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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
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**** UPDATE: The poll has now closed, and we have a winner of ‘WORK WITH IT’, with 81% choosing ‘Work with It’ and 19% choosing ‘Fresh Start’. Thank you to everyone who voted, entered, and shared your opinion. We love having you participate in this exciting project and we can’t wait for you to weigh in on the next design decision. In the meantime be sure to head here to see all the polls and progress of the fixer-upper project.

We are full steam ahead on the mountain house with demo starting this week, but I’m REALLY trying to take my time and not rush the design process, and yet we want to live there this summer so I have to move fast. Our contractor wants the demo list and the only thing that I’m unsure about is the fireplace. We’ve gone around and around about the stone since we put in the offer.

Let me take you down the rabbit hole thought-process since August.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Fireplace Before Furniture

When we first offered (to buy) on the mountain house I immediately went on Pinterest looking for good versions of rock fireplaces. Ours felt a little cheesy and dated, and yet the stone almost looked too ‘new’. The rocks felt too round and bulbous or something – our architect called them ‘bubble rocks’ and I wasn’t impressed with that phrase. They are real, not the fake facade version but is that my dream fireplace? Nope.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1661 Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1762

I found a few (but not a ton) of rock fireplaces that I did love.

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Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 02
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Those are beautiful but we have to be realistic about the fact that those stones are much more beautiful than ours.

But that is more similar and I like it enough. Maybe it could be possible? When combined with pretty architecture and fresh furniture it does seem appropriate and nice.

I really only found one that I LOVED, designed by the owners of Mjolk– an amazing Scandinavian store out of Canada. This is their cabin, and boy do I love it.

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Ugh. So pretty. But that stone is so old!! That’s why it’s so beautiful. Our stone is from the 60’s and looks kinda brand new and just so generic. Plus the shape of this one is more graceful and maybe it’s also because it’s combined with the all-white floor and ceiling and we are likely recladding wood on the ceiling and of course installing wood floors.

So I scrapped the idea of the stone. I was like – nope. I want something stunning and stone will never be stunning.

Plus at the beginning of the design process I was leaning way more ‘Contemporary Scandi Chalet’ and less ‘Mountain Cabin’.

My first idea was a hanging fireplace, like so:

Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 32
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I was pretty set on it for a couple weeks and everyone in the office agreed. Great. Done. I pitched the idea to Brian and it was basically crickets. Sure, he likes the fireplace, but not in that house. I guess I also took issue with the fact that it’s a corner fireplace, and would much prefer centered on a wall, so a hanging oval shape felt more appropriate there. My mother-in-law and one of my best friends were both confused and shocked at the idea, saying ‘No, you need something cozier’.

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Look! There are logs on the floor, that is cozy!

Fine. Scrapped. Let’s do a really simple and neutral but beautiful tile. Cle has some new handmade terracotta matte tiles coming out that could be simple and beautiful. A quiet statement.

Clare Cousins Chomley St
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Finding tile inspiration that I actually liked was very challenging. So picture these in really pretty handmade finish. In fact the one that I’m referencing would be the one in this materials board below:

Bathroom Moodboard CompressedRustic Modern Cabin Mountain House Bathroom Moodboard Pebble Floor
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It’s a little more midcentury and admittedly not as ‘warm’, but because the fireplace is so big I think it would be a beautiful but quiet statement with a lot of impact.

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Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 301
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You could stack it vertically or horizontally, or stagger it, or scale it up or down….

But then I thought, am I missing an opportunity to do something really crazy and special? Should I do something that will get 10k likes on Instagram every time I post it like my patio tile??? If you think I’m not designing this house with photography/social media in mind, you are wrong. I make editorial content for a living, I want this place to pop on camera, and yet be appropriate in person. It’s an inner hell that I can better explain in a whole post about how social media is affecting the design world…

ANYWAY, Maybe a different shape or color would make it feel more special. AGAIN, the images below aren’t what I want (I don’t love the colors for me) but you get the idea.

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Would a pretty handmade gray tile feel more like a ‘rock’ but in a modern way?

Again, the idea of this below (not the color) could work, right? Maybe?

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Or is there something kinda ‘bathroom-y’about it?

I have two tiles that I LOVE that could be stunning, but I haven’t seen them in person yet.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Fireplace Cle Tile Mosaic

If anyone has seen inspiration of a fireplace with beautiful tile that might work, send my way.

As I design I always go through any material that something can be made out of – so obviously wood came up.

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Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 271
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We are putting wood flooring down, and will likely clad the ceiling with new wood (instead of refinishing) if we can afford it. If anyone has reclad a ceiling, let us know.

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So wood on the fireplace could just be a lot of wood, OR it could keep it feeling more streamlined and simple. My original thinking of this house was more minimal, and using the same high-end elements over and over, but that has shifted to make it feel a little warmer by mixing more materials.

I will say that it was very hard to find even a few images of wood on fireplaces that I liked. A lot of them look a little try-hard and I think the key is having it one length (no seams if applied horizontally) and having them be more wide plank, and keeping it not orange and more matte.

Brian at first really loved the wood thing but then he, too, feared we were missing an opportunity. We could do wood and then a stone hearth to break it up…

Then I thought – might it be super pretty to have wood on floors and ceilings, huge picture windows with wood frame but keep the fireplace minimal with just drywall?

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As you can imagine Brian wasn’t psyched, but some of these pictures are really pretty so I kept it in the post just to show you it’s an option.

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I love the one above, mixing it with stone, but keeping it clean and modern with the drywall. Or maybe you add a pretty wood beam and play with the shape, like this one:

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Then I thought – maybe we should be rethinking the shape altogether. We are demo-ing it out we can start fresh and really make it any shape we want. So maybe keeping it a simple finish, but a pretty shape (thus adding warmth and depth – instead of being so flat) is a good option …

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I was almost completely convinced when I saw this above photo (sorry, it’s grainy we couldn’t find the high res online). That shape is so pretty and feels warm and traditional in a way but so simple and classic as well. This is from a Scandinavian cabin and obviously looks great with the simpler color scheme. The harder lines keep it from feeling too spanish or adobe – like. And we can play with materials – possibly even a tile in the surround (white on white?) or a herringbone in the box, or a stone hearth or a wood mantel … so many options. Brian’s first reaction was boredom, but he came around and now he really loves it.

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Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 3
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It will take a lot of work to recreate it, but I’m definitely interested.

Now for the twist. We’ve spent so much time up there over the holidays and on weekends when it has been cold. We put on the fire and play uno with the kids and drink wine with our friends and a few weeks ago, after dark, even I admitted the stone is just so warm and appropriate. It’s lovely to sit on the carpet, in front of the warm fire, listening to music, with wood on the ceiling. My friend, Suzanne, once again – mountain houses should have stone fireplaces – are you sure you can’t just work with it?

Brian has been a ‘work with it’ guy for a long time, but also doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to make it the most beautiful it can be. Plus there is a budget issue to think about. We haven’t really set a budget for this house because we are still planning, but we know that it is going to cost A LOT (my guess would be at least $150k), especially on labor. This fireplace might be somewhere that we could save. I think demo-ing it out, rebuilding, buying a new box and vent, and resurfacing it would likely cost $8-$10k. Maybe less, but it’s not cheap.

So it was time to consider what our options would be if we were to try to make the original stone work.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Fireplace Changes With Copy 01

I want to raise the hearth, increase the box (and make it an open gas fireplace instead of a stove so we can see the flames). Re-clad the mantel in a prettier wood, and then stack pretty logs underneath the bench like so:

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Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 04
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Then what happens to the rock? Here are some options that are on the table:

Paint it white …

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Easy enough. We’d like to still have the wood mantel and do something different to the hearth – maybe a larger gray stone tile top and wood underneath it, still.

It’s definitely the easiest option and will look fine in photos, but I’m not convinced it’s special enough and it will lose some of the warmth of the stone.

To keep some of the texture of the stone we could white or gray wash it:

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I’m not freaking out about it but it is pretty. The below one is more gray and I like it a lot more, but maybe that’s because it’s a brick not a bubble river stone.

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And again, this isn’t our stone, but this one below feels really ‘mountain-y’.

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It’s just a pretty tonal stone fireplace – how could I regret that?

I found a few DIYs online, and this one below looks pretty good:

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Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 05
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OR what if it were a really dark color like so:

Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 01
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That is moody and cozy, and could be a dark slate blue or charcoal – but is it really cold?

Then I went back to my original image – this aged stone fireplace from Mjolk:

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First off, we need to fill in the grout or mortar to make it way less bubbly. But then could we possibly age the rocks or make them feel more interesting?

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The below images show stone fireplaces where the ‘grout’ is basically flush with the stone – and think that it looks way better.

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Could we even shave down our stone to be more flat? And then can we use some plaster to go over it all then wipe it off the stone so it looks more like this?

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Country Homes Interior Design Rustic Country House In Croatia Wi
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Bd Jefferies
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Or do you fill it in to be almost flush and then paint it out a matte taupe or stone color like this:

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The number of options possible for this fireplace are daunting – heck I could even just replace it altogether with pretty stone!  I’m not ready to make that exact decision right now, but what we actually do need to know this week is if we need to demo it out or not.

So the poll today is asking you guys if you’d like to see us “work with it’ or ‘start fresh’. Do you like the challenge of seeing if we can make this stone what we really want, since it is a mountain house after all OR should we demo it out and rethink it all together with one of the first ideas, creating what might be more of our dream fireplace (but would likely cost way more).

As a reminder .. here she is right now, pre-renovation:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Fireplace Before Furniture

Now vote!

I Design, You Decide

Fireplace: Work With It? or Fresh Start?

Option 1

work with it

81 %

Option 2

fresh start

19 %
(Vote by Tuesday, Feb 27th to have your voice heard.)
You did it!

Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote 🙂


Now enter to win

A five-night stay at the cabin this summer (with some blackout dates, of course, because our family uses it) with $1,000 towards travel expenses (if you live driving distance then it’s just fun money, or if you live internationally then we will cover up to $1,000 of your expenses. So, all the international readers please feel free to participate and enter as well). We’ll make it a dream trip! Including cocktails out on the lake with me.

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And remember, we can always rethink it next year after we’ve tried to work with it … Not ideal as I want to do all the construction at the same time but it is an option.

WHAT DO YOU THINK??? And regardless of which you choose, what is your favorite within that option. If you want us to start fresh would you go with tile or wood? And if you are team ‘work with it’ then what do you think would be the best?

Update: Check out all of The Mountain House REVEALS here: The Kids’ BedroomThe Kitchen | The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Living Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Hall Bath | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room

  1. Have you considered removing the stone from above the mantle, but keeping it below?

    1. Agreed! I thought this would be a good solution too.

      1. Further to my comment above, I thought I’d share a photo I took in Austria last week at a hotel in the Alps at a ski resort which has the half stone / half plaster look https://pin.it/kyb7qq5atw3lnx

        Not a mountain cabin but definitely in the mountains!

        1. And here’s another one (although with brick at the base not stone). It’s of my parent’s home in Germany and was taken Christmas Eve (hence the champagne in the foreground) https://pin.it/sldvw2n7lyut7n

    2. Totally agree! Maybe even combine the wood look you both like above the mantle (maybe make it vertical to modernize it) with the stone (added grout for sure) below the mantle!

      1. This could work too I agree!

    3. I agree. There is a lot of stone right now. Splitting it in half and dying the below lighter would be much more appealing.

    4. Yes, that’s what I thought. There is one image where the stone was below the mantle and above was white (not sure if it is just wall material or cladding or whatever), but it looked great. Maybe you can then do some major work with the stone below the mantle as it wouldn’t be as expensive. It would be fresh, modern, but still within your intention to keep the stone and make it more of a mountain cabin. .

    5. Another vote for this option! Also to flatten the “bubble” and plaster!

      1. me too! working with it: remove rock above the re-clad mantel (bonus -if you end up deciding to go the ‘fresh start’ route later, you are already halfway done with demo ; ), de-bubble remaining stone and incorporate plaster somehow (which feels old world to me and lends itself to the warmth of the cabin feeling you are after/want to maintain) in the refreshed design. and YES to raising the hearth and modifying the firebox (but definitely go with decorative wood since the insert will be gas -you don’t need a standing invite to outdoor critters).
        love it when you take us thru your design process!

    6. I like this option plus all the design changes Emily noted, having the wood storage underneath, raising firebox, making the wood on the mantel a bit nicer. That will make it look great! It is also possible maybe to regrout it, to make the stones seem more flush with the grout? And you could do a wash to age them up a bit. The stones themselves are nice!
      DesignMom did a wash on her brick fireplace that came out great.

    7. Yes! I thought of this too, keep the stone low around your firebox and then make a cool plaster/drywall chimney in a new shape above. Maybe the EHD team member who does all your awesome graphics can photoshop that out for us! 😉

      Love your work and can’t wait to see what you do with this.

      Also, on a side note, in case you may want to still have a wood burning fireplace, there are a lot of modern/flat-fronted wood burning fireplace insert options now. My husband REALLY wanted to keep a wood burning stove in our house and we ended up with the Pacific Energy Neo 1.6 which we both love, and you can still see the flames. -sorry this sounds like an ad! Just an option!- (http://www.pacificenergy.net/products/wood/contemporary-inserts/neo-16-insert/)

    8. Yes! This!

      1. INTERESTING. I hadn’t thought of that. I think that if it were on a wall and not a corner I could envision it more, but maybe we’ll throw that into the rendering and see what it looks like! Then we could put art … but there is something really grand and lovely about having it go to ceiling …

        1. We have had two of the pacific energy inserts in different homes and LOVED them. One thing to keep in mind on the enviro front is that they are WAY more efficient and clean-burning — also beautiful and cozy!

        2. Hi Emily! This fireplace is amazing!! ;0)

          -Stick with it going to the ceiling.
          -Fill in the grout to make it less bulbous.
          -Do a deep hearth for a cozy seating area.
          -Create a monochromatic appearance by either refinishing the surface or paint the whole darn thing!

          You got this!

          1. This. 🙂

          2. I agree with Jen.

          3. yes, fill in the grout to make it less bulbous is a fantastic idea!

        3. I think whatever you do it should go to the ceiling, that’s the best feature of the room is being able to go high.

    9. I agree that you should demo the stone above the mantle. That way you can work with the stone on the bottom (agree with more grout/maybe a color change like the dark gray, enlarged hearth and opening) and then add the tiered shape you love to the top with the clean plaster look. You have one photo above where the stone is just on the bottom and it looks great. I am sure you could tie it together with an older wood beam mantle and new hearth.

    10. I was also thinking the exact same thing! I like the idea of raising the fireplace & opening (with a bench, etc.) as Emily said, but then also removing the stone above the mantle. I just think that way you can really appreciate the beauty of the stone, without it being this big hulking thing hanging over you (esp. if there is wood on the ceiling, etc.)

    11. Yes!! I knew I could count on the commenters to suggest it.
      -raise mantle, replace with chunky old wood
      -demo stone above mantle to remove that odd angle where it hits the ceiling
      -add grout in stone and if that doesn’t look good then mess with aging it

    12. I think the same. I see the “problem” more in the proportions than in the material: the stone surface is so high, and up there it is abruptly cut by the diagonal ceiling. It also has a strange shape: narrower above the mantel, but just “a little bit” narrower, disturbing, not a bold difference. And this would be disguised if that upper part was white. I like Emily’s proposal of setting the firebox higher and making it bigger: Right now it pulls the eye down, while the rest pulls it high. Also: The whole fireplace is “caught” between the walls (and the ceiling) with no transition whatsoever. Almost all Emily’s examples are not corner fireplaces and the ones that are have an architectural solution shaping the fireplace and putting it in scene. All that said: I voted for “go with it”. There is a good solution, for sure, and it will be more interesting (and affordable) than starting fresh.

      1. That’s a good point re: the similar but not the same top and bottom sizes. Looking back again, I am now o the different top and bottom train.

    13. My suggestion too!

    14. THAT is a great idea!

    15. I like this idea but would it really save that much money as opposed to getting something you like more? That’s my only reservation—it still seems labor intensive.

  2. Work with it! Definitely! My first thought was just fill in the gaps with more mortar to make it look flatter.

    I find it far more interesting and creative to see how something can be “up-cycled” than stripped out and replaced. Also a lot more environmentally friendly.

    1. YES to everything in your comment. I thought that too. They just look bubbly because the mortar is so far back from the front of the rock.
      Also, it makes me sad to see designers constantly “gutting” things. It would be awesome to see this worked with.
      Go green. Even in design. 🙂

    2. This is just what I was going to say. I love to see designers work with what they’ve got because I get so much inspiration out of how you can take something that didn’t quite fit in the beginning and make it look beautiful. I had no clue about adding mortar or grinding stone down.

      1. Yes! This! We are all at home figure out how to work with what we’ve got. I LOVE it when YOU do something that inspires my efforts in that realm.

      2. agreed!

    3. Me too! Especially as I didn’t see anything compelling in the other options. Fill in the mortar, consider painting after that.

      1. Yes, I am agreeing with these comments! You are wanting that authentic antique look that is unique to the home, which will make it the star of the room. The only way you can possibly achieve it here is to experiment with the existing stones, mortar, grout, whitewash etc. I think keeping some of the 3D rounded shapes are key to this type of stone but trying some different techniques to fill in and create an older, more natural look is the way. Watch some “Escape to the County” on you tube to soak up the old English cottage looks and then combine that with the Scandi pallette with the wood mantle and you will have something really one of a kind.

    4. Yes, agreed. And I think a mountain house should have a stone fireplace. We don’t have a mountain house, but a 70s California ranch that came with a monstrous lava stone fireplace, which I despised in the beginning, but after realizing what a humongous project it would be to replace it, I have learned to live with it, and we have updated it with a nice simple thick mantle shelf and cool sconces on the sides. Now it looks special, rather than being an eyesore.

