Big brick fireplace dilemma!

dragonskyzDecember 30, 2012
I loved my dining room when I decorated it five years ago. Now I'm tired of it being so dark. I've decided to paint the pine wainscoting white or ivory. (Yes, everybody scoffs at this idea!) Any suggestions as to flat, satin, etc? I'm also wondering if I should do a whitewash.

My main design dilemma is the brick fireplace. I love it, but don't love the brick style or the darkness. Obviously it's a big feature for a small room. Should I paint it white also? Is there a way to age the brick? Just not sure what to do!

One last thought: I love the red, but that's going too! I'm thinking something neutral, maybe a light taupe.

Any help would be appreciated!!
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Was the photo of the fireplace taken from a living room or hall? Can you show us that room? I like your fireplace and how wonderful to have one in the dining room. With the right paint colors you could have a stunning room, but we need to see what is connected to it.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:27AM
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I'm linking a before and after post with a brick fireplace wall much like yours that was whitewashed. I think it looks fabulous and may be the general effect you are looking for to lighten the room:
1 Like    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:36AM
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Judith Taylor Designs
We also need to understand better what the style or look is your are trying to achieve. Paint colours, sheen levels, etc. will all flow out of a decision on what direction you are heading. This is such a great website that has lots of visual ideas that will help you flesh out what you like and don't like. That will be a good start. I love the idea of painting your wainscoting but wouldn't prefer white. I would pick a softer hue. What do you like/not like about the fireplace? I like that it faces the dining room but feel it commands the room. For my taste I would cut it back to just to the right of the opening, and lower the brick to a height where you could top it with a mantle. Once you wrestle it down to size it will be a nice feature. I love painted masonry but my taste runs more contemporary or classic.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 11:41AM
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This is the view from the other side. It's my, also very dark, kitchen (another future project!) I plan to remove the pony wall and put in hardwood floors in the dining room and kitchen, but would like to do all the painting first. Thank you for the picture of the white washed brick. I may try to do that. I think the new floors will open up the space too. Thanks for the input!
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 12:07PM
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I think you've got too much going on in your room, and there are competing focal points. I definitely would not paint the fireplace or alter it until you've tried or at least considered other alternatives because you said you love it. As mentioned by another poster, the fireplace is the natural focal point, and it needs to be staged in a more elegant way. Take everything off. You need a dramatic something on the fireplace that is large - perhaps a beautiful black and brass free-standing fp tool set on the hearth and large candles instead of the wine bottles. Wine bottles are dated IMHO - and not natural to store wine near a hot fireplace. It just seems out of context and a little odd to me. But candles complement the idea of fire. Experiment with the idea and see if it speaks to you.

I don't think the pine complements anything else in the room, but it of course depends on the overall theme you are going for with the changes you've mentioned. But as it is now, I would either remove it or paint it. I'm not really that good with color unless I can see it - so won't comment on that, but definitely need something besides the red so it doesn't compete with the fireplace for attention.

And there is too much on the buffet wall - it shouldn't compete with the fireplace for attention. I would simplify the buffet wall - such as one piece of lovely art or mirror above the buffet, and remove the other stuff on the walls. Also remove the upholstery on the side chairs, especially if the wood tone complements the other furniture, or change the upholstery after painting. These changes will "calm" the room down. With those changes, the light fixture will probably be okay. And candles on the fireplace will tie in with the light fixture.

If you are going to take down the pony wall and install hardwood, you need to consider the floor color in your overall scheme. You will also probably need an area rug under the table, and both of these changes will dramatically affect the reflection of light in the room and the overall feel, because without the pony wall you will be getting a moe informal feel in the dining area. I think you need to do that work first, or at least do a project plan so you know exactly what you are trying to achieve.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 12:46PM
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Oh, just realized that the other "stuff" on buffet wall is holiday decoration - sorry.

Also thought of something else regarding light fixture. It creates a more intimate feel around a dining table if the light from a hanging fixture creates a pool of light over the table. Does your fixture do this, or is the light being directed upward? If upward, you may want to consider a change as part of your overall long-term plan.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 1:11PM
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I like what feeny did with the fire place in the attached pics, but I don't think closing it off to make it look smaller. I think just white washing it would be enough. It would still have a similar effect. As for colors, I would paint the bottom half of the walls --except the fireplace -- a light sage, and add some dark ivory trim on top of it all the way around. I would paint the top half a lighter ivory then the wall nth is would work with you painting the dining table and chairs ivory. I would also add green pillows to match the wall onto the chairs and maybe a nice set of green vases with white flowers as a centerpiece.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 5:21PM
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i agree with the whitewash on the brick.. i love that. can you stain the pine darker then paint the wall above a lighter color?
i am working with a customer on the same thing right now- he is doing wainscot in 2 rooms and we are having this same dilemma. I think it needs a chair rail in another color or should be kept rustic pine with no paint. if you paint the paneling one color and wall above another color, the chair rail molding needs to delineate the space (in my opinion. i did it in my design program and it looked much better). basically, as long as you paint a lighter color on the top half of the wall and the fireplace gets lightened up, you can do a really cool chocolate stain on the pine wainscot for some contrast. it will also go well with your kitchen colors- i would even do it darker than the dining table. the fireplace being lightened is going to make a huge difference! i like the gray color in your hallway (?) that would go great with the chocolate stained pine also.
one more thing... you should add a shelf above the fireplace- either a mantle or just a decorative piece in wood, wrought iron, or just something that will help give you symmetry and a focal point.

