Here’s how we updated our old, dirty 1970s stone fireplace using natural cleaning solutions and a faux whitewash to completely transform it into a bright statement feature for our living room.
I can’t even believe I’m typing these words. The fireplace is done. D.O.N.E. This was such a massive project, way bigger than I expected it to be, but the hard work paid off and I can’t possibly love it more. Since we did a lot throughout the process, I wanted to take a walk down memory lane of where we started versus how it looks now on Reveal Day. Ready for a serious before and after?
Here’s the living room from the listing photo before we moved in. The real estate photographer did a great job making it look brighter and cleaner than it actually was. Good editing, huh? But up close, there was moss, lichen, and possibly a little mold growing on the stones. And the grout was dried up and flaking off all over the place.
We lived with the fireplace as-is for over a year, and I finally decided it was time to do something about it. I was concerned about the living organisms on the stone and knew they needed to come off. But I also knew that unless we put a sealer on the rocks, they may come back. That’s just part of having natural stone in a heated and cooled house.
I didn’t want to seal it because I was afraid it would look fake, and truthfully, I wasn’t a huge fan of how dark it was overall. The stone really made the room feel cavelike, even with the massive windows directly across from it. So after we cleaned the stones with diluted vinegar and buffed off all the scaly ickiness, my husband and I agreed to paint it.
The original plan was to whitewash the fireplace, but we had to change course because the stone was so porous that it just soaked up the watery paint and looked gray. So instead, we did a “faux whitewash” to give it a natural look without looking too painted. I shared the full tutorial and why we did it this way in this blog post.
I also cleaned that super gross firebox that likely had never even been brushed off since it was built in the 70’s. Once I removed as much soot as I could, I painted the inside black. That instantly modernized the firebox and gave me the perfect backdrop for what I was planning to put inside. More on that in a sec.
That little trip from start to finish leads us to how it looks now. The photo above was the fireplace almost exactly one year ago. Are you ready to see how it looks now? You won’t believe how different it is! It’s almost like a different house!
Wow, wow, wow, right?! It totally brightens up the room and makes it feel so fresh and clean. I just can’t get over how different it looks. Instead of dark floating wall of stones straight out of a dungeon, it’s a sleek, textured, modern piece of art. And while it does look much more hip to the times, it still maintains that 1970’s feeling, which is exactly what we wanted.
The white fireplace next to the multi-colored rug with the wood and black accents all around is the perfect combo of brightness and warmth. It doesn’t feel stark at all, and it’s just the right amount of contrast.
I kept the mantel in it’s original state for now. Later on, my MIL and I plan on sanding it down and redoing the stain, but that’s another project for another day. Right now, I’m totally fine with the mantel as-is. We definitely don’t want to replace it since it was built by the first and only other homeowners aside from us. It belongs in the house and will just get a mini facelift at most.
Remember when I said I had plans for inside the firebox? Technically, the fireplace does work. It can be wood burning or powered by a propane tank. But we aren’t big fans of having raging fires inside a house, nor do we like the mess of logs and soot. So for the safety of our family and pets, we opted for flameless candles instead. These dreamy candles look so real and even flicker, and they all run on batteries and a single remote.
And speaking of lights, doesn’t this chandy make the room?! It’s like the literal cherry on top of a cozy living room sundae. The brass two-tiered chandelier in front of the textured stone fireplace is like eye candy overload.
This light fixture actually came with glass shades that go around each bulb, but I opted out of using them for a more traditional style. I’ve always loved the look of a candelabra chandelier and by leaving those shades off, I was a able to get a full-on Beauty and the Beast vibe. You better believe I’ll be moving the coffee table and twirling around with my cats underneath it with the movie on in the background.
So there you have it, the completed fireplace makeover. I put this project off for over a year because I was nervous, afraid, and unsure of what it would look like and how to even pull it off. But now that it’s done and my arms have stopped throbbing from all the scrubbing and painting, I couldn’t be more in love. What do you think? Would you have whitewashed the stone or left it as is?