, extending all the way across the wall at about 48" off of the hearth. I would leave the stepped back wall to the left alone.
February 21, 2013 at 9:34am     
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sharpkl
Same room different accessories
February 21, 2013 at 9:35am     
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bevballew
I am glad no one is suggesting painting it yet(except for me....haha...did so thinking maybe you would want to.). I have a similar fp and I think your fp is cool and interesting to hear what to do. Agree to remove the screen.
February 21, 2013 at 9:40am     
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sharpkl
It is possible to paint the doors with black heatproof paint if you don't want to remove them. It would also tie them into the mantle. I really would not paint the brick I unless it is a last resort or you have a definite decorating scheme requiring that look.
February 21, 2013 at 9:56am     
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bevballew
Black would be great on fp. I have a very expensive glass fp door and had itpainted and nine years later it is as perfect as when I first had it painted.
February 21, 2013 at 10:07am     
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darevilla
Ohhhh!!!!! My husband and I searched for a house with a room that has this much character! We love, love this look. His style is true mid century modern but I tend to go for a little more organic and eclectic. Think "west elm". Fortunately you can do both. I agree with painting the fireplace screen. Have several friends that have done this and its turned out well. Peltier Interiors has perfect logic and I agree. Having several friends ( including my husband and I) that all are updating 1950-1970 homes and all with very different tastes-keep it simple and classic. This brick may seem dated but you may not realize how classic and contemporary this look can be. Adding a simple wood ledge mantle and painting the brick with lend depth to your wall and amazing character without having to purchase lots of furniture or artwork. Sidepoint- one of our friends is going super eclectic with rustic sliding barn doors and mid century tulip tables with floral velvet curtain (sounds crazy but looks amazing), another is very modern all white with bright oranges and reds and we have a very cozy mix of mid century furniture with soft fabrics and deep colors. All very different styles and we all have the same brick fireplace. My conclusion: paint the brick and replace or paint the FP front. Add the ledge mantle and you will be well on your way to creating your perfect space whatever your style.
February 21, 2013 at 11:49am     
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linda
I make brick look totally different without hurting the integrity of the look of brick by painting the brick with colors you want in your room
February 21, 2013 at 12:40pm   
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PRO
JDM Countertops, Inc.
I agree with all of the comments about getting rid of the brass, and I definitely agree that the overall fireplace wall has a nice horizontal flow and feel. I think you could take a page out of Frank Lloyd Wright's book, and accentuate that with a long straight simple mantle piece extending all the way across. Below are some of his fireplaces with this kind of look.

It's hard to tell what is on the hearth, but you may want to consider covering the hearth in some kind of stone too. It can help update it and add an organic quality.
February 21, 2013 at 1:58pm     
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wvillageloft
Paint the brick white and remove the brass and replace with chrome. Adding one long shelf as a mantle would be ideal, maybe a raw piece of wood.
February 21, 2013 at 2:35pm   
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PRO
88 Atelier for Architecture
The brick would be enhanced by removing the fireplace screen that projects out from its face. If a screen is needed, I would make it freestanding. A mantel that starts over the fireplace opening and extends and turns the corner for a bit would make the space more dynamic. Open wood shelving at the brick in the niche beyond would provide a place to show personal belongings without blocking the brick there from view.
February 21, 2013 at 2:38pm     
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linda
Well if you paint is white as villageloft suggested, then the walls should be painted a different color
February 21, 2013 at 2:40pm   
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PRO
Beverly Anderson Interior Design
I would paint the brick white and add a contemporary, straight mantle that goes the full width. I would also remove the screen. Or I would select a wall color first (grays or beiges) then use a slightly darker shade of it to paint the bricks and paint the screen black.
February 21, 2013 at 2:47pm   
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PRO
Rustic Brick and Stone
Everyone here has given you great ideas. Here's another option: pre-cast concrete. You could also find a lightweight limestone mantel (hollowed out).

Angelo Fireplace Surround 1
Angelo Fireplace Surround 2
February 21, 2013 at 2:47pm     
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lefty47
HI -- I see nothing wrong with the fireplace ! Please don't paint it . The problem is whats on it and around it . Is your style the furniture you have or did you just end up with it . Because this is a perfect mid century style fireplace maybe this is the style direction you should strive for . It does not need a mantel , black or otherwise . Mantels can just become a clutter place . I love the clean lines the fireplace has now .Yes , paint or replace the fire screen but I would do nothing else and just work on the room and the furnishings and decor items .
