The Brick Fireplace (#2!) – Pick My Presto

Hey there- and welcome to another installment of Pick My Presto!

I read this comment on Monday’s Pick My Presto post

…and was totally intrigued!

I invited Julie to send me a photo of it, to see if I could come up with anything to help kick start her creative juices. Here’s the photo she sent in…

…and here’s the inspiration drawing I had fun creating for her…

(Move your cursor on and off of the photo below)

(Note: My drawing is for inspirational purposes only, and the ideas shown in it are just that. Spontaneous, totally flexible, just-for-fun, ideas. And since this is a just-for-fun-photo-consultation, and not an actual-and-perfectly-to-scale-virtual-consultation, I have no idea if any of the furniture, ideas or accessories I used in the drawing would actually work in the room. Boom.)

Here’s a still image in case you couldn’t view the presto change-o above…

The idea with this one was to help Julie figure out a way to make the off-center firebox not feel like it was quite so off-center. And I don’t even know if what I came up with is even possible in real life, but it’s what popped into my noggin’ when I was putting it together, so I went with it!

First up, I suggested adding some sort of shallow built-in cabinets, that stick out just a little, so that they’re in line with the brick fireplace facade. I thought doing that would kind of counter balance the visual weight of the brick fireplace, and make it feel more like one big unit. And then maybe the firebox would feel more balanced because of the visual interest created by the items inside the bookcases.

The built in’s could have glass doors, like the ones in my inspiration drawing, or even just be a series of cubbies and/or drawers, like Janice’s from Canadian Cottage

If there’s a way to do it, the sky’s the limit!

I tied the fireplace and the built-in’s together by spanning a white-painted mantel all the way across the two. To make sure the fireplace stayed the center of attention though, I showed a separate, deeper mantel popping out over just the firebox. Attaching some smooth, thin, luan paneling to the brick above the fireplace mantel, (so that it matches the smoothness of the wall to the right of it) and painting everything from the mantel up to the crown molding the same color, continues to visually tie the two sides together. Again, spreading the same wall color across the entire upper part of that area makes everything feel sort of feel like one big unit, and less like two separate spaces, which helps takes some of the weight off that heavy, off-centered firebox.

You’ll also notice I showed what it might look like to tone down the bricks a bit. Not 100% necessary, but again, it’s just an idea that popped in my noggin, and ever since I read this post, I’ve been sort of obsessed with the whole brick staining process. The post was written by a gal named Elizabeth, and these photos she posted with it had me at hello…

If you’re familiar with the brick staining process and have ever written a blog post about it, please leave a link to it in the comments. We’re dyin’ to see more stained brick before and after photos and hear all about your experience!

Last but not least, here are some of the inspirational elements I plucked from the web to put together my drawing…

(chair, log holder, picture frames, plant pots & fire screen photos- Pottery Barn; yarn-wrapped votives-; fireplace photo,

Thank you for the opportunity to pick your presto this week, Julie!
I look forward to selecting another one sometime soon!

Wanna submit a photo for our Pick My Presto series?

Send an email to¬†PickMyPresto [at] aol [dot] com titled, “PICK MY PRESTO- Living Room. (Replace the words Living Room with whatever type of room you’re actually submitting.) In the body of the email, include your name, your blog name (if you have one) your design likes & dislikes, and one photo of the space in question. (No links please.) It should be clear, and measure at least 400 pixels high x 600 pixels wide. (In other words: at least 4″high x 6″ wide) The bigger the better! Make sure it’s a photo you’re comfortable with us showing and writing about on our blog. Then, whenever I’m feelin’ the urge, I’ll randomly select someone’s email and have a little fun creating some traditional or cottage style presto change-o inspiration. Oh, and since I love surprises, I probably won’t email you to let you know I’ve “picked your presto” unless I have a specific question for ya about your space.


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  1. says

    Brick staining?!?! How did I miss this? We have a house full of red brick {blech!} and my husband is 100% anti white brick, so they’ve stayed red.

