What to do with brick walled family room

schwabAugust 23, 2014

My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a home. It was built in 1979 and has a family room with a large brick wall with a fireplace and built in cove for firewood storage. Attached is a picture of the (staged for selling) room and the wall.

We're wondering what we can do to make the room a little less "country home-y" and make it more modern/contemporary. We plan to put a panel TV / Ikea Besta TV stand on the wall opposite the pictured drywalled wall between two windows, but otherwise will likely arrange furniture as pictured.

I'm an engineer and can't tell you what I like - I know it when I see it!

It seems as though the first step is to remove the brass insert and replace it with something more modern. What else do you recommend to make this room inviting and modern? =)

More pictures:

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Pretty room! I really like what was done with this fireplace wall by whitewashing:

Mediterranean Family Room by Edina General Contractors John Kraemer & Sons

Here is a link that might be useful: whitewashing brick

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes, take the brass surround out and get a nice, modern FP screen.

Cover the front of the hearth, the sides and above the mantel with a white wood facade (see before and after pics below).

Also, I think the ideal furniture arrangement for that room would be to have two sofas, in an L shape, one in front of the windows and the other facing the FP, with the TV on an articulating arm on the wall where the floor lamp is in your photo, and an easy chair on a diagonal over there, large coffee table and a nice rug.

You can pull the tV out when you want to watch it, and push it against the wall when you have company and don't want it sticking out. Those articulating arm TV mounts are great.

So, before pic:

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

and after. And notice the two sofas making an L in Olychic's pic. It's a great arrangement.

This post was edited by Tibbrix on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 18:44

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You could try something simple like paint the brick grey or even white depending on the other items in the room.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If that's anything like my home, there's no insulation behind the brick wall. What I did was to remove the raised hearth and sacrifice four inches of space to insulate the wall, which I then covered with wallboard and built a new fireplace surround and mantle. I tiled around the fireplace and now floor-level hearth.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would paint the brick first....an easy and cheap solution...and see how you like it. You can always cover it over with tile, etc later.

You can also spray paint the doors/screen. I took my 30 year old doors to the fireplace store to order new ones ....it was going to be at least $500 and the sales lady suggested I paint them instead since they were in good shape. I cleaned them and painted them with Stove Bright paint purchased at the fireplace store....they look brand new and the paint was very forgiving.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Many assume this type of 1979 house has no architectural significance. But I would be inclined to simply cover it in painted white woodwork, per Tribbix's suggestion, for my personal tastes and to update it. And then I'd imagine some day a future owner ripping out my work and "discovering" the original brick.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 12:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would also paint or limewash it for the short term, the former making it more contemporary feeling and the latter making a vintage background for your modern furnishings (great look). Then after you have been there a few years, have a plan for renovation---one that hopefully includes getting rid of that glass "control room" looking separation to the kitchen. (Not that you asked, but that is as dated as the brick wall, only odder.)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 5:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

I'd probably start out with white washing the brick first...or just go straight to paint. I'd probably delete the mantel in the process too...it's too wimpy for the size of the wall and the placement just emphasizes the asymmetry.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 8:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you guys are cracking me up ... lol

the first thing to do.. is buy the house .. lol ... otherwise.. they may have a lack of humor of you doing all these other things first.. lol ...

but before doing that ... decide if you are willing to invest.. say.. 5000$ in this project ... that is probably extreme ... but it should be in your thought process .. being an engineer and all ... about whether this house.. with this situation... fits within your goals ...

its the old cost benefit ratio ... and what else is available ...

i am thinking ... this house is high on the list.. and that is why you are trying to conceptualize your options ...

if so ... my thought process would run along these lines ...

move in.. and first see if you want a fireplace ... they are a BIG PIA ... in the long run ... buying.. hauling.. splitting.. and moving wood in and out of the house can make fires real tiring ..

then decide how cold the room is .. and then decide the cost of installing a gas insert with remote ... lol.. the older i get.. the more i look towards that ... in MI.. a lot of these type of rooms are off the back of the garage ... and are far from the furnace ... and w/o some heat source.. are not very pleasant during the cold season ....

