Fresh paint and a few accessories can help mask an ugly fireplace.

How to Disguise an Ugly Fireplace

by Mary Cockrill

A fireplace is a natural focal point in any room, a premise that holds true for attractive, as well as ugly fireplaces. Determine what is making your fireplace unattractive -- its color, texture, style or age -- to target a plausible decorating solution. A few resources, a little time and lots of creativity can help you disguise whatever is ruining your fireplace's outward appearance.

1. Paint

Paint can perform decorating miracles to mask an unattractive fireplace. But before you apply a fresh coat of paint, give your fireplace a thorough cleaning followed by a paint primer. You can use interior latex paint for the exterior fireplace surfaces and a heat-resistant paint for the firebox. Acquire a roller with a thick nap to ensure complete coverage of the rough surfaces common to brick and stone fireplaces and a brush for hard-to-reach corners and crevices. Select a paint hue that matches your existing wall color to make your fireplace less noticeable by blending it with the adjacent walls. Camouflage a dreary, dark fireplace with fresh energy when you cover it with a light paint color, such as off-white, creamy ivory, light gray or soft beige. Dress up an outdated fireplace with glossy black paint for a sleek, edgy appearance. Apply a contrasting paint color to your hearth and mantel to add a wow factor to your ugly duckling fireplace. You can also paint the wall above a fireplace in a bright cheery hue -- sunny yellow, perky orange, lime green -- to pull your eyes upward to the colorful wall.

2. Accessories

Accessories can conceal imperfections or flaws in your fireplace exterior, as well as add overall pizazz. For example, hang a large framed print or canvas painting above a mantel to cover fireplace blemishes while drawing your attention to the visually interesting artwork. Mount an oversized mirror over your mantel in lieu of the artwork to reflect the activity and furnishings in the room, which also hides a large surface area of a fireplace wall while drawing attention away from the fireplace itself. Decorate your fireplace mantel with framed photos, decorative vases, tiered candlesticks and potted greenery to beautify a lifeless fireplace. Place an arrangement of candles, vases or a flower arrangement inside the firebox of an unused fireplace to brighten it. You can also position an ornamental fireplace screen in front of the firebox to hide it entirely.

3. Furniture

Furniture can help hide an ugly fireplace. For example, place a comfortable armchair on each side of your fireplace to cover a portion of it with upholstered seating. Choose an upholstery with intense visual interest, such as a stripe, plaid or motif-dotted fabric, to increase the aesthetic appeal. Position a round coffee table between the two chairs to cover up even more of an unbecoming fireplace. Install custom-built shelves on the narrow sides of a fireplace to hide the side walls of an ugly fireplace. Accessorize the shelves with books, collectibles, pottery and other decorative items to add visual interest.

4. Resurface

Resurface your fireplace exterior with a natural or manmade material to hide its ugly appearance. Natural stone, marble, wood or granite offers classic, sophisticated upgrades for a worn-out fireplace. Opt to resurface your fireplace with a man-made material that's designed to look like real granite, wood, stone or marble for a fraction of the price you would pay for authentic materials. Ceramic tile, available in a variety of colors and patterns to complement your existing decor, provides another resurfacing option to beautify an ugly fireplace. If your mantel and hearth need decorative updates, opt for resurfacing one or both of them in a material to complement your fireplace exterior.

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