15 Ways to Refresh Your Fireplace on Any Budget

A fireplace facelift can take your living space from “whatever” to “wow!” Whether you’re contemplating a full-on renovation or looking for an easy weekend upgrade, get inspired by these ideas that will transform your hearth to the heart of your decor.
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Photo By: Frankie Norstad; Design By: Susan Diana Harris

Photo By: Anna Beaudry; Design By: Maria Killam

Photo By: Tiffany Leigh

Photo By: Tiffany Leigh

Photo By: Terri Klemm

Photo By: Terri Klemm

Photo By: Michael Kress; Design By: Gerald Smith of GL Smith Associates, and George Myers and Tamara Gorodetzky of GTM Architects

Photo By: Housefox

Photo By: Larry Arnal

Photo By: Larry Arnal; Design By: Nathalie Tremblay of Atelier Cachet

Photo By: Dan Piassick; Design By: Astleford Interiors

Photo By: Dan Piassick; Design by: Astleford Interiors

Photo By: Dan Piassick; Design By: Astleford Interiors

Photo By: Works Photography; Design By: The Sky is the Limit Design

Photo By: Jill Greer

Photo By: Dan Piassick; Design By: Astleford Interiors

Photo By: Geoffrey Hodgdon; Design By: Jim Rill

Photo By: Ken Haden; Design By: Lori Dennis and SoCalContractor

Budget-Friendly: Paint to the Rescue

Interior designer Susan Diana Harris, Allied ASID, is crazy about color, and she used it to great effect around this fireplace. The brick surround was painted Benjamin Moore’s Douglas Fir to complement the room’s Spring Moss walls, and gorgeous paintings by artist Erin E Sorensen depict the homeowners' view of the nearby San Francisco Bay.

Budget-Friendly: Pop Goes the Color

Color works well when it’s just around the fireplace, too. Designer Maria Killam, CMG, used bright orange paint around and over the fireplace here, for a bold look you can easily replicate with any favorite hue.

Budget-Friendly: The Marble Look for Less (BEFORE)

Designer Tiffany Leigh's rental home featured a fireplace with a dated yellow tile surround. She found an inventive, low-budget and landlord-approved way to transform it.

Budget-Friendly: The Marble Look for Less (AFTER)

Leigh transformed her dated yellow tile fireplace surround by cutting marble-look adhesive paper into squares and covering the existing tile. The result? An inexpensive update that can be undone if the landlord wants when Leigh moves on.

Budget-Friendly: Whitewashed Wonder (BEFORE)

For an easy fireplace upgrade you can do yourself, take a (web)page from Terri Klemm. The design pro and blogger transformed her dark and dated fireplace into something bright and beautiful by whitewashing the brick.

Budget-Friendly: Whitewashed Wonder (AFTER)

Here’s how Klemm did it: White paint with an eggshell finish was brushed on in small sections, and then wiped down with rags to remove most of the paint. (She did two coats like this, to achieve the lightness she was looking for). For a finishing touch, she sanded over all the bricks with a medium grit sanding sponge. This brought touches of the original color through and gave her the rich texture she felt was missing after the whitewashing.

Budget-Friendly: Accentuate With Art

A solid Indiana limestone mantel is the perfect backdrop for a tightly grouped collection of Audubon prints, framed to hide a TV set. If you’re not a bird-lover, almost any series of artwork with repeating themes and colors can work just as well. (To replicate the look on a budget, you can buy an art book and carefully cut out your favorite pages.)

Budget-Friendly: Paint Another Log on the Fire

A trompe l’oeil treatment keeps the homefires ever-burning in this fireplace on Nantucket by Housefox Design. Kristina Striukova used acrylic paint to transform the interior of the formerly all-white fireplace into an engaging scene – with decorative mural work above.

Mid-Range: Dramatic Contrast (BEFORE)

Before its remodel by Nathalie Tremblay of Atelier Cachet, a dull white surround and beige wall did nothing to highlight this fireplace.

Mid-Range: Dramatic Contrast (AFTER)

Contrast is king in this fireplace wall by Nathalie Tremblay of Atelier Cachet, post-renovation and re-design. Gone are the drab wall and white brick; in their place, a stone-veneer surround and black wall add plenty of drama, and a three-dimensional art piece adds the finishing touch.

Mid-Range: Salvage Shop Score

Ornately carved wood makes this Mexican mantelpiece (found at a salvage store in Dallas) the focal point of a colorful room. Simple travertine tile and hearth keep the focus on the fireplace, and candles in one dramatic shade of red echo accents around the room.

Mid-Range: Statement-Making Tile

This tiny room by Astleford Interiors is big on style, thanks to the fireplace’s Mexican tile surround. Note that with a fireplace this fabulous, it’s best to keep the mantel simple and knick-knack free.

Mid-Range: Hola, Hacienda Style!

The brightly colored ceramic tiles add Mexican flair to this outdoor fireplace by Astleford Interiors. You could do the same thing indoors – and a similar approach, with Fiestaware-colored squares or a red-white-and-blue pattern for an American Country look.

Mid-Range: Dimensional Panels

No mantel necessary, no artwork required – just pure, three-dimensional style in a wall treatment manufactured by Modular Arts, selected to reference the dogwood tree right outside the windows.

Splurge: Concrete Results

This fireplace surround was hand-faced by artisans at Granicrete. “The client wanted to see the trowel marks for a hand-crafted look,” says Granicrete’s Jean Eaton.

Splurge: Shimmering Surround

Iridescent glass tiles in cool modern shades add punch to a neutral space. This was part of a full-blown historical remodel, but for a smaller-scale re-do, a good tile pro can mount tiles on an existing wall.

Splurge: Mixed Materials

In this focal fireplace by architect Jim Rill, Pennsylvania flagstone distinguishes the fireplace surround and floor, and the mantel and trim are made of clear fir to complement the mission-style furniture and exposed beam ceiling beautifully. Note how placing the TV off to one side rather than directly above the hearth keeps the focus on the fireplace.

Splurge: Exotic Woven Wood

Teak wood squares applied in a basket-weave pattern add intrigue to this fireplace design by Lori Dennis and SoCalContractor. Not ready for a structural do-over? Bring your gas fireplace up to date by subbing in concrete rock balls for the tried-and-true faux logs. Voila! Instant update.