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How to paint a brick fireplace with a rustic French look

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How to give your dated brick fireplace a fresh new look with paint.

how to paint a brick fireplace

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How to Paint a Brick Fireplace with a rustic French finish

Our house has a monster size, freestanding brick fireplace with an attached
planter that’s the first thing you see when you enter. Actually, there’s another
one just like it in the basement, but I haven’t tackled it yet. Stay tuned for

Anyway, I’ve lived with it and tried to embrace it since we moved into the house
in 2006. That’s a long time to stare at something you’re not crazy about. I’m a
purist at heart and really wanted to maintain the original feeling of the home
and tried to love it. But recently I took the plunge, held my breath, and
painted over it. Now I wish I had done it years ago.

painted brick fireplace and hearth

The back side of the fireplace is in our kitchen and I liked the unpainted look
in there. It added a warmth and texture that made the space feel cozy. So I’m
not lying when I say this was a tough call for me.

French country painted bricks

But it really lightened the kitchen as well and my accessories look great
against the lighter color bricks.

For our bricks, I wanted an old world, French country look with some of the
texture of the brick accentuated. See the details of this fall decorated version
of the painted brick fireplace here: Painted brick fireplace with fall decor

Here’s how I got the look.

How to update your brick fireplace with paint

First, clean the brick if it has soot or dirt on it. Our fireplace hasn’t
been used very much so it had minimal soot on it.

Supplies needed

For this project, I used some paint I had in the garage. It was Benjamin
Moore eggshell finish in White Dove. The finish is great because it’s
washable without being glossy. Flat paint or chalk paint is not washable,
and I personally don’t care for semi-gloss paint.

A quart of paint should be enough for most projects and you could probably
get away with a pint if all you have is a small fireplace surround.

Paint/Water Ratio

I added a small amount of the paint, probably a cup and a half, to my
handheld paint cup
and thinned it down with water at a ratio of roughly 1 part water to 4 parts

NOTE: If you’re not sure how opaque you want the paint, start out with more water
than what I used. You can always make it more opaque by adding more paint if
you decide that’s what you want. 

Once you get the paint mixed, you’re ready to apply it to the brick. Here’s
the painting technique I used.

1. Paint the mortar

tutorial for painting a brick fireplace

As I worked my way across and around the fireplace, I painted the mortar
around the bricks first. I used a
professional brush
and dragged it across holding the brush longways as shown above. You don’t
want too much paint on your brush or it will run down onto the bricks below

2. Lightly brush the paint over the brick surface

painting bricks

After I painted the mortar, I dipped the brush back into the paint/water
mixture, offloaded most of it back into my handheld paint cup, and lightly dragged the
paint brush
across the brick at an angle
. Our bricks have imprints of twigs and leaves and I really wanted to
accentuate them. 

I was basically skimming the paint over the surface, deliberately keeping it
from seeping into the imprints so they would be darker and contrast somewhat
against the light paint.

That’s all there was to it. I thought it would take a long time but it
wasn’t too bad. For my particular fireplace it took probably 4 – 5 hours.
But if all you have is a brick facade and not 4 sides plus a planter, you
can probably do the project in an hour or two. Ours is about 80 – 100 square
feet of bricks.

Here are some more photos of the progress.

painting a brick fireplace

German smear type painted brick fireplace.

The main thing to remember about this technique is offloading most of the
paint and applying it while holding your brush at an angle.

Here’s a comparison of the before and after.

before and after painted brick fireplace

Here you can see how the imprints show up against the white paint.

unique painted brick fireplace

painted bricks with twig imprints

Before, the fireplace absorbed all the light from the room, making it feel
dark and depressing.

Nothing really looked good against the brick. I tried so many different
colors and accents. It was always a real challenge to make it work for
seasonal decorations, especially spring.

Now my spring decor looks great in here. Any color looks pretty against the
lighter brick. You can see more of this spring look and get the details
Spring Mantel with Flowers and Vintage Finds.

Now it’s light and bright and the room even feels larger. Here’s our fall
decor. I’m already looking forward to decorating it for the holidays. (To
see more of our fall fireplace decor and grab these free fern botanicals, go
Fall Mantel with Free Printable Fern Prints .)

So if you’re on the fence about painting your brick like I was for so long, I
totally understand.

If you have a family member that doesn’t really want you to paint the brick, I

If you think it might affect your resale value down the road, I get that too.
It won’t. 

You’re the one who lives there now so make it look the way you want it. No

I hope this helps you in your fireplace makeover project. Leave a comment
below and let me know what you think!

Click for sources of decor items:

  • Cotton Stems – HERE
  • Metal Tool Caddies – HERE
    • Metal Sap Buckets –
      HERE (similar)
  • Vintage Metal Egg Crate –
    HERE (similar)
  • Wicker Demijohn –
    HERE (similar)
  • Throw Blanket on Mantel Shelf –
  • Plaid Blanket in Egg Crate (top) –
  • Plaid Blanket in metal crate and on chair above –
  • Plaid blanket in metal crate #3 –


  1. What an amazing transformation, Angie! The brick looks so good painted and it really makes your decor stand out. My favorite part is how you imprinted the brick with sticks and leaves. That adds such character!

  2. It is amazing. My fireplace looks very similar to yours. You're right- it sucks all the light out, it's hard to find things that look good against or even show up! My husband has said no to painting it. I'm hoping I can change his mind or get him to cover it up. Maybe if I can show him pictures he will see how much it will improve it! Thanks for sharing!

    1. It's amazing how much lighter and brighter the room feels now. I hope you can convince your husband to paint yours!

  3. Very pretty! I have a 1970's rock wall fireplace and I abhor it. I don't think I can reach to the ceiling, but to just do the part beneath the behemoth mantel would be a huge improvement for mine. Thank you for sharing. This is going on my 2018 goal list.

  4. This post inspired me and I took the plunge yesterday! My brick is very distressed and so the skimming technique worked very well. Now the nicks and blemishes look like they fit and the offensive peachy red is diminished. I used a 3 to 1 paint/water ratio instead. I am very pleased. Thanks for the idea and the help.

    1. Yay! I'm so glad it worked for you and you like the way it turned out. Thanks for letting me know. I'd love to see a picture of it if you get the chance. ~ Angie

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