Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fireplace Makeover

Happy Wednesday guys!  I wanted to share a project that I worked on over the weekend...

Our fireplace got a fairly substantial makeover!

We are so lucky to have a fireplace in our apartment, but as the focal point of the room, it had been looking a little sad...

Here's the evidence:

It wasn't terrible - but it had certainly seen better days.

From far away it doesn't look SO bad, but up close the stone was really dirty (and this is after about 45 minutes of scrubbing).  It also had several deep cracks running through it.  Nothing non-livable, but I'd been scheming about a fireplace update for a while.

See - up close you can really see the permanent grime and the cracks.

The stone was also really yellowed, and wasn't very pretty to begin with so I was confident that I could improve upon it's facade.  I had seen several DIY projects that got the wheels spinning.

On SMP Living they did a hack on an Ikea table that turned out amazing...

On A Thoughtful Place she tackled a small countertop in a similar fashion...

And over at I Heart Organizing, their coffee table got a sweet makeover with marbled contact paper.

All the makeovers had turned out really well, and the contact paper looked gorgeous in the photos.  After kicking the idea around for a few days, it seemed easy enough to tackle, so I placed an order for this roll of carrera marble contact paper.

I will say, when I saw the price tag, I was a little surprised, but $65 isn't a deal breaker - especially when the stone was in such bad shape.  I'd also looked into less expensive options on Amazon, but after reading some mediocre reviews I pulled the trigger on the more expensive product.

I later realized it ended up being the less expensive option in the end!  The other rolls of contact paper did not have enough for me to cover our entire fireplace, but with this roll, there is 50 feet of contact paper.

I win!

Here is the first piece of contact paper after I got it installed on the fireplace.  One long sheet covered quite a bit of the fireplace front, and so even though I wrestled to get to to lay straight and flat (no bubbles) I still had to peel it off and redo it a few times.  Regardless of the several first attempts, it went up relatively quick.

An extra pair of hands would have been helpful, but since the contact paper easily peels off without loosing it's stickiness, it was totally fine.

I made my way row by row, and did my best to match up the marbling pattern on the seams - it doesn't have to be perfect - no one is looking THAT close - but I didn't want it to be super obvious.  If you're doing a smaller space, or you don't mind wasting a bit of the contact paper to get it to line up perfectly, you should definitely try.  I was covering a large surface, and didn't want to run out halfway through, so I went for "close enough".

I measured the width carefully, and then added a few extra inches than I'd actually need before cutting it out.  Once it was up, I then used an exacto knife to cut away any excess on the sides.

After this point I was feeling good... the contact paper was going up quickly, and I'd finished the majority of the front in just about an hour, but it quickly slowed down from here...

Cutting around the molding proved to be a HUGE pain in the butt, and much harder than I'd anticipated.  I wasted a few sheets of contact paper, so it was a blessing I had plenty to spare.  I found it was easiest to leave the paper backing on while tracing the molding around the contact paper as best I could, and then cutting it out roughly, adhering the paper down, and then cutting off the rest.

There are still a few spots that aren't perfect in those tight nooks and crannies, but I'm not going to sweat it.  It's pretty well camouflaged.

Despite my exacto knife cuts, I found that when I finished the edges looked so raw still.

Not loving it.  You could really tell on the edge that it was contact paper, and not actual marble.  Ignore the messy cuts here - I ended up re-doing this section after snapping a few pictures.

Woof.  I literally could not stand it.  The seams were jumping out at me.

Pretend that these pictures actually showcase my handiwork after it was redone.  The edge between "marble" and wood still looked raw and unfinished, but the rest was smooth, and seamless.

The edge where the contact paper met the brick interior, it was also pretty raw and ragged looking.  I needed a solution.

I headed to Lowes, and wandered around the store looking for the perfect thing to trim the edges with.  I originally was thinking something brass would be awesome.  The idea of trying to cut through brass was not so awesome.  I ended up buying some pre-primed and painted wood strips - the flattest I could find, and a pre-primed and painted quarter round piece of trim.

A few cuts here and there, and presto-chango... we had some very finished looking transitions between "marble" and brick, and "marble" and wood floor.

The flat ~1" wood strips trimmed out the mouth of the fireplace between brick and contact paper, and really cleaned that up, while the quarter round finished off the area between the wood floor and the hearth.


It looks pretty amazing right??  I mean the trim is so subtle that most people wouldn't notice, but it really changes everything, and takes this fireplace from "pretty good", to "finished off like a pro".

A few areas still need a bit of caulk to fully seal the gap in the seam between wood and "marble" but it's looking SO GOOD.

