MCM Fireplaces

11 Feb

Yesterday the lovely blog Retro Renovation was asking people to upload photos of their mid-century fireplaces.  I flipped through them and found nothing, and I mean NOTHING like our very….ummm….unique fireplace with which I have a love hate relationship.  Some images from the Retro Renovation site:

Gavin in Scotland


And a few other favorites from my Pinterest board MCM Fireplaces:

Pinned Image

Pinned Image

Pinned Image

Okay, so now our design dilemma.  This is our fireplace.


Hmmm.  This has always flummoxed me.  For one thing, I like the shape.  The angles on the chimney are totally mid-century, as are the cement benches on either side.  However, the brick has seen better days and there is a wood-burning stove insert in it.  I can imagine a beautiful open fire once we remove the stove but the brick is the dilemma.  It’s old and no matter how much we try to clean it, it’s inconsistent and looks dirty.

We considered painting it.  (I am not one of those people who thinks there is a special place in hell for brick painters.)  But as you can see to the right, the brick wall continues outside through the window and the front door.  So if we commit to painting the fireplace, I think we have to commit to painting those walls as well for the sake of continuity.

Brett has suggested covering the chimney with metal like the photo above with the sunken living room.  I like the idea, but we are still stuck with some challenging brick.

Would love other people’s opinions!


26 Responses to “MCM Fireplaces”

  1. Margaret Escobar May 10, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    I actually like the brick. I wouldn’t paint it. I think you’ll regret it and once you do there’s no going back. I’m really doubtful about painting over original work in any house that has artistic value. I would explore the options like waxing or sand blasting to clean it. Find out how masonry is cleaned on historic buildings. I see this done all the time. To me the brick looks great. (I’m not there to see it for real of course.) I’d remove the insert and then look into cleaning if you believe it’s dirty vs. thinking it looks dirty. Then I’d explore color that compliments the brick.

  2. brittney April 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I don’t know how modern your tastes are or what your budget allows but I think stone panels look great.I found a site with progressive shots showing how a brick fireplace was transformed with stacked stone veneer:

    But the shape of the hood is such a distinguishing feature you should highlight it! I really like the idea you had of the metal hood I saw a few concepts showing stove hoods as opposed to fireplace hoods (I couldn’t find many great pics of hoods on fireplaces to showcase the concept)
    Stainless steel would really stand out and possibly be easier to source with how popular it seems to be lately:

    The background on this pic reminded me of the example georgiapeachez showed. This picture is gorgeous but translating it to a fireplace may be a stretch, especially since your floors are so dark. had to include it since its so pretty and the lighting is great.

    But a dark hood would compliment a darker stone as well and a darker stone would tie in your floors. Though wrapping the stone work all along the brick on the outside as well would be spendy it is a gorgeous way to update your home and add value and a more luxurious look. The painted concept is great too, looks so clean.

    Well that’s enough from me! Good luck pinning down an idea you’ve got some great advice!

  3. meganhcarroll March 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I love the Parker fireplace… it is such an awesome place to sit, get warm have a cocktail and let your kids lounge in the swing chair (just off the picture)!

  4. artinpublicplaces March 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    For what it’s worth, here’s a crazy idea.
    1. number all of your bricks, starting at top left of the wall.
    2. use a complementary 4 color scheme — such as the squares on the border of your blog (white, light blue, grey, orange).
    3. randomly assign one of the 4 colours to each brick (e.g. toss 2 coins: heads-heads=white; heads-tails=blue; tails-heads=grey; tails-tails=orange).
    4. Paint each brick according to the randomized colour. Paint a few random bricks outside the window too, so the design extends outside. (OPTION: leave a few inside bricks unpainted on the RHS of room, so they gradually merge with outside unpainted brickwork).
    5. Go to IKEA and buy a brown cow-hide rug for the floor.
    6. Put large potted snake plants on left and right of fireplace (add height /balance)

  5. Brittany February 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    Have you ever visited the blog, the brick house? Morgan has a fabulous black paints fireplace that blows my mind. I’ve been seriously inspired by it and plan to do the same if I ever have a house with a fireplace. Here’s a link:

    • Brittany February 24, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      *painted… Lol

  6. KMP Modern February 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    I love the photo with the sunk-in living room. It reminds me of my childhood in Miami. And the green carpet in it is amazing! I usually think painting brick is terrible. But it may be a good thing here. I once saw a house in LA’s Hancock Park, where the exterior was painted a mustard yellow. You could not tell until you came up close. It is a pain and it will not come off easily if you change your mind. Good luck!