    5. Yes work with it! More grout would look great. I too, prefer designers to work with what they have. It becomes more inspirational to the reader and I feel anything old adds instant charm and coziness anyway.

      1. Yep, my instinct too … more mortar, white wash or age … we’ll see …

        1. OK OK I said remove bubble rock but reworking it per some of the above comments, (filling in grout etc makes some sense.

    6. Also agreed! It breaks my heart when I see designers demo something that has potential like this. I always think it’s such a shame and such a waste. Work with it!

    7. I came here to say just what @Bea said. Fill in with grout to make it closer to level and potentially stain / white-wash it. I find it so much more interesting, as well as potentially environmentally friendly, to see you work with what you have — it is certainly the challenge I have in my own home.

      1. Me too! I hate to see things demoed when it’s still functional.

    8. My thoughts exactly — sustainability is really important, and it’s great to model that, not least to the kids? I wouldn’t age them; I find artificially aged stuff really grates with me, all this faux industrial chic etc.

    9. I think the bubble is really playful- especially for a mountain home. Buuutttt my vote would be to work with it (I can’t vote for some reason) and maybe stucco/drywall over part of it- either too or bottom. OR to paint it dark- which I know may not entirely fit into your Scandinavian feel- but they use dark colors too!

    10. Yes! Work with it. Less wasteful.

  3. Although the stacked wood under the fireplace looks really beautiful, if you ever get a mouse in your home, it will go right for the wood to make its nest. Best to keep the wood outside.

    1. I was thinking something similar but with bugs, especially termites that might be in the wood having direct access to her new wood flooring. . .

      1. My first thought was mice too!

      2. I thought ants and spiders!!! EGGSSS!!! Yuck

    2. It looks nice, but I don’t want that touching the back of my legs if I’m sitting on the hearth.

    3. Agreed! My mom uses her fireplace a lot and every winter we see i big uptick in the number of large outdoor cockroaches, spiders, etc. that come in on the wood. Best to store it outside and bring it in when you’re ready to burn it.

      1. I’m going to guess Emily might buy special “pretty” wood for under there but bring in actual fire wood for burning?

        1. I think they want to go with a gas fireplace. So the wood would be for decoration only.

        2. Actually the wood will be purely ornamental as she mentioned a gas insert, which is super disappointing since gas fires do not have any of the character/warmth/coziness of a wood-burning fire. It honestly bums me out a bit.

          1. Smoke from wood fireplaces contributes to global warming, so gas is the more environmentally conscious thing to do. In CA we have “spare the air” days when people are asked not to burn wood, drive as little as possible, because the air quality is poor. Better to loose the character and save the air!

          2. Keep it a wood burning fireplace please! My parents have a gas one in their cabin which is just plain silly since it can’t heat the house when the power goes out. Which, if you live in the mountains is bound to happen!!

    4. Aye yi yi!!! GOOD POINT, I’m deathly scared on indoor mice crawling all over me!

      I agree with the commenters to remortar — I think you can salvage without wasting the rock. I totally don’t like the look of the stones either, but strangely because they are so smooth and polished the fireplace kind of reminds me of a river crossing in, say, somewhere like Yosemite where the rocks are all polished from the stream flow — maybe that image will help remove some of the horror you have with the wall in its current condition?

      Finally, that is the cleanest wall to wall carpeting I think I’ve ever seen 🙂

      1. OK. you are guys are convincing me. I mean I KINDA new this but i also think it would be so pretty. but no, i don’t want bugs, mice or wood dust everywhere either … What if its pretty birch logs that are rounded? It does seem like I asking for problems, though …

        1. I haaaaate the logs-in-house trend. It’s just so impractical and even sillier if you don’t have a wood burning fireplace. Even pretty logs will be a magnet for dust and critters, and your kids will get splinters. Bark sheds, and it’s just a mess… plus mice and spiders. I can’t ever appreciate stacked wood in design layouts because of this. Please don’t do it.

        2. The pretty birch logs would still feel weird if they are longer and at the back of your legs as you sit. Not everyone sits with their knees bent at a 90 degree angle and would most likely hit the logs with their feet. It’s a potential for injury/scrapes.

        3. Check out The Faux Martha’s fireplace logs. She treated the wood they have under fireplace. So did Anissa from House Seven Design! Keeps the warmth/character of the wood but no bugs/pests!

          I voted keep the stone and if you’re hatin’ on it, you can definitely add plaster to make it less bulbous.

          Can’t wait to see! Love your ideas of raising mantel and hearth/seat/bench. That will be so functional and pretty!

        4. There’s something to be said for authenticity as well. If the fireplace is gas, the wood is just fake for looks and that’s just silly.

        5. It’s a MOUTAIN house…nature abounds. C’mon country gal, get with it. You pick up two pieces of pre-chopped firewood, tap them on their ends, anything living leaps/falls off and then you take them inside. Simple. 🙂

      2. I also think that the wood would eventually attract mice and bugs if it’s not being used. Also if it’s just sitting there I can see it becoming super dusty and a great habitat for spiders.

    5. I agree about keeping the wood outside, if you’re not going to be regularly rotating through the wood, then I shouldn’t be inside. My parents use a wood stove insert to heat their entire house, since the wood thing bring inside gets used and rotated so quickly, they don’t have issues with bugs or mice. Although, if you waxed the logs, they should still look good and would prevent bug interest. On the other hand, I think you should keep the wood burning fireplace, gas fireplaces don’t physically provide warmth even if they do look pretty and if your power goes out you’re going to want a back up plan.

      1. We have a gas fireplace and it actually provides a lot of heat. It’s so nice to be able to turn it on with the touch of a button, even just for a few minutes at a time. We use it a few times a day because of this.

  4. You have such a beautiful house, Emily! To be honest, I don’t hate the bubbly look of the rocks, but I agree that more grout would probably work quite well here – combined with a white wash, I think you’d be on to something magical! Of course I also love those geometric tile swatches, so if a complete redo is on the cards, then I say go for it!

  5. One of my favorite features of my very-builder grade home is the stacked stone fireplace. It was an upgrade and well worth it. With that being said I’d like you to start fresh with a better stone. I’d also love to see the fireplace stick out more from the corner. #freshstone

    To me, the rounded stone and ceiling slant makes the room look short. Any changes (fresh start or make it work) to the existing fireplace will likely make the fireplace more substantial looking and a showstopper. I can’t wait to see the transformation.

    1. I voted work with it…but agree with everything in this comment. My vote, I suppose, is keep it stone. New or old, but definitely stone-colored stone!!

      1. I’ve definitely thought of fresh stone and we’ve started shopping and sourcing. TBH. I haven’t found any yet that are convincing me and I think its because we need older stone. Does anyone know where you can source more beautiful older stone?
        As of now i’m going to try to work with it (since that is winning) but always good to know that if we don’t love it we have pretty stones as a backup.

        1. I think you are looking for a different kind of stone. All stone is relatively the same age unless it’s synthetic. It just differs from one geological formation to another. You may want to look at different quarry samples from around the country to see what kind of stone appeals to you.

          1. hahahahaha yes this is a good point. stone is all pretty old on the geological time scale! i think it is the roughness or type of stone that makes some stone seem “newer” than others.

  6. I definitely think some sort of aging/distressing of the current stone combined with additional grout could make that fireplace lovely. I’m always partial to working with what you’ve got, though!

  7. If you decide to work with it:
    We have a stone fireplace (and live in the mountains). I feel like ours works well because there is a diversity in stone shape and size (not too bubbly), the part with firebox comes out from both sides at angle so there’s more depth, and the rock extends to a full wrap bench which is super cozy and great for extra seating. Our rocks are also much more flush – more grout maybe? Side note: spiders LOVE large indoor piles of wood. I love the look, but maybe not practical for a weekend place.

  8. I’m team “start fresh”. I doubt shaving the rocks is even possible and would result in the beautiful examples you pointed to. You did call the rocks in your fire place “bubbly”, and no amount of whitewashing/bleaching/tinting will turn grey stone into blonde…

    Personally I think a light sand-color natural stone fireplace like the one you placed right under your family photos is the best option for the “refined/rustic” vibe you’re going.

  9. Demo. I hate to say it, but your last house you lived with a fireplace that you didn’t truly love (i loved it though). I think you need a fresh start to truly express your own style.

    1. HA. I’ve thought of that fireplace stone, a TON. The thing is that I did really like it, (not love, but strong like) but hated where it stopped (where the original ceiling was). I’m Honestly TORN. Emily 10 years ago would have HAD to make it work because I wouldn’t have had the budget. But current emily kinda wants her dream fireplace, but doesn’t want to waste money because this whole house redo will be a fortune. I like that we are making it work this time… for now 😉 I apologize for the 3rd person … still recovering from a crazy weekend. xx

      1. I am secretly hoping that this second house remodel pays off for you HUGE and you buy a house by the beach next…like in two years when you have recovered from this remodel and oh and also the one you are doing with your brother. i dont know how you are doing it.

      2. If the dream fireplace is “the” thing you want, then go for it. But I think it’s good to not have everything we want. The fireplace is interesting, but is it number one on your list? If it is, reno it, if it isn’t, then work with it. Just because we can doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, and I agree with those who say it’s more inspiring all the rest of us who more likely than not have to work with what we’ve got.

  10. To me, the thing that really dated the fireplace is that it is at an angle. What if you demoed the top 2/3?

    1. Oof, I think getting rid of the top third would make it look like an accident, as though the fireplace was just stuck there without any intention. Even though I don’t love this particular type of stone, I think whoever made the decision to run it up to the ceiling line made the right choice.

    2. Yes! Was scrolling to finding someone who felt the same. Ultimately it’s not the rock that bugs me, it’s the angle at the top! I voted to demo because of it… but now I see people saying to remove the rock above the mantle and leave it down below. I think that might just solve my issues with it. Then of course, work some of your wizardry on shaving/plastering/white washing it so that you’re happier with the color and shape 🙂

    3. Agreed!

  11. Our wood stove is on a stone platform and we love it, so I couldn’t understand your problem with yours until I looked at the photos. I think you should try to work with it, but it is way too uniform right now. If you could somehow shave it down or have more grout showing between the stones it would look better.

  12. Try to make it work, but with a caveat. Try an economical solution early and if you aren’t in love throw in the towel. I voted my head instead of my heart because I know that really bad stone can be made great. My mom painted out her terrible 60’s fireplace, a complete weekend DIY fix and it looks beautiful! Miracles happen! The bonus to painting/white washing is with just a little effort and money you’ll know quickly if you’ll love it or hate it and can adjust plans! So excited to see all of these changes!

    1. I agree. I don’t want to spend $7k on a faux aging solution that looks only like a $1k solution. If its not going to be relatively inexpensive then it doesn’t make sense to invest in it because i’m not convinced it will ultimately be the best fireplace in the world. So keeping it easy and relatively cheap is important or else I should just start all over.

      1. Will you do another post on what the costs of the various kinds of refinishing versus redoing are? I voted start fresh (make it that show piece, babe!) but refinish is winning by a landslide. The relative costs seem so important for making that decision, though!

    2. Exactly this. Add the extra grout and if it’s still not working- scrap it and start new. When we renovated the kitchen in my last house, the floor guys tried to convince me to go with tile instead of ripping up the linoleum to look for hardwoods underneath. But I knew I had to know if my 80 year old home had original hardwoods hiding under that 70s style linoleum. I would never forgive myself for not trying even if they were irreparable. Luckily for me they were in great condition!

    3. Totally agree! Sometimes making something work costs as much as starting fresh. My beef with this stone is that it just looks fake. There’s no lentil over the fireplace, it’s so round that it just looks glued on there. It doesn’t look authentic. If you can make it look authentic on a budget go for it! Otherwise replace it!

  13. Work with it all the way! I feel like this kind of stone will work well with your pebble tile. 🙂 I think as you see in all your inspiration images, the devil is in the details here. You need an amazing craftsman to help you with your vision. You will save on materials but I would seriously consider paying more for a contractor with artistic vision and excellent skills.

    1. I second that! It looks like the bigger version of your pebble tile.

  14. Start fresh! I lived with a similar fireplace for 12 years at a ski chalet at Mont-Tremblant Quebec. We referred to it as our Fred Flintstone fireplace and hated it. If you don’t love it now then cut your losses and replace. I would replace with either a old flat square stone (you have some Images above) or consider an old upcycled brick. In a previous chalet we had a fireplace that was built with 300 year old red brick from a building in old Montreal. It was also raised so the bottom was about 50cm ( 18”) off the ground with a hearth/ledge wide enough to sit on and wood storage underneath. We loved everything about it!
    We replaced the Fred Flintstone fireplace with narrow white stone and a mantle and adjacent wood box made from pine with the live edge exposed. It works well and fits with the updated decor. We went with white stone since the space was dark before, in hindsight I wouldn’t do white again (and still might paint) because we added more windows during the reno and could have used light grey stone for some depth. Don’t switch to gas. They are great in the city but never as nice as wood in the country. We have never had issues with mice in our wood storage spaces in the house. (when you renovate be sure that the building envelope is well sealed to keep mice out and also stuff any spaces in walls where they could get into house from plumbing penetrations etc with steel wool).
    Consider keeping the old stones though for an outdoor fire pit (wood or gas) or pizza oven etc. Then you can still keep the history etc…
    Good luck!

    1. I agree, keep it wood burning.

      1. Interesting. We just want the ease of gas because brian knows he’ll be the one to go out and get wood, but i like the input. and I love the idea of reclaimed bricks, too. I HONESTLY thought that you guys were going to vote ‘Start Fresh!’ but man, ‘Work with it’ is killing it!

        1. I would strongly consider switching to gas for three reasons: wood fireplaces are far less environmentally friendly than gas due to inefficient heating and particulate matter in the air from the burning wood; you can still have heat from a gas-fireplace if your power goes out and it doesn’t suck heat from the rest of your home the way wood fireplaces do; and, the one that affects me personally — many people with asthma can’t be around wood smoke as it is a trigger for an attack. If you are set on wood-burning a wood stove insert is environmentally a bit sounder, and much more efficient heater, and allows less particulate matter into the home for your potential guests with asthma.

        2. I would strongly urge you to keep gas, especially if you will be renting this place out. In our experience, renters aren’t always very considerate with fire boxes and there is often ash and soot everywhere, not to mention wood debris from hauling in wood.

    2. I have a condo in Tremblant too! Would love to see your fireplace. Mine is https://www.vrbo.com/420910

  15. The mortar on the existing fireplace is too dark. Adding lighter mortar will transform that rock foreplace into something much prettier.

    1. Exactly. Picture it lighter, big difference.

  16. Go minimal with the fireplace. Those bubble rocks look very dated—they are nowhere close to looking like fieldstone. White washing them will minimize their bulbous and dated appearance, but it’s like putting lipstick on a pig…still a pig!

    Can you drywall over it and then skim coat with concrete or a tinted plaster? The texture would be so pretty, and it would still have rustic charm.

    1. My thoughts exactly! A skim coat of concrete or plaster but textured enough to be rustic

      1. Yep, definitely something we are considering … kinda like the last photos ….

  17. Add Grout, wash it, and find an old really chunky slab of wood for mantle…voila! There is an older gentleman in North Carolina that creates unique mantles from trees…they are amazing with loads of character!

  18. But if you have a gas fireplace, are the stacked logs just for decoration?

    1. Yeah, that seems really weird. Agree with the above comments about mice and bugs, especially since you won’t be there all the time!

    2. Yeah. I don’t get this. I think the log storage is beautiful but why would you specifically build that if you are switching to a gas fireplace?

  19. I say work with it so you can create content by sharing your experience and provide us with the information of grout/whitewash etc BUT maybe leave a little wiggle room in the budget to change it if it doesn’t ultimately work. Then you potentially have content for both options 🙂

    1. I agree!!

    2. I agree with this comment, too! I voted for “work with it” but I think that means that if you can’t make it work, after trying the great options you mentioned, then you start fresh.

      1. Yep. I agree. Looks like we will be ‘working with it’ but I’m open to the idea that if it doesn’t succeed, we’ll still start fresh, just maybe next year.

        1. For your last house you HAD to decide everything immediately and have it photo ready from day one. I think it’s lovely that it can be different this time around. I say do nothing for now (or almost nothing – put on a prettier mantle and/or paint the stone if you must), decorate/style the house, and then just live with it for a while. See how it is when everything is done around it. See if you grow to love it or not. And if not, change it down the road. Maybe it will be a simple fix, but if you decide to put big money into it, at least you will know that you really believe in doing so. As for us as your readers, I think we all gain to learn more by watching the process unfold over time rather than just seeing a gut job from the start.

          1. I’m with Molly on this one.

            Go with the “make it work” for now. Fill in with a lighter grout, maybe shave down the stones and white wash it a little to brighten it up. Save some money now on the big reno. Get some DIY type content out of it possibly.

            Let it sit for a couple years. Then down the road, get some more ‘design content’ out of it by tearing it down and building a new fireplace.

  20. My first thought was filling in with more grout and then applying some kind of rustic finish. It makes me think of the ‘German schmear’ fireplace that Chip and Jo did in this season of Fixer Upper – it seems like you could make it really cool with that!

  21. In the words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work!” I think so many readers can deeply relate to working with what ya got. I think you have an opportunity to embrace the challenge and make a drastic transformation! I think one of the best features of the existing living space is the variety of geometries and textures – the linear wood ceiling, fluffy carpet, smooth walls and that dimensional and organic patterning of the stone fireplace. I know lots of changes will be happening, but would love to see the play on geometry and texture of permanent finishes be carried through! Best of luck!