just curious...have you thought about doing a faux finish over the fireplace? slate, tile, fake river rock,etc...?? i would love to know what you decide to do.. :-)
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 5:58PM
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The brick fireplace is beautiful! My only suggestion would be to choose a color to replace the red with something that matches the pine colors. I only say that because painting that wood would be a crime!
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 6:10PM
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Wow, thank you everyone so much! I will post "after" pictures. I hope to get started soon!
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 8:13PM
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I'm just curious, dragonsyz, how old your house is and if the fireplace is original. It looks very high end and would cost a fortune to have it done today with the intricate brickwork. In our first home, we had to pay extra to get a fireplace, and I remember at the time that some of the houses we couldn't afford had beautiful fireplaces in the kitchen area and I wanted one! One even had a built-in grill.
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 10:04PM
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I had a fireplace that I just painted with brickanew and I absolutely love it. Everyone told me not to do it, but I am so glad I did. It looks a ton better. It may work for you
    Bookmark   December 30, 2012 at 10:07PM
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dragonsyz - what is on the other side of your fireplace? Is it a double fireplace wall?
That Brickanew is interesting - much better looking than trying to paint with other paint. I think it is a good suggestion for turning an ugly brick fireplace into a nice looking one, but would hate to see this particular one painted without a complete plan in place for how the rest of the spaces are going to be finished off to compliment the new fireplace finish.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 1:07PM
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I will look into the brickanew. Yes, it's a double fireplace with yellow stone and dark gray mortar on the other side. That's another huge dilemma! Thought I'd tackle this one first! Yes my house is old: built in 65, I think. It does have a lot of character, which I love. I'm also on a small budget and need to do most of the work myself, which is why I think paint maybe the best solution. I'd attach a picture but my Xmas is still in front of the fireplace.
    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 9:39AM
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Be brave and paint the brick! How about a warm ivory? We did that in our place- awful coloured brick we just had to get rid of, and it played beautifully off our wood wainscoting. Good luck!
    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 11:22AM
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I LOVE the whitewash Feeny posted. That would make a huge difference! An ivory off-white and I would paint that pine in a semi gloss, a little lighter. Then the walls a gray/taupe( go a little darker, don't be shy, you don't want it all to look the carpet color) It will make it cozier , too.Once the red brick is lightened up , the whole space will brighten.Then, get ready for awesomeness! Best of luck!
    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Ok, I've started. Using "Candlelight" by Valspar, satin, diluted 3:1. I like the brick so far but I'm having trouble with the grout. It's really patching and uneven. I've started painting just the grout, then wiping the bricks with a rag, which looks good on the bricks, but the grout still looks a little patchy. Any ideas?
    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 5:00PM
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Kathryn Peltier Design
I wonder if you added some glazing liquid it would change how the paint goes on? Not sure. If I were you, I would talk to the paint dept. or a good painter, if you know one.

What is the look you are going for? I was wondering about the fireplace wall. In the photo Feeny posted, the painted mantle creates a nice contrast and actually enhances the rusticity of the whitewashed brick. You could add a nice mantle surround for the fireplace itself, but you could extend the top of the mantle all the way across, incorporating it into shelves underneath the arch. You would have to knock those brick shelves off, though, and who knows whats behind them? A good mason could probably get them off in one piece and patch it if necessary. Since you said the other side is another project, maybe you could wrap a mantle/trim all the way around to create a much more cohesive core to the house (I would paint the stone, too, unless you have some other idea of what you want to do with it)

Yes, I think you could whitewash the pine paneling, too, but doesn't it match your kitchen? I don't know that you should change it if it does. There is a cohesiveness there now that you will lose. However, I guess if you PAINT it it will just look like a wainscoting (although the knots will eventually show through, even painted). What kind of wood floor are you thinking about? I think a dark floor would look more contemporary and actually make the pine look lighter and brighter.

Just a few thoughts!
    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 5:35PM
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I think you have it to diluted. Try a 2:1 ratio instead. Here's another tutorial on how to whitewash the brick:
    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 5:37PM
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There could be a sealer used on the grout, or the grout was mixed with an acrylic latex liquid additive and that is why is isn't as pourous as the brick. If you spray it with water, does the grout absorb the water evenly? If not, then it's not evenly pourous.
    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 6:53PM
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I tried taking a small brush to the grout, which seems to make it look better but is very time consuming. In the picture, I've done this to the architectural feature, but not the main wall. I really like the uniqueness of the brick shelves, so I think I'll leave them, but I may go over them with more paint, or less diluted paint, to make them stand out just a bit more. My grout was black to begin with, which differs a bit from the two tutorials shown (thanks btw!), so we'll just see how this project goes!

I also attached at picture of the other side of the fireplace (So dated!) since some people had asked. I think I'll use the exact same technique so that they match a bit, but with maybe a 2:1 ratio of paint.
    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 7:18PM
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Kathryn Peltier Design
I think that the stone will be even better than the brick! Can't wait to see it. Painted stone reminds me of old whitewashed Irish cottages...
    Bookmark   January 10, 2013 at 7:22PM
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