The Brick Fireplace – Pick My Presto

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

This week, I picked a photo sent in by a gal named Jen. She wanted some design inspiration for her huge, off-centered brick fireplace…

She said the beams weren’t structural (they’re just a decorative element the previous homeowner added), and that’s she’s ready and rarin’ to redo this room! So I put my thinking cap on and created this presto change-o drawing to see if something like this might work 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 or accessories I used in the drawing would actually fit in the room. Boom.)

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

Basically, I smoothed out the ceiling, and suggested she cover up the majority of the brick with some kind of paneled treatment. It doesn’t have to look exactly like the one I showed in the drawing, but for a crisp, classic, traditional look, that design might actually do the trick. I also suggested she continue whitewashing the bricks. (She already started doing it and you can see it below the mantle in her before photos above. The bricks on the hearth are still un-whitewashed.) Next, I thought it might be a good idea to balance some of the visual weight of the big fireplace by using a dark-stained chest of drawers and a grouping of wood-framed prints on the wall above it. I’m not sure what the rest of the room looks like, or if a piece of furniture would actually work in that spot, but just based on this view, that arrangement seemed to work pretty well visually. I thought a color like Restoration Hardware’s Silver Sage would look great on the walls, and Benjamin Moore’s Moonlight White would freshen up all the trim and new fireplace facade. I threw in a dark hardwood floor, just for fun, and a mirror from Pottery Barn hangs over the new mantel. I’m sure drilling through the brick so that Jen can mount sconces would be a tough and dirty job, but man don’t they look sharp? I’m such a sucker for sconces!

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

(pillows, rug, pots & dresser- Pottery Barn, other images- Google)

Thank you for the opportunity to pick your presto this week, Jen!

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. Julie says

    This is fantastic-looking! You’re a genious! Although, I have to admit I’m a little–ok, a lot–disappointed that this isn’t a “off-centered hole” design, which is what I have & virtually IMPOSSIBLE to decorate :(

    Another beautiful job!

  2. Debbie says

    AMAZING transformation! The paneled wall and fireplace surround is a perfect way to downplay the brick and create a gorgeous focal point. Love the dark chest and pictures, along with the choice of wall color. I am curious what you suggested to do about the white faux beams.

    • Layla says

      Yank ‘em and smooth that ceiling out! I’m not sure how exactly…but I’m sure it can be done! :-D

      • Katie says

        We had some of those same faux beams in our living room. We did take them down and they were actually some sort of weird styrofoam hollow things that were just attached to some some wood cleats (I think that’s what they’re called). We still need to skim coat over some sort of adhesive that was holding the edges to the ceiling as even with primer and paint the adhesive still bleeds through, but pretty easy to remove!

  3. says

    Layla, I love your Presto’s best of all. They are always amazing. I think it is great that you took all the pressure off of being perfect and making sure everything fits in real life. What is fun is the inspiration. I could look at these Prestos all day. Your taste validates many of my ideas when I was redoing my old house. Unfortunately, my husband and I are older and not handy around the house. I got many things done before we had a reverse of fortune and ran out of money. I can’t wait to get some wooden roll shades and curtains for my big windows and I need a big plant in the corner, but I would love to see some of your ideas for my rooms.

  4. Deb-IL says

    Love that change-o! And you actually made it EASIER for her to put sconces up because the electric can be run BEHINd the new paneling. No need to drill into the brick to do it. The paneling should be held away from the brick with firring strips anyway so there will be space to run the electric.

  5. Melanie says

    I love it! And it looks like it would be a relatively easy transformation. And since the paneling is being added, I would think they could float it enough to run wiring behind, instead of having to drill through brick? Because those sconces are fantastic!

  6. says

    This is a great transformation! I love the idea of the panels as they add class and make the fireplace look less massive. The mirror is beautiful by the way.

    Greetings from Paris!

  7. says

    I always love your makeovers! You have such an amazing ability to see the best in every room – they are so inspiring! :) Thanks for sharing Layla!