  22. I like the first option you showed, where you raise the firebox and the hearth, and I think adding grout/mortar to lessen the bubble effect will work wonders. I hope you choose to work with what you have. I have found myself falling a little out of love with design blogs/accounts recently because it seems like everything has to be perfect/aspirational these days. I don’t miss the days of straight DIY blogging, but I do miss how we used to see more “here is how you, as a reader, can work with what you have” since we don’t all have massive budgets to start fresh with any and everything (which is what I feel like most accounts/blogs do these days, what with all the free products/furniture at their disposal–as a side note, I have no issue with the free stuff, as I understand it’s now a regular part of a blogger’s business model, so good for you for being able to go that route…but I can’t deny the effect it is starting to have of making me feel less and less in touch with the blogger). So, while I definitely look forward to some of the aspirational stuff we will see in your house, I would also love to see some aspects where you work with what you have so it can be more relateable. My last comment is that I have been hoping very much for a traditional mountain cabin feel–I was SO excited when you said you were designing a mountain house, as I thought it would be a completely different feel from your other design work…it’s just fun to see something out of the ordinary and different. So, it seems like you’re not really going that direction totally, but, for what it’s worth, I think you do have some readers who would love to see you do this up like a real mountain cabin (plaids/woods/stones/leathers/etc.) instead of making it an airy chalet style! Obviously, your family’s opinion matters most, so I will happily go along for the ride no matter what direction you end up taking it. Just throwing my two cents in.

    1. Yes to all of this. Make it work!

  23. Work with it with extra “gloopy” mortar in cold grayish shade. Bubbliness of the stone will disappear and automatically the cold warm color ratio will start making sense. It’s worth giving a try. Great idea with raising the harph and the fire box.

  24. Work with it! Adding grout + refinishing the stones will make a big difference, and why not try it before going full demo? I love your ideas for adding wood boxes because the current shape/silhouette? of the fireplace is the biggest turn off for me. Would you consider narrowing it at the top like your inspiration photo? I like where you’re headed!

    1. Love the idea of narrowing it at the top like the inspiration pic!

  25. I hope you’ll work with it. I don’t hate the bubble rock. Rather than hiding the bubble it would be interesting to find a way to make it work. Could be really pretty with a lighter, slightly more filled in grout. Also, many of the inspiration photos have a thin profile mantle or none at all. I think the current chunky strip of wood slicing the fireplace in half actually dates it more than the bubble. A less prominent mantle style could transform this into something special and give it that monumental quality that some of the other high ceiling photos have. Another recurring theme in the examples is a firebox close to floor level so you might consider leaving it as is, too. Overall charm potential for sure.

  26. Have you seen that German schmear technique Joanna Gaines has used on Fixer Upper? It might give you the look you’re after.

    1. Someone else mentioned that, too! I”m going to look it up right now. Thanks, guys!

    2. Yes! I was thinking this same thing! Just load on the mortar. 🙂

      1. plus it’s just really fun to say German Schmear all the time 🙂 but i agree that this was the first solution that came to my mind too! labor intensive, but for one fireplace it shouldn’t be too bad

  27. If you fill in the grout, and then whitewash so you get a subtle tone-on-tone effect…..it might very well come out looking a lot like the white pebble tile in the bathroom. Be a nice way to tie both spaces together!

    (I’m painting a dated stone fireplace in my own house soon. )

    1. That’s exactly what I think! More grout + a graywash or whitewash would do wonders.

  28. Work with what you have, it’s beautiful.
    Raise the hearth, box, and mantel accordingly. Remove rocks from above the mantel. Hearth at bench height, use stones from above mantel for under bench. Mantel, add beams on both sides, come down to rest on bench or frame bench all the way to ground to add dimension. Area above mantel for art and sconces.
    So fun, thanks for sharing your process.

    1. Yes my plan for our new/reworked fireplace is to use old distressed beams on either side to the 12 foot ceilings and another heavy beam as the mantle. and the German Smear. I hadn’t thought of raising the hearth but I definitely want to work that in. I like it!

  29. I’ll be honest here. When you first mentioned gutting the fireplace and replacing it, my heart sunk. I think it’s very mountain-lodgey.

    I like the idea of adding more mortar in a lighter color and then potentially aging the rocks more if it’s not quite there with just the additional mortar. It’s very close to being workable, and will save you a lot of money vs replacing.

  30. first of all absolutely love mjolk – so you really can’t go wrong if you are inspired by their fireplace!! also i am getting an irish vibe from a lot of the pics that you pinned and liked. i’m not sure what irish design dna is exactly but they do beautiful beautiful things with stone and it could provide a bit of a scandi/mountain blend you need. anyway just if you need another term to add to your hunt!

  31. We just went through this decision less than a year ago and decided to keep the fireplace/stone in our 1980’s house. We gutted the entire house, and the fireplace is the only original feature we kept. My husband won the battle of keeping the fireplace, and hate to admit it, but he was right. We had it cleaned up, regrouted and it made a HUGE difference. Once it is freshened up, the hearth is enlarged and styled, you might be surprised at the difference. Like you said, if you changed your mind a year or two down the road, you can always go back and redo it. Not ideal, but at least an option. Good luck!

  32. Work with it! At least try the white wash/gray wash and I think it will look great. If you HATE it, then you could start fresh. But white was is so simple and worth looking into before you spend thousands on it.

  33. Not my style, but I am on Team Work With It. Just think what a little cheap and easy whitewash can do — fill the grout in a bit, give it a coat of whitewash, and see if that makes it less bubbly and dated. It’s a quick fix that you can do NOW to see if it gives you enough to get over it and, if not, then move to the more expensive Plan B (tear it down and put in what you want).

  34. Yes! The last thing you were talking about is what I was thinking all along. Fill in the mortar more and maybe do a bit of a German shmere (sp?). I also wonder if some kind of acid wash or something could age the stones a bit.

  35. HA – I voted to start fresh, but see that I’m very much in the minority! #teamtile

    1. Me too! I want to see a cool tile or something unique, those stone fireplaces are too rustic for my taste. I think the floating ones are cool too but I don’t know how you would make that safe with kids.

  36. Why would you need logs under a gas fireplace?

    1. For Instagram.

      1. Ha! That’s pretty funny! ; )

          Yes. I’m writing a post right now about how instagram is heavily affecting the design field and specifically people like me- in both good and bad ways. indeed, it would be so it looks pretty – but also to bring in a different texture and finish. but sounds like i’m nixing the idea because I don’t want the side effects of the wood.

          1. Can’t wait to read that post.

        2. the stone is actually very nice, it is the grout that is ugly. Keep the real stone, there is nothing better than the texture and color variations of real rock. Have it remortered with a light color. It will absolutely change the entire look of the finished look! Any good stone mason or brick layer can accomplish this for you.

  37. I would normally say “work with it,” but my gut says that if you do that, it is going to be more trouble than you think and cause trouble with time, cost and materials regardless. I’m no mason, but something is telling me attempting to adjust what you got ain’t going to work.

    1. I fear you are right … We’ll see 🙂

      1. Also, the bigger challenge may be to actually make the structural changes to the wall. I didn’t see it mentioned in the comments, but raising the fire box will immediately require a new flue and a new box along with a new lintel opening. Those are your major expenses right there already. So, this idea of ‘working with it’ does not actually seem to offer much of a cost savings other than the actual cladding material, which in theory you’d keep– unless you don’t move the height of the hearth.
        I think the bigger issues you point out with the fireplace (proportion, functional height) are way more of a concern than the stone (which could be cosmetically upgraded) and I agree with your instincts to start new.
        Excited to see what you do!!

        1. Absolutely agree with this. Also beware of ideas like “shaving the stone”. It’s way harder than the surrounding mortar and the substrate behind. It’s not going to work out like imagined! I’d say it’s time for a consult with your contractor;).

        2. Yes to this! Before you make up your mind, it might be worth it to price out the “work with it” option with a contractor, because it may cost just as much if not more than starting from scratch if it involves structural changes.

          We are currently re-doing a relatively small fireplace (60″ wide x 48″ tall) right now. We wanted to remove the current old gas insert, move the firebox up a few inches and widen it a little so we could put in a linear gas insert. Our contractor talked us out of that right away because changing the size/location of the firebox would be so cost prohibitive. Even with leaving the firebox alone, doing new stacked quartz to the (8 foot) ceiling and adding a new mantel will cost us about $8k. (We’re in the SF Bay Area, so labor costs are quite high.) That doesn’t even include a new insert — we are still pricing that out, but a new gas insert will be at least a few thousand dollars more.

      2. This is my feeling too, and has been my experience. I also wonder about a lot of the inspo pics – the fireplaces are not corner ones, and many are very rustic because they’re genuinely old. Trying to recreate an antique look in a newer house can give an artificial quality to the design.

        Start fresh, covert this to a rectangular corner fireplace and incorporate a bench (keep existing flue/firebox). Then pick the proportions and finish you want – some gorgeous Insta-worthy tile.

        You can save money by painting the shit out of that ceiling instead of replacing the wood. Maybe not bright white?

    2. Agreed. It’s such a focal point in the room, and starting with really mediocre material just makes me feel sad. Stone can be so beautiful! Smearing it with concrete-ish grout just emphasizes that you’re trying to hide the stone.

  38. You might want to consider keeping it, I wasn’t really a big fan of the stone until I saw a VERY similar fireplace in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living. It doesn’t look horrible, and the designer had a similar aesthetic to the one you’re going for, I think. I found the designer online and here’s a link to the project:


    1. Oh interesting. I mean, everything else in that house is gorgeous. its not my favorite either but if it were gray i don’t think i would mind it! Thank you for showing me … gonna show brian

      1. that is a very pretty house indeed *sigh* I think why it works well there, is because it isn’t trying to be “authentic” -like its very obviously not “real” stone – but instead looks really modern here, but if instead you are thinking about keeping it as is because you want it to feel like a cozy authentic mountain cabin, I fear that might not work as well….? I guess what I’m trying to say: I think it depends a lot on how you want to frame it 🙂

  39. I like the idea of white-washing the stone. That looks sooo nice. I think it would be such a shame to get rid of the rocks. They’re real rocks and nicely done.
    If you do get rid of the rocks, would you be able to save them to return back to nature? Or will they go to a landfill? If you do get rid of them, I think it would be a nice example to all your readers to find a way to be less wasteful with stuff you get rid of.

  40. I feel like this is already Brian’s dream fireplace, so maybe work with it? I think the challenge is much more fun to watch and so much more relatable and useful for your readers.

  41. I think you should definitely work with it. It’s a great feature and there are some interesting tweaks you can do to it rather than demo-ing it and starting over. It’s a good place to save money on the overall project and also more environmentally friendly (so much waste if you take it out!).

    Also, as others have noted, while logs indoors look cool, in a place that won’t always have people in it, they will attract all kinds of little creatures. Keep the logs outside.

  42. I like the half idea. It also ties in with some of that cabin-y look that Brian seems to want too. You could clad the upper with concrete, painted the wall color. Then, use a medium rustic mantle and dye the rock below to a lighter color. This would still keep a clean Scandinavian vibe.

  43. I think work with it. If it were my house I would raise the hearth and firebox, as you illustrated, over-grout the entire fireplace with white grout, and then draw it out into the room with a structure added to the front made of either concrete or plaster. The texture and warmth of the stone is already there, but I think it just needs more dimension and a touch of modern.

  44. From a selfish perspective, watching you “work with it” is much more educational for me. We completely made over two fireplaces last year. They were dreadful and the impact was fabulous, but it was a huge chunk of budget.

  45. I love the idea of working with it – mainly because those fireplaces are VERY common, and it’ll give content to how people can work with it in the future with out demo/reconstruction! I like the idea of chipping the stones!


  46. As a reader, I would be MUCH more interested in seeing the process of filling in with mortar, and shaving or altering the stone. More interesting than rip it out and start over!

  47. This is a hard choice.
    – I am always most impressed/inspired even ehd “works with it” on any project
    – but I love the inspiration photos for starting over

  48. If you work with it – the House Beautiful or Atlanta Home styles would get my vote! Some of the others are too “grouty” As far as demo – that gray brick or white washed wood is really pretty! Not really feeling the all drywall, not very special feeling. Love the wood stacked under the bench though! So cool!

  49. I say work with it but I do like the idea of raising the firebox and hearth. I think the stone is beautiful. I would love to have that in my home.

  50. The issue I see with the bubbly stone is that it looks fake : to build something you need stones that you can lay on top of each other and that won’t roll away. Hence no bubbly stone. It looks a bit “we wanted a stone fireplace but all we could find/aford was these”.
    For an option that is more like the hanging fireplace, but cozier and more cabin like, you can check the one here : https://www.instagram.com/p/BNggPNJDeAx/?taken-by=eelkejanbles it’s hard to see on the pic, but in person it is stunning!

    1. Love that. I think we will do something like that for the fireplace in the family room that needs to be a stove (I think, still working out the details for that room).

  51. I’m for making it work. Fill in grout, light lime wash, raise box and raise hearth, but no wood storage underneath. No brick please! There is no brick in the mountains! Make Brian happy and move on! 🙂

  52. Before I even read the post, I was like PAINT IT BLACK AND CALL IT A DAY! Ha ha, I see painting it is one of your options. I think a really dark matte charcoal would look awesome with all the wood you’ll have in the house.

  53. I would try filling in the mortar joints first. Then decide whether to try changing the color. You might look into using a concrete stain on the rock.

  54. Please don’t whitewash the stone! I love a light, bright, airy room as much as the next person. Truly! But when I hear ‘mountain cabin’ even if it is refined, lake, Scandinavian, whatever. I picture natural elements; wood, stone, trees… I think there are a lot of surfaces that will be unnatural out of necessity with the gyp. bd., rugs, furniture, appliances and decorations. But I would hate to lose touch completely with natural elements in their natural, beautiful state! I voted for ‘work with it!’ because I think you can, 100%! And also because the thought of ripping that stone out and replacing it with gyp. bd., plaster or tile seems unfitting for a ‘mountain cabin’. If it were your main house, maybe… but as a weekend place. I say accentuate the natural elements, exaggerate them a bit. Whether you work with the existing (because yeah.. the bubble stone is not awesome) or replace it I hope you do use some sort of natural stone!

  55. Its a selfish reason I voted for work with it – we have a stone fireplace as well that we aren’t 100% in love with so are constantly playing with ideas. Since we can’t really find any good resources online to help us to decide, would love to see what you come up with to make the fireplace fit in both a mountain house, with a streamlined design. Then maybe I could decide what I want to do! Totally selfish.

  56. I’m team work with it. My thought was just looking at it, that it needed more grout, a lot more grout. if it was me, I think I would go with one of the more simpler fixes… either painting it or white washing it and def adding more grout… I think it would look amazing. I don’t hate the chunky mantle either… I like it. I think you need something to put art or candles on or a place to drape a pine bough on. Then you can see if you like it or not and if it needs more tweaking to make you love it. I like some of your proposed work with it ideas… but I don’t think the fireplace looks bad, it just looks unfinished. Good Luck! Can’t wait to see all the changes…

  57. I’m not mentally prepared as you go through the rest of this process because this decision is already so tough!! I am completely torn – each option you showed as inspiration I liked better than the last, BUT it’s so tempting to want to see how you “work with it” to transform the look of the room!

  58. You said really have a chimney expert do a level 2 inspection on the chimney. It appears the wood us touching the fireplace. There should be a minimum of 2 ” clearance from a combustible surface to the chimney.

  59. At first I thought the fireplace that was your example that you loved was the before, and your fireplace was the after. We are in the middle of a major demo right now, too with three fireplaces to deal with. They can drive you crazy, but don’t over think it. Do what feels right.

  60. I am firmly on team “work with it.” I definitely don’t hate it the way it is, but I can see where the bubbly-ness bothers you. I loooove your inspiration photos at the end where you discuss filling it in with more grout and putting some sort of plaster or wash treatment over the stones to age them. I think having the stone go all the way up to the ceiling makes SUCH a grand mountain home-y statement. It seems like a relatively low-cost solution that you could always replace if it doesn’t work out. As a reader I would really like to see the process.

    Whatever you do, I vote you stick with stone. The tile and wood options just seemed so lackluster compared to the stone inspiration images.

  61. I vote paint it white to see if you like it better, and if you aren’t in love, demo and do something really cool. It’s the focal point of the house – you should love it! Def don’t spent a ton of money or effort trying to retrofit the current rocks.

  62. I voted work with it because I think that is the more interesting design puzzle. Of the discussions above, I actually think that adding more grout to “de-bubble” sounds like a great solution. I particularly like the photo above of the really heavily grouted bricks.

  63. I say work with it and live with it for a while. The ceiling in your current home comes to mind, it seems like your mind was similarly racing with ideas on what to do about he wood ceiling, and I remember at the beginning of the post, you nixed refinishing the wood beams, then made a decision, found it didn’t work, and ultimately went with refinishing the beams.

    Don’t rush into this one. I know the work needs to be done by this summer, but if you’re sure about everything else, furniture, paint colors and decor can be swapped out relatively easily. The fireplace will be such a central focus, I think you should work with what you have now, live with it for a while, and if you decide that it’s not for you, then bust into a big fireplace overhaul. I know it’ll be a pain, but if that’s what ends up happening, at least you’ll know it’s exactly what you want.

  64. Keep it and add more mortar so less stone shows. The field stone is really well done but It is more cute than rustic right now. Go really rustic since you already have a contemporary designed home.

  65. I love the idea of just adding layers of grout to make the surface appear flatter. I think that’s the most practical and also applicable to those of us with lower budgets so it’s good content for that reason!

  66. I honestly don’t care – I like the whole range of possibilities. Also, we have an UGLY STONE FIREPLACE, so I’m just panting to see where this whole conversation goes 🙂

  67. The wood storage looks nice, but is not at all practical. Wood is dirty and sharp-edge. It will scape the floor as it’s pulled out. You could clean the logs carefully and store them there permanently, but then you could develop a termite or mouse problem. Good luck with the reno!

  68. I think that adding some mortar to fill in the gaps and washing the stone to make it more of a similar color will make it feel cozy and inviting but also updated.