    Off to investigate. Thanks so much for sharing! I love what you’ve done with her fireplace.

  2. says

    I LOVE it and love all your pick my presto picks!! You are so talented. I totally want to learn how to pick my presto too! Wishing you a beautiful joy filled day Layla!!! :)

  3. says

    Seriously, you never cease to amaze me. Every time I think, “what in the world could she do with that?” and you hit it out of the park every time!!! Beautiful design!

  4. says

    Unbelievable! It’s a wonder you can sleep at night with all that creativeness floating around in your head! And I totally agree with Shirley, you never cease to amaze me either!

    Many Blessings,

    • Layla says

      Well, thank you Melissa! I’m usually pretty exhausted from renovating and/or looking at the computer screen all day so I just sorta konk out when my head hits the pillow! :-D LOL!

  5. Kristina says

    Again….AMAZING! I can’t wait to share our before & after pictures with you – you’re an inspiration!!!!! :D

  6. says

    I’m so glad you posted the link about coloring brick. If you learn more, please post about it! I have pink brick on the outside of my house and a light pinkish fireplace. I would love to hear more about how I can de-pink!

  7. says

    Genius! It’s amazing how that molding pulls it all together!

    I may be asking too much here, but what software do you use for these changes? Is it straight photoshop? polyvore? I’m so intrigued!

  8. says

    Beautiful job! I really love the cabinets to the side. I need to send you a pic of my living room and dining room, I have to get some new curtains and possibly paint again and am stuck!

  9. Monica Cook says

    Beautiful! I will be submiting my photo of my living room that I have done over 5 times and can’t seem to get it right. You are amazing!

  10. says

    Is it horribly sad or hilarious (or both) that I log in to my computer each morning and the FIRST thing I do is go check to see if you’ve done another PMP! You are amazing.

  11. says

    I am seriously hooked on The Lettered Cottage! I’m in the final stages of buying my first home and I can’t wait to start decorating and making it my own!! You’re SUCH an inspiration.

  12. says

    Looks UH-MAZING. Talk about a total transformation. I don’t know how you do all that on photoshop, I have yet to even figure the basics out. Maybe one of these days, you could give us a few tips!

  13. says

    I saw those comments and wondered how you could fix an off centered fireplace-amazing job!

    I’ve also been thinking of you a lot since all the MOWA drama is happening…I do hope for a quick process for your family. Our daughter came home last summer from ET, her orphanage name was Layla House. Have you heard of it? Anyway, if you didn’t know, Layla in Amharic is Swimming. So it makes NO sense for an orphanage name, but it stuck. :)

    happy Friday,

  14. Missy G. says

    GORGE!! I hope that Julie is able to implement some of your ideas.

    I have GOT to send you a picture of my front room. It’s a hodge podge of horrible spaces that are not cohesive, and I hate it. I think cleaning it up a little and getting a picture of it needs to be #1 on my To Do list this weekend!!

  15. says

    Oh… it’s so on… I’m submitting pictures of the single-wide room. by. room.

    LOVE what came out of your noggin’!!!!!

    ;-D robelyn

  16. Kim in Iowa says

    I, too, am very intrigued by this brick staining – I sent you a picture of our living room with it’s ugly dark brick with a dark brown mortar. I need to investigate this process now! I have to find a way to get rid of the little man who is staring at me from one of the bricks – that’s right, it’s a brick that has what looks like a little man just leering at me. Been the bane of my existance for 10 years now! It’s begging to be a focal point and one day it will be! Thanks for the inspiration!

    :) Kim in Iowa

  17. says

    Beautiful solution to a seemingly “un-“fixable “problem”.
    A LOT of things are off-center in our home – makes me NUTty.
    I mutter the words “visual balance” a lot – you’ve achieved that in this
    Pick My Presto – you amaze once again!

