Updated: Mar 20
A couple of months ago I looked around my house and realized it was becoming a case of 'the cobbler and his own shoes' scenario. I know it is time to paint the entire house, but I just can’t justify taking the time to do that at the moment. So, I took the weekend and tackled a little fireplace update instead.
Nothing major, but it is one of those projects that was never finished from the time I moved in. I was always waiting for inspiration. Stacked stone? Tile? Stucco?
It's a unique design and I wasn't sure how much I wanted to alter it (and no, I still haven't decided). But I found an irresistible wallpaper when I was searching for a footstool for a client (don't judge me - you get distracted too). So, for the time being, this will have to do.
First, I painted the firebox black. The light color has always bothered me, and I felt compelled to scrub it anytime I used my fireplace. I rolled on Rust-Oleum High Heat in black – and took it as high up into the chimney as I could reach. (I didn’t want to see any of that white brick peeking out if I ever decide to lounge in front of the fireplace on that bear skin rug I will never have.)
The brick surround and hearth have always been a bit pink for my taste, but I struggled with how to update it and maintain the arch. So, for now, I covered it with a concrete stain a shade lighter than that I used on my floors. However, it did not have enough depth for me. So, not to be one to leave well enough alone, I experimented with ways to add texture.
I tried dry brushing it. I tried watering it down. It just didn’t work the way I wanted.
I landed on a dark walnut stain over the top (I think I had added a bit of ebony to darken it even more). Full disclosure: it was a can I found it in the garage. A left over from refinishing my Grandmother’s dining table six or seven years ago. Thankfully, stain does not have a strict shelf life!
The magic potion wound up being a thorough coat of stain, dabbing it to get into all of the crevices. I let it set for a few minutes then hit the high spots with an old t-shirt, leaving the mortar lines with more coverage. This added just enough to keep it looking ‘natural’.
It took a good portion of the day. When I got to the final piece I was too tired to wrestle with the longest one - from a whole new roll of paper. I took a break and waited until the following morning to finish when I was fresh. I would highly recommend a lovely assistant to help with a project like this. Especially with the peel-n-stick. It kept sticking to itself and causing me to start all over again. Traditional paste allows more 'forgiveness' during installation, but not so much when removing. That is truly where this is a dream. No residue, no struggling, just clean removal.
While I’m pretty happy with the results, I know it is only a temporary fix. There are some definite challenges with the peel-n-stick wallpaper options - in addition to it sticking to itself! It started separating on me (see the lines?). I'm not sure if it is temperature, or if it had stretched or something, but over the few days following the install, it got worse. Since the initial installation, I have been able to fix most of the issues... and most people who enter my home don't notice, but my eye goes straight to the mistakes. Does that happen to you in your home?
Here are a couple of tips if you decide to install peel-n-stick in your own home:
1. Get Help! I know we are supposed to be practicing "social distancing" right now, so if you don't have anyone in your home that is currently in isolation with you - try a smaller area before you try installing a 10' long piece on your own! Trust me!
2. Overlap it slightly. I typically do this on regular pasted wallpaper, so I don't have an accuse why I didn't put that into practice here. Try overlapping by 1/16" or so... you don't want to create a shadow, but it should be enough to prevent full separation if yours decides to shrink like mine did.
3. Be patient. I am not the best at this when I'm working on my own projects. So do as I say, not as I do. If it's not working, stop for a minute and think about another approach if possible. If you take your time and use your help wisely, I do think you will be happy with the results.
I am glad that I decided to take this on and try the peel-n-stick in my own home before recommending it to a client. There are many options out there that can be a fun, quick fix for many spaces.
For this project, eventually, I will find the perfect combination of inspiration, time, and resources in the same moment to make a more permanent design decision. Or maybe I’ll reach out to a fellow designer and have them find the answer for me. It’s always easier to solve someone else’s design dilemmas than our own!
In the meantime, I’m going to grab a glass of Pinot and sit in front of the fire. I’ll try to enjoy this update for a few minutes before I catch a spark of inspiration for a new project to attack. (like painting the whole house! Now that ceiling color is driving me mad!)