Flashback: Fireplace Transformation

From the moment we first toured our house, we knew that the fireplace was going to need a major overhaul.  As you can see, it was pretty frightening – shiny and dark and definitely outdated:

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While we liked the idea of a stone fireplace, the prior owner had ruined the natural beauty of the stone with a thick coat of lacquer that was blindingly shiny.  We tried everything we could think of to remove or minimize the shine, from scrubbing the stones with steal wool to applying industrial strength paint thinners – in a moment of desperation we even considered having the fireplace sandblasted.  (Thank goodness we didn’t take that route – can you imagine?!?)  After consulting with a variety of professionals, we decided that the best thing to do would be to take down the stone and start from scratch.

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Looks pretty crazy, right?  At this point we were a little freaked out – look at that pile of rubble!!  And we were shocked to find out that the opening for the fireplace was a lot bigger than we originally thought – the opening used to stop where that metal bar is in the picture, so we were pretty happy campers to realize that the new opening to our fireplace would be huge.

After all of that old stone was gone, we got to pick out our new stone.  We realized that we now had a blank canvas so our fireplace could look any way that we wanted it to – brick, traditional with a white mantle, rustic, etc.  In the end, we knew that we wanted our home to feel comfortable and inviting with natural elements thrown in, so a new stone fireplace with a dark wood mantle would give us just the look that we were going for.  I scoured through magazines so that I could have a picture of the perfect fireplace to show the mason and I finally found one that I was totally in love with – it was made out of stones in a variety of sizes so that it was visually interesting, and each of the stones had a hand-chiseled look that just couldn’t be beat.  Since it was even topped off with a dark wood mantle I knew it was “the one” – I just held my breath that the mason could make us a fireplace that was just as beautiful.

After deciding on the style of fireplace that we wanted, we went to a few dusty stone yards and contemplated the pros and cons of manufactured vs. natural stone.  We  finally decided to order a natural stone called “cave rock,” and since the stone yard didn’t have samples of the stone in stock we ordered based upon a picture in a brochure and figured that would be good enough.  We were so wrong!!!  The stone yard wound up delivering the wrong stone  and after we checked out cave rock in person at another stone yard we were SOOOO glad that we weren’t going to be stuck with cave rock – turns out it is a crumbly, concrete-looking stone that would have looked terrible on our fireplace.  Lesson learned – never order stone based just on a picture!!

We ultimately went with a white limestone called Austin stone – it’s a beautiful off-white color that we thought would look great with our dark wood floors and the earthy tones going on in our granite.  We were freaked out when the guy at the stone yard asked how many tons we wanted to order – TONS?!?!?  Who would have thought our little fireplace would need two elephants-worth of stone?  Turns out stone is a lot heavier than I realized, and the stone that was delivered on a pallet was a much smaller and more manageable amount than I had envisioned.

Once the stone had been delivered, the mason arrived and set out all of the stone on the patio so that he could make sure that everything fit together perfectly.  One thing that was really important to us was the keystones above the opening to the fireplace – we were set on having keystones in a fan pattern.  That was a bit of a discussion point with the mason because it was going to be difficult to make the keystones the perfect size so that they were the right height and width for both the mantle and the opening to the fireplace.  After taking some measurements and fiddling with the pattern a bit, the mason said he could make it work – yay!!  Check out the mason’s handiwork after the first day:

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Let me tell you, I was so excited when I saw this that I hardly knew what to do with myself!  I may be a bit biased, but I think our mason is a genius.  And look how he was even able to work around the outlets above the fireplace opening so that we could hide the cords for our TV!  Pretty cool stuff.  (And if you look closely you can see where the hearth was carefully demolished to keep the gas line intact.)

