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Fireplace makeover can transform your room

Recently I discussed the exciting variety of fireplaces that you can choose from to create the perfect cozy setting for your home. No matter where you live, there's a size and fuel type that will fit your needs, from the traditional log burners and gas inserts to electric fireplaces and the new ethanol burners. But there is more to the story than the flame. Once you have established the type of fire, it's time to look at the bigger picture.

The area around the firebox, the materials that make up the surround, complete the look, and provide an essential design link between the fireplace and the rest of your room. Concrete is one of those sturdy, practical building materials that has found its way into modern interiors. Its understated beauty is a natural for minimalist design, and you'll see it used as a backdrop for contemporary fireplaces in large hotels and avant-garde homes. The clean, quiet lines and pure color of the concrete surround that houses the fireplace in the bathroom shown here is in total harmony with the tranquil mood of this newly designed space.

One of the most common questions I get is about how to change the look of an existing fireplace. The challenge is often a brick surround that is composed in a manner not suited to the present homeowner's design aesthetic.

I've done many fireplace facelifts along with the help and expertise of my good friend Jim Connelly for my television shows, and I can always count on a huge wow factor when the new surround is revealed. Here's how Jim worked his magic on a standard red-brick fireplace that did not blend in with the owner's decor.

It is not necessary to tear down the existing bricks, but in this case the hearth step was removed in order to achieve a straight, flat front.

The wooden mantel was prepared with a good-quality primer sealer. To flatten the face, the grout lines between the bricks were first filled with drywall compound. Then a coat of Durock plaster, called Spacco, was skimmed over the entire area, including the primed mantel. You can either make this a smooth coat or add some texture depending on the look you want.

For a smooth stone look and feel, while the Spacco is still damp, use a mist bottle and spray lightly with water, then smooth out with a spatula. At this point you can make grout lines to replicate the look of stone blocks. Let dry and sand lightly. The surface was lightly colored with a tinted latex glaze.

Note from Jim: Spacco dries so hard that cleanup has to be done immediately. Tape off the floor and walls around your work area and don't clean your tools in the sink. You can reach Jim at www.masterpiecesstudio.com.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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