    And I know that this might sound nuts BUT as I’m redesigning and imagining spaces for myself and clients, I try to see what we CAN keep instead of just what we have to based on budget. Sometimes a space is a total gut but sometimes I have to remind myself and clients that they actually bought and fell in love with the space for a reason. I also think that we have to be cognizant of how much waste we’re producing with added demo projects and try to minimize what goes to landfills. I can’t just recycle my bottles and cans and feel green while I’m ripping out tons of material that goes straight to the landfill.

  69. I voted for “work with it” but I would not paint it or white wash it at all! I think you should fill in the grout and look at maybe shaving down the stones so they’re more flat.

    It looks like “work with it” is winning, but if you were to “start fresh” I wouldn’t go with tile or wood. I would use a different stone, like the ones in photos 5 and 6 in the post. Those are some beautiful stone fireplaces.

  70. I voted start fresh just because the moment I saw the something special organic tile option I couldn’t even think about anything else;).

  71. Personally, I think it is a bit silly to be storing logs in the fireplace area when you actually won’t be using them – takes away from the authenticity of everything else.

    1. Ok ok ok ok. people are REALLY not into the wood. message heard 🙂

      1. do your bench idea and put some great baskets underneath! you’ll still get the great texture and natural material feel and they will be super practical to stuff toys into when you’re trying to clean up fast!

  72. I think you could really make it work! Fill in with LOTS of white/light colored mortar or grout. Take a German Schmear approach to it. That will get rid of the circular, bubble, uniformity of the rocks right now and give it a rustic, clean feel.

    Or if you want to achieve your inspiration pic, fill in with lots of darker grout and try staining the rocks by hand to give them the exact aged look and color you want.

    I think oversizing and raising the firebox will make the fireplace feel more interesting and luxurious.

  73. We have this EXACT stone on our fireplace (except ours is the even more cheesy faux river rock) and much of your thought process in this post is my own regarding what to do w/our own “bubble” stone (and super tall) fireplace. Ours has a tree trunk mantle so be thankful your mantle is at least streamline. (It’s here if anyone’s interested in seeing: http://dalydigs.com/2018/02/16/friday-finds-weekly-recap/) First, we painted ours black, but it was too dark so more recently we painted it white. It’s MUCH, much better. I still don’t love it, but we have many other projects in our fixer-upper that are more important than the fireplace. I say try to work with it and then you can always start over later. I’ll be following this one for sure.

    1. One more thing to add – I found that as we started to work on the space around the fireplace (installing fixtures, planning the staircase, railing, etc) the fireplace became less of a focal/contention point. Right now perhaps you’re torn b/c it’s an eyesore amongst the rest of the demo that needs to be done in the room/space. After the surrounding area starts to feel more pulled together, the fireplace will take on a different look and perhaps it won’t be so bad. The surrounding decor will give the eye more pleasing things to look at. 😉 Sorry for all that! I just really relate to this post and issue! 🙂

    2. White is way better! This reminds me a lot of Southern California where I grew up. That rock was really popular, I remember my parents re-clad their fireplace in it! With a flat mantle, I would say your white bubble rock fireplace would look fantastic and now! Especially with the styling and accent pieces you have. Hopefully Emily will see this!

  74. All the stone options you like are the ones where the stone is actually structural, or at least looks like it could be. Your stone is nice but it is just a decorative facade. I think that is the problem.

  75. I voted Fresh Start. Here’s why:

    1. That style of corner fireplaces are an abomination!
    Keep the same flue placement, but make the fireplace a rectangular shape.

    2. The labor involved in fixing those stones will end up costing you more than starting fresh and covering the new surface with something amazing and handmade: Clé tiles, Heath, etc.

    3. You deserve a big fresh fireplace covered in colorful tile work. Incorporate some stone in the bench, or find tile that harmonizes with stones, but those stones are never going to be what you really want.

    4. The rest of the design can be Scandi/minimal, fireplace is a good spot for something really gorgeous. Look at Heath tile in #3 Olive

  76. In regards to “It’s an inner hell that I can better explain in a whole post about how social media is affecting the design world…,” I would love to read that. I feel like it’d be the most time-intensive post to write, EVER, because you’d have to bounce between being totally honest and not offending anyone – I could imagine it’d be the kind of post where you’d write three paragraphs, think it sounded too negative, and delete them only to then rewrite them in a slightly different tone… basically, a multi-day multi-session writing exercise. But I’d be fascinated to read such a post because even amongst friends on Facebook, it seems like everyone wants to push their best, most photogenic reality outwards, even if it’s not representational of how they actually are living or even want to live. And also, things are happening so fast – by the time my design magazines arrive, everything already looks old and I’ve already seen the ideas three times on Pinterest. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to keep up.

    About the fireplace, I voted to keep it because I actually like it (it reminds me of some historic Virginian homes), because I like your ideas of raising it, and because I actually strongly dislike the primary inspiration photo of the aged irregular-shaped stone Mjolk fireplace. The Mjolk fireplace just looks dirty, dark, and too red to me (it kind of works with their red rug but if you weren’t decorating with red I don’t think it’d flow well with everything else). If you were going to replace your fireplace entirely, then I liked some of the tile ones. But if you are going to keep it, then I liked some of the gray wash photos, even though if this were actually my home, I’d keep the original stones’ colors because it will look completely different in context with the new floors, ceiling, etc.

  77. Love your blog! I have you in my Blogger reading list! I’m really loving the third to last picture😃

  78. My absolute favorite is a minimal drywall fireplace with an interesting herringbone brick in the fireplace box with a thick natural wood mantle.

    If you decide to work with the stone, I’d say definitely paint it white or gray.

  79. I think since you aren’t IN LOVE with any of the options that include starting over, it makes the most sense to try and make it work. I think thicker grout is going to completely change the look and be much prettier.

  80. Oh man, this is a toughie. I really hate the current stone look (screams 90s mc mansions to me) but I do think you need stone and would love to see it redone from scratch, with a fantasy unlimited budget. Although I liked the idea in this post about making it a pretty shape/texture without actually being stone, and wondered if you could literally plaster/cement over the existing stone to hide it. Or demo and just do that lower cost option from scratch.

    I also liked the last idea of working with the existing stone by adding wayyyy more grout to it. It’s probably what I would do with my typically small budget. I just think the round shapes will not be as pretty even after all that work, even if you could shave them flat. The vast majority of your inspo pics are more angular stone. It is just the wrong kind of stone that you are starting with. I don’t know what you should do honestly! Tough choice!!

  81. What about keeping the stone below and working in somthing more architectural above? Or painting the stone all white if you don’t love the whitewash. The tiles photos above feel so generic. The stone is so appropriate and special, I’d love to see you work with it!

  82. Amazing cabin inspo pics thank you!

  83. I think that the stone is pretty, but the application is poor. I’d first see if you can improve it with more/darker grout, sanding, and better hearth. If it still looks medicore, replace with better stone. The issue seems to be the texture so painting won’t improve that much, I think. It is a huge focal point so you don’t want to leave it just okay. On the other hand, if it is workable, then you wouldn’t want to blow that opportunity.

  84. I know opinions are fierce about Chip and Joanna, and I totally get why. That said, they’ve done a German schmear (have no idea if that’s how it’s spelled) technique on brick and rock a few time on Fixer Upper. I wonder if that would get to the more flush grout/rock look you’re looking for. It might also help cover up some of those rounded edges on the stone.

  85. The fire place, as is, right now is gorgeous. I feel like you’re almost “rock shaming” by saying the beautiful natural stones are not editorial enough! ;P As is, it reminds me of the rocky banks of the South Yuba River. I know you’re going for Scandinavian but the house is in California and as a Californian I love the idea of honoring the natural history around the house. I voted to work with it.

  86. River rock to me says “beachy” (Oregon coast here, woop! Most of the oceanfront homes have river rock fireplaces). I would definitely like to see the mortar filled in, and I’m into the whitewashed idea! I also second exploring removing some stone above the mantel. My main issue is with the location of the fireplace. Has anyone ever seen a corner one look good??

  87. I voted for “work with it” but am not really a fan of just painting the stone – I feel like we’ve seen this in so many other places. I’d be really interested to see the fireplace filled in with more grout or mortar, as you mentioned.

    Also, I love the options you pointed out for working with the stone (raising the box, adding the bench with logs, etc.) – I think these are really smart design decisions that the average person wouldn’t have thought of (or thought possible) and would be really excited to see what a difference they have on the final look of the fireplace!

  88. white wash the rock and raise the box/rework the hearth as you mentioned! It could be really wonderful!

  89. I vote to sandblast the existing stone to make it rougher and then adding grout so the surface is flatter.

    1. And I love the idea of raising the base to store wood underneath!

  90. Before I got to the end of your post I was thinking you could add some grout to make it look older. Most older homes using stone used a lot of grout. I would think cutting each stone would be difficult, messy, and costly process. I also agree with some of the others below, maybe you could remove the stone above the mantel and install horizontal ship lap. Or you could remove the stone above the mantel and reinstall it in a tapered shape like some of the other pictures you show. The white wash also looks nice. Whatever you do I’m excited to see it. Many of us have this issue.

  91. I would do the mortar/paint option. The hearth is woefully undersized, so I like the idea of a bench and enlarged firebox.

    If the painting falls flat could a veneer of tinted concrete be placed over it? With a really rustic, chunky mantel.

  92. I think it will look amazing if you just fill in between with more mortar!

  93. I voted Work with it. I think the color of your stone is fine. Maybe try the simplest thing first, which is your idea to just fill in with some grout to make it less bubbly?

    BUT, please reconsider making it an open gas fireplace, which is extremely inefficient. Given that your house is in the mountains, you should use the fire to actually help heat the place. My friends put an awesome simple closed wood insert in their fireplace. You can still see the flames through the glass, and it is SO cozy.

  94. So sad to see start fresh with so few votes! I think that if you feel the need to change it that much just to “work with it”, you might as well get your dream fireplace now! Even with a tighter budget overall, there are probably other areas you can save on that don’t get as much attention as the fireplace will. But I totally see the appeal of saving that money and changing the stone/layout up a bit. Whatever you decide will be beautiful!

  95. Take a look at houseinhabit on Instagram – they just redid their new fireplace and it looks AMAZING!!

  96. Do it all!
    1. Raise the box and the create the bench.
    2. Fill in the grout and dark wash the stone below the mantel to make it the stone you want to look at
    3. Restain the mantel darker to match stone and keep it modern
    4. Demo enough rock above the mantel to plaster over the rock in the tapered chimney style you liked in the scandi pic.
    = Modern rustic comfortable mountain focal point below and recessed scandi rustic that does not break the line of the beams above

  97. I totally agree with those who have said to keep the wood below the mantle and use wood above. Do you follow Faux Martha? She has a beautiful minimalist fireplace that still feels cozy in her living room, but the materials that I think would be awesome for your fireplace are more what she used for her outside pizza oven space. Stone on the bottom, Shou Sugi Ban wood on the top.

    Look at the first photo in this post… that’s what I was imagining. 🙂


  98. Work with it! I love the idea of the hearth. We added it in our house and it is so nice to sit on and have our backs to the fire. It also adds more seating for entertaining. 🙂 I think it would look beautiful matte light taupe and then add a thick rustic mantle, painted white to make it more refined. Stones all the way up. So pretty!

  99. I say make it work! I especially love the look of the last photos… filling in the mortar and making the rocks flatter and more aged. I grew up in a mountain house with a massive stone fireplace and l love the warmth they provide (literally and aesthetically), but I really prefer the aged, more historic-looking versions. They just have so much soul.

  100. DEFINITELY work with it! I was totally going to recommend shaving it down flatter, and filling in with more grout. I think it’ll look fantastic like that, and the texture from it is a nice addition to the room. Besides the money saving aspect of it, I think it would hands-down look the best of all the options you presented!

  101. OMG, I have almost this exact fireplace in my living room, floor to ceiling!! So interesting to see your thought process on it and what you are considering replacing it with. I’ve been wanting to do something with mine for AGES, but couldn’t ever decide what I wanted. It has a very strong look, so decor-wise, you get pretty locked in with the stone.


    By the way, I wonder about putting the logs underneath the fireplace. I can just SEE the spiders and webs there….

    1. OMG, I have almost this exact fireplace in my living room, floor to ceiling!! So interesting to see your thought process on it and what you are considering replacing it with. I’ve been wanting to do something with mine for AGES, but couldn’t ever decide what I wanted. It has a very strong look, so decor-wise, you get pretty locked in with the stone.

      By the way, I wonder about putting the logs underneath the fireplace. I can just SEE the spiders and webs there….

  102. There is a look I love where the high point of the rocks just peek through bright white plaster. The ratio of rocks is smaller that way. It’s more graphic and feels more old world. Not sure where I have seen it? Greek maybe?

  103. I can see making the rocks more flush with the grout and maybe even doing some kind of wash on it or german schmear kind of treatment. I think that fireplace is gorgeous, and you can make it really stunning with a little work.

  104. Even before this post, I hoped you would fill in the stone with more grout and paint or whitewash. That looks so warm and textural to me – a subtle but impactful statement.

  105. I love the white/gray wash! I laughed to myself reading this post, as we recently moved this summer (to a regular small city in the PNW) and SO many houses we looked at had giant, ugly stone fireplaces – this one actually looks much better by comparison. We spent a million hours on Pinterest trying to figure out how we could make them work. [I feel it’s worth noting here that we eventually decided on a newer home with a fresher, more modern fireplace, among other features :).] My parents have lived in this same town for ten years and also have a giant one in their house that they don’t love, but can’t/don’t want to invest the huge amount of time and resources to demo it and start fresh. All of this to say – I think this is a very real and relatable thing for a lot of folks and it might give people stuck in a similar boat some fresh inspiration. Good luck!

  106. I voted for make it work… for purely selfish reasons. I have very similar stone on my mountain house fireplace. I’m not crazy about it and would love to see how you transform it into something beautiful.

  107. YES to working with it, adding new grout. YES to demolishing all the stone above the mantel. The angle at the top is what’s throwing it off, combined with the sheer volume of bubble stone. Tall stone stacks look great in classic proportions, but not here. My angled fireplace used to be a wraparound 80s monstrosity but I cut it down to size and squared it off at the top. Now it looks balanced and pleasing. NO to stacked logs below this fireplace – the stone is texture enough. And please keep it wood burning – why go gas when you have this option?

  108. Work with stone. Rough it up and skim coat stucco or remove stone wrap whole thing in barnwood painted white xx

  109. Work with it! The first drywall option was gorgeous, though.

  110. I vote work with it! That kind of fireplace is just iconic in a mountain home and would be a shame to lose it. Once you change it, you can never go back, You might regret it, and (not so deep down) you seem to actually like it! Couldn’t you just live with it for another year or two and make this decision down the road? Yes, its demo, but it’s something that could be tackled after the rest of the home is done. Maybe on 15-20% of the existing stones you chisel or hammer them to make them less perfect, then put on super thick grout on the whole thing, since you seem to really WANT to make a change. But I wouldn’t do anything drastic just for the sake of blog content. Hope this was helpful! 🙂

  111. I selfishly admit to voting for the “work it” option because we too have a massive corner stone fireplace to redo.
    Of the options I loved the one with white plaster and horizontal modern lines One has beam inset (cowhide rug in front) .
    I LOVE the idea of flattening stones, plastering a TON over them so just some pops out but even that has thin coat of plaster. I see a lot of that gorgeous rock in (modern) Texas ranch houses. I like that lighter plaster rock look WAY better then the olde grey fireplace you posted at first. I would HATE that if I was buying a super cool redo. Just saying..
    If I had to keep costs down , I’d plaster top with crisp edges, inset wood bean, heavy plaster over bottom w hint of rock only if you could make the roundness of rocks disappear. Not thinking you really achieve that. I generally dislike corner fireplaces (our ugly rock is a corner too) so can’t wait to see your solution!

  112. Work with it, for sure. Taking it out seems so needlessly extravagant, when there are so many options to make it work beautifully as it is now. I’d agree with moving the box up for wood storage underneath. Just changing the shape that much will ,make a big difference, along with a mantle and whitewash/paint/morter.

  113. First off, Emily, I LOVE seeing your thought process on this. Thank you for showing us everything you considered and all the questions you’re asking! I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m “not good enough” because it takes me so much exploration and questioning to get to something good. Now I know that’s what the pros do, and I feel so much better.

    Second, I know this isn’t in the spirit of budget-friendliness, but: if you demo the fireplace, have you considered moving it while you’re at it? I think the fact that it’s in a corner is what makes it feel so 90s. That said, if anyone can make it work, you can!

  114. I commented above with a wood-burning fireplace insert option and just wanted to show you another clean-lined fireplace insert in case you want to keep it wood burning. Regency fireplaces has some other good contemporary options with lots of glass area so you can see the flames. Here’s one I almost went with for our house (it was too big unfortunately). https://www.regency-fire.com/en/Products/Wood/Wood-Inserts/CI2600

  115. While I think in general “work with it” is an excellent choice for most of us, you did that in both of your own houses. I would love to see you create something brand new and inspiring. (Plus I think often when people try to “work with it” with stone you basically end up trying to faux age the stones which just looks fake)

  116. Work with it! It will be so much more interesting for inspiration and content to find a way to work with it and make it beautiful, a better story to tell than just taking it out and picking finishes at a store. So many people can relate to having to deal with what they have in their homes. I’d love to see how you can make it more beautiful without the extravagance of just tearing it out and starting over.

  117. I don’t think I saw this suggestion anywhere, how about extending the stone to the left (towards the windows), then raising the hearth and building a continuous window seat to the left of the fireplace? Work with the color and texture of the stones, yes, but adding more stone makes it seem more intentional, in my opinion.

    Also, taking a picture with an actual fire burning might help your decision. There’s so much natural ambience from a burning fire!

