Fireplace Makeover….Complete!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away- I started planning a make-over for the fireplace wall in my living room. This project wasn’t something that I thought we would ever undertake when we bought this house. Upon first moving in the wall seemed just fine, and nothing that I hated or couldn’t live with.

Fireplace with stacked stone and built-ins | suburban bitches

But as time marched on and we started changing things in the living room and kitchen, the fireplace wall felt too heavy and rustic for what was going on in the rest of the house. We added a reclaimed wood wall using E & S tiles to the living room, and adding this texture and focal interest to the wall seemed to compete with the heavy rock on the fireplace.

midcentury style living room | Suburban Bitches

I realize that the reclaimed wood trend is just that, a trend that will be out of style at some point. But for now I still love that wood wall and I wasn’t about to take it down to make the fireplace wall work. Because in the end I just wasn’t crazy about the asymmetry of the fireplace wall. The built-in’s flanking the fireplace are not the same width (drives me bonkers!) and very deep, making it hard to style all that space. And the drawers underneath the hearth are awesome for storing toys and dvd’s, but having 9 handles really made the space look busy. Finally, the fireplace itself. The fireplace unit didn’t have a fan so whenever we turned it on the only place that got heated up was directly in front of the fireplace. And the rest of the house was freezing because the thermostat is close by and would turn off the heat. Truth- the fireplace not having a fan wasn’t THAT big of a deal, I really wanted a more modern looking fireplace though so lack of fan was the reasoning I used with my husband for getting a new insert.

First step we took in the fireplace makeover was the rip the rock off. The rock got ripped off and things were looking, well, maybe somewhat better.


And things stayed like that for a long time as I contemplated what exactly to do with this wall. I wanted to wall to be pretty simple so it wouldn’t compete with the reclaimed wood wall, and I wanted a mantle and floating shelves. Originally I was hoping to work around the current layout and footprint of the wall, but the more I got into designing the wall the more I realized starting from scratch was the best route to take. I even took to asking the design guru Emily Henderson for ideas on this wall. Using their Design Agony service, I submitted a picture of the fireplace wall and they came back with two design boards that they thought would work:

fireplace design #1 from Emily Henderson | suburban bitches fireplace design #2 from Emily Henderson | suburban bitches

While there were aspects of both Option #1 and #2 that I liked, I was more drawn to Option #1 as it would brighten up the room the most with the white shiplap. And the floating wood mantel was just what I wanted to incorporate into the makeover.

Next step I started to mock things up in Photoshop to gain perspective on what things worked/didn’t work.

shiplap fireplace with modern insert | suburban bitches tile fireplace wall with live edge hearth | suburban bitches fireplace rendering with shiplap | suburban bitches

The top option was to shiplap the whole wall, add some sconces, and a wood mantel and call it a day. Second option just replaced the shiplap with a large scale tile. And the third option would have been the most cost effective option, just putting up shiplap where the stone used to be. In the end I liked the top option the best but still wanted to tweak it. The plan I had was to:

  • floating wood mantle running the whole length of the wall
  • built-in shelving on top of the mantel with floating wood shelves, stained to match mantel
  • modern fireplace insert
  • concrete fireplace surround and hearth
  • replace 9 small drawers underneath hearth with 3 large drawers
  • sconce above each built-in
  • shiplap on the whole wall

fireplace make-over mock up

The above mock-up ended up being pretty darn close to what we ended up doing with the wall. The only thing the mock-up doesn’t show is we ended up going with a smaller fireplace insert since code for the fireplace dictated at least 11 inches above and 6 inches on the sides of non-flammable material- which FYI shiplap is not non-flammable material. For the surround I chose to have a concrete surround custom made to butt up to the fireplace. I also went with replacing the stone hearth with a concrete hearth. Ok- are we ready to see the finished product??? I’m sure you are so let’s get to it! *

