Painted Fireplace Surround and More Living Room Updates

September 01, 2023

How to paint a fireplace surround and mantel.  

I recently made some minor changes to our family room that we absolutely LOVE! A little paint and some new wall sconces made such a big difference. 

I didn't think it was possible for this room to feel more cozy and comfy, but all of us were surprised at the difference these  small DIY projects made. 

I just realized while writing this post that I haven't blogged about our family room for nearly a year! WHAT. Even I'm surprised, because this is probably one of my all time favorite rooms in both this and our last home. 

You know was about time for some updates! I've been contemplating both of these projects for some time, and finally got to working on them. 

The first was painting our fireplace surround and mantel. I've been toying around with painting it dark to match the walls forever. 

When I painted that tall fireplace wall (in Cyberspace by Sherwin-Williams) and then added the grid trim work to it, I kept the mantel white: 
white mantel dark wall

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And have loved it! I've always been drawn to the contrast of white trim and and a dark wall. 

But over the years I'm leaning toward moodier spaces with painted baseboards and wainscoting that all match. Similar to what I've done in our basement:
dark gray built ins with shelves

So I decided to give a go! 

The great thing about paint is if you don't like it, you can change it back. I know that's easier said than done after you've spent time painting...but that's why I always say paint is one of the best ways to makeover a space. 

It's VERY rare that I've disliked anything I've painted over the years. If you're considering a paint change, just do it! :) 

The process for painting a mantel is similar to painting interior doors or trim work. Start by cleaning it well -- I usually just use a wet rag, but if it's super dirty I recommend using some kind of cleaning solution: 
cleaning trim for paint

If you use a solution, make sure to rinse the surface well and then let it dry thoroughly. 

I taped off around the fireplace tile with painter's tape:
painter's tape on fireplace

Our mantel was painted in semi-gloss or glossy paint, but there's no need to sand it down. 

Since I was going with a dark color to match the built ins and fireplace wall, I could have primed the white mantel with a tinted primer. (Paint stores will tint regular white primer for you.) 

But I just went ahead with it! Either way is fine. I always paint the detailed areas first with a brush, and then go in with a small foam roller to do the flat portions. 

My favorite brush for getting into smaller trim is this square shaped paint brush
square paint brush

It allows you to really get in there and easily cut in small spots. 

Don't freak out after the first coat or two!:
painting mantel dark

You won't be able to gauge the final look until it's done and dry.

It took three good coats and a few touch ups to get the white fireplace mantel and surround painted this dark blue color. 

We LOVE it!! 
cyberspace fireplace surround

I always say, when it looks like it should have always been this way, it's a good change. :)

There's no right or wrong when it comes to painting trim or mantels! If you enjoy contrast against a dark color or light and bright walls, stick with white. If you prefer a warmer, moodier look, then you'll like your trim painted to match. 

I used semi-gloss paint for our mantel because I like having a bit of sheen on trim, but matching the sheen to your walls is fine too! 

The other quick update was changing out our sconces on either side of the fireplace. I picked angled sconces when we built our home: 
tall fireplace living room
See how I made that giant coffee table!

Over time I've been thinking about changing them out to something that would give us more light shining up both of those walls. I thought it would be pretty to have them light the walls above instead of the concentrated light going down. 

I bought these brass double light sconces earlier this year and then got busy with other projects:

double brass sconces

These are pricier than I would usually spend on lighting, but they I couldn't find anything I liked for less. I loved the soft, elegant lines of the light, and of course that pretty brass tone. 

I finally got them installed the other day...and afterwards I was annoyed it took me so long. Ha!

The soft light going up the walls is LOVELY and I adore how cozy this has made our living room feel at night and early morning. I absolutely love it!: 
painted dark blue mantel

living room furniture layout with fireplace
See more info about our sofas here

Now I can't wait to decorate that mantel for fall! :) 

dark blue mantel and fireplace

Of course I immediately installed a dimmer switch for the sconces as well. 

The new sconces just fill in that tall space better overall. It lifts everything up and looks so much better: 
fireplace with mirrors and sconces

living room with two couches

Our teenage son keeps commenting on how much they changed the whole "vibe" of the room. 😍

Both of these DIY projects combined took me an afternoon to finish up. It's funny how often I find smaller changes like this make the biggest impact. 

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  1. Just beautiful! Great job on the whole room.

  2. Looks wonderful! It gives a cozier, warmer look to your gorgeous room.

  3. Absolutely beautiful. Makes the painting pop, too!


  4. Hi, I love your decorating and what you do to your home! I am going to replace the light fixture in our two-story family room and am leaning towards one like you have. Are you still happy with yours or is it something you think you’ll be changing out soon? We plan to sell our house within the next three years and I don’t want to install something that is already dated. I appreciate your opinion.

  5. Your room is stunning. I cannot believe the difference a little paint and new sconces mad. By the way, where are your new sconces fro? Could you post the link? Until next time, happy decorating you are sooooooooo talents.

  6. Love this change. The fireplace looks like it should have always been that color. I am wondering what is the point of the mirrors on both sides? Why not take the built-ins up to the staircase landing height?

    1. With the lights where they are that would be an awkward height for built ins. I've toyed around with extending those up past the lights, but with our open stair railing it would be tough.
      We like the look of the mirrors and they help to reflect more light around the room.


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You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!