  18. Kim in MD says

    Layla- you have amazing design talent! The ideas you have for this off-center fireplace are gorgeous! I love the ida of the brick staining…the last fireplace in my house (that we haven’t re-done) is dark red brick. I am going to check into the staining process! Thanks so much! :-)

  19. says

    This is awesome! I do have another idea, though – – – what about hanging a small white painted door in that dead space to the right of the firebox (just above where you placed the wood)? Just a thought, to fake a built-in cabinet there. It would need to be small scale, as if covering a niche. ??

  20. GinaE says

    The first brick fireplace was a WOW. Now this one is a SUPER WOW!!!!! Your are one gifted girl, Layla!!!

  21. says

    Amazing of course!! I am hoarding all this pics. We are looking at houses in our new city and I am pretty sure we will end up with a brick one and I have also seen a lot of off centered ones!!
    As usual thanks for all teh great inspiration!!

  22. Kelly says

    Built in’s are awesome, but if you’re not handy AND want the glass front doors, look into IKEA’s upper kitchen cabinets. We used the shorter ones (the ones you put over a stove fan or refrig.) and made a built in banquette and topped it with their inexpensive butcher block.

    • Layla says

      Hey Kelly! I actually thought about those when I was drawing! We can never figure out how to attach ‘em, but those things are so awesome and inpensive!

  23. Penny says

    I read that post the other day and was curious….I’m so glad you blogged it so quickly =) Love your decorating style!!

  24. Tina K says

    Okay…looks like we’re all addicted to your PMPs now! I stopped before scrolling down to see what I thought could be done and I was just shaking my head, so hats off to you…again! :)

  25. Natalie says

    This is completelly amazing and jaw dropping!! Between yesterday’s and today’s post, I’m geared up to tackle the ugly brick fireplace wall in my bedroom. Thank you for sharing these prestos!

    • Layla says

      LOL! My wrist would probably be shot by the time I finished, but man does that sound like a fun challenge!

  26. Gale says

    LOVE it!! For easier-than-built-in bookcases that could be trimmed up with some molding and a mantel, try the Billy bookcases from Ikea. Hmmmm…. I think Maillardville Manor did something like that in their library in their new house? (Blog bloat in my head but I know I’ve seen it someplace!) :) GREAT look on this one, Layla! :)

  27. Jen says

    I’ve really enjoyed seeing what you’ve done with fireplaces, and you’ve given me some wonderful ideas. I just painted our hearth white (and should have done it long ago!) It really brightened up a corner of the house. So, while it looks prettier, I still don’t know what to do with the wood burning stove that’s sitting ON the hearth in the corner of my family room. Very cute, and we do use it in the winter. But I spend most of my energy trying to keep the kids from knocking out their teeth or crashing heads on the hearth instead of decorating it. Have you any ideas for a CORNER fireplace?? Love your style!!

  28. Jewel says

    Amazing! Love it so much. Makes me want an off centered fireplace so I could have those lovely built-ins next to it too!

  29. says

    You are a genius! I really want to learn how to do my own presto-chango’s in photoshop. I love digital scrapbooking, but so far, I haven’t figured out how to recolor a wall in my kitchen photo. :) Love your work!

  30. says

    If you’re going to put up some sort of panelling on the top half, why not just continue it down the right side? Then the fireplace would be centered in the brick that’s left. I think that would look really nice.

  31. Tracey says

    Whoa, either I really wasn’t paying attention or you’re just that darn good…I didn’t even notice the firebox was off centered. I re-read the comment and was thinking ” what hole is not centered?” Duh! I guess a beautiful design can definately make a flaw less noticable. I’ve definately got to send you a picture of my kitchen. Fantastic!

  32. Kati says

    I had to laugh when I read this post; now I see where the beige stone and cedar shakes came from! But I think that part of the reason why Elizabeth’s “after” photo looks nice is that the wood is on the roof, not on the sides and front of the house (and I like your grey metal roof more!), and also the brick stain looks grey, rather than its actual brownish tone!

    And check it out–the stained brick in your presto is really set off by the black and green accents and crisp white paint (not beige or tan) on the walls and ceiling.

