Huge fireplace rock wall, and no real "walls." what to do?
tulsabound
November 25, 2013 in Design Dilemma
I don't really have an eye for interior design and need some help. This is the study in our new house. Previous owners used it as a TV room, and added a built-in cabinet to the left of the blue chair. It is downstairs and opens up to the kitchen. We like to use it as a sitting room, especially when company is over. Now the problem! I have no idea what to do with that HUGE wall-to-wall, ceiling to floor rock wall fireplace. Next, (other than the rock wall) the room doesn't seem to have any real walls. One side is a large picture window (which does not open) and the other has a built-in bookshelf. I'm not sure how to use the space since we are not using it as a TV room. There are no window coverings, the windows just look out to the backyard. I'm okay with the windows and prefer to leave them alone. How would you design this room? I need some help and I don't know what I should be doing. Thanks!
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tulsabound
Also, here is another picture just in front of the sliding door. It gives a better idea of how much space we are dealing with. Thanks! :)
November 25, 2013 at 2:47pm   
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dclostboy
Replacing the railing with a pony wall will better help define the space. Right now the big stone wall just looks like a big stone wall because it lacks definition / visual interest. Build up the fireplace with mantel / surround that fits your style...will make the room more interesting and cozy.
November 25, 2013 at 3:11pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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studio10001
How much of a change are you hoping to see - colour only, accessories as well, new furnishings in part or whole?
November 25, 2013 at 3:14pm   
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tulsabound
We know that we need to refurnish because it's all hand-me-down furniture, so we are willing to change the whole room. Not sure about repainting to a different color because of the open floor plan there are no definitive lines where the room stops, but other than that, yes, hoping for a big change.
November 25, 2013 at 3:17pm   
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PRO
Sustainable Dwellings
I like the fireplace wall. I would paint the surrounding walls and ceilings with a silver sage or grey color. I would paint the old built in cabinets. I would first empty the room of all furnishings.... and start over to scale with new furniture after the room is re-done.
November 25, 2013 at 3:36pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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studio10001
I suggest painting the inner window rims in black to give the windows some definition, and help balance that feature against the fireplace.
By changing the wall colour to the palest gold/apricot shade of the fireplace, you will help the bookcase recede, and make the fireplace look more purposeful in the colour scheme. You have a natural stopping point should you choose not to carry the colour throughout the room ( though it would look well w you cabs., as well) w the short wall at the top of the steps, and the edge of the kitchen cabs. onthe left. If paining the walls is a no-no, then I suggest painting out the bookcase, to give the fireplace due focus. If the upper medallions can be removed, that would give a more current look to the piece
I agree that a pony wall would be a nice addition, but barring that (!), would paint the metal railing black, as well.
When purchasing new furniture, look for a sofa and club chairs to flank, a glass topped coffee table, and coordinating, rather than matching, occasional tables and lamps. The fireplace can support a rather large piece of decoration.
Ex. of black inner windows:
[houzz=Classical Twist: A Modern Townhouse with Traditional Reference]
ex. of apricot walls coordinating stone w oak accents:
[houzz=Contemporary Family Room]
November 25, 2013 at 3:49pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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inkwitch
This room has tons of potential if you're willing to take risks. You've already taken a risk with that wall! It's a monster!

1. Get a mantel up. it's tempting to leave it as is, but there is just so much of it! A mantel that is well-anchored to take the weight of a mirror leaned against the stone wall, or big art, would break up that massive amt. of stone. The mantel can be anything you like (white, rugged rough-hewn wood, distressed wood, even metal). Completely across the entire wall. Anything less is going to look unfinished and inadequate.

2. Paint. It doesn't matter if it's an open concept, there are definite lines/limits to the wall. Since this room has so much light, you can go dark (you'll be surprised how cozy a dark gray or cocoa would feel!) instead of staying with white, which is, frankly, boring next to this huge wall. Pick a tone from the stone -- you have a lot to choose from!

3. And paint that built-in the same color. No doubt it's well-made, but it is a sore thumb and interrupts the only wall (as you are aware). Minimize it, while making the back of the cabinet something interesting -- wallpaper, mirror, different color paint, metallic paint -- once you live with it a while, you'll figure it out.

