First, I think I should point out the obvious and the ironic. We live five minutes from the beach in an area of the world that rarely (if ever) gets colder than 60 degrees. The fact that we have a fireplace is an exaggeration and the idea that we would spend a lot of time and money on it seemed silly to me at first. Side note: Fireplaces are actually quite common in this county. They are apparently a nostalgic architectural feature torn down by our seasonal residents (aka Snow Birds!). Unfortunately, as silly as it is, our fireplace is too big a focal point for my designer heart to ignore.
My first attempt at a quick fix was a lime wash. I then began exploring the idea of purchasing a reclaimed driftwood beam to use as a mantel. In fact, one afternoon after work, I did a spontaneous demonstration of the existing mantel and it was there.this isabout to drive to a local construction yard to pick out a beam. Suddenly, however, I had a moment of reckoning. Was notActuallythe look I wanted. It still felt too heavy and out of place for me.
Design of the new fireplace.
Ultimately, we decided it would be worth it to just redesign the fireplace and get exactly what we wanted. Not surprisingly, we had trouble finding a mason to help us with our project. Our fireplace was inspected at move-in only a few months prior to this project, so we felt comfortable moving forward on our own.
With the rest of the house taking a Spanish modernist direction, I was really excited by the idea of a white plaster fireplace with rounded edges. It's simple, it's light and much less annoying than stone. We chose a simple square design that protrudes just a few inches from the wall (our fireplace is outside the house).
I felt that the white mantle reduced the height of the fireplace and did not seem tall enough to me for the height of the ceiling. This made the windows uncomfortably long and thin. We've chosen to skip a mantle entirely and instead extend the front of the fireplace up.
Also, the black firebox felt very small compared to the front and hearth sprawl. A lot of it had been covered with rocks, so for the demo we decided to uncover that part. This gave the firebox more visual weight. The full view now feels much more balanced and proportional to me.
Demonstration of the existing stone veneer fireplace
Because the existing stone veneer varied in depth and reached all the way to our window sills, it would have been difficult to simply veneer or frame it. We decided it would be better to remove it all together. The rock came off pretty easily with a wrecking hammer we rented from Home Depot. We decided not to demo the stove because it was more unified and easier to design. By using the existing structure, we save a lot of time and money. We built a makeshift frame around it to round out the shape and filled it with concrete.
The next step was to frame our new fairing with 2 x 4s. The existing plywood backing was left intact so they were easy to put up. Be sure to check local codes for safety requirements when using combustible materials as part of your construction. Our code requires that the inside joists be at least 2″ from the fireplace opening for clarity. If you're not sure where to start, we've found it.UpCodesbe a great resource.
Cover it with a cement board
We then placed sheets of Durock cement over the frame. It is a strong, non-flammable alternative to drywall. It is very easy to reduce the size. You can score it with a utility knife and just snap it off! We use these special screws [Here] to attach it to the frame.
Skimmed overcoat with feather trim.
The next step is to tape all the cement board seams in preparation for the skin coat. (we use thisHere.) Similar to drywall mud, this step will coat the seams and give the fireplace a smooth, even finish. If you go for the concrete look, you can keep it that way! I was generous with the thin layer around the corners and shaped them by hand so that I ended up with a rounded edge. This created a softer, slightly more "aged" aesthetic rather than a sharp modern look.
Finally, I hand sanded the fireplace for a super smooth finish that is comfortable to sit on. I first used a coarse grit block and then finished with a higher grit block. The feather finish is quite smooth and does not require a lot of muscle strength to smooth it out. You could certainly use a rotary sander, but it's really not necessary and I felt like I was risking ruining my curved edges.
Once I had it smooth I painted the chimney with a special lime primer and then washed it with lime. Lime Wash is actually limestone powder, so it dries hard and has a stone-like texture. I like to use a 5″ block brush [Here] to alternately apply it over and under swings for subtle movements. The finished product isn't that different from the look you'll achieve with plaster of paris, but it does have a few additional variations. I ended up mixing a few colors together to get the perfect warm tone that was a bit darker than the walls. (I bought a Gallon Feather and poured a sampler glass of Bistrot, Runaway, and Half Moon Bay.) This helps further establish the fireplace as a stand-alone piece and adds a bit of dimension to the room without being too loud.
The firebox itself also needed a little facelift. I vacuumed and scrubbed the interior brick and repainted the entire case, inside and out, with an ultra-matte black paint specifically formulated for high-temperature applications [Here]. Please read the instructions carefully when using this type of paint! You will want to open your doors and windows and wear a mask. However, once it has dried, it is non-toxic.
The final section of the fireplace renovation required a lot of small detail fixing. I had to touch up the drywall edge and recreate the splatter drop texture (which isn't easy and I'm still not too happy with the results so I'll spare you the tutorial). the entire chimney using the standard seam sealant -Silicone and seal the chimney box with a heat resistant sealant.
How much did it cost?
Assuming you have some basic tools on hand (or the ability to rent them), this is a relatively inexpensive project. The only power tools we used were a drill and demolition hammer. Our fireplace is quite large, 9 feet by 5 feet plus the length of the hearth, so a smaller fireplace might cost less.
Breaking Hammer (rental) – $50 [Here]
5 gallon bucket – $3
2 x 4 Lumbar, 3 x 5 cement board, nails and screws [Here], Nahtband [Here] – $130
6 Pockets with Feather Trim - $108 [Here]
2 80-pound bags of high-strength concrete - $10
Lime Wash Primer & Color & Block Brushes [Here]- $130
Miscellaneous (trowel and feather finishing knife, foam brushes, etc.) - $25
Goggles, gloves and N-95 mask* - $10
Sanding Blocks - $10
Firebox Color - $27 [Here]
Total cost of the project | $500
* Dragging rocks, mixing concrete or cement, and using high-temperature paint all pose health hazards to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Get ready please!
What's next for this room?
With the exception of a few small details remaining, the fireplace surround marks the completion of Phase One! Next year we plan to install parquet floors in medium colors throughout the house. I think this will warm up the room very well. We also plan to remove the decorative molding on the walls and replace the French doors with pusher doors suitable for hurricane season. You can get all the updates atInstagram!