so now you are two years into the house.. and you start thinking.. would i prefer bookcases.. etc.. etc ..

so.. bottom line... are you willing.. should all the suggestions above fail .. and i do like the whitewash as a way to start ... are you willing.. to invest the time and cost of a complete rebuild.. based on the cost of the house you are thinking of buying ...

work that cost/benefit ratio hard.. and then determine if all other things considered.. this is really the house you want .... dont forget to throw in the kitchen redo.. the bath redo.. and perhaps the basement redo ... dont isolate this room as your only project ....

good luck


ps: i just looked at the other pix.. nice deck out there.. will it need work??? ... and.. you will need some black out curtains.. if you put a tv between those two windows ...

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 8:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Buying, hauling, splitting, stacking wood make the resulting fires more enjoyable!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 9:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

Tibbrix, that's an optimistic way of putting a spin on wood hauling. My DH calls it "aerobic" as a way of burning calories.

We always say wood warms you 3 times...when you cut it, when you split it and again when you burn it. But there area a lot of other ways too...like when you haul it and clean up after it, and remove the ashes...

But there is something wonderful about wood heat in a home...so toasty and warm and wreaks of cozy.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Kind of cracks me up that we'll go to the gym and hit the elliptical and lift weights and hit the treadmill, or the streets, for a 3 - 5 mile walkâ¦but hauling, stacking and splitting wood is too much!

It's a lot of work, no doubt about it. I split my own wood, from a huge tree I had to have cut down, haul it and stack it myself..and I'm 97! kidding. But that work does actually make me enjoy the fires more.

What I resent more than the splitting and hauling and stacking, though, is having go lift my derriere off the sofa to go put another log on the fire.

Now, figurer that one out!

I also have a wood stove in my house, in addition to the wood burning FP, and boy, did it come in handy the winter before last when I had no heat for four days due to a power outage and I couldn't get off my property due to down lines across my driveway. Wood stoves are great. I rented a cottage once that had a propane "wood" stove. It was horrible. Took FOREVER, I mean hours, to heat the room. Useless.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes -- Paint the brick AND then take High Heat paint (the kind used on items like barbecues) and paint the firedoors to satin black.

Do add an overlay (think of a wood box) over the existing mantel to "beef" it up ......

For the woodbox -- add a wonderful large modern vase -- then add a modern artwork to the mantel .....

Here is a link that might be useful: Pinterest -- painted brick modern fireplace

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here's another great page of inspiration photos from Pinterest -- see how so many of these fireplaces are simple fresh white ......

Here is a link that might be useful: Pinterest -- more modern fireplaces

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And yet another one ...... if you click on any photo AND then click again -- the link takes you to the posting (which sometimes has an excellent tutorial on painting brick etc.)

Here is a link that might be useful: Pinterest -- painted brick fireplace wall

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We painted the brick wall in our FR, had a gas insert installed in the wood burning fireplace, and had a metal mantel cover fabricated and painted to match the insert. They used high heat paint from Stove Brite (Metallic Black, to match the insert frame). I used the same stuff (in Satin Black) to paint the baseboard covers that sit along the brick wall. It's very easy to use, so you should have no trouble painting your surround with it. Our house was built in 1967, so I guess the brick wall look was popular for a while, huh? :)

Painting the brick wall definitely "modernized" our FR, which was our intent.

The gas insert has been well-worth the cost and then some. It heats up the room (entire downstairs) quickly, and the FR is our favored TV watching spot all winter long. During power outages, the insert works like a charm (no blower fan, but the thing still kicks out plenty of heat).

Here are some pics of our before/after:

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 11:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, cat_mom. That is amazing. The black looks fantastic.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 11:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Personally, I love brick. I am planning to put in a gas FP with a red brick surround. Given the trouble I am having finding suppliers right now, I predict this will be all the rage in about 2-3 years. I often have trouble getting something, only to have it everywhere once I no longer need it.