Once the stone for the fireplace was laid it was time to figure out the mantle.  That took a bit of trial and error, as I don’t think the carpenter and I were on the same page.  After convincing the carpenter that I did in fact want the mantle to run the length of the fireplace and start at the top of the keystones, the mantle turned out perfectly:

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The mantle is stained the same color as our floors, and it breaks up all of the stone without distracting from the mason’s beautiful work.  You can also see the raised hearth in this photo – we went back and forth for awhile about whether to keep the raised hearth, and I’m really glad that we kept it because it provides great additional seating and keeps us from having that “floating fireplace” look.  The top of the hearth is made out of two 4 foot by 2 foot slabs of Austin stone – one of the slabs was cut in half and placed on either side of the center slab so that we didn’t have a distracting line right in the middle of the fireplace.  The finished fireplace looks like this:
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Do you guys think we pulled it off?  Anybody else have tales of their own fireplace makeover?

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Comments

  1. Laurie says:

    Fabulous, really incredible metamorphosis… A picture truly is worth a thousand words. No amount of description could tell your transformation story without the amazing pictures. Sometimes starting with a blank slate absolutely is the best solution. You and your stone mason are magical!

  2. Liz says:

    Laurie,

    Thanks so much!! We were so hesitant to tear it down – I really wanted to try to work with what we had, but you’re completely right – it really was the best way to go. Once all that stone came down it was such a relief! Thanks for stopping by!

    ~ Liz

  3. laurie says:

    Liz,
    Just how hideously expensive is real stone? Did you order the exact amount? Would the stone place take back any leftovers? If you had to buy a larger amount, what are your plans for the stone not used? How did you find your stone mason?
    Can you tell that you have given me hope/inspiration for my own horrible fireplace?
    Thanks for helping with all my questions?
    Laurie

  4. Liz says:

    Laurie,

    I’m so glad this has inspired you for your own fireplace!! (Although I seriously doubt it is horrible!) The stone that we chose ran about $200/ton, so our entire 2 ton order only cost us $400 (not a bad deal!!). You can also save on the delivery fee by having your contractor pick it up or, if you’re really ambitious, picking it up yourself in small loads in a flatbed truck. Some places allow you to order in 1/4 or 1/2 ton increments, so it’s best to just ask around. And our mason, who I must agree is magical, was recommended to us by our contractor – recommendations are the best way to go!! And you can always check on Angie’s List for reviews of different tradesmen in your area.

    Yes, we did wind up having a little stone left over. Our particular stone yard did not accept leftovers so right now it’s living in a corner of our driveway – I think it’s begging to be reincarnated as a stone border for our garden (once we finally get moving on that project!!). Leftover stone could also be sold on Craigslist, which is a great option because then you can avoid lugging it around yourself. :) And I’m always game for other uses if you have any suggestions! Hope this helps, and good luck on your fireplace – keep me posted!!

    ~ Liz

  5. laurie says:

    Liz,
    I am going to do as you suggested and look through old decorating magazines for inspiration. Maybe the stone or brick supplier could recommend a contractor. I’m at least not thinking it is hopeless. Thanks for your good suggestions.

  6. Averill says:

    Gorgeous! You guys did an amazing job and I’m really impressed.

  7. Liz says:

    Laurie,

    That’s a great idea!! I think you will find tons of inspiration in the old magazines – and your mason will love you for giving him a visual to work with! Good luck, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    ~ Liz

    P.S. I am loving all the comments today – you guys are totally making my day!!!

  8. Karen says:

    Wow, that transformation is absolutely amazing!! Kudos to you and your mason.

    I must ask – was the TV placement your idea?

  9. Liz says:

    Karen,

    I knew it was only a matter of time before someone asked about the TV!! It was my husband’s idea to put it above the fireplace, but I must admit that I agree that it’s the best placement for the TV in that room. I know, I know, my mom and my aunt were absolutely scandalized, but it is really fabulous for watching your favorite HGTV shows while you’re washing dishes in the kitchen. :)

    ~ Liz

  10. Jen says:

    I need ideas/details on the carpenter for the mantle… I really want to put a mantle over our fireplace but it has this funky stone arch thing. Share your brainpower please :)

  11. Liz says:

    Jen,

    Send on over some pics to itsgreattobehome@yahoo.com. :) Let the brainstorming begin!!

