Weekend Wars

This weekend we battled the accursed brick fireplace and slew its face off. Let's start our tale of bloodsport at the beginning by revisiting the face of the beast:

Even Jesus averted his eyes from beigeocalypse.

New floors, paint, and the chunky crown molding got kicked to the curb. Yet yonder mantel still beckons from the shadows...

We pulled the mantel off and motherf%^*^%$#$er if there weren't wood studs and an electrical box built INTO THE BRICK. So Better Half Ben borrowed a jackhammer from Matt (thanks, Matt) and created a dust storm of  chaos and confusion in our heretofore cleanish living room.

At this point the dirt settled in for a long winter's nap and I began to panic. I should have taken pictures of the giant holes right in the middle of our fireplace, but I was too busy hyperventilating into a brown paper bag.

BHB came to the rescue with a 60# bag of mortar and we got to work. Kids, replacing bricks on a fireplace is not a fun job. Still I think the results are not too shabbby, although I'm not rushing out to join the bricklayer's union or anything.

The blue tape in the middle is the electrical box that we decided to leave exposed to service all our possible future electrical needs. The black slitty thing is THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. It's some mega fan contraption designed by Satan to aggravate me, because it's attached to the firebox and cannot be removed.

Don't think I didn't try.

Now, you are probably ready for the payoff pictures, but I'm not ready. You see, we painted said fireplace trim white and I'm a little freaked out by the whiteness... ok, really freaked out. It's like my cozy atmosphere of warmth just got hijacked by an icy blast of frigid air, which is ironic since it's a fireplace.

I'm not really sure what to do.

Ok, first I'm going to style it up and see what I think once it has some art and stuff all over it.

I also have my eye on this brass framed, smoked glass fireplace door. We need something to cover the gaping hole left by the douchey screen that used to be there, and this seems to be a friendly choice.

Then I'm going to spend some time lusting over this gorgeous hunk of slate, because I really like the feel of natural materials. Too bad the brick we had was so gross.

Don't get me wrong -- things are definitely improvedus maximus. It's just that maybe we should have painted the fireplace charcoal to match the banister railings? I'm afraid the contrast against the wall would have called attention to the awkward height, though.

I pinky swear that styled up pictures are coming soon, like hopefully tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm curious what you think about the whole dilemma.

Monday Non Sequitur Meltdown

Monday, I want to murder you. The time change sucks nuts when you have a kid, our dishwasher is still broken, and I can't for the life of me find the nail clippers. Seriously, how long does it take after moving to get all the odds and ends properly squared away? Last night I had to dig through boxes in the garage just to find my house shoes. I love me some isotoners -- what about it? And to top it off, I am getting some weird blog crap when I log in while using Firefox. Has anyone out there noticed any funny business whilst cruising our blog? Moving on, I'd like to say thanks for all your input about the fireplace. Right now I'm contemplating ripping half of it down (well not me personally, me = proxy = Matt), adding a proper mantle, and painting it white. Or maybe doing this here plaster job that Morgan left in the comments. I'm a little concerned that our floors are too rustic to do anything vaguely rustic with the brick... not that they are crazy rustic they just have a very Euro bare board look, knots and all.

Speaking of, I have found myself staring at the floors and wondering if I should have done this pickled finish instead:

No, right? I would hate it in five years, right????? Please say yes.

I have turned into a babbling idiot because I have too many decisions to make, mainly about the overall direction of this place. I think it boils down to this:

vs this:

Form driven modernist Stilnovo, or a more classically elegant deco look?

I think I have a preference, but I'd love to know what you think.

Dear Design Crisis: Jen's Fireplace Conundrum

Recently our good friend, fellow blogger and style icon, Jennifer Perkins of Naughty Secretary Club fame wrote us with a fireplace conundrum:

I have found myself in quite the home decorating pickle.  My fireplace has become an eye sore and I do not know where else to turn.  As you can see in the pictures at one time I had a screen covering my fireplace.  The screen was made by my grandfather and painted by my grandmother.  However, my 11 month old daughter has just started to crawl and pull things down on her, like heirloom screens for example.  We removed the screen and now there is a big black ashy pit staring back at me complete with cheap chain shades.  I need some suggestions for something stylish and baby safe to replace the screen.  I have thought about having a mantle built but my fireplace is stone and I am not sure how I would mount it on all the texture.  Also, it may appall your readers, but I have a naked picture of Burt Reynolds above my fireplace.  He was fun for awhile, but I’m ready to replace him.  I have debated on a large piece of art (possibly by my sister), several smaller prints in a cluster?  I’m just not sure and this whole fireplace overhaul is where I am hoping Design Crisis will come in.  Please oh please can you and your readers save me and help me find a cute, eclectic, kitschy and kid proof fire place.