February 21, 2013 at 2:54pm     
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PRO
Beverly Anderson Interior Design
I think the mantle is a little too heavy and a little too narrow, but the materials look great
February 21, 2013 at 2:54pm     
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carole
the fact that the floor as well as the ceiling are white makes the fireplace stand out to much,so that would be my first step,maybe a wooden floor or darker carpet, and picture 1 would be my favourite but the other 2 could be done as well,pict 2 i know is not a FP but for a different idea of a mantle it would work....
February 21, 2013 at 3:09pm     
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Stacey Rushing
My biggest suggestion would be to get rid of those doors. If you reach right inside they are usually screwed to the brick. Unscrew on both sides and use a crow bar to pull it out. Then do a thorough cleaning and use black fireplace paint to paint the inside. You can either buy new doors from Lowes at a cost of about 200 - 300 dollars in a black or expresso, or you can use a fireplace screen. If you have children I would buy new doors. Then the mantle needs to be handled. You can look online at already made mantles. I would go with something chunky because your fireplace is so large. Then you just need a big piece of art for above the mantle or a large mirror. Good luck :)
February 21, 2013 at 3:21pm     
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rouxb
Change out or paint the screen but not the brick-it is beautiful and will only look "dated" if everything else in the room does. I am not a fan of throwing white paint on everything and calling it "updated"-there are other options. Oh yeah, your original question-- the mantel depends on your decorating style. Modern, contemporary, or MCM I would forego the mantel. Transitional-simple wooden beam.
February 21, 2013 at 3:28pm     
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Tara Stefanoff
Thank you so much for all of your suggestions!
February 21, 2013 at 4:29pm     
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lc29
I had a brass fireplace door that was showing the effects of living a block from the beach. I took it off, masked off the glass and spray painted it with a high heat matte black. Super easy and when I put it back up it looked new and looked great with an even lighter colored fireplace than yours.
February 21, 2013 at 8:42pm     
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Peartree
I love the linear shape of your bricks and the clean look of the design. If you don't like the colour of the brick you could stain it. A grey or taupe would keep it neutral. Staining keeps a more natural brick look and yet will update the colour. It also won't peel over time. I agree with all the others that the screen needs to be changed. Stainless steel would be perfect but even painting it with black BBQ paint would be an improvement. Instead of a traditional mantle have you considered some floating shelves on the left side in the recessed part of the brick wall? This would give you a place for display and keep the clean lines of the design. If your house is an MCM style as the fireplace suggests it will be more cohesive if you embrace a more modern style. You don't have to do a retro look but trying to make a MCM house look like a tudour will never work.
February 22, 2013 at 8:05am     
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jeannemara
We have a brick fireplace with the brick going all the way to the ceiling. Whoever owned the home before us painted the brick a horrible grey and tried to paint the "paneled" walls to make it look like plaster. The room was a mess!
We did a true plaster look on the walls with the swirls, etc. However, we painted it in three different shades of a maroon mixed with something that I can't remember now. Anyway, the man we had paint painted the bricks to look like BRICKS, and used the same colours as the walls. The look is magnificent. We took a room that was originally very mid-century modern and that had been "updated" in the eighties and turned it into a wonderful study that looks timeless.
The fireplace had no mantle. For years, I've been looking for just the right one. I found it at a vintage store. It is an old top of a hutch probably from the turn of the 20th century. It is dark wood, has the spindles, the mirror in the center, and shelves. It will be perfect.
Don't do anything until you have a real idea of what you want your room to look like. Get lots of ideas from magazines and keep looking and thinking. You can have what you want if you wait, think, and get lots of ideas from several sources. The library is a great place to go for ideas.
I understand why others are talking about floating shelves. However, I doubt you are going to like that.
I like the idea of putting a different covering over the fireplace, the recast concrete or you can do some stone specifically designed for such things.
If you paint, I would suggest painting the step back part of the brick a darker colour in order to have it "disappear".