I also have to say, taking my time, going slow, being careful to keep my cuts straight, and being meticulous about smoothing out every air bubble really paid off.  Even when it meant peeling off the contact paper, throwing away a wasted piece and re-doing it... it made all the difference.  It looks SO REAL now that it's finished.  You'd have to get your nose right in there to tell it's contact paper.

Because of the cracked, pocked marked stone underneath, those imperfections show through the contact paper a bit, but I think it actually makes it look a bit more authentic.

As for the air bubbles, they really are unavoidable as you smooth the contact paper down over the surface.  Try to get as much out as you can by pressing hard and smoothing the air out to the seams before fully sealing it down, but for the small stubburn air bubbles that remain, use a pin to pop them (I just used an earring since we didn't have a pin).  Poke a small hole in the middle of the air bubble and smooth out the contact paper around.  The air will squeeze out of the hole, the teeny tiny hole disappears, and there's no more air bubble.  Everyone wins.

I found it was really helpful to use a towel when pressing the contact paper smooth (instead of a rubber squeegee or credit card).  The instructions on the back of the contact paper said to use a towel, it it was great.  It spared my little fingers quite a bit, although I did end up with a little blister on my thumb from all the pressing.  Totally worth it though.

I mean, this is as close as it gets... pretty real.  The colors are really crisp, and the marbling is really pretty.

Here is a close picture of one of the seams - as you can see it doesn't line up perfectly, but close enough, and the seam is WAY LESS noticeable than it had been with the old stone facade.

Look at the seam now from far away... it's hardly noticeable, and certainly less noticeable than it had been with the original stone (in case you're having a hard time finding it in the picture below, it's perfectly lined up with the top of the fireplace opening).

For comparison's sake, here's a picture of the seam on the original stone - it was pretty obvious.

Finally, I want to talk about a second update to the fireplace that you probably didn't notice... look inside the fireplace at all the discoloration - the black soot, and the ashy grey stone.


Enter a can of this high heat paint from Rustoleum.

I'm 90% certain this fireplace is non-functioning... it certainly hasn't been used in at least the last 5 years... but functioning or not, the last thing we need is to light this building on fire.  I don't want to test this out, so we're not going to light any fires in here.

That said, this high-heat paint is meant for projects like this, so in case it ever does need to be used, we're good to go.

The paint was much more liquid-y than normal paint - almost like oil - and was super stinky.  Open the window when you use this!  Luckily, it went on in one coat, and dried relatively quickly. Now the inside of our fireplace is a uniform solid black, and the perfect backdrop for all our pretty candles.

I got the idea from Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere who had a similar set-up going at her old house.

I think the white candles against the black is really dramatic and pretty, and now it's so romantic at night.

So that's it - a little elbow grease, creativity, and about $80, and our fireplace has a whole new face!

What do you think of my little makeover?  Was it worth the blister on my finger, and about 5 hours of work?


  1. Very nice job and makes your already beautiful living room even more attractive. But you should always remember to ask mama first! Think back and remember all the rooms I've wallpapered (also grandpa's hardware store opened originally as a paint & wallpaper store, so I know a bit!). It's difficult to butt up edges of contact paper (once stuck, it's done) nor can it be done with certain types of wallpaper like grasscloth that do not have perfect edges. In these situations what you do after the paper is hung is get a straight edge and an exacto knife. Line it up and make a single slice through. Pull back the overlapping edges & remove the tiny slivers. Push the edges back and...voila, they match exactly!

    1. wallpaper extraordinaire has been added to your resume mama :-)

  2. Bravo! It looks fantastic..... I would have totally endured a couple of blisters for this beautiful look!

    1. Thank you!! The blisters are long gone, but the fireplace still looks awesome!

  3. Stumbled across your blog searching for bar carts, this fireplace makeover is amaze! Who would've thought contact paper for the fireplace, great idea! Also love the candle look for inside fireplaces. I had an old metal fireplace frame I used to have candles in, I love that look so much!

    1. Thank you!! Always love having new people stop by my humble little blog :-)

  4. wow!! this turned out super great. my fireplace needs some love too, and if i could i would totaly do something like this.

    1. You should absolutely try it! The contact paper is temporary, removes easily, so if you hate it, you can just take it off!

  5. OK, I never ever ever would have guessed that you used contact paper! That looks marvelous! What a chic solution for your fireplace! Thanks for linking up with us at Best of the Nest!

    1. Aww, thanks for having me! I absolutely love your blog - thanks for stopping by!!

  6. Marvelous! I love White, my favorite color. It looks elegant. Your fireplace is looking awesome after using white marble paper. You have done a great job by choosing white papers.

  7. Great tips, many thanks for sharing. I have printed and will stick on the wall! I like this blog. Nursery blackout curtains