    By the way, in the past you introduced us to the blog “Frugal Farmhouse Design” which is now one of my other favorites. Lori had this post a while back about using a paint wash on brick:

    But isn’t the brick/stone on your house exterior already painted? If so, would a wash of paint work on an already painted surface? Or is the pale grey of your house brick/stone its natural. unfinished color? Or are you just interested in the brick stain/wash for just general use on unfinished brick and future projects, not on your house exterior?

    I’m enjoying these prestos and look forward to your blog every day!

  33. says

    Awesome transformation. I love how the one simple wood holder visually balances out the asymmetry better than trying to stack on too much stuff. I love all the Pick my Prestos. Keep ‘em coming! :-)

  34. says

    Hi Layla!

    This is a great transformation! Love them all!

    We stained our rock fireplace just a few months ago… I’ve been meaning to do a full living room post, but haven’t gotten around to it with the boys to chase after! The rocks were so old and dry-looking. It is such a nice improvement! Here is the link to the Christmas decor/setup (the only before/after pics that I have so far):

  35. angela r j says

    I think you’ve struck a chord with the fireplace revamps. We’ve got one on our main level and in the basement, both of which we’ve done nothing to yet because I can’t sort out in my head what I want to do (to say nothing of the rest of my house—decorating and design is not my forte, although I read enough blogs and look at enough pictures that I like to think I have hope). Maybe I’ll try my own presto-chango to help me solidify something. I love what you came up with for this fireplace. I’ve read you guys for a while and I really enjoy the energy you put off and the inspiration you are to so many. Thanks. :)

  36. says

    I love your style and your blog! We moved into a home with a very large red painted wall in the living room,

    and an entire wall of oak built ins. It would be fun to see what it would like in a neutral color wall and white

    painted built ins without all the work of painting it first. Just like magic.

    Keep up the great work!

  37. Di says

    You are so very talented. I love everything you do. I’m always like an excited puppy showing my husband, look, look, look what Layla’s done….we should do that too. You are often spoken of in our home here in Australia, quite highly I might add. Keep up with the inspiring work that you do so well, we love it!

  38. Julie says

    I cannot believe how fantastic these changes are. Whereever do you pull these ideas from??? I am so tremendously excited and humbled that you took the time to do this so quickly. I’m studying the pictures now, trying to figure out what to tackle first ;) You’ve blown this out of the water–I was expecting just a few strategically placed candlesticks and pictures, but you really really nailed it!

    Love this, love your blog, love your style!! THANK YOU!

    • Layla says

      Yay! So glad you liked the inspiration drawing Julie! I had an absolute ball putting it together for you!


  39. says

    speaking of brick…we are moving into a home with all reddish brick fireplace..which I don’t mind so much…but..the soot looks terribly…is there a solution to clean the brick? Not sure I’d want to stain or paint but maybe…I’m a visual girl so I need to see it first, that’s why I love your pick my presto’s so much, you can SEE it!

  40. says

    Read both of the off centered fireplace pick my presto posts and after you waved your wand, they look spectacular. I am going to have to send a photo of my ‘off centered’ fireplace. It’s off center on the wall and room.

    Your Friend,

  41. says

    How Layla,

    I’m so glad you stumbled upon my blog post about brick staining. I had not been aware of it before this particular job where my client had done it at his previous home in Carmel. Now I see endless possibilities for its use. I did not get involved with the actual staining technology but I do believe it was one of these two products.

    Obviously, it is very much a custom job and experimentation is necessary.

    I love what you did with the fireplace. And it’s so nice to have discovered your blog. Thanks again for the mention.

    Eliizabeth Brown

  42. Izabela says

    Oh my goodness! I just found your blog and I feel like a little kid in a candy store. I’m a huge fan of YHL, but you guys are just incredible too. I think I might participate in the “Pick my Presto” project. Our living room currrently resembles what yours looked like before the re-do. Oh I am so excited. Thank you for sharing your life.

