Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Doable Fireplace Makeover

Does Your Fireplace Need a Makeover?

Most home improvement and remodeling shows on TV are laughably unrealistic.

Three years ago, Herman and Birdie Buglebaum purchased the home of their dreams: a three-bedroom 1970’s ranch style house in a quiet suburban neighborhood. They invested in this fixer upper with high hopes, but after the unexpected arrival of twins, Herman, Birdie, Buford, and Beryl Buglebaum found their level of creativity, like their bathroom, was far too tiny. Today, our well-coiffed, underfed, spray-tanned team of carpenters is going to help the Buglebaums transform their modest, two-by-four-foot bathroom into a sixteen-cinema megaplex home theater, complete with a working roller coaster, for the very affordable price of $800,000!

One tidy little hour later, the Buglebaums are smiling and waving goodbye in front of their new- city-block-sized remodeled house, $800,000 deeper in debt for the trouble. Anybody who has ever had an home interior do-over can tell you that a big transformation can devour big time, big money, and big portions of the trust you once had in that bargain-priced contractor.
If you’re commitment-shy and budget-conscious, it makes sense to just D-I-Y it, investing in small changes that transform your house one creative, reasonably-priced little punch at a time.
Since houses can stay stuck in the style of the era in which they were built, your fireplace may remain on the puke side of 1973-yellow if you balk at the commitment involved in changing a permanent part of your house. But you should never have to waste a good fireplace just because it was once hit with an ugly stick. A gorgeous fireplace is the focal point of a desirable living space, it bumps the value of your house up several notches, and on a cold winter’s night, it makes even boxed mac and cheese feel kind of romantic.

Ready to show your house a little love? Take a deep breath and try these fiscally doable ideas to transform your “before” fireplace and into an “after” fireplace:

1. Update the Framing.
The mantel and brick cover the most area, kind like a frame for the fire. With a quality brick paint, you can make a fireplace look totally new without having to rip it out and start over. Paint is one of those small changes that makes a significant difference, so if you don’t do anything else, paint the brick. Brick paint change the color of the fireplace itself while fully retaining the brick’s texture. Too-dark bricks can be painted white, giving a drab, outdated room a fresh, airy feel. The best part? It’s easy and cheap… no second mortgage required.

2. Use Contrast.
Whether you paint the brick or just take down the antlers and put up a black and white photograph, keep in mind that contrast creates drama (the good kind). If your greatroom is done in earth tones (bachelors: this is brown with other kinds of brown), make the brick a contrasting color, or use red or royal blue picture frames on the mantel for an artsy punch. If you’re not that bold, painting to match looks pretty amazing, too.

3. Know when to fold ‘em.
Most fireplaces have glass doors or screens, for obvious reasons (like keeping your favorite rug from going up in smoke). Over time, your once-pristine fixtures can start to look like a burnt offering. If you and ammonia are no longer winning the war on soot, it’s time to throw out the scrubber and just replace your fireplace glass doors.

4. Make it Work in the Off Season.
A clean, unused fireplace doubles as a built-in display niche in summertime. Use it to show off a striking alabaster sculpture or piece of pottery. The larger and simpler the piece of art, the more breathtaking it will look surrounded by all that brick.

5. Cozy it Up.
Maximize your storage and the “cozying” appeal of your fireplace by bordering it with built-in bookshelves. It’s less expensive than buying a large set of bookshelves from a furniture store, and it frees up floor space. Plus, all those books will make your guests think you’re some kind of genius.


If you’re not the color-coordinated type (you know who you are), use a fireplace paint kit. Professional decorators designed and combined the perfect colors for your living space, and the kit comes with everything you need – a tool pack, 5 shades of brick paints, and easy-to-follow DVD instructions.
You’ll just be that much closer to keeping with the Buglebaums.

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