4. This is not that large a room. It looks like wall-to-wall furniture with a sofa, loveseat, chair, etc., etc. Think scale. Think how many people are really going to sit if there is no TV and you're not having an "elevator party." Two loveseats would be more than enough, or one sofa (or loveseat) with 2 nice chairs (not recliners).

5. Even though you have carpet, get an area rug. Remember: the front legs of all seating should be on the rug, so it needs to big enough. You can't scimp on this and make it work.

That's enough for now. You have a lot to decide, not the least is a color scheme. Everything revolves around that. And style. Do you want it to be transitional, traditional, mid-century, cottage, what? Start an ideabook with houzz photos. (I have one for every room in my house! And the garden, art, porch!) Just don't let some furniture store salesperson sell you matching end tables (not done), matching lamps (boring!) or anything you don't absolutely love! Trust yourself. Look what you're starting with! You have more talent than you give yourself credit for!
November 25, 2013 at 3:55pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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Mercedes
Instead of designing everything around this built-in, I think you should consider getting it removed. It would definitely make a small room like that more functional if you can gain back that wall space. You can then get freestanding bookshelf/cabinet units like what I am showing in this picture, or if budget allows, get built-ins to frame the fireplace and really make that wall pop. I agree with the other posts that you need less furniture in this space and it needs to be the right scale. However, I have a feeling that unless you get rid of that existing built-in, that you will continue to be fighting with this layout and won't be happy with the end result.
November 25, 2013 at 4:24pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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Gale Thompson
I say use what you have, do not paint the rock and work off of it for color.
November 25, 2013 at 4:30pm     
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decoenthusiaste
Replace your furniture (all of it) with a sofa and two very comfortable club or armchairs, a coffee table, side table and one floor and one table lamp.
Pony wall will give you a real wall at the end of the room. Paint all open adjoining rooms the same color - one you love that works with the rock, not against it. Paint the built-in to match all the trim, and add your accent color from fabrics/rugs to the back of it. Check out greige and use this chart when buying tables and lamps.
November 25, 2013 at 4:39pm     
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groveraxle
Ignore the furniture. Houzzers who know me will tell you it's there because it was oriented the right way. But this is the way I would arrange it. I didn't paint, though I probably would if I weren't tired from building your pony wall, bleaching the built-in, and installing a reclaimed timber mantel. I'd probably do a greige.

I put your family photos on the mantel (well, they're SOMEONE's photos; you probably should use your own) and hung two pieces of art on the wall. I like teal, so I used it for your color. Just a bit, in the art and one pillow. You should probably use a color YOU like.