*all photos below courtesy of Kelli Kroneberger**

shiplap and modern fireplace with floating wood mantel, concrete surround and hearth shiplap and modern fireplace with floating wood mantel, concrete surround and hearth

modern fireplace insert with floating wood mantel shiplap and modern fireplace with floating wood mantel, concrete surround and hearth

shiplap and modern fireplace with floating wood mantel, concrete surround and hearth shiplap and modern fireplace with floating wood mantel, concrete surround and hearth


farmhouse modern living room

Such a change- right?! I am more than happy with how the fireplace wall turned out. All the months of really thinking about how I wanted the wall to look, what materials would achieve that look, and what functions I needed in the wall were worth it. The concrete surround and hearth were a happy addition to the wall. For all the Colorado locals reading this, I wanted to give a shout out to Concrete Visions who I partnered with for my fireplace. They were a great company to work with! They came out and templated the area around the fireplace and the hearth and then made concrete pieces to fit in their shop. I was even able to get samples of the concrete ahead of time so that I could customize the color, matching it up to the color the shiplap would be painted. And when it was time to install the concrete pieces- everything fit absolutely perfectly! I love how the concrete provides another texture to the wall but has a modern look to compliment the wood and shiplap. I’m already thinking about other places in my home to use concrete and I think it would be the perfect surface for an outside kitchen or in my yet-to-be-built downstairs bar.

Since this project just wrapped up a few weeks ago we haven’t needed to use the fireplace much yet. The cool thing about this fireplace is you can just turn the lights on for ambience without firing up the whole thing. And yes, there is a fan on this unit so I’m hoping we can warm up more than just the living room!

shiplap and modern fireplace with floating wood mantel, concrete surround and hearth

I don’t want to go on and on about the whole process but if you have any questions please just leave them in the comments and I’ll get right back to you. And let’s end with a good ol’ before and after so you can fully appreciate how far this wall has come! As you can see, the whole room has changed quite a bit so I owe you all an updated living room post!

Before and After_fireplace

**All after photos courtesy of Kelli Kroneberger**


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37 Responses to Fireplace Makeover….Complete!

  1. Designer says:

    Way better the way it was…. Should have left it alone….

  2. Sarah says:

    What?!? This looks SO insanely good. I love that you centered the fireplace, the shiplap is perfection and I’m going to steal those sconces from you some day 🙂 Love it all!!

  3. Wow! It wasn’t bad before but the after is just stunning! Can’t think of a better solution – it’s perfection. So glad I found you guys through ORC – love your blog 🙂

  4. Suzanne says:

    Love it! So clean- much more updated- I don’t like when things aren’t balanced either! Nice job! Where did you find the lights? they look great.

  5. Brittney says:

    This looks incredible! What a transformation. This one and the TV wall over in Chris Loves Julia’s basement room are such an inspiration!

    • Erin says:

      That one from Chris loves Julia is so great! I definitely kicked myself for not doing something like that in my basement tv area!

  6. Kate Collins says:

    Wow!! What an amazing transformation. It looks so clean and streamlined and yet also comfy and personal. Beautiful!!

  7. Chelsea says:

    I love how much more balanced the room looks now! Shiplap can get addicting 🙂 Beautiful makeover!

    • Erin says:

      Uh yeah, shiplap is way addictive. If it wasn’t such a pain in the ass to fill nail holes and sand them I’d probably have shiplap on every surface in my house!

  8. It was great working with you, Erin! The piece looks fantastic and we’d love to help out with any other future projects! Thanks for sharing!!

  9. Wow what a transformation. Beautiful.

  10. Julie Spear says:

    Holy Moses, what a transformation! You did an amazing job of making the whole room look more balanced, I agree that the wood wall WAS competing with the rock, and your eyes didnt know where to go…GREAT CALL on doing a white on this wall! And the drawers look so much better too, what an awesome storage feature! I really love this change up, and nothing about thè room looks trendy to me. It looks very classy and fits the style of your home now, like this is how it always should have been… really great transformation! Cant believe the wood wall is tile? Thats fantastic!

  11. Amy says:

    Wow! Looks beautiful! May I ask where your rug is from?

  12. Katie says:

    Looks amazing, such a good design and outcome! Do you mind telling me what material you used for the shiplap? I’m trying to decide and there are a few different options.

