Ugly 80s Fireplace Makeover Before and After

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So the other day there was a little project we (I) decided to do impulsively after finding a can of white paint in the basement the previous owners had left. They also were kind enough to leave behind some painting supplies. Clearly this was an invitation to redo the ugly 80s fireplace that is the focal point of our living room.

Ugly 80s fireplace makeover

Every day we stared a the fireplace thinking “we really need to do something with that” but honestly I was afraid to tackle such an important project. Turns out it was really easy and the whole thing only took two coats of white paint to get the look we wanted.

The kitten helped, her name is Cookie. The kids named her based on a song from Steven Universe.

How we painted an ugly 80s fireplace

In the after pictures you’ll also get a taste of our next project, because one thing seems to lead to another. We ended up deciding we need to paint the living room RIGHT NOW. That project is currently underway so expect an update soon.

How we did it

I’m sure there’s a right and a wrong way to paint a fireplace. I’m also going to guess this is later of the two. Regardless, what we actually used to paint the fireplace was primer. We wanted a bright white colour and the brick was pretty dark so we needed good coverage.


Updating an ugly 80s fireplace - before

All we did was use a regular paint brush and filled in the best we could. The trick was to get into all the little nooks and crannies with a fair bit of paint, but not too much to ruin the texture of the brick. We still wanted it to have that rustic look but without the original colours showing through.

It took two coats and a little over an hour to get it looking nice!


Ugly 80s fireplace makeover - after

It sure is amazing what some paint can do!

Unfortunately we don’t have a mantle up yet for the fireplace. We plan on picking up a Lack shelf from Ikea as an inexpensive solution. Turns out the bigger size will be the perfect length!

We also have a can of black metal paint sitting here to touch up the insert but haven’t had the chance to take care of that detail yet.

Still lots of work to do!

Updated for 2021

We have since repainted the living room and are in the middle of adding new baseboards. This is what the paint looks like two years after painting and regular use of the wood burning fireplace. It could use a touch up, but over all has held on.

We also added a mantle using reclaimed barn boards and wooden brackets from Ikea. The wood adds warmth to the cold white fireplace and gives it some texture since it’s inset from the wall. It’s also a great place to decorate!

For the paint, we went with white walls and a blue accent area above the fireplace. The colour is “Chinese Porcelain” which was 2020’s best colours.

Updated fireplace with new paint and a mantle

Next we’ll be finishing off the ceiling, trim, and baseboards – then we need to sand and stain the hardwood this fall.