  8. says

    That looks great! I like how the paneling and the mantel create a centred look, even though it’s not centred on the wall. Sconces could work without drilling if they leave some space between the panelling and the brick.

  9. Laurie says

    You have such a beautifully fresh design sense. What a gorgeous plan! What can you tell me about whitewashing brick? I live in a 1970’s colonial and the brick on the outside of the house is dark brown! It’s in great condition but looks dated and spending money to replace the brick seems wasteful.

    Thanks and Blessings to You!

  10. Monica Cook says

    beautiful transformation! the paneling updates the space and the dresser puts the fireplace on center. Again wow!

  11. says

    The panel treatment is PERFECT! It takes that wall from “overwheming” to “over the top!!” The white paint against the dark floor is such a classic contrast that looks so crisp and clean. You nailed this one girl! Love it!!
    I literally could hug that fireplace! :0)

  12. says

    Love it! I love your decor style and inspiration. Keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll pick my room for a presto one of these days! I just love your style.

  13. says

    I love the look of the paneling over the fireplace. Ours is made from ginormous river rock. It goes ceiling to floor, wall to wall. It’s crazy. The redo looks great per usual!

  14. Maureen says

    Laurie, there is exterior brick stain available to change the colour. As a decorator, I recommend it for clients who have patches to cover up or very dated colour (ie white, pink).

  15. Shelley says

    Thanks for including the after photos…I can never seem to get the scrolling over the picture thingy to work. How do you go about smoothing out a ceiling? All of our ceilings are the stupid pointy stuff (kinda like a popcorn ceiling). I HATE it and really want to change it…just don’t know how!

  16. Kim in MD says

    I love Pick My Presto! My husband and I did a total home renovation (it’s been two years now and we are finally done), and we used a stone veneer on two of the fireplaces. They were very dated (35 year old) dark brick with black mortar, but now they are gorgeous stone fireplaces! We still have one large brick fireplace in the basement, and this would be a great way to tone down all of that red brick! I am going to send you photos of my fireplaces (the ones that are now stone). You will be amazed!

    What talent you have, Layla…I love everything you do! :-)

  17. Meredith says

    Hi Layla,
    I love these presto-chango’s. They are so awesome! I hope you keep doing them. They are always a fun break in my day.

  18. says

    Layla, beautiful job as always. You have such good taste. Did you receive the pictures of my house that I emailed to you? I just wanted to make sure you received them. Patsy

  19. says

    LOOOOVE this! I have silver sage in my master suite and have long been a fan of that color. The Pottery Barn mirror over the FP is a beautiful touch, but your new treatment of the FP surround, paneled wall and flagstone hearth is brilliant! Wow, what a gorgeous transformation!!! You inspire me!!

  20. Leah says

    Lay-la Pal-mer had a blog
    and on that blog she waved her wand
    with a paint chip here, and a pretty pillow there
    here a sconce, there a chair
    pretty things every-where…: )

  21. gina says

    I love these presto-chango pix you do!!! This one is really great….love everything. Working on sending in a bunch for you to consider doing.

  22. GinaE says

    WOW Layla, you honestly out did yourself on this one!!!! Candace Olsen on HGTV is one of my favorites and I think you are as good as she is. If I were the gal sending the picture, I would be so thrilled and she didn’t even have to pay a pricey designer. You are soooo talented!!

  23. Tina K says

    We’re looking into buying a home down the street and the living room fireplace looks almost identical to this, except it is centered. I went to bed dreaming about what I would do: build a new mantle. And that’s as far as I got! haha But this is a great idea. If we buy the house, I’ll be putting this into action! Your blog makes me brave!

  24. says

    OH MY GOSH! This is the exact layout of my living room, and I am about to paint it Restoration Hardware’s Silver Sage!! Even before you said it! I have a chair placed just like that already, and I have been trying to figure out what to do with the huge fireplace. We are just like you and Kevin…do EVERYTHING ourselves and always redecorating something or making an addition.