Here is a shot of Jen's living room:

A few things have changed since this photo was taken:  the carpet has been removed and now pretty medium-toned hardwoods lay in it's place.  I'm sure she's probably moved other stuff around, cuz that's how she rolls but I can't say for sure.

You can see that the fireplace is free standing, there are openings on either side leading to her Florida room.  Let's get a closeup of the fireplace:

Burt Reynolds picture:  check, ashy pit: check and check.  Jen!  You called us just in time, let's see what we can round up to help you out.

I searched far and wide for a stone fireplace like your own with a mantel, this is the closest I could find.  I really like how the wood is clean and simple.  If you go with a mantel, I think this is the way to go, the sleekness of the polished wood is a nice contrast to the heavy-textured stone.  If you're worried about making and installing said mantel, I bet my honey bunny could help you out.

What do I think you should do with the fireplace?  Paint that sucker.  Ok, I know I'm going to lose some readers here, but this is where I stand on painted stone and brick:  Is your stone insanely beautiful?  If the answer is Yes, don't paint it.  Are you planning to sell your house soon?  Again, if the answer is Yes, do not paint it.  Otherwise, it's your dang house and you should do what makes you happy.

PS, never mind the rest of this dullsville room

Here is a before and after I found via the magic of the interwebs.  See what a dramatic (and amazingly wonderful) difference a couple coats of paint will make.  I know this is brick, not stone, but whateves, it's pretty, so hush up.

I threw this picture in for good measure so we could see what a lovely coat of black paint will do for ya.  Although I'm pretty into the white, myself.

Let's talk about what goes over the fireplace.  You know I love Burt Reynolds and will promise him my allegiance until the very end, but I think it's time for him to relocate.  I put this picture up because I really dig the scale of the mirror over the fireplace.  If you decide not to do a mantel, I'd pick a piece that is taller than it is wide.  It will make the space that much more dramatic.  And Jen, you have a giant panda head in that room, don't try to tell me you don't like drama.

Speaking of drama, check out this artwork that frames the ENTIRE thing.  How do you do such a thing you ask.  Read on.

Remember once upon a time I posted this before and after of Diana's fireplace?  My sweet little mattybear built a frame around the old brick fireplace (so no brick was harmed, brick lovers) then coated it in plaster.  You could do something similar and keep as is... OR you could paint the whole damn thing.  Your sister could create her masterwork, or you could cruise over to the east side and pile a bunch of hoodlums into that fancy new car of yours then let them go graffiti crazy on your new digs.

Ok, moving on to the ashy mess.  I'm not sure if you have the ballz to light a fire in this Texas heat, if you're like me, it probably lies dormant 99% of the time.  I say, why don't you just go ahead and bump that number up to 100 and trick the inside of it out?

The now defunct Domino magazine suggested lining your fireplace with wallpaper then throwing in some hot pink logs for good measure.  I am in love with this idea.  Always have been, always will be.

Another Domino suggestion was to put a mirror inside the fireplace.  Could be good.

Or you could be a little more practical and fill it with logs.  Feel free to paint them multiple colors.

I saw this picture about a hundred years ago and thought of you, Jen.  If you do decide to do a mantel, I believe this is what the top of it will look like.   I imagine you pairing this with a fireplace filled with bowling balls or perhaps some trophies from your extensive vintage trophy collection, or, even better, you can use this as an excuse to start a whole new collection.  Swoon!

If, for some ungodly reason, you do use your fireplace here in the Lone Star state, I found a few screens for you to consider.  Both of the above are from Target and they're both pretty lame but...

A quick coat of paint later and they're pretty spectacular.  I'm guessing the option on the right is slightly more baby-safe.  Maybe just a little.

Also, if you decide to go this route, be sure to look into heat resistant paint.  I know they make it and this is probably the time to use it.

(ps, find these screens un-photoshopped at Target here and here)

Here are a few more screens I found on the interwebs, all varying in price and baby-safeness.  Feel free to paint as needed.  Clockwise from top left:

Muskoka Onyx Fireplace screen $79.99 at Target

Fireplace Screen by Peter Maly $460 at Unica Home

Handmade Lacquer Screen $231 at Overstock

Vestal Firescreen, price upon request (ahem) at Lyle and Umbach

And just for fun, I took the liberty of making some mockups of your new fireplace:

The most conservative option:  white stones with natural logs and a large piece of black and white art hung over the fireplace.  The piece shown here is by David Ostrowski

Still white, but now with a piece by Jen's sister, Hope, over some hot pink logs

And finally, Jen's fireplace with a white mantel and the crazy collection I know only she is capable of both finding and styling so it looks insane.  In a really really good way.

Alrighty readers, what do you think Jen should do with her fireplace?  Want to know more about what she has in her house before you can make a life decision?  Check out her home tour on apartment therapy here.

Jen, keep us posted!  We want to see the afters!