Maybe later I'll paint the walls and restyle the built-in. This is enough for a start.
November 25, 2013 at 5:10pm     
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groveraxle
I got both pieces of art at West Elm. The top one came with a white frame. They really both should be black.
November 25, 2013 at 5:13pm   
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groveraxle
West Elm has a teal chair that will fit nicely in the corner, so let's add that in. Sorry, no tables or lamps yet. And I still haven't reframed that picture. Geez, I hope i'm not getting too old for this.
November 25, 2013 at 5:20pm     
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MarleneM
Good visual, grover, I think its looks fantastic, and teal is a good choice. I would suggest to add some books to the built in. With some tables and lamps it would then look like a reading room where you could curl up with a book by the fire. I think rooms look more put together if they look to have a purpose.
November 25, 2013 at 5:58pm     
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groveraxle
Ooh, yes, Marlene. Books. I should have left more space instead of cramming them all in, but they were so interesting, I couldn't decide which to leave out. I think they're all first editions...
November 25, 2013 at 7:55pm     
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groveraxle
Lamps and tables tomorrow maybe if tulsabound returns and gives some input.
November 25, 2013 at 7:57pm   
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dclostboy
@groveraxle, I like what you've done, but it takes all the attention away from the built in :)
November 25, 2013 at 8:00pm     
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mveasey
For a sleek look you could do a white cover up of the whole lower piece of the fireplace , does not have to be built ins as in the photo, but depicts the idea the best. Then you could use the top ledge for display purposes and keep the upper stone look.
November 25, 2013 at 8:25pm     
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Darzy
Love the big mantel grovereaxle built for you. Do you really need the built-in bookcase? I'd remove and sheetrock patch the wall and put the sofa there. Then two chairs across from the sofa. I like the idea of a pony wall. Then, you could put a pretty side board/console with a couple stools underneath for extra seating when needed.
November 25, 2013 at 8:49pm   
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2dogssashatess
I like the ideas previous posters have suggested re bookcases/shelving either both sides of the fireplace (see Mercedes post) or covering up the lower part of the fireplace as suggested by mveasey. I think a whole wall of that stone, as is, is just too much. These alternatives allow you to get rid of that small bookcase currently behind the couch and frees up space. Also allows you to get rid of that existing built cupboard on the wall. I would reaplce your existing couches with some that are less chunky, and are high enough off the ground to allow you to see the floor underneath and have plain fabric ( as I believe the pattern you have competes with the stone wall).
November 25, 2013 at 8:54pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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2dogssashatess
ps would also go for a glass topped coffee table, perhaps oval, just to make the place seem more spacious and open
November 25, 2013 at 8:56pm   
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rosecafe
Go with the Ink Witch advice. The room's so cosy, theres no room for people with all that furniture.( By the way Inkwitch, you don't have to have a T.V to gather people together, there's always conversation : ) the fire is the focus here, so yes a mantle, perhaps silver metallic in color, and grey or bronze walls. The new paint color will define the the room from its surroundings. No matter that its part of an open plan. I'd go with a glass coffee table for maintaining a sense of space, your 2 x 2 seaters with some plain color cushions does it, and O.K an area rug under the whole furnished space. Add a couple of lamps. Sit down feet up, good book, ( on decorating seems appropriate ) light the fire. Job done.
November 25, 2013 at 10:03pm   
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sarajane55
Love the brick wall!
After looking at Houzz photos of fireplaces with stone walls, it seems mantels are out and stone walls are in!!!
Make the stone be the art!!
It's all about the right paint color on walls and the furniture.
The built-in is outdated. If you need the storage space it provides, keep it, but cover it up with a sliding barn like door!!
Whatever style of door you choose would add balance and interest and update the look.