  13. Awesome before and after; I really love the end result! I’d love to know, if you’re comfortable answering: did you feel the Design Agony was helpful and ultimately valuable, even done remotely? I’ve long wanted to hire someone like Emily whose work and taste I also admire, but at the same time, I’m so partial to having someone real live in my space to make these kinds of judgment calls (maybe because I’m not a design pro and so I really can’t envision the true look and feel of a space based on digital pictures and floor plans alone). I live in Seattle where there aren’t any great interior designers quite on Emily’s level, or at least that match my aesthetic so closely. I’d love your thoughts if you’re willing to share them, privately or publicly! Again, killer fireplace; so jealous!

  14. Andrea says:

    It looks great — you were smart to live with it for a while until you got it just right. I was wondering, how difficult was it to change your fireplace insert? Can you describe that process?

    • Erin says:

      Changing out the insert wasn’t too bad but probably because we were going down to the studs. I think if you weren’t going to reframe the wall then changing out the insert would be problematic. This insert used different venting than our old one so we had to run new vents, which would be near impossible if we weren’t starting from the studs. And framing is different for each type and size of insert so I would say that changing out an insert is pretty difficult unless you can get the same size and the same brand.

  15. Kollynn says:

    What type of fireplace insert is this? Electric what brand and where did you purchase? Are you still happy with it? Love love the redo

    • Erin says:

      It is a Fireplace Xtradonnaire 4000. It is a vented gas insert, which of course are the most expensive kinds :(. Truthfully we haven’t gotten to use it much since it went in after our cold winter months. But it is supposed to be really powerful and can heat things up fast.

  16. Colette says:

    I love the end result! I too have an issue with off centered fireplaces… Don’t get me wrong, I love asymentric focal points, but there’s a way to do it right- (insert 60s/70s era) All the shelving going on in your before photos can really make a space feel busy! Props to your plank wall, I installed mine a few years ago in my family room as well, and your fresh fireplace inspires me to modernize the space a bit more! Love it!

  17. Amanda Joy says:

    THANK YOU for building the fireplace of my dreams! I found it via Emily’s blog (she is also my style goddess). Would you mind sharing how you did the drawers? I don’t even know where a person would start on something like that. Much appreciated!

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Amanda! So I’ll try and help with the drawers, though I had a carpenter build them. The original plan was to just build three large fronts for the drawers and attach the actual smaller drawers to the large drawer front. So when you pulled open the drawer front there was actually three drawers attached to it. This being the cheapest way to go. But the drawers themselves were flimsy and the tracks were attached to practically nothing so we ended up just totally starting from scratch. Now we have 3 really large drawers that are divided inside into three spaces.

  18. Liz Ardell says:

    Ooooo – I found your fireplace re-do from your 2016 Fall ORC blog post…now I need to go research the Fireplace Xtradonnaire 4000, and find a contractor to come out to the house. We have a gas fireplace now, but the doors and logs are hideous and we’d love something more modern. Thanks so much for the ideas! I’m now following your blog on

    • YAY! I’m so glad you found us Liz and found inspiration for your fireplace! You’ll have to send us pictures when it’s all done! 🙂

    • I’m so glad you found us and are following along with our adventure and that we were able to give you some inspiration on your fireplace! Please send us photos when you finish your project!

  19. Carina says:

    I love the whole look of this fireplace! How far off the floor is the bottom of the fireplace insert? Do you think that height would work if there weren’t any drawers and I just ship lapped all the way down?

    • Erin says:

      The height off the floor is dictated by the fireplace insert itself. It is about 12 inches off the floor I believe but we just went with what was required for the fireplace itself. It would totally work to just shiplap all the way down- I think that would look great!

  20. Lyndsey says:

    Love it. In the middle of a fireplace/entertainment niche overhaul and adding a long mantel similar to this. I’m curious…what is the thinkness and depth of your mantel? Currently stuck on this decision…

  21. Chelsey says:

    What stain dif you use on your mantel?

    • Erin says:

      It is Minwax Dark Walnut. It is on maple wood which is a light colored wood so the stain is lighter on maple than it would be on other woods.