Google+ Nine Red: How To: White-Wash the Fireplace

Monday, June 3, 2013

How To: White-Wash the Fireplace

Roughly 1 million  years ago I asked all of you for your opinion on whether or not we should whitewash the fireplace.  The results were pretty mixed but a lot of you leaned with us towards whitewashing - so one brave evening, we took to it. It was SO much easier than I expected!

So much brighter! We aren't completely done with our front deck yet, but it turns out both Ralph & I prefer to balance too many projects at once - and we started in on the living room.  The fireplace was the perfect kickstart we needed to get to work.   Here's a side by side so you can really see the difference:
If you think you can't do this, you're wrong. It was simple! I took a few process shots to share.

The process is simple. Take diluted paint, and one person brushes it on, while the other follows behind with a rag to remove the excess.  I thought we would have to be really fast about this, but to my surprise - the paint was really forgiving.  In fact, we had to let it soak a little longer on the brick to get the white we really wanted.

Pretty straightforward - dust & clean your fireplace as best you can.  If you want some more darker bricks to show through later, this is the time to paint some of them black, or brown, or deep red or whatever.
We skipped that step, as we already had some dirty bricks. Then, mix up your whitewash.  This is a simple half & half mix: 50% Water, 50% white latex paint.
Then you get to work! Brush a small area on, then wipe it off.  You can always repeat if it's not as white as you'd like. 
We started with the mantle first to get the hang of it, but I guess it would have been smarter to start somewhere LESS visible.  Luckily it came out fine, but you can see we wanted it a little lighter than this:
So we started leaving it on longer, and got this:
We found that wiping less vigorously helped too - gently removing the excess paint vs. scrubbing the bricks to death worked way better.
Stand back, take a look:
And just keep going. We did this in about an hour.
We chose not to tape because we figured we could be careful enough (and we were!) and we also had planned to paint the wall behind it another color someday (Update, we painted! Click here to see), to really make the fireplace pop. (again, click here to see!) And finished:

It dried so fast we were able to start playing decorator, and decided that our mantle needed a mirror, even if it's sliced in half by that chimney.  Can't really fix that, but I love the extra light the mirror brings!

So refreshing! We also have another crazy idea for this area, not sure if it will work... we want to get grey river stones, medium to large size, and cover the brick area around the stove.  We'll put a wood border, and just let the rocks be loose. I think it will bring a modern touch.  Have you ever seen anything like that before? I've been looking all over for tips (or warnings!) about doing that, but we might be on our own....**UPDATE** 10/3/13, we did it - we added river rock to the fireplace,  and it's great!

Well I guess it's Monday again, back to work, huh?  Have a great day & a productive week ahead!


P.S. Here's a sneak peak of the fireplace with our new wall, click here to go read more about it:

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  1. I love it! More colors will go with it now. Great choice!!!

  2. It looks fantastic! I am doing this to my new house - the fireplace is HUGE and is screaming orange - yucky. I love your idea of river stones and think it will look great.

    1. Do it! I was nervous at first but it was SO easy. You'll get the hang of it right away.... share pics later! Either here or on the FB page. Good luck!

  3. wow you have an inspirational design ideas...

    thanks to share with us (publically)...
    Aasif interior Designer Meerut

  4. I just found you via Redoux and have enjoyed your site. This project in particular has flipped my switch! The brick on my fireplace is a light pinkish color and I am not fond of it at all. Not a huge fan of painted brick usually but keep thinking anything would be better than what I have. This idea could be the ticket and is much less intimidating a task.

    I love the river rock surround idea and may try a take on that as well. The hearth is done in a broken Terracotta random mosaic (was popular in the early 60's when it was built) and again not doing anything for me or my color palette.

    The wheels are churning for sure... thanks for the amazing inspiration, I look forward to more!


    1. Hi Beth! Thank you so much! :D Yea, I can't wait to tackle that rock project. Soon... soon... the nice thing about whitewashing is you could do any color really. If you wanted it darker, same technique different color. I found white to be the simplest and most refreshing, and you can do several coats of the wash without ever reaching that fully painted look. Send pics when you brave the battle! 9redinfo @

  5. This is definitely going to be useful if you want a more even or balanced color in your living room, or maybe when you get tired of the old brick color of your fireplace. I like that it sort of maintains that weathered feel, yet completely changes the look to match the rest of the wall’s color. Cheers!


  6. Can I just say that this is such a great find! We’ve recently painted the walls white, and we’re debating whether to paint the brick fireplace white or just keep it as is. But the red and gray bricks stand out too much against the white walls. At least this way, we don’t have to make it look like it just sprouted out of the wall. We can make it blend yet still retain it’s old look. Thanks again!

    Eugene Head

    1. Thanks Eugene! It's a really rewarding project, I'm still very happy with the results & people compliment it all the time!

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