Monday, August 23, 2010

What Would You Do?

Alas, that is the question.

Exactly what are we anxiously debating?

The 70's faux lava rock fireplace that currently resides in our living room.

As you can see, it's pretty, um, monstrous.

And doesn't really fit with the light and airy contemporary feeling we're striving for in the rest of the house.

This question of what, if anything, we are to do with our ginormous fireplace has been on our minds for, oh, a few months...

at least.

So we've been looking for examples of what we could do. Well, besides rip all the stones out and start from scratch... which would be do-able, but we think we would run into potential problems with the flooring around the fireplace - considering that when we installed the new laminate wood flooring (click here to read more about why we chose laminate wood), Tom had to meticulously custom cut each and every single piece to fit the jagged edges of the rocks on the fireplace.

At some points, he even had to chisel some of the rock away (crazy, huh?). So our concern would be that with a new, more modern fireplace (which probably wouldn't have a hearth at the bottom), how would we handle the flooring?

Yeah, we have no idea.

Plus replacing the whole fireplace would probably take plenty of time and money. We have plenty of time (well, not lately - but we do have some on the weekends!), but if you know us, you know that we're DIYing this house on the cheap (and "on the cheap" does not mean we're skimping on quality, either!).

So what does that leave us with?


{source unknown}

This photo isn't a direct one of the painted lava rock fireplace, but you can just barely see it in the reflection of the mirror on the left.

{source unknown}

Okay, so this one technically isn't a painted lava rock fireplace, but it's still a painted rock fireplace - so that counts in my book!

{source unknown}

Here's a good inspiration one. This fireplace is, well, pretty large - larger than ours. But painting it still definitely updates it (as you can see in the before and after photos), although I think the look would've been pulled off better with a lighter shade of paint on the walls. But you know - you get the point, right?

{source unknown}

And there is one more option we've been considering, and I have to admit that it's my favorite.

It involves plaster and then paint. Check out this before and after:

Pretty amazing, huh? I love the contemporary and airy vibe in the after photos. You can see why it's my fave, right?

So we're interested in your thoughts. If you were in our shoes, what would you do? Would you leave the fireplace alone? Would you rip it out and start over from scratch? Or would you paint, or go the plaster-and-then-paint route?
Did you enjoy this post? Please subscribe for free updates in the future and to see what we're up to next!


  1. Well these must be popular here in O-town because I have the same thing (in between two built in shelving units no less)..I had no idea they were called lava rock, ha. No matter what they are called, it's not my fav part of my house either. I call it "the beast" but my hubby likes it so says no changing...I'm still working on him so do something wonderful so I can talk him into it, will ya!??


  2. You can see it at the end of this!!!:)

  3. I think I would paint it. I painted mine white and I love it. My brother is a painter by trade, and he tells me that he's had a few stylish clients request him to paint their stone fireplaces white or a light color. I would definitely not tear it out, as I think it has really interesting patterns and lines that make for a cool focal point in the room. Can't wait to see what you choose!

  4. The white semi-gloss is in the house, Chelsea, and it goes up on our ugly edifice this weekend, so I'm with you as far as the nervousness, but anything is an improvement, right?

    For what it's worth, I think yours is less awful than mine.

  5. I love that last one too! Bright white and huge windows get me every time.

  6. As you've seen from my photos before, I have had the same dilemma... only, I'm very hesitant to paint it. I guess it's because each person who's walked into the house immediately comments that they like my fireplace. For now, it's not a NEED TO, so it's being filed away for later ideas.

    The plaster option looks the best in my opinion, and you're right about the wall color. When it comes to painting the fireplace white, you have to go either extreme (like crisp white fireplace and teal blue walls) or blend it in with a very light color on the walls (similar to how the first photo has the wall color the same as the fireplace color, not bright white). I agree with you about that beige in your second photo; it's completely wrong for a white fireplace in my opinion. The bright white is too modern when the rest of the items in the house look more traditional.

    By the way, I will be posting soon about our flooring/fireplace dilemma like you had. We chose a different route than custom-fitting our laminate planks to the fireplace. We aren't without our fair share of challenges either. :)

  7. I love the plaster and paint look but I'd probably try painting the fireplace first to see if I could live with it before attempting such a big job ourselves. You two don't shy away from big jobs so I can definitely see you going for it!

  8. have you considered putting a beadboard facade overtop?

  9. I love the last photo with the plaster and paint!! I never thought of using plaster, but it's a great idea. Can't wait to see the new look. :)

  10. Plaster and paint looks WAY better but I'm not a big fan of just paint on a lot of rock. I don't know, I kinda like rock though!

  11. I love the last one... it has texture but no so much that I feel like I'll fall victim to a rock slide, lol. I vote plaster and paint all the way!

  12. This is a hard one. I like the last photo the best, with the plaster and paint. I usually am not a fan of painting fireplaces. I really don't think your lava rocks look bad. I'm sure whatever you decide to do will look fab.

  13. Plaster and paint! Think that last photo set looks awesome in the 'after.'

  14. What did you decide to do? I really want to paint my awful lava rock, but not without a great before/after story from someone else.

  15. I have the same type of fireplace and a decorator I had in once suggested painting the ugly brown grout more of a gray color and then glazing it with a gray glaze (gray paint mixed with glaze) so that it would look more gray and less 70's brown. Then my brown mantel would be painted black......still haven't done it - 7 years later but think about it now and then....think it would look alot better. I have your beams too and am thinking of painting those either black or white.

  16. Wonder what you have come up with. Our fireplace is as ugly as yours, if not more so, and didn't even have a mantel on it when we first bought the place. My husband built one and that did help it out - some - but it still sucks the life out of the room (and we have a small 14 X 20 living room). So...we are going to paint it and hope for the best. (It's only in our summer home so at least we don't have to look at it for seven months of the year.)

  17. We have a slate monster (complete with blower fan "teeth") and your plaster and paint photo has given me new hope! I think as long as you use a matte neutral off-white, you can't go wrong. Thanks again for the idea!

  18. Would love to know what you ended up doing?

    1. Well, we actually ended up moving before we could tackle that monster - darn. I did do quite a bit of research on the plaster and paint method, though, and would've done it if we hadn't moved.

      Thanks for commenting!
      - Chelsea


We love and read all comments, but please no spam, hateful/hurtful comments, drama or bashing. Thank you!

Related Posts with Thumbnails