  118. My vote is to fill in with more grout and white wash it.

  119. Definitely team “Work with It.” All of the subway tile options feel a bit tired to me, and may make the fireplace less of a feature in the room. I am sure it would be pretty in real life, but probably not much of a statement for the blog. I like the idea of shaving down the rock somehow, and then filling in with either a whitewash or some extra, light colored grout to make it feel more rustic and antiqued. I think that, so long as the colors are kept light and muted, it will fit within the Scandi vibe. Good luck choosing among all these options!

  120. I was actually thinking that sanding it down so it’s less bubbly would be a good ide but wasn’t sure if that was a thing with rock, and then you mentioned shaving it. So I think doing that and then bringing the grout up to be flush with the stone with be the way to go. It would help maintain the rustic mountain vibe while helping it to feel more current and modern. I actually think the color of the stone is great, it’s the colors of the wall and wood that aren’t necessarily helping it right now.

  121. One of my favorite fireplaces is actually from your instagram feed, from the founder of Schoolhouse Electric. Modern, simple and clean-lined with a super Scandi vibe.

  122. Demo it. No amount of grout and paint will completely change that rock. And the angle makes it dated. This fireplace has to be the centerpiece of the entire reno, its the big feature in that main shot we see in all magazine covers – the big window, the living area, the fireplace. You won’t regret spending the money on this. I think you should save it somewhere else. Hugs!

    1. I agree. It’s river rock so it’s just a faux decorative cladding. All the ones Emily likes are dressed stone which is the authentic building material, which stones can be laid on top of each other to make a chimney structure.
      Additionally I would very much doubt if trying to dress the stone in situ ( shaving) would be feasible or successful.

  123. If I were going to work with it, I would white wash the stones above the mantel and do a modern white drywall below. Anything more than that seems like it would be better to start fresh.

  124. Team in between? All of the ones you like not only have angular stone, but an angular shape to the fireplace. I wonder if you’d be able to take off some of the stones on the sides, especially above the mantle, to make the whole fireplace pop away from the corner. And in building the new “corners”, you would use angular stone and fill in the existing bubble rock with a lot more mortar.

    I also noticed that on several of the ones you really like (the leading picture especially), the rocks are a lot more variegated in color. I think that gives more of the feeling of age. The overall color is lighter but the individual stones have darker areas that give it the timeworn look.

    I think it would be a missed opportunity to pass on having a stone fireplace, though.

  125. Remove some of the smaller stones and apply more grout in wider bands so the stones don’t look as uniformly smooth-edged.

  126. Ok, so I voted “work with it” but I did so a little sadistically? I have hated the bubble rock ever since your first reveal of the mountain house. If I bought a house with a similar fireplace, I would assume that my only option would be to demo.

    So, I am looking at this as an experiment to see if it’s possible to make the fireplace appealing. More grout/plaster and shaving down the stone sound the most viable to me. I don’t think paint will be enough of an improvement.

    If anyone can do it, it’s you! And if it doesn’t work, I like the idea of concrete/plaster with a chunky wood mantle or a better, blockier stone. The tile doesn’t feel very mountain-y to me.

  127. Also in the camp of removing the stone above the mantle. I think as far as content goes it would be great to see you work with the stone. I can imagine buying a house with ugly stone and needing inspiration.

  128. Definitely keep the stone fireplace, but re-grout/re-mortar and possibly paint/whitewash to get the more uniform look you are aiming for!

  129. work with it! true inspo for all of us out here that have to do that more often than not! plus, i think they are screaming for your attention right now in your empty, pre-rehabbed space, but with some tweaks and all the loveliness you will add in around the stones, they won’t be so prominent.

    in looking at your inspo pics, i noted that I didn’t really ‘love’ the stone in Lauren Liess’s lake house, but i’ve seen that pic before and just loved the room altogether without really tuning in to the details of the stones.

  130. Hi there,

    I think it would be best to start over with something that feels right for both of you. The bubble stone is sad and the position of the fireplace is not good, because it is angled in that corner.

    I agree that you could make it look better by using mortar to bury the stones, and you could whitewash it to cover up the colour as some have suggested. In the end, you may regret not doing things the way you like them. You may waste time and energy on something that does not feel right and function properly for years to come. Choose something simple that your husband also likes. There were many options there which are beautiful and functional too. Recycle the stones and materials elsewhere.

  131. If you take a super thick grout or pale plaster and rub it all over like a German Schmear I think you would save the most money and make it look great. You could always add a super thick wood beam mantle over that. Or just completely plaster or concrete over it for a more modern look….Either way, I believe it is not THAT much more gorgeous to completely change it and spend that money. Save your money to splurge on kitchen and baths.
    Loving how it’s going!

  132. Keep the stone – spend money somewhere else – but clad 1/2 the fireplace in that white stucco or drywall = to make it more contemporary. You will love that.

  133. Ohhh find the old stone! Definitely get rid of the bubble rock. It may be real but it looks really fake. The slate colored odd shaped tile is really interesting. I am redoing a fireplace and pretty sure we are going to do the “German Smear” on brick; which is kind of what you showed on some of the rock which could be good, but NOT the bubble rock! Redoing the shape could be good but is probably more expensive so if you just replace the rock with prettier rock, i.e. the old rock or something rougher and more varied sized would be much better. Please, whatever you do remove the Bubble rock! I have faith that what ever you do will be pretty wonderful! Thanks for sharing this great fun project.

  134. I would paint it matte black, with a natural wood mantel with a raw/live edge and natural wood bench with wood storage beneath it…it would be a statement and super fun!

    1. I love this idea!!!

  135. Emily,
    consider Pennsylvania Blue Stone. More linear, cleaner in form, but still textural and an earthen element. This stone has a color feel that is timeless but also cues fresh + modern. The others are so traditional for your vibe or are too stark and cold for a family mood.
    Definitely keep the stone all the way to the ceiling- the space needs the drama and volume with that ceiling height proportion.

  136. Is this fireplace a main source of heat for the house? I’m from this town and we always had freestanding wood burning stoves or gas inserts bc they’re more efficient at heating the house (the gas heater bill can get excessive without a fireplace). Just something to think about before removing the existing insert. Keep in mind we’re having a mild winter and can have a lot more snowy/freezing days in other years (hopefully 🤞😉)

  137. Did anyone else from other countries die a little inside reading how little all this work will cost. I’m from a small nation island at the end of the earth and renovation is so so expensive! It is both depressing seeing how cheap houses and renovations are in the states but also fun to see all the options I guess. Sigh

    1. And so fast! We are waiting 9 months now to get land and building consent for a minor
      Renovation… it will take that time again to find a builder. I am constantly AMAZED how quick everything moves in US renivations. It certainly makes these US blogs instantly gratifying!

    2. Yes! But I also think that some of the stuff will be sponsored and or freebies. – It’s like watching all those reno shows on TV and knowing that to do something similar at home would cost AT LEAST 3 or 4 times as much.

  138. “work with it”
    I think you are on the right track with more grout and a white wash and bigger box, moved up, wood storage underneath!!!!

    1. OH and work with the ceiling by painting it white. Don’t add the extra expense of re cladding it.

  139. See if anyone can acid wash/etch the stone and definitely fill in with more grout. It will look much better, even beautiful, but remember it will still not be the flatter more angular stones you love. No unrealistic expectations. I think it will fit beautifully into your design and keeps the cozy feel a mountain house, whether rustic or more contemporary, should have

  140. I’d start by grouting the rocks flush, as the grout is being applied you may get a sense of what a “washed” treatment would look like. The changes to the opening, height of hearth and change of mantle will make a huge difference.

  141. Demo!! After reading this post I am getting major vibes that you’re trying to convince yourself how you can work with it, while you’d rather just start fresh. I understand the motivation for working with it, but considering the amount of time and money you are spending on this rehab, I can imagine you would might regret not making this one major element of the house perfect for you. Since Brian is so keen on rustic and stone, but this is not the right stone, I would definitely demo it and start over using the RIGHT stone. Besides, with all that you would want to do to change it if you left it, it might end up taking almost as much time and money as if you just started over.

  142. I see nothing wrong with that fireplace that can’t be fixed easily. It’s cozy, it’s real stone, and your husband likes it — not to mention it’s perfect for a mountain house. I think the real issue is the rest of the room, and the fireplace will look great once you solve those problems. Paint the ceiling beams a very pale, warm grey, install wood floors with a great rug, modernize the railings, and create a chunkier mantle out of rustic-looking wood. Then maybe whitewash the stone and call it a day. You’re a talented designer, but I have to be honest and say I don’t think your usual methods are going to work here. Maybe Brian’s instincts are good on this one?

    1. This!

  143. I didn’t vote because I think something down the middle would be best. Raise the hearth, add (lots of) mortar and age the stone between the hearth and mantle, add a beautful wood mantle, then remove the stone above that and finish it out with plaster or drywall or whatever in a pretty shape like some of your inspiration pics in the middle of the post. This is fun! 🙂

  144. Think about staining your rock a darker color and add a darker grout to make it more flush and not so bubbly. I love the mantle you added in the pictures and raising the firebox and hearth.

  145. Em, compared to some of the fireplaces you showed as examples, I really like the look of your fireplace. The stones have great color and symmetry, that’s why i voted for you to work with it. I don’t think it’s too dated or antique-y looking either. Looking forward to see what you and your team come up with for the “refresh”.

  146. Of all of the options, and there are so many!, my vote would be to paint it dark and/or do some additional mortaring to create a new surface experience. It seems like the thing you like least about it is the stones’ roundness and bubble-ness, and more mortar could solve that problem.

    I also voted for the “work with it” option because while I think a lot of us view the “after” product as inspirational, the truth is, many of us would not have the budget to rip the whole thing out and start fresh. I’m therefore very interested in what the super creative totally wowza “make it work” solutions are, because I feel like that’s the camp most of us are in.

  147. I vote work with it – BUT BUT BUT – I think your plan to raise the heart and firebox is not very feasible. If the existing stone was more squared off, it would be easier, but the roundness of the stone is going to make that difficult, or impossible. If you look at the current opening, the stones have been chosen/carefully shaped to fit to a square opening, but the stones above the top edge of the firebox are not flat on the bottom edge. That said, if you forgo the plan to stack wood below the hearth, then you really could leave hearth and box where they are. I agree with the option to fill in the mortar so the roundness of the stone is less emphatic. I would leave the stone all the way to the ceiling and just add a new wood mantel.

  148. No way I would stay with the old stone! In fact , I hate it. However the survey turns out do what you think is best.

  149. Emily, I’m not in love with the asymmetric top of your fireplace compared to your dream old stone fireplace, so I would propose keeping the stone on the bottom and then doing something to hide the top more…don’t know if this is making sense but make the focus the bottom area. Good luck and thanks for the opportunity to share ideas 💛

  150. My favorite is actually your original fireplace stone! To me, those stones are smooth and softened, and contrast nicely with the fact that they are… stone. The jagged and sharp edged stones feel too hard and not cozy.

  151. I like pulling the grout up higher so the rocks aren’t so bubbly. Can you rough them up a little? Maybe take some of the rounded edges off? I think going a little darker rather than lighter is super cozy. There’s something about a fire in a dark space that makes me think of blankets and wine!! And maybe Uno, but not after 9:00!!😏

  152. I voted to replace it because you don’t love it. We are 2-story fireplace owners who have investigated options to replace / renovate and they are all messy, costly and, did I mention messy? That thing is big and will be bossing your design decisions around. Take back your house from the beast before it is too late! (Written from experience).

  153. Is it possible to reshape the top of the existing fireplace? It’s such a big rectangular slab at the moment. If you could “thin” it into the pretty Scandinavian shape and then fix the grout and color I think it could look pretty stunning.

  154. I love the current stone but think the things that could use updating are the grout color — maybe go lighter on the grout with a pale tan or grey so that the rocks don’t pop out so much, but blend more like some of your pins do? — and that mantel. That mantel needs to go — I think that makes it look more dated than anything else about the fireplace. The edges of the stone, as it transitions to wall, bug me — it looks kinda pasted on — but I think that’s maybe that’s a fix for the “decor” parts of the project and not so much the construction parts of the project.
    As the owners of a raised hearth fireplace, I would counter your concept of raising the hearth. While I LOVE the seating our raised hearth gives, you can’t really sit or lay on the floor in front of the fireplace and really enjoy the fire — you get very little heat from it because it’s above you, and you have to strain your neck to watch the flames. That may be a worthwhile trade-off to you, all things considered, but just a small view from the other side.
    And you should totally go gas or take out the stove altogether: go to open flames. SOOOO much prettier!

  155. oh man I just think a really special tile fireplace, with the wood floor and ceilings would be soooo gorgeous. but it is workable in its current state and would be an easy place to save some $$. when we Reno-ed our entire home the one thing I left untouched was the 70s square pink-ish marble tile fireplace in the master. it’s definitely not what I would pick if I were to design it myself, but it was OK and interesting and the character/history of it kind of grew on me… I think if you keep the stone it would help to make it more monotone, probably some kind of white or grey wash. but then I’d also probably sand it down too so its less bubbly… and then I question whether the money saved after the labor in doing all that would be that meaningful anyway… because a really special tile could be STUNNING. that indigo one is really intriguing..

  156. I’m team work with it. It would be inspiring to see what your creative brain can come up with to make it work. It would also feel more approachable, as most of us will never have 10k to completely redo a fireplace. Of course, if your goal is to be aspirational then I say demo away!

  157. What if you lowered the mantel, raised the hearth into a bench with wood under like you talked about, but then removed the wood on the mantel (so just a stone finish) and recessed the entire middle section into an open hearth (similar to the picture just below the one of your fireplace with your plans drawn on top) with really pretty plaster? That could keep the stone + mountain feel, but add a little more minimal edge to the overall look? It could work great to expand the feeling of the corner a little but still keeping the focus on the stone.

  158. I hate most of those fireplaces, ESPECIALLY the tile, yours is my favorite! Yes, I’d update it a bit, definitely needs a killer mantel, and I’m intrigued at the whitewashing idea…but it’s nearly perfect & is 100% mountain house. Those stones worked hard to get so perfectly smooth…let them stay 🙂

  159. Phew. So glad you circled back to working with what you have. Sometimes existing features you don’t like end up being the most interesting detail once you rework the space. I hope you keep the rock all the way to ceiling but add mortar/grout as you’re considering. Perhaps slightly reshaping rock surfaces making them a bit more angular than circular. I think that’s what bothers me most about the bubble stone in that gorgeous room with all the sharp angles. Last opinion–change or remove the heavy beam across the middle so the span rises unbroken to the ceiling. What a gorgeous room, Emily. I’m so curious to see how you finish the room.

  160. When you’re spending $150K on renovating the house, $10K is a drop in the ocean and worth making it look stunning. After all, it’s a focal point in the room and you’ll never be happy with it unless it looks like it’s been there for 100 years. I would look for architectural salvage yards that stock genuine aged rock and rebuild it.

  161. If you’d like it to look like the one you love, i’d just add grout to get rid of the bubble feel and then age the stone with a darker glaze to approximate that Scandi one you love. To my eye the newness/tonal differences in the stone is what’s so jarring to the eye. All the ones you seem to be gravitating towards are all tonal, whereas yours has grey, beige, light and red tones all going at once.

  162. What a fun project! I like the adjustments you want to make- change and raise the box, add the bench/hearth, update the mantle, fill in the grout. I like the idea of painting the stones so overall it is more monochromatic and modern. Could you also remove stones from the sides so that the overall shape is tall and slimmer (or ‘shaped’ like the inspiration)? This would also pull the edges away from the drywall sides which currently makes it appear really flat. Most of your favorite inspiration pics are very dimensional and the fireplace is more forward than the wall. I think all of the above could help you get what you’re after.

  163. I voted for “Work with It,” with the sub-vote being to un-bubble the Rocks and fill in the grout, then wait to see about painting/white-washing until more of the other finishes are installed.

    I think content-wise, it’s an opportunity to do more of a “DIY” angle (even though it’s not actually a DIY job) and see what you can accomplish without going back to square one.

  164. Of all the photo ideas you posted, I think YOUR current stone fireplace is among the prettiest. I can see adding more grout to get closer to what you want, and a nice thick wood mantle would be nice, but think it’s foolish to get rid of that beautiful rock and replace it with tile or brick (ugh!) or wood (just.no.). I do like me the changes you drew over the photo — raised hearth, wood storage under bench, etc. I think once you finish, furnish and accessorize the space, it will be a warm and beautiful, noteworthy space!

  165. In the words of Tim Gunn, “make it work.” White wash the existing stone and add a warm wood hearth and mantle.

  166. I do know of a reclaimed stone source, but I don’t know if he has exactly what you are looking for. He has been in business for a long time, though, so he’ll know where to find what you are looking for… Gavin is the owner at https://stonefarmliving.com.

    Also, we don’t have info on our website yet but we are creating a line of colors of reclaimed interior paneling that I think you might like–a few semi-transparent whites that give that Scandinavian look! Email me and I can send samples!

  167. Wow. This is a difficult decision, and it makes me realize how stressful it would be to be a designer. I voted for “fresh start,” mostly because I think a centered fireplace would be better in the room, but you should do what YOU want to do on this one! So many of the options are beautiful.

  168. I think the current stone installation is too perfect. You can also tell it’s not a fireplace and the house built around. It’s the opposite. No paint or new mortar will hide this. I fear fixing it .

  169. While I certainly understand the impulse to rip it out and start with a clean slate (ha), this seems to fall into the category of making do with what’s available to be ecological and save money. Is it the best stone fireplace? No. Is it the worst? No. Can it be improved? Most likely yes. Will all the other changes help as well? Probably. For example, it looks worse than it is because of the fact that it is impossible to look at the fireplace right now without also looking at that carpet.

