before & after: fireplace transformation

As a renter, it’s so easy to forget that many people are taking steps to actively and dramatically alter the environment they live in. I love being reminded of this fact, and I’m definitely storing inspiration for when I live in a place where I can be a bit more hands on. I can’t wait! When Alice and her husband recently decided to renovate their apartment, the one thing they knew had to go was this 80s brick fireplace tucked into the corner. In addition to opening up the space — so that the fireplace could reside in the center of a more open, airy room — they managed to snag the new mantel after spotting it in a flower shop and inquiring if it was for sale. It was, and the rest is history. The hand-carved details on the new fireplace look lovely in bright white, and the new layout feels like a breath of fresh air. Great work, Alice! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read more about how Alice achieved such a drastic fireplace transformation after the jump!

Time: 2 weeks

Cost: $1500

Basic Steps: Together we designed the entire renovation of our home, and like everything else, it evolved. That brick clunker had to go, and fast! We didn’t even consider painting it white or trying to save it. The house was built in 1890, so there must have been a classy fireplace there at one point. When we found the mantel, we discussed painting it gray, stripping it etc. . . . but eventually decided on simple, clean and white. Since it’s a working fireplace, we knew we’d be spending many long winter days and nights in front of it with friends and family. We wanted something pretty to look at year round, something that would make sense in 100 years, something elegant. Anything was going to be better than the banged up 80s brick beast. Now it has room to breathe on both sides.

Our advice: Take exact measurements and do some sketches or photo mock-ups before committing 100%. We must have looked at and researched hundreds of reclaimed, salvaged, antique, cast iron, wood, you-name-it mantels and stoves before finding the one we loved. Do not attempt to do this without the help of someone (professional) who knows how to a) demolish an existing fireplace without damaging any of the good, working parts; and b) properly and securely attach a new mantel. — Alice

  1. Rachel May says:

    Beautiful! I love the before and afters.

  2. Sara says:

    Yes, Beautiful before and after. Love the new fireplace!

  3. Katie says:

    This is such a beautiful new fireplace! I love all of your choices with the white, and the screen is fabulous. I am SO glad that you kept the brick hearth as well!


  4. tricia says:

    Just wondering – why do you need to demolish the brick – why not lay the wood facade over top? Maybe I’m missing something but it seems like a ton of work! It’s beautiful though.

  5. hyzen says:


  6. Wendy says:

    Hey Alice – lovely renovation! What did you do to the floors? Love them as well.

  7. Rachel Tatem says:

    What a huge difference!

  8. Rinna says:

    so nice, i love the floor as well and the extra space from the wall being knocked down, a really fab B&A as it shows such a huge transformation

  9. I love that you kept the brick floor around the new mantel. the rustic floor against the new clean mantel is really nice.

  10. Scott says:

    The room is gorgeous! The fireplace details and balance of the room is spot on. The brick hearth is a nice touch and very period appropriate. Congratulation to a terrific job well done!

  11. Jennifer says:

    Love it! The mirror is a great touch. I like the black, white and gold and the crisp white juxtaposed against the rustic floor and brick. I hope we get to see more of your renovations on future before + afters!

  12. Louisa says:

    Love the new look!! What a difference! However, I’m a little concerned about fire hazard. Is it a wood mantel? If so usually there needs to be at least a 6″-12″ non combustable surface (eg: tile, stone, brick) surrounding the opening to the fire. If the flat part touching the opening to the fire is wood in this photo, I would not be lighting real fires in it. If it a cast faux stone then it’s ok.

  13. Amazing! And the re-finished floors are spectacular. I love how much paler they are now. Hard to believe it is the same space . . .

  14. a+c says:

    Thanks everyone!

    Hi Wendy — the floors were sanded and treated with a flat-finish poly. That’s pretty much it. They looked really dark before, when they had been treated with high gloss. We basically wanted them to feel like raw wood, but they have just enough protection against stains.

    Louisa — no need to worry about a fire hazard. There is a 3/4″ steel sheet attached to about 5″ of concrete binder below the mantel. We had it inspected, and many fires all through last winter … it’s sound. There is such a strong updraft from the flue that the fire always stays to the back of the box.

  15. Lauriz (The Argie) says:


  16. kate says:

    georgous! Would you mind telling me what the paint color for the room is? We also have an 1890s house with similar moulding and have been looking for the perfect color!

  17. The entire transformation is phenomenal! I love the surround chosen as well as the amazing accessories! I’m super envious of your mirror!

  18. A+C says:

    Hi Kate – The paint is Benjamin Moore white eggshell on the walls, and Benjamin Moore Dove White semi gloss on the trim.

    Thanks HouseofEarnest – After searching flea markets and antique sellers for a perfect and affordable mantle mirror, we unexpectedly found this at Ethan Allen.

  19. cassie says:

    Absolutely stunning! The floors are beautiful as well.

  20. Hannah says:

    Great job, and the new fireplace looks like an amazing centrepiece for the newly expanded room. It looks like it was well worth the $1500 spent.

  21. Charis says:

    Really well done. I enjoy seeing the pics of the project in process. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Jenny says:

    this is gorgeous!

  23. Absolutely gorgeous! Love the styling and the floors too!

  24. Jennifer says:

    Perfection! We recently moved into an early 90s house (1990s) and the big blah clunker fireplace mantle has to go, too. I’ve found my inspiration.

  25. Lisa says:

    Amazing and beautiful transformation.

  26. Jenny C. says:

    I love it! I especially love the mirror. Is there a term for that type of mirror so I could look for one? Thanks!

  27. Kim says:

    Beautiful! I’m shocked by the price for renovation. Seriously? How did you keep the cost so low? I’m looking to tear down my fireplace too.

  28. I like that small amount of brick on the floor that was left. You might have not intended that or had to leave it there… but I think it gives a nice touch. :)

  29. This fireplace has got to be one of my all time favorite transformations. It is so lovely after the make over, you would think it was original long after the house has new owners. What a great project to make an ordinary 1980’s fireplace into a classic elegant fireplace. They are fortunate that they were able to expand on the left side of the fireplace, what an improvement! Love It!!!

  30. Catherine says:

    Wow! What a great transformation! I am heading off to Ethan Allen for that mirror now. Thanks!

  31. Leone says:


  32. Lucy says:

    It’s great to see the images of all the in-between stages as well as the final result -it’s easy to underestimate the hassle and mess involved with replacing a fire surround. And just look at how the fireplace changes the character of the room!

  33. Rebecca says:

    And the floors are gorgeous! Love the finish

  34. Lea Fasano says:

    Great end result. Any ideas about where to look for salvaged mantels? We are in eastern MA and have not come across a good one for our 1880s home. We have an awful, painted brick mantel that looks a lot like your “before.”

    P.S. The Benjamin Moore trim color must be White Dove, as Dove White does not exist.

  35. SUE says:

    Now that is one beautiful fireplace. Love it.

  36. Joanne says:

    We are actually getting ready to do the same thing but didn’t think we has to break up the bricks on the sides. Why did u do that? It looks awesome. Where did u find that screen? So cool!

  37. Ruth says:

    This is stunning. A lot of hard work but worth it. This project demanded vision and determination you guys have both in bucket loads obviously.

  38. Looks lovely! So much better. I would have never thought of painting a fireplace but this looks fantastic! I see what you mean by bringing out the features.

  39. John says:

    Hi Katie, loving the look of the new fire surround, the character of the room has drastically changed and looks fantastic!

  40. Larry says:

    Looks Great Good Work!

  41. Emily says:

    Love this! Do you know what the style of fireplace is called? I’m trying to find one that is similar..but really struggling :(


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.