Fireplace transformations

4 ways to turn your fireplace into a showstopper


Photo by Lisa Romerian


Portland designers Pamela Hill and Lois MacKenzie ( lifted this once-dark river-rock fireplace into the modern day with textured white tile.

Get the look: Custom-made Heath Oval tile in chalk white with matte finish, $77/square foot;

DIY level: Not recommended; DIY tile laying can look sloppy. Hire a pro.

Cost: High. For the fireplace shown, the tile was $4,800 plus $2,000 for labor/installation; but, in small doses, it's a great place to splurge.

Wood paneling

Photo by Marion Brenner

Wood paneling

San Francisco architect Seth Boor ( reused wood from this home's old roof structure and "tiled" it onto plywood backing for the look of solid core. This option is only for contained fireplaces (with a steel insert or doors).

Get the look: Seth says to shoot for wood-slat dimensions of ½ inch thick or so by 1½ to 3 inches wide. If you don't have reclaimed wood nearby, Viridian Wood Products will ship it (

DIY level: Not suitable unless you are handy with a saw. Hire a pro; serious tools are needed for cutting and installation.

Cost: Moderate (low materials cost, but labor can be $30/square foot).


Photo by Lincoln Barbour


It takes only a day to overhaul a brick fireplace surround; just use two coats of paint like Portland designer Jesse Moyer ( did with his fireplace, which opens to a dining room on one side and a living room on the other. Choose deep hues for a bold statement. We like Sullivan Green #560, Beaujolais #1259, and Old Glory #811 by Benjamin Moore ( Note: After you paint brick, it's hard to go back.

Get the look: White Opulence OC-69 by Benjamin Moore is shown here.

DIY level: Easy weekend project. After prepping the brick, use masonry primer and at least two coats of water-based interior paint. Do not paint the fireplace interior.

Cost: Less than $100; Benjamin Moore's Natura zero-VOC paint line starts at $53/gallon, plus primer and brush.


Photo by Jeffery Cross


The variety of designs out there lets you really personalize, but wallpaper can only be used on nonfunctional fireplaces.

Get the look: Graham & Brown's Midsummer: Black (56503) (

DIY level: Easy afternoon project.

Cost: About $48/roll, plus about $40 for paste, wallpaper liner (recommended), and craft knife.

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