  25. Laurie says

    Love it, love it love it!!! This could be my room. We have a brick fireplace exactly like the one in the picture in our kitchen. It is so big and dark! I would love to do this, now I just need some type of tutorial on how to do it :)

  26. Heather says

    Beautiful!!! We have faux beams on the ceiling in our living room too. I’m not crazy about them, but I have been trying to decide if the room will look too plain without them. I do think they make the room darker though, which is a problem since our living room relies on the surrounding rooms’ windows for light. You just might give me the courage to rip those suckers down!

  27. Nancy says

    We did something similar to this to our ugly, 20 yr old, out of proportion, brick fireplace. We ended up drywalling the area outside of the fireplace surround, and we tiled the ugly pink brick surround and hearth. Sooo much better!

  28. Brigitte says

    This is amazing! Love love love it! We are probably going to be buying another home soon, and it’s probably going to have some touches from the ’90s that will need to leave asap. I can’t wait to start bookmarking some inspiration. A friend of mine just introduced me to some fancy spray paint that you can paint over your old brass faucets, brass shower frames, door knobs, etc. How exciting that awesome changes can be made without gutting the place. :-)

  29. Ana says

    This is soooo gorgeous! We have a HUGE eyesore in our family room where the entire fireplace literally jets out into the room — brick, brick, brick, everywhere a brick!

  30. Nicole says

    Beautiful!!! Two homes ago our back wall had this exact setup (with a beautiful window to the left) and it always drove me crazy. It was my first home and the only part I couldn’t quite figure out… This is beautiful!!! Oh, how ineed help with my mantle now. Fingers are crossed that I’ll someday be honored with a Presto =)

    I love starting my day with your inspiration!!

  31. Kim says

    Layla! You guys are so inspiring! I am getting ready to move in to a REAL fixer-upper (to put it nicely) and basically want to recreate your kitchen in mine! As this fixer upper is going to take a lot of love and time, a room-at-a-time-when-we-can-afford-it….you’ve inspired me to presto my own house. Can’t wait for the current owners to move out so I can take my before photos of it….maybe I’ll just pay them a visit now with my camera ;-) And while I can’t ask you to pick all my rooms to presto – I may submit 1 or 2. Love, love, love your passion for desiging and excitement for decorating on the cheap.

  32. Denise Cosgrove says

    Layla, this is an amazing transformation, as always. You are like a little genie in a bottle that we wish we could all take to our homes and let you work your magic!

  33. Kristina says

    We have an ugly, tall, dar brick fireplace and throwing ideas around of how to beautify it! This is another great idea to throw into the mix! Thank you :D

      • Jen says

        I’m the gal with the ugly fireplace that Layla so brillantly “prestoed” this week. We LOVE LOVE LOVE the changes and will send in photos of the new and improved fireplace as soon as we can figure out how to do it! Layla, you are the absolute best!

  34. says

    I’ve seen you mention virtual consultations. Do you offer those as a paid service? I scoured your blog but couldn’t find anything about hiring you.

  35. Kelley says

    Wow this is exactly what I need to do. Where should I buy wall panels like that for the best price? Thanks!!!!

  36. Sarah says

    Is there an online tutorial on how to do the paneling on that fireplace surround? I have a corner fireplace wall that I would love to try something like this on!!! Thanks. -Sarah

  37. Jill says

    This is Exactly what we’ve been looking for! We have a slight tweak though, in our house the wall to the left is too short for our sofa. I was hoping to level the depth with the base of the fireplace so we can place our couch there. is there anyway to do so without awkwardly sinking in the fireplace? Also any kind of instruction link for DIY paneling over masonry would be a lifesaver! I haven’t found any yet myself but i’ll keep looking!
    Thanks for your help- Jill

  38. Crystal says

    Wow! I though I was the only one that had this problem! Mine is worse it large blah colored stone on a caddie corner wall. MY GOODNESS You have inspired me and given me hope! Thanks

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