When Ryan and I bought our current home about 2 years ago we knew the family room fireplace was not something that we found particularly attractive but we didn’t know exactly what kind of transformation we wanted for it. At the time we decided it was not an immediate priority and wanted to live in the home for a while before decided what to do with it.
About 1 year ago I started to save pinterest ideas of fireplaces I liked that looked similar to ours. I came across many pins that detailed how to whitewash a brick fireplace. I decided this was a look I liked and started to research how to best achieve the results I most desired. I discovered there are as many different techniques out there as there are fireplaces, so it became confusing and took me a while to determine which one to use. To stay focused, I kept referring back to the one or two finished fireplace pictures I MOST liked and asked myself how to get from what I had to where I wanted it to be. I knew the process was going to take a few coats and most likely a few hours of time per coat so I waited to start the whole process until I knew I had a few days in a row free to tackle this project. Many days before actually starting, I went to our local paint store Bergsmas (Milton), and spoke to the the owner Jeff and a couple of the employees for their advice on which product was best to use and listened to their tips on techniques and what colours would be best. Finally I was ready to dive in and get started. The process didn't go exactly as I thought it would and at about the halfway finished point I needed to take a break for few days to re-think my techniques because the results I was getting were nowhere close to what I expected. In the end, after seeking further technique and colour advice from another local store Cate and Co (Campbellville) I am totally happy with the finished product! It really fits into the rustic elegant style of our home and takes the entire room from dated late 80’s into the 2000’s! Without the help from both stores and local experts, I would not have been able to acheive what I did. So never be afraid to ask for help, and then ask some more! Below I have explained each step of the process, and included my very own (not so professional nor pintrest worthy) photos!
Since our fireplace brick was a monotone pinkish colour and without much variation I decided to add a dark grey to a few bricks to break up the monotony. I used a mineral based paint, there are many different brands available but my favourite is Fusion Mineral Paint. It absorbes into the brick well, is very easy to use and easily cleans up.
For the "whitewash" I again used a high quality mineral based paint (Fusion Mineral Paint) in an off-white colour watered down 1-8 (1 part paint to 8 parts water) and a large wide paint brush suitable for brick. Using a dab a little/wipe a little technique I coated all of the brick. The wash started to take away the pink tones and give a more muted white wash look. (see photos below)
The mortar used within our fireplace was also a dark pink tone so I then used the same off-white paint in a 1-5 ratio (1 part paint to 5 parts water) and a much smaller paint brush (more of a large artist style brush) to go over all the mortar lines. Looking back on the process I would not have watered down the paint at all for this process. I knew I wanted a white appearance for the mortar so I could have sped up the process by not watering it down, however I wanted to be cautious and not do something that I could undo, so lighter coats of paint seemed the right way to go.
Repeated Step 2 for a second coat of whitewash. - This is where I got Stuck! You can see in photo 4, after completing the second coat of whitewash I realised the brick was still appearing very pink and the overall look of the fireplace was too “washed out” so to speak. I was seriously worried at this point that my well laid plans were failing and I had ruined the fireplace! I needed to re-evaluate what I was doing and where I was heading to get the look I wanted. So off to another local store to get some perspective from someone else who has experience with this type of project…….
After some excellent advice from the co-owner of Cate and Co (Campbellville) about colours and some different techniques I returned to the fireplace project with renewed hope and a new plan! Because I was feeling that despite the sparsely added dark grey bricks, the overall look of the fireplace was still muted and BLAH, Cate recommended using some lighter grays on a few additional bricks. This is exactly what I did and the final look started to take shape. I also decided spur of the moment to paint the existing mantle dark grey, and boy did that really make a difference! Our longterm plan is to replace the mantle with something chunkier and more rustic but for now, the dark gray is WAAAY better than the orange tone wood!
For the final steps I knew I wanted a more white look to most of the bricks so I used a new technique that involved undiluted off-white paint, slightly warmer white than my first off-white selection. Then in another container, simply water. For this technique I used one brush in the solid paint, a small 2” sized paint brush and went over all the mortar in between the bricks and used a dry brush technique to add white to all the bricks, BUT went more heavy on the regular colour brick and less heavy on the grey coloured bricks to ultimately give me a white and warm grey look to the overall fireplace. I used the container with water in it and a separate brush to blend the white paint if I went too heavy or didn’t like the results as I went along. The water was able to soften the white. Also, good to know is that I always kept a damp clean rag during each step and used it to wipe excess paint from my brush for dry brushing techniques and also to wipe up any splatter or spills before they dried in areas I did not want them.
Tips for your own fireplace transformation:
Research, Research, Research - know what look you want to end up with. Read/watch as many how-to’s as you can and ask those around you who have knowledge and experience with the materials and techniques you are going to use.
Be realistic that your project will probably NOT look exactly like the photos you see on pinterest or in magazines. Each project and each person’s techniques, although similar will have their own intricacies.
Don’t be afraid to just try and then possibly try again. Even your best laid plans may not go as expected. It’s only paint and at the very least can be repainted many times over until the correct effect is achieved.
Give yourself more time than you think you will need to complete the project
If you really feel like you just aren’t a DIY person, find a local business that can do the work for you! Not everyone feels comfortable or has the time to take on such projects.