Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Three-Sided Fireplace Dilemma

I'm linking up to the Decorating Dilemmas Party at Serenity Now. Hop on over to help a sista out!

The first time I stepped foot in our house I was totally enamoured with the idea of the three sided fireplace. After we moved in, it became the bain of my decorating existence. It presents quite a multifaceted challenge.

Here is my Top 5 list of things I hate about the three-sided fireplace!!

5. No mantel, but my dad is going to remedy that shortly.

4. It's trimmed in brass. I've heard that these trims can sometimes just pop off, but I haven't had any luck with that. Perhaps I can paint it?

3. The hearth is roughly bench height. This makes any kind of furniture arrangement in front of the hearth look redundant. I've tried a pair of chairs with a little table between and it's just odd. Perhaps I could make some big square floor cushions and lay them on top? But then would I have to move them whenever we use the fireplace? Fire hazards and all?

2. Weird upside-down "L" shape of wall to fill above and beside the fireplace. Maybe I'm just too attached to symmetry, but this really bugs me. The portrait of my daughter that currently hangs above the fireplace is probably a bit too small for the space (I'm also still not satisfied with that frame and matt after repainting it three times!), or maybe it just needs to be flanked by some sconces or something? I have tried all kinds of groupings in the L-shaped space, but it always looks weird when I try other frames on the side portion- like it's competing. This metal vine thing looks far better than anything else I've tried, but it still seems too small to me. Maybe I should scratch trying to hang stuff here at all? And do some kind of decorative wall painting treatment instead? Maybe something like what Britt did in her dining room? But then will it look out of balance if I have anything at all above the fireplace. ARGH!!! Can you sense that I'm just a teensy bit frustrated with this!!! Suggestions please!

And my number one thing I hate about the three-sided fireplace is... (insert drumroll here....)

1. Two words. PINK TILE!!! I'm sure the original owner thought "mauve" was just the most perfect color when the house was built in 1990. Seriously, mauve?!! Who does that?! Anyway, we have no budget to change out the tile and I'm scared to death to try doing it myself, especially since it's both horizontal and vertical surfaces. I suppose I could attempt to paint it? I also wonder if there are any pipes inside the hearth portion or could we knock it out altogether? But then we'd have to do something about the portion of the subfloor which would then be exposed- again- no budget. Thoughts?



  1. hey, Pam. Stopping by from SITS. Welcome!

    For the paint questions. I would totally give the brass trim and the tile a try. I've never done either, but I had a friend paint the tile in her entire bathroom, and it looked great.

    I actually think the whole piece fireplace makes a statement on its own. If you could somehow get it all one color (or subtle shades/textures of the same color, I think it may then seem like one large focal point (with the pink tile, it seems a little choppy).

    Just a thought...

  2. well, I am with you on the mauve tile...nice:s
    Anyway, tile paint would be the go. Just make sure the tiles have been roughed-up and are clean from any dust before painting to ensure good coverage. Would probably need some sort of primer also.
    As for the awkward shape, I think the tile surrounding the sides and top of the fireplace is accentuating the L-shape. I would look into removing the tile border and replacing it with a firesafe material. Not sure what you call it in the States, but here we have concrete sheeting, about 1cm thick (1/4 inch?). I think you can use that as a firesafe surround, which you could paint out the same as the walls. You don't need much of it, so it wont cost much. I wouldn't emphasise the fireplace with a border around the sides. Just paint the wall colour right up to the fireplace.
    I think the space needs evening up also (I'm one for symetry too :)). Is it a stone wall or dry wall where the little nook is? Below the wire art? It would be great to increase the nooks size to be equal with the fireplace, giving a sense of symetry. If that's not possible, I would consider making a frame (of same size as fireplace) and placing it around the niche and over to the wall. Place cute doors on it (shutter doors? shaker doors?) so that one door is a working door over the niche and one a fake door over the wall portion. And rather than the tile in between the two spaces, have painted out concrete sheeting strip. Have your dad run the mantle right to the wall. This would give you a larger space to accesorise and you would then be able to create a greater sense of balance of the entire wall.
    As for the tiled hearth, I am thinking just paint out the lower (vertical) section. On the actual hearth, investigate placing the concrete sheeting either over the tiles or removing the tiles. If there is no budget to retile the (horizontal part)hearth, look at the different paints you could use to paint out the concrete sheeting. Consider making that part of the hearth almost a mantle itself, with a slight overhang (an inch or so) over the lower section of tile. Bulk this "hearth mantle" up by faking a thicker profile by gluing/nailing some chunky moulding under the small lip you've created with the concrete sheeting.
    I would avoid bench cushions for fire reasons, unless it was summer.
    As for the brass on the actual fireplace, I think you can paint it out, just make sure you get a heatsafe paint. Two bloggers I think you should check out for their fireplace redos are Layla at The Lettered Cottage (in her living room) and Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick (bedroom fireplace I think). Neither were 3-way fireplaces, but both would have some ideas for you I reckon.
    Good luck, hope some of my ideas made sense. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

  3. You CAN paint that brass. Sarah @ Thrifty Decor Chick did it in her bedroom (I think it was her bedroom) and it looks great!

