$20 Fireplace Makeover: How to get a whitewashed look on a fireplace already painted white

20150122_101411Can I just tell you all how much white used to be in our living room/kitchen area? White walls, white shelving, white fireplace, white molding, white doors, white counter tops, and on and on and on. I am so tired of white! But, having just had a baby who was in the hospital for 82 days, we aren’t exactly in a prime position to start house renovations. Perhaps that will come later. In the meantime, for my sanity, I began researching ways to get rid of all this white. My first project (done pre-baby) was to paint the counter tops. You can check out that blog post here. Loved the contrast.

Next, I needed to work on the living room area of this room.

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This is our informal, family room that is open with the Kitchen. Lots of lounging and just hanging out happens in this room. So, I wanted a cozy, inviting feel without being too fussy. To do that I knew I wanted to use warm tones such as browns, golds, and maybe add in some grays, but now that we had our sweet baby it had to be a nap time long project. My first item to tackle was the fireplace.

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I began researching ideas for the fireplace and dumb luck led me to this idea from Lowes. Could it really look as good as it did in the website pictures? I really had nothing to lose at this point. Worst case scenario, I would just paint it all white again.

Here are my supplies:

2 large O-Cel-O sponges

1 quart Valspar Ultra in Smoked Oyster (#6005-1C)

If you have the original brick fireplace, you will also need supplies to paint your brick white first. See the Lowes link referenced above for that info. My fireplace was already white so I skipped this step.

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First, I set to cleaning the fireplace. I grabbed a scrub brush and some warm water. Scrub, scrub, scrub.

Second, I skipped the base coat since my fireplace was already white. If you do need to do the base coat, be sure to talk to your paint person to determine how much paint you need. Brick is porous and can soak a ton of paint into it.

HERE’S A TIP: If you have a fireplace that has already been painted with oil paint or glazed, just sponging with latex paint over that will not be enough to set the latex paint permanently onto the oil or glazed paint. No one really touches our fireplace so I felt fine just painting over the existing oil paint with a latex paint mixed with a primer BUT it would have been a good idea to sand the base coat first, or, better yet, kilz the existing paint on the fireplace before putting the color on to give it something to adhere to. If you scratch hard enough on ours, the paint will come up a bit, but I am okay with just not scrubbing that hard and it still has a good adherence since I bought paint with a primer in it.

I also skipped taping off the edges of the fireplace with painter’s tape. I used latex paint and we have wood floors and wood molding so the key was to just be careful and have a wet rag handy for those times I sponged a little over. Easy to fix if you just wipe it up right away and saves you a ton of time (if you are using Latex). Now, if you are a messy painter, are using oil based, or have carpet, by all means protect your valuables from the paint!

Lastly, I sponged on the paint. I used a large O-Cel-O sponge and a quart can of Valspar Ultra in smoked oyster. Less than $20 in supplies! Honestly, a sample size of the paint mixed with a little water would have been enough but I also have another project in mind for this paint so I went for the quart.

Lowes suggests you cut your sponges to fit exactly to the shapes of the bricks making up your fireplace BUT HERE’S A TIP: Because the mortar in between the bricks making up our fireplace was so much lower than the brick faces (about a 1/2 inch) I did not bother cutting up my sponge to fit the different sizes of the brick. Instead, I just lightly sponged on the bricks with an over-sized sponge but using care not to push so hard on the sponge so as to push the paint on it into the mortar crevices. For the times I did get some into a crevice, I simply wiped down the mortar line with a damp rag until the paint was cleaned up. Time saver!

To paint, pour a small amount of paint into a plastic, flat container. Evenly place your sponge in the paint until the entire bottom side of the sponge is covered. Sponge around on a large piece of cardboard to help spread and even out the paint on your sponge and to get the desired color level you want on your fireplace. If you want a darker look, leave more paint on. If you want a moderate whitewashed look, leave a medium amount of paint. If you want a very whitewashed look, leave just a sparing amount of paint on your sponge. We went for somewhere around medium. Once you get your desired level of color, sponge away on your fireplace. The color will vary, meaning, it will be darker when you first start sponging and lighter right before you need to refill your sponge with more paint. That is what gives this project its realistic look. Feel free to move around and add darker areas once you are done to get a great mix of color and add depth.