So, NO to painting. The firebox does need an update. I'd probably start by painting that. I'd also fill the wood hole. At first glance, I thought you had 2 fireboxes. :P I'd then put a beefier mantel up. Center it on the wall, so it goes across the firebox and the wood hole.

And a great piece of art above it.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Honestly, I'd proceed carefully: Remove the brass, remove the star, remove the mantle (perhaps).

I find it interesting that brick walls are cool but brick fireplaces are so "dated."

I might white wash the brick if it looks indeed that red and a bit fake.

Here are a bunch of loft-look brick walls with fireplaces.

I wonder what a TV on that brock ledge would look like and some large plants.

Or dark book case?

Or SS?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 4:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you Tibbrix!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 11:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I like the brick but I think the mortar is too bright/white. Perhaps stain the mortar a darker grey so it blends a bit. Definitely replace the doors/firebox. A thick wood or metal mantel would look cool too.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 12:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Cat mom, fabulous job on your brick fireplace! I've seen so many pictures of fireplaces that were just painted without the slightest regard to the planned style or colors in the rest of the room. Yours is such an integral part of the room I can't imagine it being any other color! Great result!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 5:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

kwsl, thank you so much!

I couldn't convince DH to sheetrock over the wall (he'd had enough by the time the two upstairs bathrooms were completed!), and the thought of painting the brick the same cream color (BM Mascarpone) as we'd planned for the remaining walls left me feeling meh. I swear I literally had an epiphany one day, and just "knew" we had to paint the wall black! The funny thing is, I tend to be extremely indecisive (and that's putting it mildly!), but sometimes I'll have an idea that I just KNOW without a doubt, is the right choice. I'm glad you think so, too!

I think schwab's brick wall/fp would look terrific painted (or dyed/stained or whitewashed), or even just updated (as in the pics nosoccermom posted). I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like no matter what they decide. :)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 3:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love love love the brick walls that nosoccermom posted! I would proceed carefully. I would pull out the brass insert and paint it black with heat resistant paint, then put in a chunky mantle. Painting your walls will really warm it up then experiment with furniture placement and artwork. I really like the room and think it has great potential. Remember, once you paint brick you can't go back. I tend to NOT like painted brick around fireplaces because I think you lose the charm. To me, it ends up looking like, well... painted brick. But I'm not opposed to painting or changing really ugly brick. I just don't think that's what you're dealing with. Good Luck on whatever you decide to do.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 3:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What do you mean by modern? Just more up to date? Or specifically modern like modern architecture?

Brass is coming back in to style so if you are looking for up to date, I wouldn't necessarily change that. And I'd try to live with the brick for awhile before white washing or painting it--it's pretty hard to reverse that choice.

I'd consider painting the surrounding walls white, like gallery or loft might be. And painting the mantel glossy black.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 5:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The only thing that room needs is a rather large rug. I think the brick pattern and the wood floor pattern make it too busy.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 6:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
robo (z6a)

Another vote for the brick ... that's a fairly nice brick you've got there. I'd not paint it, but would install modern furniture, keep the walls white, minimalist window treatments (blinds), big modern art and call it a day.

Industrial Living Room by Toronto Architects & Building Designers Pause Architecture + Interiors

Contemporary Living Room by New York Interior Designers & Decorators Amy Lau Design

Chunky mantel

Traditional Living Room by Austin Architects & Building Designers Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects

Big art

Modern Living Room by St Louis Interior Designers & Decorators S&K Interiors

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 3:29PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Wood filler when sanding isn't possible
My toilet paper holder is attached to my vanity. I...
Improvement With A Few $'s
My plain pony wall bugged me. I finally tackled it...
Budget kitchen remodel
We relocated to a new state, and bought this home last...
Area Rugs - Will Viscose rug last?
Hi, I am in the midst of redecorating my LR & DR....
SW Kilm Beige
If you have used this color, would you please tell...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™