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  • Writer's pictureG.S. Harris Co., Inc.

Old Home, New Look: Bringing Back The Beauty Of Your Fireplace

Just like people, homes come in generations. Truly old houses with birth dates over 100 years ago often have beautiful woodwork and old-fashioned charm, not to mention lovely windows and architectural design. If you move forward a few decades, you get vintage mid-century beauties. A few years later, you have almost-modern home designs with somewhat outdated color and design choices.

What do all of these older homes have in common? Most old homes, even those built just 30 years ago, have fireplaces in one or more rooms. These fireplaces are areas where the home starts to show its age. In antique, century-old homes, the large woodwork and tiles might need a facelift. In midcentury and late 20th-century homes, the finishes can look worn and dated.

How can you bring back the beauty of the fireplace in your old home? Check out some of these design ideas.

Save What’s Worth Saving

Fireplaces have always been the focal point of the room, especially in decades past. Because they were meant to draw the eye, they often have enduring beautiful features.

A Craftsman home might have a fireplace surrounded by hardwood built-in cabinetry. Other Victorian fireplaces might have marbled or painted tiles, cast-iron inserts with etching, or pillars. In homes that were built mid-century, you might find sleek stones or streamlined mantels made from beautifully polished wood.

These features are often features that are worth saving in a home even if you are updating. You can still keep some of the charm of yesteryear while bringing the fireplace itself forward into modern design techniques.

For example, in a Craftsman home, keep all of the beautiful wood cabinetry that frames the fireplace. However, some of the tiles might be faded or worn. If the fireplace is brick, the mortar might be falling into disrepair. The fireplace itself will need to be refaced, taking out the worn brick and tile.

When refacing this Craftsman fireplace, choose natural stone or brick options to preserve authenticity. Precast natural stone facades can be ideal for reworking an older fireplace because you have more control over the product color and finish. You can also get finishes that might now be quite costly in either labor or materials.

Brick, for example, can be challenging to install, but it is perfect for a Craftsman house. A brick veneer, on the other hand, is simpler to install and looks almost identical to real bricks.

Other homes, such as the older Victorian or newer mid-century might require different stone finishes. A Victorian, for example, might look more refined and less rustic with a new brick facade that helps to bring antique and modern together in the room, while keeping the ornate pillars and iron inserts.

A stacked, horizontal slate finish would look perfect with the long, clean lines in vintage 50s and 60s homes while keeping the original long, smooth wood mantles.

Improve Outdated or Low-Quality Finishes

However, some things are not worth keeping when it comes to old fireplaces. You might, for example, have a fireplace that did not have some of the beautiful original finishes mentioned above. Instead, someone might have finished the fireplace with faux brick, cracked and incorrectly installed stone, or improperly grouted tiles.

When replacing low-quality fireplace exteriors, use a more long-lasting, durable product. Stone veneers are a good option for new fireplace finishes because they have a modern, balanced appearance and can match your existing decor.

Fit the Design to Your Space

Sometimes, the fireplace doesn’t seem to belong in the room, especially in homes that were poorly designed to begin with. You can fix this problem in your redesign.

You might have a tiny fireplace that seems drowned in a large expanse of wall. Choosing a bolder stone over smaller finishes can help to draw the eye to the fireplace. Consider removing plain tiles or old brick in favor of a stone that has a bit of character or color. Rock veneers make expanding the scope of the fireplace simpler.

Conversely, a fireplace with large stones that runs the length of an entire wall might end up looking imposing in a small room. You might take down this finish and replace it with a muted marble or whitewashed brick that only takes up a portion of the wall.

Complement the Overall Feel of the Home

Finally, if you are refacing the fireplace as part of your update, you have the chance to streamline the overall design of your home.

You might choose the same stone to wrap around your kitchen island. Some people like to have an accent wall of stone, river rock, or brick in their entryway or kitchen. These walls tie the different living spaces together, and they can be useful for high-traffic areas that would see a lot of wall wear.

You can even use the same stone finish for exterior fireplaces so you have a consistent motif no matter where you are on your property.

For more information on finishes for your fireplace renovation and restoration, contact us at Harristone.

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