Fireplace makeover

Sometimes when we show people the changes we are making in our house we get the question "So what are you going to do with the fireplace?" As though since we are updating everything, why wouldn't we update one of the most obviously dated features in the house? However, as this fireplace is a huge focal point and architectural element in our home, removing it would not only be a major project, it would be disloyal to the original intent and integrity of the home. So it will stay.

And we actually really love it. The slate is from a Montana quarry and is called Montana picture rock. The colors are gorgeous (I have always been a fan of greens in decor) and many of the rocks feature leaf fossil patterns. It is a work of art. So one of my goals has been to make the fireplace feel like it fits in with the rest of the decor, while still transitioning it to the modern environment I'm aiming for. 

The photo above is an old one, before we started any renovations. I think the changes we have made have enhanced the fireplace—but those photos will come later!

Today I want to tell you about those fireplace doors. What to do?

Remove the doors? Unsafe for kids. Put in an insert? Actually, it would be two- one on each side. Expensive.

In a previous post I discussed my intent to spray paint the brass bits black. This is still a valid option, but someone left a comment and suggested I try darkening the brass. I decided it was worth a try.

The lacquered brass doesn't polish up well. Lacquer becomes scratched and mucky over time. In order to age the brass you have to remove the lacquer. It actually comes off pretty easily! One recommendation is using ammonia. I didn't try this but opted instead for something I had in my cupboard: fingernail polish remover.

(Note: in the photo above you can see the valve that turns on the propane for the fireplace. Unfortunately, this valve has leaked for a long time and the fireplace has gone unused. We recently drilled through the mortar to try to fix the valve, but our attempt failed. At this point I'm not sure what we are going to do—maybe hire a pro to fix the valve?) 

While most of the laquer came off easily, some was more stubborn and would find (after I started darkening) that I had missed spots. I used a toothbrush and scrubbed vigorously to remove as much as I could. 

To tarnish the brass, I purchased this brass darkening solution. Some methods recommend using liver of sulfur, but after reading that when heated liver of sulfur produces a poisonous gas, I decided that was NOT the product to use on a fireplace. Ha. This product did the trick easily. 

Here is the fireplace with half of it done:

The directions actually say to immerse the metal into a bath of solution to soak, but I simply used a cotton swab and continuously rubbed it over an area for a minute or so until I saw it begin to darken. 

All done! I know brass isn't everyone's favorite thing, but I like the tarnished brass much better than the lacquered brass. It blends into the rock better where the polished lacquered brass stood out. The purple/coppery tones of the tarnish are beautiful, and having it all shined up doesn't hurt either!

I promise living room photos soon—must clean and take photos first!