Quickest Update for an Outdated Fireplace

Family Room Fireplace Work Set UpIt seems too obvious now, but in all my DIY-ing about the house, this quick and easy fireplace update took quite a lot of consideration to figure out.  What was it?  Painting the old, outdated shiny ’80s brass fireplace door surround – fast, cheap, and looks SO much better!

We started out with this giant built-in bookshelf/wall surrounding the family room fireplace in that go-to late-1980s/early ’90s builder-grade honey oak cabinetry and shelving.  The wood is in great shape, and solid, though it strikes me why such a significant wall unit would be custom-made in a builder-standard style like this.  I never remember this finish being “all the rage” – it just seemed like what every builder put in every new kitchen and bathroom at the time…  it was everywhere.  Oy vey.  All this 80s oak, together with matching paneled beams overhead, made the room so dark and oppressive.   It looked like this:

Family Room Built In BeforeThe first priority was to whitewash the beams. Together with everything else, they bore down on me every evening when I sat on the sofa, making me wonder what I ever saw in this house. The feeling was extreme. My husband couldn’t understand when I said this room was the bane of my existence.  ;)

Anyway, so I painted the shelving and cabinetry next, for a much-needed facelift to bring it into the new millenium, for starters.  Next, dry-brush painting of the stone fireplace surround, and painting the mantel as well, helped to lighten it up and pull things together.  It’s still in progress while I finish up the doors, though you can see the difference already:

Family Room Built In In Progress Empty

The fireplace doors now stood out as something from the way-back machine, innocent though they first appeared. That brass, baby – it was not working for me.  Yet it seemed like there was nothing I could do short of replacing the whole set of doors.  And a new set to the tune of $300.00 plus installation wasn’t sounding like my cup of tea, either.

After staring and marinating and marinating and staring, I suddenly remembered that tiny can of Rustoleum Flat Black enamel I had used to touch up nicks on the wrought iron stair rails at our last house to stage it for selling.  They even have a high-heat variety for such uses.  A-HA! This was the solution… and at worst, it couldn’t hurt.


I set to work one night over a period of about 45 minutes, just waiting about 10 minutes between coats. Using a flat, stiff, small paintbrush from my collection, I simply painted the black enamel over the brass trim and let it dry a bit before the next coat.  For better adhesion, sanding or even scrubbing with steel wool first would have made sense – but I figured since this is a pretty low-contact location, there aren’t going to be a lot of scuffs, so I just went for it.  After the first coat, it had an antiqued brass look, which was interesting as an option. I forged on for solid black, and did about two more coats, touching up a bit more here and there as needed.

Family Room Fireplace Closeup After

And voila!  The fireplace doors now look refreshed, clean, and up to date, just like a new set of doors you can buy today – using just a $3 pot of enamel.  I love when things work out this way!

What do you think?   Would love to see your creative ideas for updating fireplaces – we have 2 more to go!

Love and light,

Samadhi ✷



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