Living Room Fireplace Update

New house renovation project time!  I need to write a quick one this week because the girls are sick and my husband is not up to wiping all the noses himself. BUT, I love how much this simple project transformed our living room.  And it was so easy that I’m confident anyone can do it.  You only need a few supplies, a few tools, a few hours, and BAM – a whole new look to your living room!

If you have a gas fireplace like we have, the space above is just begging for decoration. Making a faux-fireplace like I did also makes it look a little more credible as a fireplace.  LOL.  It blends into the wall less and gives the illusion of seeming to stand out more even though it’s even with the wall.  Especially with our high ceilings, it adds a dramatic new look to the room.

Our beautiful fireplace “after” photo!

So let’s start!

I will add links to the products I used so you can copy this exactly, or at least have an idea what to work with. (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But it doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps me keep up my site!)

Step 1 – Paint.  We had 1990s brown walls everywhere in this house, and it just did not work for me in the living room.  I wanted bright, I wanted a pop of color, and I wanted to take advantage of the high ceilings and great light that we have coming in from our windows.  So the very first thing I did once we got ownership of our house was to cover up that brown!

Not-so-beautiful “before.”

 Of course picking a “white” is far more complicated than I first expected, but I ended up going with Swiss Coffee by Valspar because it is on the orange end of whites (yeah, that’s a thing?) and looks good with greens and browns.

Semi-pro tip: If you’ve got a huge room to paint, I highly recommend going for something bigger than the average paint roller.  I used this 18-inch paint roller, this roller frame, and this extension pole.  They were worth every penny in saving me SO MUCH TIME.  It took 3 coats to cover that brown, and I can’t imagine how many more hours it would have taken me without this roller.

For over the fireplace, there’s no point painting the walls the same as the rest of the room since you’re covering that in a different color for your design.  So, I picked where I wanted my borders to be and used a level to make a pencil line from the ceiling down to the top of the mantle.  I made the line centered where the center of my wood borders would cover. That way, I could go close to the line with the white paint – and later with my green on the inside of the borders – but wouldn’t have to be exact because the wood would cover it anyway.

Once I was done with the white, I got to work painting the inside of my borders.  I picked Royal Pine by Valspar as my green, and I ended up loving it so much that I used it in various other places on our main floor too (see my DIY pantry post).  Full confession – I absolutely hate using painters tape.  So for the part of the wall that ran along the ceiling, I abandoned my paint roller and used a smaller brush and painted along the ceiling corner.  Since our ceiling is textured anyway, there were little dips and grooves anyway that required a paintbrush to get in there and make good lines.  PLUS this way, you avoid the horror of accidentally getting paint on your ceiling with a roller.  I did the same and used a brush along the bottom, up against our mantle.  For the side borders where I’d made my pencil mark, I just used my roller and didn’t worry too much about a straight line since my wood border was going to cover it anyway.

So that was pretty simple.  Just let it dry and you’re ready for the next step.

Step 2 – Wood borders.  You can use whatever size wood you want for your borders, but I used 1×3’s from Lowe’s.  I wanted these to look pretty nice and so didn’t cheap out quite as much as I usually do, and I like that I don’t have rough spots in the wood.  The important thing is that you get STRAIGHT boards.  And really you can do any design you want, but I did a simple square design.

For the side border pieces, measure from your mantle/bottom to the top where it meets the ceiling. If you have straight ceilings, this is going to be a lot easier. Our ceiling angle meant getting a little math involved. (“Ugh, math,” said the accountant’s wife.) I saw a simple trick that has saved me a LOT of headaches, and that’s to hold your board against your wall, with the board’s end straight against your ceiling, which will make the board obviously not level. Then put a level across your board and, once it’s level, draw a line along the level across the board. If you cut there, that will make your board meet your ceiling at a 90-degree angle.

Do this for both side borders, then grab a ladder and check that the board fits.  If it does, go paint your board the same as your inside color – Royal Pine, in my case.  I didn’t bother using primer, since this wasn’t going to be touched hardly at all and my paint was a pretty dark color.  If you’re doing a lighter color, use some primer first so the wood doesn’t show through as time goes by. I didn’t bother painting the back of the boards, since they were against the wall.

Once your boards are dry, grab a nail gun like my favorite. Up on your ladder, hold the board in place over the paint line you drew earlier, and FIRST make sure that your paint goes all the way so you can’t see any unpainted wall on either side of the board.  If you missed a spot, quick touch up.  Once you’re good, hold a level against your board and then nail it in place.  I only used a few nails up top, at the bottom, and maybe 2 in between.  You don’t have to go nuts if you’re using light wood.

Then do the inside wood pieces of your design.  I used one more very long board up the middle, angling the top to meet the peak of our ceiling.  For that, I used this contour-finding tool that I LOVE for getting the right lines to cut if you’ve got a funky shape.  Just make sure once you’ve used it against your ceiling that your husband doesn’t grab it, think it looks cool, and plays with it, thus losing the shape you need to trace on your board.  Ahem.  Hypothetically. 

Cut that middle board with a miter saw.  Paint it.  Nail it up using your level.

Once your middle board is up, measure from side board to middle board on either side and get whatever size you need to make the cross pieces of the design.  First you want to put your cross pieces along the very bottom to give a bottom border along your mantle.  Then do the top, which in my case required using my little tool again to get the right angles to cut.  From there, you can decide how you want the rest of your cross pieces spaced.  I only did 2 cross pieces on either side to get my design, but you can do more if you want a more elaborate pattern.  Honestly, I mostly got tired of doing it and did just enough to not make it look like a Cross at the front of a church or something. 

Step 3 – Caulk/wood putty. To get a completely clean look, you’ll want to cover all those nail holes and the gaps where your wood pieces meet. Everyone seems to use caulk for this, but honestly I love using this wood putty because it dries faster than caulk, you can wipe it smooth, and paint goes over it great. (I use this stuff ALL THE TIME for dinks in our walls too.) I do all the putty-ing first, then use my little brush and touch up the paint.

And viola!  That’s it.  If you’re more confident than me, I suppose you could cut all your boards and paint all your boards at the same time, but I like to do one or two at a time to make sure things go right.  (Fool me once… LOL)

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