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My little sister’s house: builder-grade fireplace makeover


    Last time, we drooled over my big sister, Amy’s gorgeous kitchen and dining room remodel here. Now we get to peek at my little sister’s house!

    Hillary is married to Mike, they have three squishably adorable kids and just moved in to a new house three weeks ago.

    This house is so great: it’s big, with nice open rooms and a great backyard that connects to woods with a stream. They are on a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood with a park nearby. They searched and searched for the right home, and this one was it.

    Hillary and Mike are outgoing, so funny, and for sure our favorite people to hang out with (besides Amy and Eric, of course). Most nights are spent either entertaining friends or staying home watching shows together (they have a million), so it felt important to them that their home was pretty, comfortable and reflected their young, cool personalities.

    The only problem? The house they bought was pretty builder-basic blah.

    Neither are very well-practiced in home DIY’s, so my parents, Ryan and I spent a Saturday a few weeks ago helping with their first big house project.

    Before they moved in, they had the walls painted a grayish-white and carpet replaced upstairs. Eventually, they’ll replace the carpet downstairs with new hardwoods and switch out the baseboards for something more substantial, but for now, they’re living with the beige carpet (it’s really not that bad) and trying to do small makeovers that make a big impact.

    Their new fireplace was the perfect starting point.

    Let’s begin with a before, shall we?

    livingroombeforeThis is the real estate photo. Nothing terrible, but also nothing that says “we’re young and cool!” either. The fireplace looks like pretty much every other builder-grade fireplace with tile surround and a traditional maple-colored mantle.

    Upon moving in, they took off the mantle and sold it on craigs list. Next, Mike and my dad pulled off the tile surround. Actually, I think they decided to cut it out and just replace the drywall because it would have torn the wall anyway.

    Before we arrived to help, they had replaced the tiled area with new drywall and filled in the gaps with mud.

    IMG_3086Their vision for the wall was a panel of horizontal planks just in that middle fireplace section. They wanted no trim – just wood planks. Very clean lines, slightly modern, but also a little rustic. Doing the entire wall would have been great, too, but they really wanted to highlight the fireplace. Plus, those bookshelves are so great on either side and the lines of paneling going all the way across the wall would get busy.

    To start, Ryan and Mike added vertical pieces of 1×2 screwed into studs.

    IMG_3088The outside 1×2’s didn’t go into studs, so they added drywall anchors. This way, the paneling had something to attach to.

    IMG_3090Then the boards went up! They used wood shiplap siding from Home Depot and had them cut the boards to size.

    IMG_3094 IMG_3099 IMG_3102Since Mike had already gone through the tedious work of installing the tv mounting hardware and hidden wiring, they decided to work around it. Someday, if they decide to take the tv down, they can easily replace the three planks to go all the way across.

    IMG_3104While all of this was going on, Hillary and I were upstairs building furniture for her office, the girl cousins were playing babies and the boys decided to put on a superhero fashion show.

    boysThey pretend like it’s just to entertain their littlest cousin, but I’m pretty sure they all thought it was the best fashion show ever. #lovetheseboys

    Back to the fireplace …

    IMG_3106The sides were covered.

    IMG_3109 IMG_3116The tv went back up and voila! a modern/rustic fireplace makeover was complete.

    IMG_3121They haven’t decided yet if they will stain the wood – maybe tone down the raw yellowish undertones with a slightly gray stain – or paint it all white. My vote is to stain it just barely and wait until they change out the floors to make the paint decision. The natural wood looks so great in the room, but once the wood floors are down, they may find its too much wood. At that point, I vote for painting it white.

    Mike and Hill thought about adding a chunky reclaimed piece of wood for a mantle (mainly because she wants a place to hang christmas stockings!). Once the wood was up, though, we all loved the modern simplicity. The stockings can hang from the bookshelves :)

    Here’s the fireplace once again, in before and after format:

    Builder-grade Fireplace Makeover / jones design companySuch a great way to turn a builder-grade blah fireplace into a feature they are happy to have at the center of their family room. On to the next project …


    Wall Paint: Rock Candy by Sherwin Williams

    Wood used: Shiplap Wood Siding from Home Depot (like this)

    Bookshelves: World Market Emerson Bookshelf (I have the same one in my dining room)

    Couches: Ivy Tufted Button Linen Sofa in Dark Gray from Wayfair

    Chairs: Ikea Strandmon Wing Chair in Light Gray

    Coffee Table: World Market Wood and Metal Aiden Coffee Table

    Side Table: Urban Outfitters Accordion Side Table in Brass

    Thanks Mike + Hillary for letting us show off your home!

    11 thoughts on “My little sister’s house: builder-grade fireplace makeover”

    1. Beautiful look, but as others have mentioned, there is a serious safety issue with the wood against the firebox. This is code violation and could have disastrous tragic results. Emily, I love your blog and everything you do. You are so kind and talented and I hate posting anything negative… But, as an architect, I have to say this one is a big no-no. :(

    2. Beautiful! Love how simple. My vote would be to paint all the wood black, inspired by the black surround of the brilliant Jenny Komenda’s house as seen in For what it’s worth!!

    3. Wow! I love their idea of using the shiplap to make the fireplace a focal point! It looks so new and fresh. I, Iike you, think a little staining just to cut the yellow a bit and enhance the beauty of the shiplap. Like your sister, I think a chunky piece of pretty reclaimed wood as a mantle would be really cool, not necessarly for Christmas stockings but also to enhance the great wood they have used to accent their fabulous fireplace waill!

    4. Although it looks nice, is it safe to have a combustable material surrounding the opening since heat radiates to the sides, top and floor. I thought per the National Fire Code that any combustable material needs to be at least 6-inches from the firebox opening.

      1. They are great! The seats and backs are very firm, so if you’re looking for something cushy, this might not be it. The color is a great dark, dark charcoal. And a great price!

    5. Hi Emily!
      I think it looks so great but I wonder about the wood being so close to the firebox. I would encourage your sister to inquire about this from a professional. There may be issues with their homeowners insurance covering them if there was an insurance issue. Again, it looks so wonderful but I know there are some fire code rules to follow.

    6. Wow, the transformation is remarkable and so pretty. Talent runs in the family! Thanks to your sisters & you for sharing your projects, really inspirational!

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