Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace


I should have done this a looooong time ago, you guys.  I was afraid, plain and simple.  Maybe even in denial.  Not anymore.  This dramatic paint transformation not only brightened up our living room, it made me feel younger 😯 .  I feel like I knocked 10 years off “just” by painting our dark brick fireplace and surrounding built-ins.  Not to say “just” in the sense that it was easy, because it wasn’t.  I hope I inspire millions to do the same.  Okay, I’ll settle for just a couple folks.  Either way, welcome to our “Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace”…I can’t wait to hear what you think of the change.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

First, a little history.  Below is our living room a few months after we moved in (2009).  I was into the cozy cabin look and I had painted the mantle and built-in shelves a dark molasses just like I have painted the moldings and doors on this entire floor the same color.  Some folks think they are black, but they are in fact dark brown.  I still love the doors and moldings that color and plan to keep it that way.  The staircase is done in that color as well, and if you are interested you can read all about that here: DARK BROWN PAINT COLOR.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

This next photo you may recall isn’t very old.  We finally painted the room white (kept those dark moldings mentioned above) after an ugly turquoise phase that I don’t even want to discuss.  I think I was eating too many nuts or something because I think I went part nuts.  In my honest opinion, I truly feel walls look best white.  I am not a grey fan, or a beige fan.  I want them white.  So, there they were-WHITE.  I admit that I really did like it.  The fireplace really popped and the shelves…well, not so much.  The shelves always looked too dark and almost “spooky” to me.  Like I could fall in one and never come out.  They disappeared and everything on them did, too.  I just wasn’t satisfied yet.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

I finally got the energy to change them and dove in feet first.  I can say that because I actually sprained my ankle in the middle of the project.  A trip to the ER and a big boot got me through it, but man did that hurt.  So, please be careful when you are doing DIY home improvement projects.  Watch those steps and don’t rush.

Anyhow, I knew the shelves would look beautiful white, but I was afraid the fireplace wouldn’t look right, and I was right.  I even asked in my amazingly friendly Facebook group what they thought I should do, and most of them agreed that I should paint the mantle and brick fireplace white, too.  By the way, you should join us in the decorating group 🙂 —->Redhead Can Decorate Facebook DIY Home decorating & Cooking Group.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

So that first night, I literally just dove into it.  I put on my husbands old law school sweatshirt that has become my painting suit, and painted like a mad woman.  The shelves are high, so I needed to get way up there and I don’t do so well way up there.  I managed to get most of it (the sprained ankle happened later), but my husband cut in the tippy top for me.  This continued for weeks.  Possibly months I think?  I did a little at a time.

Here’s the finished look… POW!

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

Oh wait, let me light the fire for you.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

Are you shocked that I painted the authentic natural brick white?  Are you mad at me?  I am a little, but I promise you I will not paint the fireplace on the other side of this wall in our kitchen.  That is staying natural.  At least for as long as we live here.  I actually love natural brick and I don’t understand why so many are afraid of it.  In this case it really looked odd, but I have seen many other designs where it can work in a white space.  With that being said, if you are trying to decide on if you should paint your brick, my advice is to consider the surrounding design area.  Change the things that can be changed back, first.  If you still think the brick should be painted, then by all means go for it.

Oh, and another thing- painting the brick was super easy.  The shelves were the hard part because of covering such a dark color (4-5 coats of paint), but the brick took me 1 coat.  Let me explain…

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

When I researched painting brick I found a ton of mixed information.  Everything from cleaning the brick first, to mixing the paint with water.  I did none of that.  I took my high quality paint brush (see sources below) and dipped it in my high quality paint and painted the brick.  That is it.  I purposely left areas unpainted because I thought it would add to the authenticity of the brick.  I am so happy I did that.  I think it looks like it was always white.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

After I was done painting the brick, and the mantle, I felt as though it was a bit too white.  Uh oh.  I got a little worried (and even a little nauseous) until I remembered to put back my gold fireplace screen.  When I put it back, I was in love.  It totally made me smile.  If you want more information on the fireplace screen, just click here: Fireplace Screen.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

So, now what about those gorgeous stained wood shelves?  That idea came to me right before I began painting the inside of the shelves white.  I knew all white shelves on white would look too sterile in our home.  I decided to custom stain new wood shelves to match the rustic chair moldings in the room.  Best decision ever and very simple.  We measured the old shelves, and had them cut pine boards at Home Depot.  Next, I stained them and sealed them in our garage.  I am still shocked every time to see how pretty pine wood stains.  It really is beautiful.