As for the mantle, if you paint, you could do what I did or you could use a chunkier piece and define your firebox area that way, perhaps painting the right side of your fireplace brick darker as well as the step back.
And, of course, paint that door!
I hope this helped.
February 22, 2013 at 11:29am     
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jdkrebs
We just toured a home with a bit similiar look. They had antique brick - which is expensive- and they had painted over it. This is new construction too. They had gray interior with white trim.. and had a big fireplace that stretched almost the entire wall. They painted it white. My husband and I were shocked as well since we had been in the house while under construction and thought the brick was beautiful.. so when we snuck back in before it was finished to see it painted, it was a shock. This was a million plus dollar home and it does look good. I just am not sure why they didn't select a cheaper brick if they were just painting it anyhow. They have dark hardwoods and gray trim on their windows. I don't have any idea their furniture and can't remember if they had a mantle.. but the house looked beautiful with the painted brick.
February 22, 2013 at 2:38pm   
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PRO
JUL313 Gallery
I agree with everyone regarding removing the screen--that alone will really change the look. I love the brick and wouldn't paint it. I think someone earlier stated they had been looking for a home with just this look--I would also love to have one. Removing the screen and adding a nice painting off to the side would really make the room pop. I have recently completed some that would look great. All are original acrylic paintings on heavy gallery wrapped canvas. Please contact me at julie@jul313.com for further info or check out my website at www.jul313.com.
February 22, 2013 at 2:57pm     
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gailbk
If you picture the brick painted or even with an added mantle, you'll end up with just that and nothing else cohesive style-wise in the room. Shop your house and change the furniture, lamps and decorative items. The leaning shelf should move to another wall. Can you add some more photos of the room? It has such great potential.
February 22, 2013 at 3:32pm     
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Jocelyn wishlist
I would have a contactor build out the left side so it is even with the rest of the wall. I would cover the entire brick - with sheet rock and put a nice mantel all around the fire place and update the doors. Use the space from building it out to have a built in shelf or curio now facing the dining room.
February 22, 2013 at 4:13pm   
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anitajoyce
A mantel the length of the fireplace wall would be a nice addition to enhance the fireplace and add some much needed character. On the side wall , you could also a built-in book shelf or add shelves. Would you consider painting the brick a nice accent color? Your walls could use some color also and rearrange the furniture. It looks so detached fromthe space.
February 22, 2013 at 4:30pm   
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Tammy Cody
I actually really love the color of the bricks. I would do as some have said and add a long piece of nice "chunky" wood as a mantel. I'm not sure it's necessary to remove the insert. I believe it can be stained a darker color. The lines of the insert go well with the brick. You could also add some shelves to the right if you needed more for display options.

Photo credit: http://www.fiorelladesign.com/projects/residential/cushman/index.html
February 22, 2013 at 4:38pm   
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bevballew
I have the same brick fp. The home was designed by a student of frank Lloyd wright. I think foolish to paint. I think the room can have a contemporary look if done by a very talented designer who would not wreck the integrity.
February 22, 2013 at 5:02pm     
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groveraxle
I am dismayed to see so many giving advice to totally change the character of this fireplace. As someone earlier said, it SCREAMS mid-century modern. It's classic. The only change I would make would be to replace the doors or paint them black. No mantel, no facing, no build-out, no new surround. I would build my room around this fireplace, rip out the carpet, dump all existing furniture and go MCM all the way.
VisuaLingual home/HQ
Laurelhurst House
February 22, 2013 at 5:06pm     
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bevballew
I agree!
February 22, 2013 at 5:16pm     
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handymam
Great ideas in your pix groveraxle! And great comments too!
February 22, 2013 at 5:20pm   
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designerdwellings
Embrace the brick! Please do not cover it with drywall or a mantel - the linear shape of this brick can make an amazing statement for your space. If MCM is your style, this wall can be a wonderful focal point for your entire home. If mod is not your thing, a simple coat of paint can retain the architectural detail while offering a more neutral backdrop to whatever your style may be...just don't paint it white! We have had success with many colors on brick, but the deeper tones tend to make the best statement. Try chocolate brown for traditional / transitional look, or charcoal for a more contemporary style:
February 22, 2013 at 7:56pm     
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