Fabulous new looks for old fireplaces

You don't have to make do with an ugly fireplace – take a look at these two clever makeovers!

Photographs Francois Oberholster and Henrique Wilding • Styling Marian van Wyk

Swellendam, Lisa, lounge, fireplace, makeover, din

Fireplace #1

When Lisa Spaarwater and her husband, Michael Muller, fell in love with the 100-year-old house in Swellendam they now call home, it was definitely not the fireplace that clinched the deal.

“The dark railway sleepers surrounding it were so depressing,” says Lisa of Lemon & Lilac Paint Techniques. “We wanted to strip them down and give them a simpler finish. And the wall was a stark white – reason enough for a makeover!”

Swellendam, Lisa, lounge, fireplace, makeover, din

The fireplace now has a cosy yet contemporary look. The bluish charcoal-grey wall (Plascon’s Chiaro) works perfectly with the white ceiling and rich amber colour of the Oregon pine fireplace surround. Dark grey blanket from MRP Home; rug from Coirtex; ceramic cow (on mantlepiece) from Ceramic Factory; yellow knitted blanket from @home; bright pink Lino cushion (far left on striped sofa) from Design Team; other cushions from Lula Fabrics

Cleaner lines

The previous owner left a pile of Oregon pine planks on the property and Michael decided to use them to give the fireplace a facelift. He removed the outer sleepers and replaced them with a simple border of 110mm-wide Oregon pine. Because this timber is only on the outside of the fireplace and the chimney draws well, it’s not likely to get burnt or become black. Michael treated the timber with Genkem Nova 30 to protect it against rot and wood borers.

The lower sleeper was retained as it served as a good basis for the design of the fireplace, Michael explains. “It was the only part of the original design that we found acceptable. In winter, we regularly braai in the fireplace and the sleeper is sturdy and big enough to hold my cooking dish and braai tools.”

Swellendam, Lisa, lounge, fireplace, makeover, din
I’m much happier with a dark wall – it’s definitely more cosy and perfect for fireside evenings with a glass of red wine. – Lisa

Although the fireplace now has a more contemporary look, the Oregon pine ensures that it still complements the style and history of the old house. Michael was also inspired to build a huge bookshelf that houses the television and air conditioner.

Once the bookshelf was complete, Lisa finished the walls with a bluish charcoal-grey paint (Plascon’s Chiaro). “I know it sounds like we did things backwards, but with a steady hand for painting around the bookshelf, everything worked out okay in the end,” chuckles Lisa.

Fireplace #2

Letitia and Charl Watson’s cosy home is tucked away in a quiet street in the leafy suburb of Durbanville outside Cape Town.

And, as is usually the case with busy moms, her two daughters, Milandre and Karoline, keep her so busy that she seldom has time for renovation projects. But this family’s fireplace was begging for some attention!

The freestanding black metal fireplace was mounted on a pedestal covered with terracotta tiles. Although practical, it was too dark for Letitia’s taste.

“It was a real eyesore against the light wall and light floor,” says Letitia, a financial reporter. “The whole area felt lifeless, despite the beautiful painting on the wall.”

Wallpaper from Smart Art; fire-resistant vinyl tiles and Scrabble wall art from De Waal Art; rug and wood basket from Weylandts; charcoal Salsa stool from Woodbender; crochet pouffes from PommePomme; large Critter floor cushions from Design Team; mugs from Woolworths

Our whole family loves reading and board games; the Scrabble letters are perfect for us. – Letitia

Colour adds life

Letitia approached Home for help and we sent makeover guru Lecia de Waal of De Waal Art to give the family’s fireplace nook a whole new look.

“For the big wall to the right of the fireplace, I chose a dark-coloured PVA from Duram (Satin Touch in the colour Inneswood) to make the large open-plan room feel more cosy. For the skirting we chose a white water-based enamel paint. It works so well because it’s non-drip and you can clean the brush with water,” Lecia explains.

The wall behind the fireplace was covered with wallpaper because it’s the focal point of the room. “In a small area like this, it’s easy enough to hang wallpaper yourself. All you need is wallpaper glue, patience and an extra pair of hands!”

Lecia used vinyl tiles for the fireplace pedestal. “I had heat-resistant vinyl tiles made – they have the appearance of whitewashed wood and match the new wallpaper perfectly. The vinyl is also self-adhesive so it’s very easy to install. However, you must ensure that your surface is smooth and dust-free so that the vinyl can adhere properly.”

Rusted fireplace?

Letitia’s fireplace was still in good condition. If yours is rusted, consider a coat of paint. Try Duram NS7 Heat Resistant Paint (available in black or silver aluminium) or Plascon Fireplace Paint (only available in black). A primer isn’t necessary.

Prepare the surface: use a wire brush or sand the fireplace so that all rust and flaking paint is removed. You must achieve a smooth, clean surface. Clean with Duram NS2 Galvanized Iron Cleaner or Plascon Aquasolv Degreaser. Rinse well, allow to dry and paint as soon as possible. Apply a second coat once the first coat has dried completely.


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April 2023

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