  43. chris says

    i wonder if to further center the fireplace you could cover the portion of the brick with and extended version of the built ins you drew. of course the inside wouldnt match in depth but to the eye it would seem the same.

    just a thought as i have never built anything in my life. lol

  44. Marti says

    I was so excited to see your post about staining the brick…and the link to I own a home which has a particularly ugly color of red brick.
    I went to the Sherwin Williams website to find the specific color of the brick referenced, the ” colonial revival stone” SW #2827. Turns out, this is a paint color, not a stain. Also, the HC stain company referenced is for concrete staining of smooth concrete floors and patios, etc. They do not make a brick stain and they do not make a color called “colonial revival stone.” That’s the Sherwin Williams paint color.
    I have had wonderful luck painting brick in the past. I think this is the only way you can transform brick. If you have any suggestions, I’d love them. Just wanted to clarify the color on that house which does look smashing!!!

  45. Jessica from Canada says

    Stunning! You are genius :) Also love the Canadian Cottage inspiration, I love her blog too! Is TLC on Pinterest? I just adore your style, and I am sure you would have the most amazing “pins” out there for your fans to follow. Keep up the amazing work.

  46. says

    Can I get an AMEN! You truly have a God given talent. The cabinets look soooooo gud. I need to just start printing off your stuff and tacking it to my walls for inspiration.

  47. Elaine says

    WELL HERE’S ONE FOR YOU : I’ve got an off center fireplace WITH an off center opening! It’s stuck in a corner not facing our living area, it’s dark red brick with BLACK morter, and an eye sore! Well… my whole living room area needs a redo including furnishings….but funds simply aren’t abundant :(. But sometimes these small changes can make a BIG impact! I actually e-mailed you about this fireplace dilema hoping for your opinion back when you were doing the send in $10 for your opinion thingamajig. It has been fun seeing you work your magic throughout your site. If you’re ever in Michigan I’d love to go antiquing or junking with ya :).

  48. Andrea says

    So, what do you recommend for a fireplace shoved randomly into the corner of a long room? It feels totally disconnected from the rest of the living space, but I don’t really think there is room to add an easy chair, bookshelves, or anything that might make the space useful.

  49. says

    Hi, Layla! Great transformation. I’m so so sorry to hear about Bean cat, makes me sad for you. Wish I could have come & stayed with you while Kevin was gone, but so glad he is coming home.

    Here’s a post I did 3 years ago on a local B’ham redesign, using everything they already had (and before I took decent pics!). I suggested they paint their fireplace mantel & bricks & they found a glaze process that looked great on the bricks. There’s a good B&A shot of the fireplace here:

  50. says

    Hi! I found your site as I was looking for inspiration for my brick fireplace, which I’m considering painting white. I absolutely adore your blog! I will definitely be following from now on and adding to my blog’s “reading list”! P.S. You two are too cute :) I love the name Layla, my one year old daughter is Leila, pronounced the same way.

    Marina at Yummy Mummy

  51. says

    I saw this post and got excited myself. I have one of those off centered fireplaces that has a semi built in beside of it. It makes for a HUGE decorating challenge!

  52. Deb Houston says

    Hi Layla, I am desperate to find some solutions to my off center fireplace dilema. The fireplace is a working one and we want to keep it that way but need some design assistance. The house was built in 1961 and we moved in about a year ago just after my husband’s dad passed away. Because cost is an issue we have to pick our projects carefully and we are both ready to demo the fireplace but don’t want to do anything until we have “A Plan! (That’s my husband talking!) We want to get rid of the brick and update the fireplace, but are having issues with the best way to do this when the fireplace isn’t centered in the room. Would you consider giving us some ideas?

  53. Clementine says

    Layla, you are a magician. I think the new look is better with the fireplace a bit off center. It looks lovely and fresh. Very laylaesque. That’s a new word. I just invented it. French Country, Contemporary, Laylaesque? Sound good?

  54. Christina says

    What computer program do you use to plan out your rooms??? We just moved and my husband is not a very imaginable person of what could go where lol. I think it would help out a lot:)

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