Once done, sit back and enjoy! So easy!

I had a recent guest ask if we had scratched the white paint off the fireplace to give it its white washed look. He had no idea it was paint on paint and he was standing just a few feet from it!

HERE’S A TIP: When I first started, I hated the look. But at that point I had committed. As it got closer to being done, I really turned a leaf and fell in love. For some reason when the paint is only on a small section, it really looks sponged (ie: fake) but as you do more it takes on a realistic white washed look. Stick to it and you may be amazed just like I was. SO worth it!

I have a few more plans for the fireplace (painting those bronze doors being first on the list) but for now, I think the cozy feel I was going for has been achieved.

What do you think?

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16 thoughts on “$20 Fireplace Makeover: How to get a whitewashed look on a fireplace already painted white

  1. Julie Curnick says:

    This is fabulous! I am remodeling a condo and this is exactly what I am looking for. What an impressive and immediate change!

  2. Huey-Tyng says:

    I love it! I can’t wait to do something similar at our new house!

  3. Megan says:

    did you use a flat, satin, or semigloss oyster paint?

  4. Stephanie says:

    Did you use a rag to blot the paint after you applied it with the sponge or do you just leave it alone to keep the effect?

    • I actually blotted the sponge on a cardboard box until I got the coverage I wanted and then sponged it onto the fireplace. I repeated that until the fireplace was covered. I did use a wet rag to run down the grout lines to make sure they were clear of paint. Hope that helps Stephanie!

  5. Stephanie says:

    One more question..lol!! Did you wet the sponge like it says to do on the Lowe’s instructions? I really want to make sure mine turns out like yours…it looks beautiful!

    • I used a damp sponge. I played around on some card board until I got the exact texture I wanted. And thank you so much! I truly love it! I will say at first my husband and I had our doubts but as I got closer to finishing it started coming together. Hope the best for your project!

  6. Shelley says:

    Good job!, that looks AWESOME!! You have inspired me to give this a try! 🙂 I already have my first coat of white on. I used some Annie Sloan ‘pure white’ that I already had on hand and so far that seems to have worked fine.

  7. Shelley says:

    I don’t currently have any mortar and am wondering what color I should choose.(?) I was thinking maybe I should go with regular white and add it after I have applied the second coat(oyster color) of paint. What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance!

    • Shelley, help me get a visual. Your brick has no mortar between each brick? So its just brick on brick held together by something very thin?

      • Shelley says:

        Hi! I’m sorry, I should have mentioned that instead of brick, I have a stone veneer( long, rectangular shaped, approx. 2″ thick). My dad and I hung the stone this summer and it is fixed in place with mortar. I have yet to fill in the spaces between the stones with the mortar as well. I have put it off because I think it’s going to be tricky…there is only about 1/8 of an inch or less.

      • Ah, that makes perfect sense now. I would personally try to stay as close to the color of the veneer as possible (assuming the veneer is white/cream color). My reasoning being that this faux whitewashed, vintage look looks best when the background (brick and mortar) are the same color. I would do a test area. Sponge some the oyster on and then add in the mortar to just a less noticeable corner. This way you can get a feel for how well the colors work together before you commit to the mortar color. I hope that helps Shelley!

  8. Krista says:

    Love your results! Was your existing white a pure white-white or darker warm shade like in the Lowe’s tutorial? The Desert Fortress is a warm color, and seems more tan to me than white, but I love all the “used recommended colors” pics on their site as well! I’m so torn which way to go…! But I so cannot wait to get rid of my green and black brick (yeah, 70s….)!

    • Krista, it is a purer white. A slightly creamy white is the way I would describe it. Nowhere near tan though lol. I am so excited for you to get started. It makes such a difference for such a low cost and is relatively easy to do. My favorite kind of project!

  9. jaime says:

    so beautiful….i was about to go repaint my white brick white tomorrow and jumped on here to fine some quick tips. this is beautiful! love it and am doing it 🙂

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