Decorating our house – jazzing up a fireplace

Towards the back end of last year we finished decorating our lounge, dining room, stairs and landing and it had been a chore!! It is such a big space with a lot of woodwork that there was no quick way of painting it.   I was keen to do the project on a budget, making and upcycling as much as we could to accessorise. This month I am going to take you through some of the things we made for the lounge and dining room, showing you hints and tips and some fab upcycling techniques you can use to spruce things up on a budget.

Decorating part 1

First up is our fireplace. We had a large, fake stone fire surround which I had officially fallen out of love with, and a small gas fire which we never used. We had the gas people round checking our fire and I chatted with them about the fire surround and that I didn’t like it and I would like to rip it out. They told me that to buy a fire surround like that would be somewhere up to £1000 which shocked me as I had no idea! I then spoke about the idea of removing it and selling it and they advised again that it was very tricky to remove fire surrounds in one piece, depending on how they have been put into place. This left me thinking maybe we needed to keep the fire surround but change the appearance of it.

fireplace before Fireplace before2

Sorry about the pictures, it seems I didn’t take a proper before photo!!


The gas people checked our gas supply to the fire and then capped it off as we had decided to remove the gas fire as part of our decorating mission. You need to get a professional in to do this for you, the great thing is they leave the pipe there, so if you change your mind later down the line or if you are selling your house, you can let people know there is a gas pipe to connect to if they want.

Fireplace being cleaned out

I left Kev to clean it out once we had removed the fire!


We then cut a piece of plaster board to fit the hole, glued it in place and then sealed the edge with decorators caulk, giving it a little sand down ready for painting

I headed down to The Painted Chair in Liverpool where they sell Annie Sloan paint and had a chat with the lady who runs the shop. I came away with a 1 litre pot of Paris Grey chalk paint and was super excited to get started.

I washed down the fire surround using sugarsoap and a cloth, then rinsed it well with clean water. I then left it to dry overnight. The following day I gave it one coat of paint using the new chalk paint I had bought. The tin of paint has full instructions on the side for getting the best from the paint and it is a pleasure to use. I ended up giving the fire surround three coats of paint over three days.

I was so so happy with the results. It transformed the fire surround and I fell in love with it straight away. I couldn’t get over what a different a coat of paint did to it. I had gone from wanting to rip it out, to being proud to have it as a feature in our living room. It now also fit the colour scheme we were planning for the rooms.

It is advised when using chalk paint to varnish it, as over time the paint may start to peel/fade. Giving it a coat or two of varnish makes it much more durable and it also makes dusting the fire surround easier as the varnish provides a smooth finish. I gave the fire surround two coats of varnish, using a shaped varnish brush. I didn’t use Annie Sloan varnish as I couldn’t get back down to the shop in the time I had. I ended up using DecoArt – Americana Décor Varnish – Soft Touch. I found it easy to use and gave the fire surround a lovely protective coat.

In total, including the varnish brush, I spent £28.45 and the results were amazing. The fire surround had been transformed and I loved it.  We decided not to put a fire there at this time as it’s not something we use and it was a cost we didn’t need to spend at the time. Instead I picked up some flowers from Wilkinson’s in shades of black, white and teal and popped them in a vase, which was then placed in the centre of the fire surround.

fireplace Fireplace after 1 Fireplace after 2

Any type of fire surround can be painted, sanded, varnished etc. so before you rip anything out see what you could do to your fire surround to jazz it up, freshen it up or transform it.   If you don’t have a fire surround and are looking for one as part of your decorating, try local free/cheap sites such as Gumtree and Freecycle, or head down to a local reclamation yard or second hand furniture shop and see what they have, as you can often pick up one for a fab price.  Just make sure you measure the minimum/maximum size of the space to ensure it will fit!

Don’t forget to keep any paint you have left over too. It comes in handy for a quick touch up if needed and also can be used on other items to colour match. I used the Annie Sloan paint on a photo frame and plant pot.


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