    Also, I would highly suggest this is worth getting some advice from an expert. My grandfather was a brick and stone mason that worked until he was 92 years old. The information and experience that a knowledgeable mason can provide you will be invaluable. They can tell you the limitations and possibilities of the fireplace, and will have a lot more experience working with the actual materials. Not to mention the safety issues involved with chimneys and fireplaces that you may not be aware of. The things you are concerned about are cosmetic. Fireplaces and chimney ventilation are important mechanical parts of the can greatly impact the safety of your household. If not repaired or updated properly they can be annoying at best, and cause serious problems at worst. Good luck!

    1. That should be “parts of the home that can greatly impact”.
      Fingers and brain, please work together.

  170. It’s a mountain cabin and I think it just screams for a stone fireplace. I’d love to see the stones “flattened” with more grout and plastered. Then a substantial wood mantel

  171. Honestly if you do all the stuff you’re talking about doing it’s probably going to cost as much as starting from scratch!

  172. I’m all for grouting out the stone to make it more flush with the grout and less bubbly looking and then washing over the stone to give it a more up to date but still rustic look. Excited to see what you come up with in the end!

  173. I’d love to see you work with it! I do think it has potential and I think it could really show your creativity with getting resourceful. Also, because most people do have to “work with it”, they don’t have the option to completely demo, so it could be a really inspiring way to show how to unveil the potential in a piece and make it your own.

    I like the idea of filling with grout so it is more flush and shaving down the stones to not be so bubbly and making them look more aged. Love the idea of a beautiful rustic/modern wood mantle and a dark concrete hearth with the wood underneath!

    xo Mary-Katherine

  174. German Smear! Check it out.

  175. Well, I didn’t like the fireplace initially, but then you asked us about the pebble tile flooring, which I dislike for aesthetic reasons (and hate because having walked barefoot on that kind of flooring, my heels would appreciate never experiencing it again) . . . but if you pair the bubbly stone fireplace with the pebble tile flooring, I think it creates great textural repetition and might be nice. The fireplace as is has a kind of clean and unexpected aesthetic. But, I do have to say that that last inspiration photo is really lovely and I think the stone you have could look similar after some (probably a lot) of work. Since it’s a corner fireplace, I don’t think it’s a great idea to make it a showstopper; better that it blend in a bit so that furniture placement isn’t incredibly awkward.

  176. “Or do you fill it in to be almost flush and then paint it out a matte taupe or stone color like this” – Yes! Beautiful. Achieves the timeless look of the *one* stone fireplace you like, but with less waste and expense. And constraints (such as working with what you’ve already got) can be so helpful!

  177. I vote work with it. I think if you could fill it in with more mortar and somehow age it or even just whitewash it, it will be beautiful.

  178. I think it’s the term rubble that skews perception of the current rock. To me they look like river rocks that have been smoothed over by running water, a lovely organic process. All the pics with aged stone look nice in the right setting but in a newer build (ie not a centuries old English country cottage) a bit faux aged. Maybe a lighter grout but not too thick, I really like it how it is!!

    We have a wood burning enclosed fire that I thought would be such a pain with collecting wood etc but I LOVE it. It’s so warm and cosy it far outweighs any inconvenience. When it’s super cold I love getting up early and putting wood on the fire -I get so excited if there are still coals from previous night! Also, newer fire boxes are very efficient and have almost zero emissions, they burn everything so stay cleaner and wood burns a lot longer.

    And changing those sconces will make it look so much better without touching the stone at all.

    1. Forgot to say but think it goes without saying that the current fire box can go. To be replaced with newer efficient slow combustion wood burner.

      1. Agree! I hate gas fires that are pretending to be a wood fire! Slow combustion fires are the bomb. New fireboxes are generally really efficient and you need very few logs to stay warm and cosy. If you are collecting the wood yourself then its a very sustainable source of heat. Anyway, I know what I’d do if it was my place..

  179. Wow, I can’t believe how many photos of fireplaces you found. I sort of got lost in all the options. The very first one (right under the photo of the fam) knocks my socks off. That is hard to beat. I also absolutely love the one from House Beautiful. The old French country look. I just did a guest house in France so that may have something to do with why I love it so much. So I would go with stone but NOT the one you have. I guess I’m in the Start Fresh corner.

  180. I’m on team start over. I really dislike that bubble stone and don’t see that you’ll ever be in love with it. If you had to work with it that would make sense – we all have budget considerations – but if you have the option to change it I think you should. Love the stucco one with the herringbone firebox. Gil Schafer has a pretty fireplace on page 58 of his new book with a chevron firebox and chevron wood chimney breast that was done by Rita Koning. Might something like that work?
    That said, I’m sure you’ll find a way to modify and style the existing one out that will be instagram worthy!

  181. At first I was slightly repulsed by the idea of that hanging alien fireplace but when I think of it in front of that cool tile you posted pics of (the white/tan or blue) I am kind of digging the idea and it would work well with the Scandinavian vibe.

  182. Hi Emily, You could try adding a new rustic beam for a mantle, and aging the stone below it. Then tear down the stone above the mantle and having that dry walled and painted fresh. Just a thought. It will save money and you still keep the stone as inspiration for those readers who need to update their stone fireplaces but don’t have enough money to do a total redo. Good luck!

  183. I’m in agreement with the others — keep the stone below the mantel and drywall it above. I think the stone is more in keeping with a cabin than many of the other options.

  184. Yes, maybe a mix of both…. clean on top adding a wooden element or drywall that is used elsewhere to tie together, grout the stone and shave it/distress it down, adding space to put the wood and rework mantle in more modern way. Happiness for all and making use of the stone that is so great…done the way you like! So excited for you guys😊

  185. I love a good, clean midcentury fireplace so if it were me, I’d keep the rock and streamline as much as possible (BUT ADD A HANGING OR CONE MID CENTURY FIREPLACE IN THE MASTER!!!). I’d maybe even consider loosing the mantel for one massive, continuous expanse of rock. I personally don’t love the bubble rock so I could see replacing it with different rock (because I’m on team mountain house = rock fireplace), though every “new” rock I see looks too “new” so bubble rock might be the best option. Usually I prefer rock left alone, but in this case I say go crazy with washes/paint/etc….but I wonder if current wood tones in the room are just super unflattering to the rocks? Maybe once it’s less orange they’d come alive? LOVE the idea of raising the hearth! So excited to watch this project. Thank you, as always, for the inspiration!

  186. I’d love to see you work with it, just because it would be interesting to see the process since often in renovations, we may not have the budgets to start from scratch – how can we adapt something that dates a home, and make it fresh and modern and a real benefit? I think that could be really compelling content.

  187. The CORNER is killing it. Not a single one of your inspo photos is in a corner, and no amount of work can design your way out of that corner.

    1. But working with what’s there IS always inspiring…ugh, I don’t envy the decision you have to make.

  188. You could always do it in stages. Start with adding some “grout” but don’t go full on flush. Work your way up to painted flush. I actually think the rocks are pretty. If they weren’t so bulbous, had a light to medium thicker joint, had the wood underneath, and a more modern box with a dark tone herringbone…I think it’d look lovely.

  189. It’s totally totally workable! Those DIY before and afters are pretty impressive and inch willing to bet the owners are not professional designers! 😘I think you could own this challenge and save yourself a ton of money at the same time. I’m guessing lots of people are in the same ‘what to do with my fireplace stone’ conundrum (my sister included) and they have just lived unhappily with it for years because not many have gone before them to make it awesome! Show them the way Emily!💪 I love the idea of putting a crap ton more grout and de-bubbling the stones and making them look weathered in some way. Excited to see what you do here!

  190. So my vote was originally to make it work, but I think I want to change my vote! It’s so hard to find those river rock fireplaces that look good or modern. If anyone could do it though, it’s EHD. This link from Kate Jackson Interior Design has one of the only ones I found and it really emphasizes that doing a whitewash or gray-wash could change the look. http://katejacksondesign.com/portfolio/american-modern/

    Ugh such a tough decision for you since it’ll be the focal point for the whole living room!

  191. I think the existing fireplace would work much much better with wood paneled walls. It just does not work with white walls. I think removing it is a waste of money, but I am intrigued by idea of aging the rocks somehow.

  192. I really, really like your idea of filling in the mortar to make it more smooth so the rocks don’t seem so bubbly. I think it’s a genius solution.

  193. I do not envy this decision. But I always vote for “making it work” and still going for a big impact without spending too much when I am spending my own money. I would fill in with grout and gray the stone. I would not raise the hearth but redo it. I would make the mantle in the same place but not all the way to the walls. You can build a custom bench to the side that can store the firewood underneath. I think people like design that is in their reach and not get depressed knowing they would have to spend 10K to get a certain look.

  194. The round rock is kinda of pretty! Work with it! It reminds me of pebbles in bathroom just a larger scale.

    1. Could some of the pebble stones be removed and maybe add some with a different shape? White wash it for sure (in my opinion) with more mortar.

  195. I like the stone as-is with filling in the grout SOME. Love your idea to raise the firebox and add wood under the seat. It’s already a lovely, warm fireplace. I honestly hate most of the inspiration photos.

  196. I voted for new because I had a similar fireplace and it took up so much space in the corner like that. I hated to have to move my furniture around it awkwardly. Does the (balcony?) hang partially over the room like it shows in the photo? If it is staying this way you might have a similar problem with the placing of furniture.

  197. Can you have someone sandblast the rocks for you? Then fill in the mortar to relieve some of the bubble look.

  198. I voted “work with it” and love your ideas for up updates, especially the wood storage underneath. I really think once the rest of the house is updated it’ll look WAY better. Also like the idea of removing the rock above the mantle like in one of the inspiration photos.

  199. The secret to working with stone is clearly in the grout application. That’s the “secret sauce” that elevates a boring bubble stone fireplace to one that looks handcrafted and ancient in a very warm, unique way. Good luck!

  200. I think I would be more inclined to say ‘Work with it’ if it wasn’t in the corner. Corner things generally feel awkward to me. I LOVE the floating scandi fireplaces, but I understand that they’re a different version of cozy.

    I worry that if you fill in the bubble stones with more mortar, they’ll still look bubbly. Because their faces are round, it’ll never be flat. Granted, you’ll see less rock. But more mortar. And they’ll still be bubbly.

    Good luck! I’m curious to see what you do!

  201. Could you chip the top of stones off to get more texture and increase mortar so flush?

  202. First, wow! Who knew there could be so many options for a fireplace!?! I love the idea of using what you have and filling it in to be almost flush and then painting it a neutral color. Whenever you can repurpose something, that’s a good thing!

  203. Have you taken a look at Brooke Giannetti’s blog Velvet & Linen? She did a post when building Patina Farm that provided an update on their fireplace. They used a beautiful stone but also over-grouted the stone. Perhaps you could consider over-grouting your existing stone and softening the color.

  204. why not try to fill out between the stones and see what it looks like? if you hate it, you were just going to demo it anyway…

  205. LOVE the hanging fireplace, HATE (yes, mom, hate is a strong word) the bubbles.
    Can’t wait to see what EH does with it 🙂

  206. I’m thinking just defer a decision for now. Live with it for awhile…perhaps with the simple modifications you outlined. When we bought our part-time mountain home 90 miles northeast of LA, I was adamant that ”something” had to be done about the fireplace “situation”. However, after living with it for awhile, it’s grown on me. We have a stucco and white brick fireplace that we built in our other (Houston) home…somewhat similar to the images you posted but with straighter lines. You can see both fireplaces on my recent Instagram postings around Christmas time. (Just realized that this year’s holiday mantle in the mountain home was some highball glasses I bought from you, filled with Epsom salts and anchored with a white taper candle) 😁

  207. I feel you on the stone fireplace. I have one that the architect designed and I just don’t love it. It’s not just the stone itself but just the detail of how it has been done. Some of those examples you’ve shown are lovely. Nevertheless being a practical person and thinking of costs perhaps you should try to work with it. If you don’t love it at least Brian will!!! I think the paint option could work for you. I also really want to read your blog post on how social media is affecting design!

  208. Throw some mortar at it and it will be beautiful

    I say this mostly because I found you (and I imagine many others did as well) because of your STYLE. So… to see what you are able to do with that fireplace without a full demo – with some style and maaaaaybe a little bit of change is what would be most exciting for me to see you do.
    Our fireplace has a hearth that is flush with the floor. I thought I would hate that when we bought the house. We actually love it. Throwing a bunch of pillows in front and lounging to watch a movie (or if you are my husband, sports ball of all kinds) negates the need for a hearth. So, instead of raising the hearth, maybe lose it altogether; in turn the firebox is automatically raised a bit so the look changes without a gagillion dollars.
    Another reason to work with it… If it sucks it will still be fun to see you demo it later and talk about the process of trying to make it work but it sucking so…back to square 1.
    Either way “working with it” is a win-win (and double the content if you hate it).

  210. I was surprised to find that I decided on the work with it vote. I think out of all the pics you put up the ones I liked the best, what I think works best with that house and that I think also would make your hubby feel heard are the combo bottom white stucco, wood mantle and stone upper-but I agree with you that the stones look too bubble like so I would grout them or shave them, etc. The white will feel Scandinavian enough for you I think and also please Brian. It IS a family cabin but I know it is for content as well. Concrete I like but I think will look too cold in that room? I also like the black stoves ( I love them personally) but it may not be “enough” for the space (that wall looks so tall)? Hope this helps-can’t wait to see what you choose!

    1. Emily-I agree with the raising the fireplace part up for a small hearth below it.

  211. I think a warm-white-wash, warm white pain, or shaving it down with a thicker taupey “grout” like one of your examples, are my favorite options. As-is, it’s too dated for sure. I also like your hanging fireplace idea! #rip In any case, I think you can work your magic on what’s there and make it lovely.

    1. *paint not pain!

  212. what about muting the color of the rock a bit (gray wash) and then doing a german-shmear on it? Would that get the vintage look?

  213. Work with it!! I actually really like the bubble look. Fill it, paint it black or white and replace the mantel. Easy! Once you’ve changed your floors, paint those walls and ceilings white and style out the room, it will look stark and stunning. And like so many others have said, it’s way more interesting as a reader to see you work with something rather than start afresh all the time.

  214. I feel like some of the fireplaces that have stone that you do like have a lot more “rustic” grouting going on. Could you possibly point the stone in your fireplace with a much heavier hand and then do a lime wash over the whole thing? You can also tint limewash, so it may help to get closer to the color scheme that you are into as well.

  215. I’d love to see it shaped white drywall or plaster, BUT I voted to work with the stone because I’d really love to see what you can do with it. I’d add more grout. Can’t wait to see what you do!

  216. I like the idea of filling in the grout. Like you, I was not impressed with how the stones looked – bubble stone 🙁 but when you mentioned the possible cost…yikes. Think it would be better to have that money to be put elsewhere. I don’t hate the filling in the grout option….looks cozy and not in your face.

  217. Oh my gosh, you convinced me on EVERY SINGLE OPTION as you argued for it. They are all amazing, but I think my favorite was the white with the wood beam in it. So gorgeous. It’s hard not knowing what the rest of the room will look like – if it’s going to be more modern with clean lines, I’d juxtapose it with a more rustic stone fireplace. But if it will be more cozy, with warm wood and tons of texture, I’d go more modern with the fireplace structure and material. I just love that mix of styles.

  218. The charcoal option, so moody and delicious!! Doooooooooo ittttttttt!

  219. I think work with it (at least don’t get rid of all the stone) and fill in whatever stone you do keep to be almost flush and then paint it out a matte taupe/stone/gray color – something with a little contrast from whatever color the walls are. Definitely agree on filling it in to be almost flush. That makes such a difference! We have a stone fireplace too which is not bubbly but otherwise similar (goes all the way from floor to ceiling) and even though I probably wouldn’t have chosen it I like the focal point/contrast it provides in the room. This is in Houston so definitely not a mountain house but it still works 😉 It’s also a really good background for art if you can figure out how to hang/lean it over the mantle. Can’t wait to see what you decide!

  220. My first thought when i saw your fireplace and the stone fireplace you love was grout! Grout it up. You can always decide to grind off the roundness and paint. Take it one step at a time until it’s perfect for you.

  221. Team Work With It! Agree with raising the firebox but I envisioned cladding BELOW the mantel with metal or wood (shou sugi ban) and leaving the stone above. When looking for a pic to depict that idea, I stumbled across an image from Jonathan Tuckey Design that shows a fireplace “facade” over brick. That would still emphasize the scale and grandeur of the fireplace but hide some of the rock.


    Can’t wait to see what you do!

  222. I like the stone! The other ones look dated and harder to work around, but I think that the roundness of yours looks more modern and inviting. What about a crazy mantle to peak attention like colored (maybe charcoal?) layered glass or something totally modern and unconventional?! Love your plan so far!

  223. I kinda like this fireplace. The thing is that I cant visualize it well because this carpet if soooo awful! lol

  224. Love the idea of raising the hearth and filling in with more mortar and LOVE the darker colored stones towards the end of the post. I think removing the mantle entirely would actually give you a more modern look, most of the photos you posted don’t have a mantle, which I think is making them feel a bit more fresh.

  225. Emily, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that obsesses after so many options and talks myself in and out of solutions! I’m still digesting, but I voted to work with it. I agree that the bubbles need to be lessened with grout and some sort of wash or stain applied to add character. I’m intrigued by the idea of keeping the stone below the mantel and somehow changing it above – but a corner fireplace has always bugged the crap out of me, so futzing with it too much may turn it into an eyesore rather than something pleasing. Not being much help here, but looking forward to what you come up with! At the end of the day: It’s just a fireplace. It’s the people inside that matter most.

  226. Hello,

    I haven’t read thru all the comments, so maybe this has been suggested. But what if you played with the verticality of the stone already there?

    What is awkward to me looking at you “pre”fireplace, is that the bubble stone meets up with the wall, so it almost seems like a flat wall itself. There is no transition. It doesn’t really come out from the corner like other fireplaces. It just fills in the corner without any transition to the wall itself.