This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

The shelves in this photo below look like 2 different sizes, but they are in fact the same width. You can still see the “peg holes” on either side, but that’s okay.  I can adjust these pegs if I desire later.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

I really had fun decorating all of the shelves with items that are special to our family.  I am planning a post on tea sets shortly, so stay tuned.  I guess you could say I love tea.  My Mom found that gold trimmed set at a garage sale.  Isn’t it beautiful?  She also gave me the blue tea cup, and the colorful one.  I recently found the pink one and was using it for my cat for a little while.  Check that out, here.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

Lastly, the new gold handles. I chose these cute brass clover pulls because they matched the gold fire screen so nicely.  I found them at Hobby Lobby and they were white.  I sprayed them with the gold spray paint I have listed in my sources.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

I hope you enjoyed the tour, and more importantly I hope I inspired you to switch up your decor and have some fun with it.  Don’t be afraid.

This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

*** Some of the links in this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.  Read full disclosure policy here.

Oh wait!  Did you notice I switched our rug again?   Shh.  If we don’t discuss it, then it didn’t happen  :mrgreen:
















This Painted Built-In Shelves & Brick Fireplace makeover is truly shocking!

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46 Responses

  1. Dad says:

    Wow, you did real good on this, love, Dad in NY.

  2. Pam Beck says:

    I just have one word…WOW!! Well actually I have more words. You did an awesome job girl! As you said, it looks like it’s always been that way. What a wonderful, eye opening change! I even felt younger just looking at it! Ha! I have been a big fan of the dress painting, but now the new look of the mantel and fireplace makes the painting even more beautiful! It all looks wonderful! Love your blog and am always looking forward to see what your creative mind comes up with next!!!! By the way, I hope you all have finally gotten some better weather! Here in the Carolinas, it’s been perfect!!

    • Julie says:

      Wow! Thank you, so much, Pam! We are about to have an ice storm. Can u believe that??? ?

      • Pam Beck says:

        Ice storm? This weather has been so weird! I hate to hear that for you all. I look forward to see what you’re going to do outside this Spring….well that is if you have a Spring! Our Spring weather finally started, like today it was around 75 with a light breeze…just perfect! Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to rub it in! Lol! But if it makes you feel better, we are suppose to have heavy rain, wind, storm and possible hail tomorrow! Like I said….weird weather!! Well maybe this will be the last for you guys and Spring is around the corner for you! Take Care!!

  3. Becky says:

    Oooooh, Julie! – Yes, what a stunningly beautiful difference in your living room now!
    The white brightens up the walls & helps the room look larger; love the gold fireplace screen & the matching cupboard door handles; the personal, homey touches with your family pics on the painted white & pine shelves, & the pops of color with your shapely aqua vases! The whole room ‘breathes’ comfort & coziness…! – I love it!

    • Julie says:

      Thank you, Becky! You’re right. It does make it look larger. I never thought of that. It’s a very odd shaped room! Have a great weekend ?

  4. Dad says:

    Must of been all that following your Dad around the house at age 5??? love to all, Dad in NY.

  5. Carol says:

    Love it and so jealous! I have been trying to talk my husband into letting me paint our dark brick fireplace and hearth. No success. Maybe, just maybe, if I show him your before and after …he will change his mind.

  6. Cheryl DeQuattro says:

    Yeah. I;m a little mad at you…LOL

    • Julie says:

      Uh oh! No worries, Cheryl. We have the huge natural brick fireplace in our kitchen. I think that had a lot to do with my decision. I have a ton of it, so I need some contrast. ?

      • Cheryl DeQuattro says:

        I do love the shelves though. I always tell people…my house is a work in progress…it’s never finished. I always find something to ‘tweak’. I’m sure you feel the same way.

