big impact, little cost: My Fireplace Wall

The most common thing I am questioned about in my home is the fireplace wall.  I figured it was about time I blog about it.

My last two homes had the more formal fireplace and mantel look.  When designing our current home (insert shameless plug here), yes I dreamed up this house and contracted it myself, I wanted to keep some traditional elements of the red brick colonial house style but with a renovated modern look to the interior.   The living room is not only open to the kitchen but a part of it, which is why for the fireplace I opted for something more casual; a modern take on the kitchen hearth.

For the two story room, with two story window -I knew I needed the dramatic two story fireplace to go with it.  Before construction on my home even began I knew I wouldn’t have a mantel but chunky shelves built to one side of it instead.  I could have had shelves flanking both sides but sometimes a home can be too balanced, too symmetrical -too perfect.   It can be refreshing, and conveys a more relaxed feeling when a room is a little inexact.  The opposite is true for a home that is too quirky, too imperfect -adding symmetry can make a space more comfortable.  It’s always about balance.

The view from upstairs of my two story living room. For more on the built-in shelves click HERE!

For the massive, stark, rectangular box of a fireplace wall I could have tiled it or done stacked stone or brick but I was going for rustic, modern and yes cheaper alternative.  I liked the idea of having it look and feel like a solid concrete wall. I was researching this a little more one day when I noticed Tony (my awesome tile guy) mixing up tile adhesive.  I explained what I wanted to do and although I could tell he thought I was a little crazy he was also curious and together we made up a small batch and tested out it’s application on scrap pieces of lumber using different tools to spread it. Bags of tile adhesive come in grey and white depending on the manufacturer.  Obviously I bought grey.  A large bag cost me approximately $60 and $5 for a trowel.  I had already rented the scaffolding (for the workers, electricians -and for me, the painter!) and had a big bucket to spare.

close-up of “concrete” fireplace wall

I followed the instructions on the bag for how much water to mix in and then proceeded to smear it on the wall thick enough to cover the drywall/sheetrock.   It took me half of a day and I am still really pleased with how amazing it turned out and how little it cost.

close-up of “concrete” fireplace wall.  For more on the built-in shelves click HERE and HERE.

I painted the entire room which only has two walls: fireplace wall and window wall (including the built-in shelves), Berh’s Ultra Pure White.  When used as a color choice -white can have just as much impact to a room a darker color.  The huge window in there is like art and I didn’t want colorful walls competing with it.


The 101:  Fireplaces don’t have to be traditional to feel inviting or bring impact to a room.   Choose white as a color, not because it’s too scary to go bolder.  With a little research and elbow grease it’s amazing what can be done on a tight budget!

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