Family room update: Painting the fireplace brick

Well. This week got away from me. But I’m thrilled that I finally jumped in and painted the family room fireplace brick. Sometimes just jumping in, ready or not, is the best way to get a project moving. With the fireplace painted, the walls look even worse, so I’m eager to paint them. And then rearrange the furniture. And then hang a new mantel shelf. And then…well, you get the idea.

Here’s the deal with the fireplace. It was a red brick that we never liked, but did our best to work with for the past six years. What I really hated was the set of three dinky concrete shelves that angled up the chimney breast, preventing me from hanging anything large above the fireplace.

Enter my dad and his new tool, the angle grinder. In 20 minutes he had all three of those silly shelves cut off, and then he added a little texture to the remaining concrete to make it blend in with the brick. When the dust settled, I had a blank canvas to work with.

I scrubbed the brick with a brush and a solution of TSP, and then painted it with Benjamin Moore ben premium semi-gloss paint & primer. I used an angled brush for the mortar lines, and a cheap wide brush for the brick. The first coat looked pretty good, but I gave it a quick second coat and am calling it done. There is a little bleed-through of the soot stains around the edge of the firebox, but those will be covered up by the fireplace doors when I reinstall them.

Speaking of those fireplace doors….When I took them down to paint, I discovered that the insulation around the edge was black, dust-filled, and beginning to disintegrate. Before I replace the doors, I plan to buy new insulation strips, clean the glass, and probably spray paint the dated brass finish with heat-resistant black spray paint.

At the moment, the white fireplace doesn’t fit in with the rest of the room. Maybe you’re thinking it’s even worse than the brick! I agree, it does NOT look good with the Hawthorne Yellow walls (possibly because they are so dirty at this point) and all that orangey-oak furniture. I’m 99% ready to paint the walls Swiss Coffee by Behr (a slightly warmer shade of white). As you can see from my Family Room Pinterest board, I’m trying to create a light, neutral canvas to set off the colorful stuff we already own: a wall of bright children’s artwork, shelves of books and games, and fun pillows and our existing red rug. Since buying a bunch of new furniture isn’t happening, we plan to swap the living room and family room furniture (navy moves to the living room, tan and white to the family room). I’m pondering new (but always inexpensive!) bookshelf plans for either side of the fireplace. Ikea? Craigslist?

Next dilemma: What kind of mantel shelf? Wood finish or painted? Traditional or rustic?