    ~ Liz

  12. Andrea says:

    I agree with everyone else – I LOVE the transformation! I think you did a fabulous job!!!

  13. christy says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog and am loving it. I think the room looks amazing now. I am shocked that whoever put up that old ugly stone wall covered up a portion of the actual fireplace opening!

    I am NOT showing this post to my husband; I don’t want to give him any ideas, as we are in the midst of redecorating our family this very weekend!

  14. Liz says:

    Christy,

    You just made me laugh out loud!! I’m so glad you found my blog, and thanks so much for stopping by!! Good luck redecorating this weekend – I’d love to see the before and afters!

    ~ Liz

    P.S. I agree – whoever did the fireplace the first time around was crazy!!

  15. Liz says:

    Christy,

    I just checked out your blog – now I REALLY can’t wait to see the “after” of your family room!!

    All you readers out there should head on over to Christy’s blog – http://www.alilwelshrarebit.com/ – to check out her progress. There is so much potential, and I know it’s going to be awesome!! (And don’t miss some of her other decorating/reno projects!)

    ~ Liz

  16. christy says:

    Ooh thank you! I’m so excited to have found your blog. I also LOVE that dog photo card next to your fridge. Hysterical! And the plate propped up behind it is awesome.

    Thanks for the compliment on the bathroom – it was HARD HARD HARD work, but so worth it. Don’t think we’d do it again, so we’re staying put!

  17. christy says:

    Okay, sorry to hijack your comments on this post – but I just added a link to your blog on my family room transformation post – I’m participating in the Hooked On Houses blog party and am hoping to send some of my readers your way!

  18. Joan says:

    Wow, I was just looking through the comments and your fireplace has certainly generated a stir. I think it is really interesting that another reno/decorating person is reading your site for inspiration. Great cooperative action.
    It might be interesting in terms of continuity to use some of your left over austin stone from the fireplace project in the patio area.
    I love your site, and look forward to seeing its continued success.

  19. Wow wow WOW. I would have CRIED and cried and CRIED if I were you. ;) I loooooove the molding in the room too!!

  20. Jadehollow says:

    Awesome!! Y’all did and Awesome job .. complete transformation. Those were some seriously huge stones you removed. Great Great Great Job! Thanks for sharing.
    Debbie

  21. Perfect! I love it. The stone you picked out was perfect, perfect, perfect! The difference is just amazing. Great stone work by the way. the man you hired was clearly a real pro. That’s almost a lost art in my neck of the woods!

    Have a great weekend!

    Tim

  22. Oh this is fabulous! So light and pretty!

    This is how my refabricated fireplace turned out. The rock was darker and greyer than I chose from (ahem via catalogue) but it’s cultured, so if I tire of it, I’ll just paint it one day if I wish!

    http://funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com/search/label/fireplaces

    Donna

  23. Oops.. did my link not work? Maybe I forgot to put it in. LOL

    http://funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com/search/label/fireplaces

    Sorry!
    Donna

  24. Liz says:

    Donna,

    It looks like my blog is having some sort of issue with links – I’m so sorry! I’m going to work on fixing it – in the meantime, everybody should check out Donna’s blog by either Googling Funky Junk Interiors, or hovering over where the link should be – your mouse should recognize that the link is there.

    ~ Liz

  25. Kara says:

    Oh my goodness, that is absolutely amazing. I can’t believe the transformation, it doesn’t even look like the same room. It is just gorgeous now!!

  26. Ohlookaduck says:

    This is absolutely gorgeous. I’m amazed at how you got in there and fought for your vision. Great job!

    Karen

  27. Lucinda says:

    I’ve now gone through and looked at all your home projects. I swear your house looks like it’s right now the street from me. I’ve seen that paneled living room a hundred times. We live in Dallas too…Lake Highlands to be exact. Love all you’ve done to the place!

  28. Liz says:

    Lucinda,

    You just made me laugh out loud! I know, it’s crazy how popular those paneled living rooms were – I don’t think it was possible to build a home in the 60s/70s without at least one paneled room. :) Sad we’re not neighbors, but it’s great to hear from a fellow Dallas-ite!