    I googled painting tile and found this article:

    I think it would bring the space together to have the pink say "au revoir." ;)

    How far will the mantel go? Will it extend all the way to the end of the wall? That might look neat.

    If you do the big cushions, you could store them in the little niche where the basket is.

    It is hard to be on a budget with this stuff. I'd totally gut our master bath if I could, but we can't do a thing with it right now. But sometimes it's fun to be creative and come up with solutions that don't require drywalling over things or ripping stuff out.

    Your daughter's portrait is beautiful, and I think it will look great on the mantel. :) Maybe with a few similarly framed photos in different sizes? Our wall colors are very similar. :)

    Thank you SO much for linking up to the party!!

  4. omg, what an essay, sorry :(
    I was just thinking, if you didn't want to create fake doors over the niche, consider painting out the niche so it "disappears". the pink inside the niche makes it stand out and brings you eye downwards. You would then no need to run the mantle right to the wall.

  5. I feel your mauve pain! I have mauve carpet...my entire living room and hallway! Seriously - ewww!

    You can paint the brass...How hot does that part get? I guess there's probably a paint for that.

    As for the arrangement for the wall, I think if you moved the picture, and maybe even had it in a bigger frame, or just a bigger, different picture, over to where the metal vine thingy is. Have it off-centered horizontally with the tile line...does that make sense?

    Then above the fireplace, where the picture is now, you could put one of those big, bushy swags. Do you know what I'm talking about? It would be more of a long horizontal shape like the wall space, and the picture would fill out the space that is longer vertically...this may look a little more balanced. Of course I could be totally wrong and it will look worse, because that's what usually happens to me!

    As for the furniture...I got nothin! Good luck!

  6. Ooooh, definitely paint that tile! It would make the whole fireplace blend in with the rest of the room better. If you do end up painting anything decorative on the walls I'd love to see it!!

  7. It looks like you have already gotten some great advise. I have to admit, I was a little worried that you weren't going to say that the pink tile was a problem. I breathed a sigh of relief when I got to number one. ;)

    I'm thinking that just painting the tile will make a world of difference! I would also suggest that you extend your mantle all the way over to the wall. That would balance out the "L" shape. You would have one flat area above the mantle and below you could sit some large candle holders, or pillows, or something. Sketch it out on paper and see what you think. I sketch everything before I move furniture (and I'm NOT a good drawer, lol!) It helps, try it!

    Well, that's my 2 cents. Have a great day!

  8. That tile is a dilemma, I was waiting for you to mention it, I was getting worried that you might have thought it was awesome ;)

    As for art - I would do something like your wire art above the fireplace, and then I would do a large grouping of family pictures (maybe all black and white or sepia?) in black frames in the space above the log box.

    I would try to paint the tile...you could do a test spot in the log box. Trying to mimic stone would look great, but sounds daunting, I'm not exactly sure where to go color wise.

    I think a big basket of lap blankets and a stack of books would look really nice set out on the bench portion, they would be inviting, but easy to move if you lit a fire.

    Good luck!

  9. You can purchase high heat paint at Walmart, home improvement stores and auto-supply stores. How about putting a wrought iron piece over the fireplace? Something substantial like that would really anchor the space. You can also paint the tile. It stinks though so make sure you have ventilation and keep the kids out of the house for a while. Good luck!

  10. I have a similar dilemma and have a 3 sided fireplace but all three sides are brick and it's smooth all the way from the ceiling to the floor - no mantle or even that shelf hearth that you have. For the wall you have, could you perhaps cover that hole with the basket with some drywall, and then install bookcases on that wall? All the way to the top? That may look nice. That may give that area a more cozy "library" look with the chair next to it and you can add books, a small clock, picture albums, and maybe some framed photographs to the shelves. I'm thinking of doing something similar. I also have those dreaded brass features on the doors, just like you have. Ugh!

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