November 25, 2013 at 10:37pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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tulsabound
mveasey,
Would you use build it over the rock wall so that it would be in shelf/mantle below, rockwall above?
November 26, 2013 at 10:13am   
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PRO
Rustica Hardware
Hi tulsabound, if you do decide to install a barn door as sarajane says there are some options on our website that might help you with your decision. By the way your room looks great, love the windows. http://rusticahardware.com/barn-door-hardware/
November 26, 2013 at 10:15am   
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tulsabound
Thanks, sarajane. I did a search on houzz and I did find a lot of stone/rock designs... just most are not as massive as mine. I moved the small bookshelf onto the rock corner (by the picture window). It's amazing how much just a little shelving does for that wall. I also put the vase on top of the shelf to give some more heighth.
November 26, 2013 at 10:16am   
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tulsabound
rosecafe, what do you think about a small seater right in front of the fireplace - i.e. two chairs facing each other with a small round table in the middle. Then put a small sitting set-up (like a mini-living room) spaced out next to it. I saw this idea on houzz when looking at rock/stone fireplaces.
November 26, 2013 at 10:18am     
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studio10001
Building over the firebox is a poor and potentially dangerous idea.
November 26, 2013 at 10:25am     
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J Petempich
If this was a room in my house I would turn it into an industrial look. I would paint the windows and grid black. The built in I would paint steel grey with new pulls. Wood planking floor and wrought iron accessories. I would leave the stone wall as is to look like an old factory wall. If I had access to power in the ceiling I might even run conduit and put in caged lights. If you really liked industrial I could give you ideas on how to trim out that built-in using I-bolts and turn buckles to give it an industrial look.
November 26, 2013 at 10:47am     
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beetajane
What is a pony wall? This is new one for me and I'm close to sixty yrs!
November 26, 2013 at 2:49pm   
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abbyjean
A pony wall is a short wall......half way between the ceiling and the floor.
November 26, 2013 at 2:54pm   
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PRO
The Mantel Guy .com
A distressed box beam mantel shelf would look good there.
November 26, 2013 at 3:39pm     
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groveraxle
tulsabound, you said you moved the "small bookcase" and you're asking about a "small seater" and "small sitting room set up." You have a MASSIVE rock wall. You can't do anything small. Think BIG!
November 26, 2013 at 5:20pm     
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sarajane55
Dear tulsabound,
Do YOU even like your rock wall?
I had a similar wall in my old house. However, my wall was ugly brick, with an all brick mantel spanning the length of the wall, and a two foot brick seating ledge. It was massive and overwhelmed the space. I took it all down!!! Loved it. Opened up the whole room and gave us two feet more of space.
Your rock wall is nice and not overwhelming to the space - if you like it.
Three things all the comments agree on-
The room needs paint
The built-in is an eye sore
The current furniture must go
Paint the room, yes, it will go all the way to the kitchen. That keeps the flow. Paint the bookcase the same wall color to make it recede. Maybe remove the doors, to make it more modern.
Starting with the paint will hopefully make you feel less overwhelmed and start to like the flow of the room.
The rest just seems to fall into place.
Good luck!!
November 26, 2013 at 11:43pm   
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Paula Kates
I truly envy all the creative design possibilities you could apply to finish this room! Having said this I'd suggest not spending one moment on "decorating" until the interior architecture of the room is finished to your liking. I don't know what the exterior style of the home is but you have those lovely french windows/doors which is a good place to start. I like the rustic beam idea for the stone wall but given the windows/doors I'd suggest something slightly more formal. And really, a house lasts a little longer than a pair of shoes so when addressing interior architecture I wouldn't pay too much attention to what folks are saying is either "in or out" of fashion.