    ~ Liz

  29. Ellen says:

    This was a pretty amazing transformation! Very, very cool. Have you ever considered painting the rafters white to blend with the ceiling? My eye was drawn to them first instead of to the fireplace because they’re the darkest thing in the room. Just a thought… My parents have that same kind of rafter. My mom hung baskets from them from years in the dining room. =)

  30. Liz says:

    Ellen,

    Hey there! We originally thought about painting the beams white but decided to try staining them first, just to see how we liked it. Turns out that we love it! You are totally right, the beams are a major focal point of the den, but we feel like they balance the dark wood floors and mantle. (We’re also thinking that they won’t stand out as much when we finally get around to putting some things on the walls!) Luckily, painting the beams will always be an option in the future if we ever change our minds. :) Thanks so much for the question!

    ~ Liz

  31. Amber says:

    Wow! It turned out fabulous! I doesn’t even look like the same wall. SO much more traditional and pretty. The new floors and mantle are also beautiful and I love the way they coordinate with your ceiling beams. Great work on taking the chance!!!

  32. Melissa says:

    Oh yes! I definitely believe you pulled it off! It looks AMAZING! I love it! It looks timeless and clean. I think you made wise choices….and it shows over the whole room!

    Melissa :D

  33. Great post. I found it to be very useful. I will have to bookmark your site for future reading.

  34. Maria says:

    Liz,

    What a fabulous transformation! We recently updated our fireplace and my husband wants to hang a flatscreen. I noticed that your TV is hung high. Could you please let me know how high and the size of your flatscreen?Thank you.

    • Liz says:

      Maria,

      Hey there! Our flatscreen is 70 inches off the floor, and about 1 inch above the mantle. Since it’s so high, we have it angled downwards so that we don’t get cricks in our necks while we’re watching TV. :) The TV is 48 inches wide, which translates into 50 inches diagonal. Hope that helps, and good luck with yours!! P.S. I think you’ll love all the extra floorspace that arrangement frees up!

      ~ Liz

  35. Maria says:

    Liz, this is a follow up to my previous email. Pertaining to your flatscreen…where is your cable box, DVD, etc?

    • Liz says:

      Maria,

      In the last picture on this post, can you see the light switch just left of the doorway? There’s another little switchplate to the left of the light switches – that nifty little thing is an IR Repeater (you can read about these things here: “http://www.smarthome.com/59501/Smarthome-Hidden-IR-Repeater-System/p.aspx?src=WG1004232&gclid=CPey3ICuzJ0CFQ7xDAodImV1sA”). Basically, the IR Repeater lets us point our remote at a little infrared eye within the switchplate and use that to control all of our electronics! Because of that, the cable box, DVD player, DVR, etc are all in a closet just beyond that doorway. It rocks! Hope that helps. :)

      ~ Liz

  36. Maria says:

    Liz,

    How very clever of you!! You did indeed think of everything. You certainly did your homework. What a great job. I have never heard of an IR Repeater. Can’t wait until I tell my husband. I will certainly have one up on him. This was so very helpful. Thanks so much for the info. You enjoy your new room. You certainly deserve it!

    Maria

  37. Sarah Z says:

    I am so happy that you guest posted on Centsational Girl today! My husband and I have the same 50’s rock fireplace situation going on in our new house and I have been trying to figure out what to do with it. I love what you did with yours, it came out beautiful and is a great inspiration. I am curious as to what tools you and your husband used to break off the stone that was on the wall to begin with? Did it just take a big hammer/ crowbar, or did you have to use more major equipment?

    • Liz says:

      Sarah Z,

      Hey there! Ah, those pesky fireplaces!! This project isn’t one that we took on ourselves, but I can tell you that the tools used were more of the crowbar/sledge hammer/pick variety – definitely nothing that required electricity. Hope that helps, and we’d love to see before and after photos if you guys decide to tackle it!!

      ~ Liz