    What if you were to tile 2/3 of the chimney vertically, and leave a vertical stripe (if you will) of pebble–from fireplace to ceiling. I would do white tile…i like that second tile pictures with the tile placed vertically from the Desire to Inspire source. I would also paint the pebble or whitewash it white and add white grout. I would tile the left side vertically in about a couple feet or so, then leave a couple feet of stone, then tile the remaining chimney. So from left to right it would be 1/5 tile, 1/5 stone, 3/5 tile. I feel that this would be interesting because….
    1. most fireplaces are cut off horizontally; this plays with drawing a long line vertically emphasizing the height and open room.
    2. you get to keep some aspect of the rustic stone, but a much cleaner, brighter look.
    3. the tile adds some modern feel and creates a better transition from chimney to wall.

    I would raise the fireplace box as you have done. Then I would put a natural wood hearth (again whitewashed, or a light wood)–but float it above the floor–underneath the firebox from wall to wall. Under the floating hearth I would put your firewood for that rustic look.

    I would skip a mantel as that cuts off the vertical aspect of the rock stripe that would run from the floating hearth to the ceiling.

    Instead of a mantel, the tile work/stone would speak for itself, plus the unique aspect of a vertical stripe of stone is pretty different from what you usually see. Maybe hang a couple small works of art on the wider portion of the tiled area (what I envision as the right side of the fireplace).

    You would have to play with the proportions of the width of the tile-stone-tile stripes. But it might be kinda cool.

    good luck

  227. Definitely add mortar and I’m loving the taupe options in the last couple pictures!

  228. I’m so excited to see what you do with these rocks!! We bought a cabin in August, and the fireplace has these rocks. They are actually just installed behind our wood stove, and now have to possibly get demoed because of the way the original owners installed the stove. the more I’ve lived with them, the less I’ve minded them. I like the picture of the whitewash stones that look like the same type as what you have there. I can’t wait to see how it comes together!

  229. Work with it! Use what’s there and maybe do a mortar wash over it. I think that could make it less bubbly and mute it, too.

    Also, do you think you’ll do a budget breakdown at the end? I would be super interested in one that includes what the costs would be if nothing were sponsored. We are in the middle of a remodel now that was supposed to be around $125K. LOL! Hahahaha. I have to laugh or I’ll cry…

  230. We have a similar fireplace insert. Ours is wood burning and has an integrated electric blower. It puts out so much heat–much more than wood burning or gas fireplaces without an insert. Might be worth considering when or if you decide to replace your insert. I love the idea of raising the hearth and height of the insert, keeping the existing stone but filling in the grout.

  231. I love the idea of a different shape or colour (the examples you gave after you mentioned how social media is changing design). I think something similar to that “pops” the most (in a good way)!

    P.S. I would actually love if you wrote a post about how you think social media is changing design. It would be interesting for us who aren’t professionals in the design and social media world!

  232. I haven’t been able to read through all the comments, so maybe this has been mentioned already. The stone fireplaces you like use mostly rectangular stones. If you increase the grout on your bubble rocks to make them look more rustic, the diameter of the rocks will grow smaller, and you’ll end up with weird champagne bubbles. Also, corner fireplaces just don’t cut it. When your husband says “rustic” does he actually mean “dark”? Many men associate rustic and cozy with dark dens — hence the man cave and all those brown finishes and wood everywhere.

  233. The very first thing I thought before you started exploring several options was to add grout to the existing stone to make it less bubbly. Then maybe a white wash or gray wash. After reading through all the other options, that’s still my favorite, and feels the most Mountain home to me with all the inspiration pictures.

  234. Sounds like overthinking. Keep the original color and stone. Change the shape at the top to be more timeless/classic, whichever version of that you like. Can you skip a mantel altogether? Just bench with wood storage underneath?

  235. I love the German Schmear technique used on brick but It could probably be done on your stone especially if you cut it down to be flush. Just an idea but you should check it out. It’s really a cool look.

  236. I would love to see you work with it instead of replacing it. . My husband and I bought a house a few months ago and we have almost the exact same fireplace in our family room. We cannot afford to replace it but would like to maybe update it somehow. Looking forward to seeing what you decide!

  237. I feel like the color of your fireplace is great- that rock is thankfully not pinkish (like mine sadly is) or orange or too brown.

    If you google image search “southern stone masons split river rock” there’s a fireplace that makes me wonder what yours could look like sanded and with added grout. Maybe?

  238. I love the challenge of making it work, and I think it’s more relatable for those of us with much smaller reno budgets. I am a home-improvement-obsessed renter so my entire design philosophy is centred around making it work (and how far I can go without my landlord noticing!) So excited to see how you tackle it!

  239. I think decreasing the contrast of colour between grout and stone by lightening it would already be a huge improvement as it draws less attention to their perfect even shape. Adding more grout, with a more uneven finish will make it look less polished and more “authentic”. A wood with more texture/detail and lighter colour can also make a huge difference to harmonize the overall look. Such a fun project!!!

  240. Pleaaaaase shave it down and plaster or grout! It would be such a transformation 💛💛💛

  241. How about you keep the stone INSIDE the fireplace hearth (kind of like that herringbone one) and modernize the surrounds. If you keep the stone on the surrounds I think chipping it down to be more flat will be your win win solution

  242. I think you should talk to a stonemason about what he can do to change the look of the stone to something you like better. I bet he will have great suggestions if you show him those pics with the beautiful “German schmear” look. You will end up with something you love!

    1. Also meant to add that a stonemason could change the round look of the stones to something rougher and flatter with a hammer and chisel.

  243. Work with it- I would whitewash but not paint the stone and I liked your ideas re. raising and switching the timber.

  244. I like the idea of trying to build out the grout and make the stones less bubbly. Plus it will connect with some of your readers dealing with similar situations with less ideal fireplaces.

  245. I looove the last few pictures in the post. I know you can work with it and make it into something beautiful and perfect for that house.

  246. To me, the problem with your fireplace is 1) it’s in the corner- I hate corner fireplaces(!) but there probably isn’t anything you can do about that….
    And 2) the slanted rock going to the ceiling!
    I’d straighten the top and then cement over the stone
    Or give it all a single color wash. I don’t think the stones can be improved much by cutting/sanding/distressing and would probably look worse.
    My favorite fireplace
    Is the simple modern one with the herringbone floors. Stunning (especially with that view)!

  247. I would try white washing the stone a bit, raising the hearth and making storage for wood underneath. Start light on white wshi g and go heavier if desired. Why get rid of natural stone? We must meet in person for my blogs sake…..

  248. Can you bleach rocks? Is that a thing? Can you paint them a super pale blue? I’ve had wine. This is probably not a good idea.

    1. LOL! “I’ve had wine. This is probably not a good idea” – title of my memoir someday!

  249. It’s the wood across the middle that doesn’t sit quite right. Maybe change that up?

  250. I think the bubble is really playful- especially for a mountain home. Buuutttt my vote would be to work with it (I can’t vote for some reason) and maybe stucco/drywall over part of it- either too or bottom. OR to paint it dark- which I know may not entirely fit into your Scandinavian feel- but they use dark colors too!

  251. My vote didn’t work, but I say Work with It! Also, I spent 5 months looking at tile to transform our builder/generic fireplace surround—didn’t love anything. Just had custom concrete surround made (install next week!!) So basically I feel your pain on the lack of good fireplace inspo without molding!

  252. Ok. I’m commenting again after reading comments. I still think that dark is the way go and break it up at either the top or bottom with plaster. But still raise the hearth or give it an extra big opening from the ground. (Ive always love the fireplaces that you can imagine Santa coming out of) and filling in some of the grout. The bubble reminds me of some of the tile choices you gave for the bathroom.

  253. Ok. I’m commenting again after reading comments. I still think that dark is the way go and break it up at either the top or bottom with plaster. But still raise the hearth or give it an extra big opening from the ground. (Ive always love the fireplaces that you can imagine Santa coming out of-you know the ones with shelves inside for kettles and pots) and filling in some of the grout. The bubble reminds me of some of the tile choices you gave for the bathroom.

  254. Oh man, I am so torn!! I voted “Work With It” because I’m so curious to see what you would do with it, Emily. There is something really warm and inviting about the stones… But the white plaster fireplaces are just so, so pretty. I think this is the most tormented I’ve ever felt about a design decision! Haha!

  255. I loooooooove the examples of shaving/chiseling down and smearing grout/plaster. Perfect compromise. I really dislike the floating and super modern examples. You need the cozy factor!! I grew up with a real fireplace and it will forever remind me of long, cozy, winter nights with my family. Trust me, you want that for the kids!

  256. Make it tapered towards the ceiling?

    1. Yes! It’s heavy. Though a white-wash would help with that.

  257. Sidebar: I would love to read your future post where you address “how social media is affecting the design world…”. Please, please write it!

    I’m with the many who say load up on the grout and white wash or German shmear it, and maybe taper the stone at the top if possible.

    I recently underwent a fireplace dilemna in our remodel. We ultilmatly tore it out and are putting in a gas fireplace, clean lines, raised box with wooden “bench” across the wall. One of your photos made me second guess this, but it’s too late, so I’m pretending like I never saw it. Argg.

  258. I’m for keeping the stone and de-bubble-i-fying it. I love how it goes all the way to the ceiling. Also, the dry wall/ plaster fireplaces remind me of your fireplace in LA. So pretty but woundn’t it be fun for the mountain house to be way different?

    Something you wrote made me really curious: “….how social media is affecting the design world…” I would love to read your thoughts on this!

  259. Oh good lord, there’s nothing wrong with the existing stone and mantle. Really! 🙂

  260. I think the fireplace stone ties in the rounded pebbles you want to uss

  261. I vote work with it. I think the tile/drywall options would be too clinical, and the wood would be too woody.
    I like the idea of white washing it – still textural and warm, but more modern, and I could see this tying in nicely to pebble tile in the bathroom. #teampebbletile. A big stone hearth, a lovely blonde wood mantel. Gorgeous.
    I don’t agree with taking out the top stone – I think cutting it off will visually shorten the room. As it is showcases the lofty ceilings, and makes the room more grand/airy.
    Hey, if you ork ith it and decide down the track you dont like it, you can always change it then.
    Cant wait to see what you do!

  262. I want to see how you’d make the current version work! I’d love inspiration as somehow who may not have the money to demo a huge fireplace I don’t love. Would love to see how a designer turns something like that and makes it work for their space!

  263. So many good ideas mentioned here that I won’t add to them — removing the top stones, plastering over some of it, etc. The main takeaway to me is that it’s not worth the money to redo the whole thing. Sure it’s a focal point, but there are so many elements that will make the room. Even some of your more modest ideas, like filling in the grout, will make a huge difference in modernizing the look.

  264. I feel like you could make it work and make it great. I like the idea of the bench and raising the fire box, but what gets in the way of making the stone work for me is the wood mantel. I think you can make this a drool worthy piece by painting it white and working with it and use that money to greater effect elsewhere or drywall it, or anything else that wouldn’t cost a bloody fortune.
    I love so many of the references you showed (the metal fireplace is to die for, but I remember thinking they were HIDEOUS growing up in the 80’s and 90’s…so I feel like it’s a trend that might not have legs. But then again, who trusts kids and teenagers anyways).

    I just really think, despite the bulbous rocks and corner location you have a giant rock fireplace that can be reworked and get a million likes.

  265. I think it’s interesting that people love pebble tile but don’t like this fireplace. To me they’re the same aesthetic.

    I don’t care for either but I’m really happy “work with it” is in the lead. Looking forward to seeing what you do.

  266. do a stain wash ((saman stain) to age/darken the rocks then add a darker grout and get it flush. Mjolk-esque all the way! 🙌🏻

  267. The stone feels so unrefined to me! Just the exact opposite of your original vision for this house. Not to mention you might spend just as much money working with it and end up unhappy. BUT I’m excited that you are willing to take on the challenge and will be anxious to see where you land! That’s why these posts are so fun!

  268. I see some commenters suggesting to keep the stone below the mantle and drywall/plaster above but in this case I think the uninterrupted height is one best parts about the fireplace! To me, changing the finish part way would be sort of like amputating it. I would love to see if you can successfully make the stones less bubbly, but if you were to go the wood route, I have always loved the warm but clean look of Jenni Kayne’s wood on wood on wood fireplace/family room: http://www.cocokelley.com/2016/03/room-week-3-31-2/

  269. Work with it! The gray- or white-washed stone fireplaces are just stunning. Still lots of mountain house character but a little fresher than the current bubble stone. Definitely the best choice! Can’t wait to see this whole project unfold…

  270. I say demo BUT here’s why. If it was my house and my budget I would totally work with it, and I actually really like the stone but I love rivers and river rocks even bubbly ones. Reading this post it seems like the DIY ideas, while super cool, are going to be just as costly in time and dollars to get it to where you really want it to be. Then you still have the risk of a DIY gone “meh”. So since it’s your house, I say GO FOR IT and make a perfect and stunning fireplace of your dreams. As a reader, I feel like the demo and be reveal will be so fun to watch.

  271. I think it could be gorgeous if you fill in the grout and shave the stone. I also love the idea of log storage under the fireplace bench, I was just wondering is it going to be a wood burning fireplace or a gas one? I think a mountain house really needs a real fireplace, but it is only my opinion. It is going to be beautiful what ever you choose to do 🙂

  272. I’d love to see you fill it in a little and whitewash it.

  273. I say work with it. It’s real stone, even if it’s not the stone you’d choose, and it seems like a shame to toss it out. My very first thought when I started the post was “tone it down and fill in the gaps” so I’m glad that option is on the table. Plus as a reader I would really like to read about the challenge of working with what you’ve got in this instance. Another idea would be to cover the upper portion in sheetrock or plaster and keep stone on the bottom, under the mantle.

  274. Demo! But not bc you can’t “make it work – it’s the corner fireplace I’m not a fan of!

  275. Stone all the way up!!! That’s part of what makes it a statement!!! Work with it, white wash, grout, thin wood mantel like your favorite pic and keep the stone all the up like your favorite pic. I think that’s what keeps it interesting and a bold statement. The other fireplaces are nice but I am definitely drawn to all the ones where the stone is to the ceiling. Makes it look so much more grand!!

  276. The whole dang time I was saying in my head ‘fill in with grout to make it less bubbly’!! Haha, finally at the end of the post you went there. I love all of the considerations you made, but personally I’m more impressed and find it more creative when a designer works with a problem, rather than rips it out and does a Pinterest solution. You can do it – MAKE IT WORK 😉

  277. I think putting in a nice hardwood floor and then making the fireplace work would be gorgeous.

  278. I think there is a lot of potential with the current river rock. I think going lighter with the grout, possibly doing a wash to age the stone, and adding a beautiful rustic mantle will probably be enough without the added expense of repositioning the box. Of the inspirational pictures, I liked the one of the drywall and stone mix the best – felt modern but it still retained the natural touch. Also found this picture that is very similar to what you have now and I think it works https://pin.it/j2rbg4u6rucwze

    1. So much this! Lighten the grout – the current grout is quite dark and uninteresting. But my vote is for either raising the hearth or eliminating it entirely. And it’s going to look better without the carpet.

    2. Very much agree, Kai!

  279. I like a light wood floor and ceiling with dark shui boi (sp?) wood fireplace surround option. Wouldn’t cost a ton and would still bring warmth in.

  280. Shou-sugi-ban is what I was thinking of. Dur.

    1. Just scrolled past your comment and saw shou sugi ban. I just had the same thought/recommendation. Not sure if it would be too dark for the area to do the whole thing in it, but it could be good for part of it (or who knows, maybe it’s not too much darkness for all of it, worth mocking up in Photoshop).

  281. I voted for work with it, but I’m torn. Partly because I have to say I’m not really moved by any of the options so far. It seems like part of your issue with the current fireplace is it’s too homogeneous (I may of course be wrong!). Would it be possible to remove some of the existing stones and work other stones into it, so it’s more of a mix of sizes, shapes, and colors?

    Kind of like this: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/116460340348910597/

  282. Have you considered using cold rolled steel? I designed a fireplace for a client once in it. I loved it because I got nice clean lines but the patina of the steel gave a warm cozy feel. For examples there are some posted on Hot and Steamy on my Pinterest board (Rhonda Collins-Short) I figure if you’re willing to bust out and reconfigure you might swell get something you LOVE! It is a focal point after all.
    I have to say I loved your first choice and sad that it got nixed.
    Something to consider about the stone is that pinky beige undertone of some of the rocks, even white washed it will show through; although, I think that that would be better than painting it solid.
    Bottom line…it will be awesome either way! Its a beautiful place! Thanks for letting us in on the FUN!

  283. It’s so much more interesting and useful to your readers to design around and incorporate an existing element. Most people could make a room from scratch look good, the true challenge is working with what is there and making it beautiful.

  284. I love the last picture you posted. I think you shave the rocks so they aren’t as bubbly, fill in with grout, and texture it. I love the all one color look. I’m not sure how big you can go on the fireplace insert but I think you make a big statement by making the insert as large as possible!

  285. I think that very last picture is gorgeous!

  286. I love the idea of shaving down the stone and adding more mortar then maybe doing a wash of some kind!

  287. I really love the idea of filling in with more grout- I think that will make a HUGE difference in the bubbly-ness, which is the “off” factor with the current look.

  288. I like the grout either raised or the stones cut flatter so it looks more flat and then put some sort of masonry wash on it, like some the pics above.

  289. I don’t love the drywall options, or any of the other more sleek designs, simply because it loses the rustic feel. And I don’t even like rustic! Wood on wood on wood won’t be nice, either. If the floors are wood, and beams are wood, I’m leaning towards a lighter version of what you currently have. A little white washed, perhaps, but not fully painted. You’ll come up with something amazing to break up the all-rock fireplace. Your idea of raising the fire hole, adding a taller hearth with wood storage underneath is great. If the hearth is sleek, it will calm the rustic, too. I totally know you’ll design something amazing!