  7. Kaycee F says:

    Wow, you are a very brave, and smart girl! I love the new look, especially with the stained shelves in the bookcases! You did a beautiful job, Julie!!! Congratulations on raising such a talented daughter, Dad from NY!!!

  8. Nancy says:

    Absolutely the right decision! You did a beautiful job – worth all the work indeed. I much prefer this look as I am a light color fan myself. The room is one of the most interesting of any of the blogs I see.

    • Julie says:

      Thank you, Nancy! I need a full shot of the room now with the blue velvet sofa. It is the hardest room to photograph because of the large windows. They actually ruin the photos. Have a great wknd!!

  9. Delores White says:

    Love, Love the fireplace painted. I’ve been thinking of doing this myself. I know I will now. Me I will be changing my gold screen to black.

  10. Julie says:

    O-M-G!!!!!!!!!!! LOVE the transformation! As much as I love black in decorating, this white totally makes it! My sister has a fireplace and when visiting I envision her fireplace being painted white as well – I know she won’t do it, and yet I can fantasize how it would look if done. Also picture it with side bookcases too! ha I hear ya in just jumping in because I recently used Contact paper to paper the back of two bookcases in my kitchen. Hubby hasn’t noticed(!) and yet love the look.

  11. Becky says:

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, & I thought the rug looked different… myself (wasn’t there more pink or hot pink/purply on that rug?!)….now I know why! – – this one is a little tamer & softer to blend with everything else..Like u, I love updated Oriental rugs…Great choice!

  12. Ann says:

    Great job Julie!!! I really love the flow with all the white. But I also like the shelves and how they match the doorways. It’s such a welcoming room and all the accessories just make the room pop with color, as well as the beautiful rug. You are so inspiring, never afraid to tackle a job. Thanks so much for sharing.

  13. Michelle Cunningham says:

    It looks fabulous. Bright and cheerful. Thank you for inspiration!

  14. SHERYL says:

    You did GOOD Girl! Updated, more light, clean… I did this to my brick fireplace and never looked back! What an incredible improvement. Next: paint my exterior façade of the house WHITE. What do you think of cement boarding the rest in a navy or dark blue/gray on a 1973 2-story colonial?

  15. Kyle says:

    Love what you did here. It really is nice and fresh! Great job!

  16. C.J. says:

    Just FANTASTIC!!!!! You always hit the ball out of the park!!!

  17. Kathy Grey says:

    Everything looks just amazing! You’re so talented, you do make me a little angry. ? Love the rug, too. Keep up the great work. Dad taught you well!

  18. Mari says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  19. Cindy Manza says:

    WOW!! Absolutely a job well done!! Stunning, I love painted brick(and not every part of the brick painted as you did) It looks like a completely different room! Good for you & I love your blog!!! Enjoy the spring weekend! We all so deserve it!!

    • Julie says:

      Thank you, Cindy! We are getting an ice storm tonight!! Crazy!! I will still have a nice Sat. though! Thanks for your encouragement ???

  20. carol bittner says:

    YES YES YES!!!!!!! Wonderful transformation!! Wasn’t sure when I first started reading…..but when I got to the pictures all I could say was YES!! The bookshelves are so bright and, like you said, the items on the shelves just pop. A total new look (again). Your decorating abilities are endless; Love to see everything you do.

  21. Mary C says:

    Your dress picture really pops now and your eye is immediately drawn to it. Love the transformation!

  22. Ivory says:

    Here goes another wow you did it Again, you made something beautiful to something extra fabulous. I can not believe how the pulls matches the fireplace screen so perfectly, especially you spray painted them. thanks Julie.

  23. […] Updated White Fireplace & Stained Shelves […]

  24. […] If you missed how I painted our brick white you can view that here: HOW TO PAINT BRICK WHITE. […]

  25. Missy says:

    Julie, I didn’t really notice how beautiful the fireplace surround was until you painted it white. Wow, it’s stunning. Incredible, just an incredible room. Of course, I didn’t really expect anything else from……a redhead! I say that with respect!

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