I was looking around for examples and found a style by a pro on houzz that would add a lot of character (though I think yours should be in white wood with more simple corbels). What I love so much about this style of mantle is that it's not just a straight stick across the wall, it would actually give a sense of depth and perhaps completeness to the structure of the room and wouldn't cost much especially given the return. IMO, any truly finished room will be beautiful before a single stick of furniture is added.

November 27, 2013 at 1:05am        Thanked by tulsabound
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Nancy Travisinteriors
Paint the whole area one color. The grays by Benjamin Moore are all great get samples try on wall. You need window covers on all windows. A half roman shade. Would give it a more finish look. Paint the oak, a white. Moulding looks good keep it white. Put up a mantel in a very thick 8" or more across whole fireplace. Add very tall pots in black, gray and a accent color, on ends only over firepl opening 6" above mantel,add a tall 4ft if room of a very bold oil painting. Go on line. This will give the fireplace a focal pt. Not just a big rock wall. Overstock.com carries some also Z a Galleries if you have one. Pick something that makes a statement. You have no color on walls. That is why room seems boring and uninteresting. The sell all furn. It's very 1980s look and needs to go to update room. Get 2 love seats. Place facing each other, one facing windows float in room. Add a round glass 24" coffee table. Add floor lamps in a stainless on each end of sofa by firepl. Small metal tables on other end add decor items. Like coral, colorful bowls. Don't over do. On wall unit, take all out and add plants and candles with a few books stacked. Roman shades should be color of wall just 2 shades darker. Sofas, go a mustard, or a aqua, something pale. Then use that color as a accent in other items. Use mirrored items also, mix with silver. Remove all small items from walls. To either side of built n add art tall 36-40" high and wide. Hang very low. Should have color. Nothing below railing to kitchen. I would darken cabinets in kitchen, with stain. The oak is very dated. No gold fixtures change to a updated brush nickel. Lowes carries some good ones.
December 6, 2013 at 10:17am   
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Nancy Travisinteriors
If in budget. I would Chang carpet out to wood wide planks, not too dark. Then add area rug. But no rug over rug. Never looks right. Instead of floor lamp on end by window add a potted palm instead. Tall to soften look of fireplace. Use a color from rock for walls. That will help look, more than anything.
December 6, 2013 at 10:20am   
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Nancy Travisinteriors
Add a large fire screen flat type in black. It looks unfinished now.
December 6, 2013 at 10:21am     
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Nancy Travisinteriors
Remove that desk. If want one add to kitchen on small wall we see. Pier one carries get in dark wood. Very small. Add a chair. A tall mirror on that wall. Instead of small item you have aPier One carries some interesting mirrors, get it in a bright color. Don't be afraid of color. It adds so much to your rooms. Ck pier one for sort, also Ikea.
December 6, 2013 at 10:25am   
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Nancy Travisinteriors
The iron between kitchen. Is dated. Could go a cable look run stainless cable horizontally. Or paint it black. Upgrade kitchen too. All oak should go. New dining table in dark wood with leather tall back chairs, in a color. Pier One.
December 6, 2013 at 10:28am   
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tulsabound
@ Paula Kates, omg this is beautiful and I love it. I too think it is the better way to go. What do you think about the windows? A PP said that I need window coverings, but I thought that I did not given the french style overlooking the backyard. What do you think?
December 7, 2013 at 11:37am     
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groveraxle
That mantel on your fireplace:
December 7, 2013 at 12:51pm   
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studio10001
You do not need window coverings, but do need balance, overall. Window definition would help, and is why I have suggested darkening the inner rims.
December 7, 2013 at 1:57pm     
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sarajane55
How do you attach photos?
December 7, 2013 at 2:00pm   
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sarajane55
Tried to attach some photos. Hope it worked!
December 7, 2013 at 2:02pm   
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sarajane55
Yay it did. Went a little crazy! Some examples of sitting room furniture placement. Notice the two tables against the fireplace with lamps and mirrors. The first picture even has a bookcase, although not built in. The room size also seems similar.
December 7, 2013 at 2:07pm   
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sarajane55
Just a few more. I like visuals!
December 7, 2013 at 11:21pm        Thanked by tulsabound
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tulsabound
^^ I like the light color with the blue pillows :)
December 8, 2013 at 9:34am   
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Paula Kates
@tulsabound, I am so happy you like the mantle idea (I address the windows below). Thank you groveraxle for showing the mantle on tb's wall. I would only suggest that it be higher about eye-level and be a bit larger overall; taller/thicker from top to bottom and perhaps 18 inches wider. The difference in size in this case is the difference between adding a lovely decoration vs finishing the architecture of the room.

The window/sliding door is so fresh and clean looking I fear window treatments might just add clutter. However, hehehe, what you can save on window treatments you could spend on the built-in cabinet. Rarely do I EVER suggest painting wood but in this case your french windows are so lovely (as noted above) I'd suggest painting the built-in the same shade of white to match the windows. This would be such an inexpensive upgrade to the look and feel of the room as well. Just use a little fine sanding paper to rough up the varnish, wipe clean with denatured alcohol and paint. By adding a mantle similar to the above combined with painting the built-in the same shade as the windows and you will have transformed (and finished) the interior architecture of the entire room in an incredibly inexpensive way.

This is not essential, but if you want to really finish the look down the road you could add a little backlighting to the built-in and perhaps french doors for the bottom to really tie everything together. The backlighting would add elegance and look fabulous from the attached room as well as from the back porch. Keep us informed!
December 9, 2013 at 7:24pm   
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groveraxle
Mantel higher and larger:
December 10, 2013 at 5:54am     
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pickyvicky
Oh, I have the same situation in my living room, but I have 2 picture windows in addition to the brick fireplace wall (without a mantle).

Paint the walls a color you find in your stone. Don't be afraid to use a deeper color. The light paint color makes the stone stick out like a monolith.

I found a paint color similar to my brown/tan brick color and "viola!" I made the fireplace disappear.

Two of my other walls are picture windows and the only wall I have we painted a gooseberry color with a faux finish of gold over top. The room is warm & cozy now.

My husband made me a mantle which helps me to break up the bare stone.

Even my 80s blue plush carpet works with the room.
December 14, 2013 at 6:01am   
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