Portland designers Pamela Hill and Lois MacKenzie (modernbeachhouse.com) 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; heathceramics.com.
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.
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Photo by Marion Brenner
San Francisco architect Seth Boor (boorbridges.com) 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 (viridianwood.com).
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).
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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 (jhinteriordesign.com) 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 (benjaminmoore.com). 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.
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Photo by Jeffery Cross
The variety of designs out there lets you really personalize, but wallpaper can only be used on nonfunctional fireplaces.