  7. georgia February 12, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    first of all… great fireplace! i love the window that slices through the brick that extends to the outside. really cool!!! recently found your cool blog while searching for m.c.m. home inspiration for our own m.c.m. ranch that we just purchased and are trying to restore to it’s period look as well as trying to more completely furnish in m.c.m. style. {we had a mixed style before… some m.c.m. pieces, but not enough in my opinion!!}

    anyway, i though i would chime in today, even though normally i just quietly read.

    it’s hard to imagine a m.c.m. brick fireplace being painted white and still maintaining a m.c.m. feel {because it tends to make one think of cottage, not m.c.m.}, but i have seem some nice examples that work well. here’s one…

    another thought for painting… what about picking one of the colors of the bricks {i suggest the dark grayish/charcoal color} and finding a paint color to match and paint only the inside bricks on the fireplace that color. it would still tie into the brick outside, because that color is in the outside bricks. you might try doing this to the photo you took in photoshop to see how it would look.

    also, have you considered something like this…

    you could flank the brick fireplace hood with some nice m.c.m. paneling… even something less piece-y than in the photo above… more like one big clean panel or a few bigger panels. like these…

    or something very vertical, like this…

    or even flanked with steel… see this photo…

    or even flanked with drywall painted a nice color like this…

    which would also tie in with the darker bricks that would still be on the hood and the outside bricks.

    oh, gosh! sorry about the long comment. i just thought your fireplace is already so cool… but has so much great potential, too!! GOOD LUCK! again… love your blog!

  8. Mom February 12, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Great fireplace! I think that you can paint the fireplace brick without having to paint the continueing wall outside. They basically are two different features to the house. The problem with painting that I’ve found with any of the properties that we have painted is that depending on the color you chose it could turn into constant maintenance. I really like Brett’s idea of putting the metal over the chimney portion and then you could paint the remaining brick. Love you! Mom

  9. Rebecca@MidCenturyModernRemodel February 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Brandy… what a project you have. I was curious where you were going with the post until you revealed your fireplace. It is so BIG! I like Dana’s sandblasting idea… A friend of mine has sandblasted all kinds of things in her house with good results.

  10. skrouse1 February 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    it’s such a unique structure! i think removing the insert will make a great improvement all on its own & may be all you need to do. when i envision it w/out the insert, the brick truly doesn’t look out of place at all. gotta love its originality!

    and this may sound like a crazy idea, but i’ve actually waxed brick similar to yours {it was a fire surround} and was amazed at how much better it looked once it was buffed out. the process isn’t any more tedious as painting brick.

    we used it for years & the wax was never an issue.

    {love that i found your blog!}

  11. georgiapeachez February 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    I painted over my ugly brown 70’s brick using a product called Brick- It was probably the easiest DIY project I have ever done and it took less than 2 days to complete. Product comes with easy instructions. You can see my before and after’s here: It doesn’t look like I painted the brick, the brick just looks to be a different color. No one ever guesses that I painted it.

  12. Tim February 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I agree, remove the insert. Then consider a mosaic tile under hearth for a pop of color. Next,Venetian Plaster, the real type Lime putty and Marble dust (not paint), though you can tint with color. If needed it can extend outside as it is weather proof. Not sure how the fire would affect it, I think it would hold up, but would need some research.

  13. Kristin Parrino February 11, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Brandy, what is the deal with the upper left side of the brick wall? Why is it not straight like the other side?

  14. elena February 11, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    I wonder if you could cover the triangular hood, and the base (area below concrete pads) with orange sheet metal, similar to the metal used in the preway fireplaces?

  15. Dana@Mid2Mod February 11, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    A friend of mine restored a mid-century condo, and he had the fireplace sandblasted. It made a tremendous difference, and might not be too expensive. I’m sure they’d make some sort of tented area around the fireplace so your house wouldn’t get too dirty. If that weren’t an option, I might consider painting the chimney the darkest color in the brick, which I don’t think would cause a continuity issue. If I were going to do an all-out makeover, I’d do stacked rock, but I did see some faux rock panels online that looked interesting.

  16. nickarmadillo February 11, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    Like you, I’m not a brick-painter hater, but I do generally prefer the color and texture of plain brick. However, I actually think that this fireplace would look quite nice when it’s painted and that 70’s insert removed. If you choose that route, I’d love to see how it went, as I’ve got a fireplace that might need the same treatment.

    • February 11, 2013 at 8:53 am #

      I will definitely let you know! And btw, congrats on the nominations and votes for the Homie awards!

      • nickarmadillo February 11, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

        Thanks Brandy. I’m glad to know that people enjoy the blog. What color were you thinking of going with?

  17. findmesomething February 11, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    I have a faux fireplace (although one person thinks it could actually work). How can I determine if it’s mcm?

  18. allison February 11, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    I would suggest starting with paint (I like white) on the triangular hood. You can cover it with the metal, if the paint isn’t enough of a contrast. If the paint works out, you could add the hearth portion. That may be enough. If not, you have a start on doing the whole shebang!

    • February 11, 2013 at 8:54 am #

      Very true. I need to investigate how to paint brick. I’ve heard it’s not easy. Thanks for the comment.

      • Wendy M. February 11, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

        Hi- I can’t remember if I’ve commented here before or just lurked, but I love your blog! I wanted to comment about painting brick- I’ve heard it’s best to use stain and not paint. Our last home had painted brick (previous owner’s work) and it evidently required so much latex paint to get consistent coverage that is was smooth and looked really fake. I was anti-painting until I heard stain will soak in and color without creating that too-smooth look. Hope that helps!

    • creede February 26, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      I agree with Allison. Start with painting the hood. If you love it (you will) then do the rest. I think it could be amazing if you do the back wall and the hood contrasting colors. White hood, black wall. And yes, you absolutely have to carry the painted wall all the way outside.

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