  290. I had the same problem when we bought our house but my budget had no room for total changes. The first thing I did was remove the ugly insert so it looked like a fireplace and not a pellet stove. I bought a gorgeous screen in its place. Then i changed the mantle to a beautiful piece of reclaimed wood, which became the focus. Finally, i went to a mason who helped me find a wash that made the rocks look older. Love it now.

  291. Love the idea of keeping the bubble stone and white/gray washing it, and maybe filling it in a little bit with more mortar etc to be less bubbly. Shaving it down looks cool – but also sounds costly and dirty (though admittedly I know nothing about what’s involved in that).

    I also like the idea of covering it with wood – which made me think of something I saw on an old episode of Fixer Upper yesterday. The wood was charred to have a black finish – the technique was called shou sugi ban. This could potentially be too much darkness for that area, but just throwing it out there.

    1. Oh, almost forgot, while I love the look of the indoor firewood storage inspiration photos, I was just recently thinking/wondering if there is a problem with insects that live in firewood. Is it not a no-no to keep firewood indoors/in the house?

  292. There is a lot of stone maybe break it up. Flatten the “bubble”. Raise the firebox. I love the wood storage. Maybe a drywall above and keep the stone around your firebox.
    I thought I’d share some photos I came across in a Swedish magazine.


  293. My motto is always use what you have or at least start that way, Paint is the least expensive option and the texture of the stone will add the warmth and rustic feel that a cabin needs, but with a twist.

  294. Okay, so I live in a formerly hideous fireplace home and fixing it was a LOT of work, but I think it’s still better than tearing out. So I did fill in my grout and it was incredibly difficult (like painful on my hands). You use this thing like a giant piping bag and you have to make the grout thick to fill in without dripping. BUT it’s totally necessary if you’re thinking about painting b/c if you don’t you’ll have really dramatic shadow lines and it won’t look right. So do it for sure. I had to go back and do it twice after seeing it an all phases of daylight b/c your shadows will change. I also built out a new mantle and having a more substantial mantle will make a lot of difference.

  295. My favorite ideas:
    Bringing the mortar forward to be flush with the stone
    Doing an overall wash to make it a more tone on tone color
    Shaving down the face of the stone to make it less “bubbly”
    Wood storage below
    Contrasting the mantle in a dark wood across the stone
    Raising the hearth + making the wood burning area larger

    All great thoughts!

  296. My father is a stone mason in Alabama so I always grew up thinking there was something magical about having an old rock fireplace in the house. A lot of work and artistry goes into them. I think it would be a shame to tear down something so beautiful. Although, that said, I’m in agreement with others that the lower half could be kept and the top dry walled. I think that way you get to keep some of the magic, but make it a little more modern.

  297. Love the look of the wood storage below, however, please be aware that several exterminators and house inspectors warned us of unwanted “pests”.

  298. I voted to start fresh. But it would be fun to take a sledge hammer to the rock and see if you can shear off the face of the stones. They would probably just fall out before they broke, but it might be awesome.

  299. One of the reasons I fell in love with your blog in the first place is that you used to make it work with what you had, rather than spending gobs of money to buy new or start over. I miss that, and think this would be the perfect opportunity to show all of us that you’ve “still got it”!

  300. You are a wonderful designer and know you can make the home look beautiful with the way it is. I know details are so important but I also feel like the depth of mortor is slightly knit picky, plus wasteful to demo it without trying first.

    Think about your readers too! Not everyone can demo out a fireplace for something so similar. Plus! The perk is if you truly hate it, you can always demo it without losing much (thinking of how you painted your bookcase in your old home last time after trying to make it work first).

  301. Work with it. As you have already identified, the mantle is too high, the firebox too small and the hearth too low, so the stone is overwhelming. Changing the proportions would help alot

    I wouldn’t try to flatten the stones: this is a beautiful river rock fireplace, shaped by water in streams. Very special. Why would you want the stone to look quarried?

    You could tone down the colour to more grey, but first, think about what colour the natural stone is outside the windows? Personally I like the warmth of tones you have now. If you do decide to go to white or light, make sure you put in the gas. One accidental lighting of a log fire without the flue open will make a mess of white or tile.

    All of that said, certainly match the grout more closely to the colour of the stone. The black outline is making it look cartoon-y.

    Finally, if you decide to start again(ish) I think that black, non-symmetrical flame hood in front of the stone wall (five photos from the bottom, with French doors on either side) is spectacular. You could keep the warmth of the stone wall and have a fresh and dramatic look, too.

  302. Definitely add more mortar to make them less bubbly. But maybe consider filling in with a darker color like your favorite inspiration pic as opposed to lighter. I think the stone is great and works with the river rock you are working in. A mountain house should have rock and I think keeping it all the way to the ceiling helps to keep it a major feature.

  303. I voted work with it. I think the moody darker gray would be dramatic and looks like your favorite inspiration picture. Also, bring the grout up too would help. I don’t thinking shaving the stone is the answer. I know you are going with Modern Skandi feel but i think you still have to remember you are a California mountain house and so that lighter California cottage aesthetic should still come through. I did just get back from Scandinavia last fall and am also building a mountain home in Central Oregon so I am so excited to go on this journey with you. I had coincidentally settled on Scandinavia aesthetic when I got back as I loved the look of the places I stayed. My husbands business is in high end interior finishes lumber from Portland, Oregon, specifically Clear and somewhat rustic Douglas fir and hemlock as well as exotic hardwoods from South America. Good luck and I will stay tuned.

  304. I love the idea of filling in the grout so it’s flush with the stone. Then either painting, white washing or maybe even German shmear? Love the idea of working with the stone and seeing what it takes to make it look Scandinavian.

  305. I live in a country with cold winters and bad heating systems (Chile) so when we can we light the fire. (Also I’m an interior designer) So here’s my two cents:
    Work with it, maybe play with the grout to see if it looks good filling it in. And perhaps adding some smaller pebbles in between? Do a test patch. Your kids could look for the pebbles.
    Also have your builders light the fire (wood fire!) during the reno. Have them use damp wood so that it smokes. That should age the fireplace.
    Change the mantle. It’s hideous. I think if possible I’d do no mantle.
    And although I understand the ease of a gas fire: don’t do it!! Leave it as a wood fire!!!!
    Re the flush white stuccoed fireplace, if you do a wood fire that’ll become truely disgusting. And for me it belongs in a Greek house not in California
    Good luck

  306. I think that you can work with it, and make it beautiful.. Mortaring in would help, and painting. I lime washed my bricks on my fireplace and love the new look. And so cheap! I love the idea of moving up the firebox and adding the seating and wood storage underneath.

  307. It is a shame, but I think you need to replace. It is such a huge statement piece that it really sets the tone for the rest of the house. The stones, while beautiful in and of themselves, are too uniform in size and pattern… If you can swing it, man, that first stone image was rich!!

  308. I would love to see you gray wash that stone and add some warm, rustic (#teamrustic forever) wood to the mantle.

  309. I really am enjoying the look of the drywall fireplace without a large mantle in place to break up the crisp line. It’s so clean and stunning on its own. For sure keep the floor to ceiling look, but I also would play with the shape. I didn’t vote because I wasn’t sure if you would have to completely demo. Could you plaster over what you’ve currently got but remove some stones to play with the shape?
    That picture you shared of the drywall fireplace that had a deer on the wall? That. Gorgeous. And the herringbone pattern inside the hearth would be magical.

  310. I would say if you’re just looking to do a regular renovation then keep the stone and try to make it work. If you’re looking for a statement piece, especially for the gram, go bold. Seems like too big of a focal point to just be a basic stone fireplace. For the record, I liked the black floating/hanging fireplace blob. 🙂

  311. I voted for make it work and am interested in some of the white washing options and making the surface a bit more even.

    Also, I’d love a whole post about how social media is affecting the design world. Interested to see what choices you make because of social media and what choices you would make if social media wasn’t such a huge factor in your process.

  312. Hi Emily, I voted work with it, I just couldn‘t justify the expense to rip it out and replace. My recommendation is to go with the grout option. The thing I don‘t like about your stone is not the colour or shape but rather the fact that it looks decorative or stuck on rather rather than structural if you know what I mean. The wide grout should fix that. You could then paint out the top half to look like the last sets of photos and leave the bottem part more natural, at least see what it looks like.
    I do like the look of a floating shelf hearth and I think that gas fires are great but not sure whether the gas fire and decorative logs won‘t look a bit false.

  313. From the very first few images, I was thinking you should repoint it so the mortar would fill out the gaps between the stones more. Glad to see you came up with that idea towards the end. If you do decide to work with it, I would expect your idea of raising the fire box to be very expensive. If these stones aren’t just veneer, and with some techniques even if they are, removing the layer over the opening could destabilize those above. Also, the fire box probably reduces in size to the chimney opening, so there is probably structure in the area you want to move the opening up to.

  314. The stones should have more grout and it should be a lighter color. The best looking stone fireplace pictures you posted all
    have very light colors between the stones. You should keep the stone all the way up to the top because it is a high ceiling. The height and drama of the stone is in keeping with the scale of the room, plus the angle of the stones at the top where they meet the ceiling adds lots of interest to the wall.

  315. Fireplace options with lots of pics = lots of content, not to mention reader engagement. You def know your stuff.

  316. here’s my opinion (as an architect):

    i agree with what someone else said about how keeping the stone but re-vamping it will probably end up costing you as much as starting over.

    another point: the reason why you love the other stone options (that look a bit like yours) is that they are very different dimensionally. your fireplace is shoved in a corner and doesn’t have any depth to it. it’s literally like they painted that wall “stone” – like you would in sketchup, if you catch my drift.

    i think if you ripped it all out, gave the entire fireplace some depth – like pull it away from the wall at least a foot- you’d be way happier with the result. you’ll have a deeper hearth , which will make it feel more legit. (and older. – i think the whole situation that you have now looks dated BECAUSE it doesn’t have any depth to it)

    ok that’s my 2 cents. i’m not worried, i know either way you’ll make it look fab. 🙂

    1. I totally thought the rocks resembled a sketch up pattern too, lol

  317. Totally work with it, Emily! It has plenty of elements to love! You can style it out, and make it amazing with very little alteration.

  318. Have you considered painting the fireplace stones or white washing them to see how you like white?

  319. The current version looks modern cabin, doesn’t it? Once those gross sconces and carpet are gone and you have logs stacked and different ceiling, it’s going to look much different. I think it’s going to grow on you. The grandness of the height of the chimney with the low box is cool and modern. I would hesitate to raise the hearth and put logs underneath…that is going to be a splintery mess. Stacking them on the hearth will be easier and nicer for feet. So the mantle is what I’d address, although I’m not sure how. And the hearth…just refinishing/covering (maybe just concrete) somehow without changing placement or structure. I feel like the specialness will come out when those two things are toned down, especially if there is interesting lighting. You can always add in grout later. I’d just be careful and slower on this bit and see how the room evolves around it, especially because it doesn’t need a demo, in my opinion. That pic of the very old fireplace is beautiful, but here you have a modern version nearly ready to go, and modern is part of your theme. It’s an opportunity I feel like. It still feels natural because of the variety of shapes and sizes. I’m wondering if some modern pendants would be great with it, and furniture can be on the cabin side of things. I’m worried still that there will be uncomfortable furniture with skinny wooden arms, which would be so sad for a weekend house!

  320. Hi from Ireland! My dad is an architectural stonemason. A great one who has spent his life working with stone. Most of his contracts now are for the conservation of old buildings and structures. Your thought and design process are fascinating to me as I’ve grown up with a love of stone. At face value ripping something out to replace it with drywall or timber is at odds with everything I’ve heard throughout my life. That being said my dad would be the first to say if something is not ‘right’ it should to be fixed/ changed. Stone is an organic medium. It’s part of our landscape and very much part of what grounds a structure in the landscape in which it is built.
    There’s a difference in how you work with and design for cut (dressed) stone or natural stone. Many of your inspo images show different stone types and there’s differences in how the stone is prepped before build. It’s not always possible to get the finished look of one when starting with the other.
    I suggest you speak to a local stonemason and/or geologist to understand if the stone used is local or has been shipped halfway across the country. If it’s local ask for recommendations where it has been used well in architecture. Go visit those places (virtually if not physically) and see ‘what makes it work’ in that setting. Bring elements of that into your design and decor for the room. There are lots of ways make stone work while making it better fit your aesthetic including reconfiguring the mantel, repointing (what you call regrouting… please don’t call it that!)even painting or recladding parts or all of the fireplace.
    So my advice; start locally, get local advice (masons, architects, even stone quarries) see how (local) stone is used well and use that to help make decisions.

    While it may be expensive to hire a mason/ contractor to have them rip out and replace your fireplace, in my experience they love to talk about what they’re passionate about and will gladly share advice/ direction to help you make a decision. Even if they charge for their time (most won’t), it’s worth it.

    Looking forward to seeing how it progresses!!

    1. I totally 2nd this! You’ll never get that rectangular grouted stone look with those round stones.

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  322. Emily, I think once you put a fabulous piece of artwork on the upper part of the stone and put in place the other elements of your room, such as wood flooring, the fireplace will look more at home. I happen to love stone fireplaces of all kinds and find that they are usually a reflection of their setting.

  323. I was wondering about making a place to stack logs under the fireplace (if you decide to “work with it”) if you are using a gas fireplace? I still voted to “work with it”. I like the idea of bringing the mortar up to be flush. The shape of it is good! I would take the money and spend it on converting it to be a real wood burning fireplace!

  324. I’m a landscape architect, and as such, I begin each project with a site, a context, and a desired program to incorporate. What I didn’t hear mentioned and what is always my no 1 question is “what are the local building materials?” If you don’t have flat, angular fieldstone or large, rectangular limestone near you, then using it on the interior only makes the house feel like a mountain house from anywhere – not that mountain’s house… Know what I mean? I’d say do some research on what stone is available locally and look closely at what you see on the drive up and your favorite places to walk. I think the issue with the current stone is that it’s so regular it looks a bit generic and doesn’t tie the home to the place. However, if you see exactly that stone in the stream on walks, then by all means work with it. But, if there is a better stone that can tie your home to the mountain in a meaningful way, then do it – you will never regret increasing that inherent value and it will just fit into place perfectly. If you want to keep the stone build a cheap mock-up of the bench and log storage and see how they work together in person. Otherwise, just to throw a wrench in things, I vote for building it out in white with a pretty shape to bring dimension to that corner. 😉

  325. Voted “work with it” but damn I LOVE that blue tile!! (ugh can I have that please?) Other than that painting sounds like the easiest solution… (hadn’t even thought of filling in the grout but that sounds interesting too!) and I mean in theory it wouldn’t have to be painted white or variation there off would it? I mean a lot of colours might o cheesy and fake real quickly but painted “the right” colour I could see it maybe being a cool statement…? maybe….? maybe navy? (or thats just a really terrible idea ^^)

    1. Agreed – I was all about “you HAVE TO keep stone of some kind” until I saw that blue tile. Holy Moses, I almost had an out-of-body experience. I love it so very much.

      The blue tile is the only reason I voted “start from scratch.” if it can’t be the amazing blue tile then I am Team Stone.

  326. Holy woah, I did NOT expect to be in the extreme minority here. My vote is to start fresh. A fireplace is the heart of a home (especially in a mountain cabin!). Make that thing a dream.

  327. Forgive me because these design terms will likely be wrong but could you somehow use the stone that’s there and do some stucco/grout in between them to make the lines less hard and distress it so it’s almost like the stones are just barely poking out? Kinda distress it and make it feel more old. Sorta German schmear…that’s a thing right?

  328. I’m torn. I like the rocks sentimentally because my poppy built their cabin house himself and built a stone fireplace with rocks just like that one. That being said, the updates you’re considering I’m not so into and I just absolutely dig the modern look. I do like the wood under the bench idea though and of all the updates to it I think you should go with the white wash. Or I think you should go modern and not try to fake create rustic because it just makes me think shabby chic and I want to roll my eyes. This is why I should not be a designer though. I’m not great at making these decisions in a way that’s consistent with the design style and the house style. Or at picturing these things in a different way. I get what you’re saying about needing a little more rustic ness here but the alternatives to the current fireplace rustic wise are kinda meh as well. Not so into the wood. The more contemporary ones I do like and I‘Ve been crushing over that floating black fireplace for at least a year now though.

  329. I feel this house is having some serious identity problems! Hope everything comes along in your usual style. 🙂

  330. Love the idea of working with it, but what about removing all the stone above the mantel, but keep stone below mantel and shaving it/regrout especially over the smaller stones and doing your idea of raising fireplace opening (with wood storage below)? 🙂
    I feel like it currently looks like someone applied bubble stones over a flat drywall, so also like the idea of reshaping so the sides return into the wall instead of dying into the wall. (not sure if that makes sense 😉 ha!) will be beautiful whatever you do!

  331. I have no idea if someone else mentioned this or even if it’s doable but could you sand blast the stone? That might make it more rustic and then I would grout the crap out of that thing and make it look totally aged and rustic but still cool.

    1. Cool idea! I bet it would work. Some of the stones could maybe have their rounded fronts chiseled flat to give more variety and a sense of age.

  332. This is really cool. elegant design. i can not move my eyes from your designed fireplace. carry on. you will be the winner. Best of luck.

  333. You have that picture up there already with the white washed bubble stone (with the Christian Dior books on the table in front), that’s so beautiful. If you update the mantel and hearth as you described, I think the rock would look awesome. I get what you’re saying about how it looks now, but it’s really not that awful! It needs love!

  334. Based on the things you said you loved, I would talk to a masonry expert about adding some character to what you have. (ie, work with it). idk about shaving or grinding the stone, but maybe a little sandblasting to roughen it up, and some not-all-over staining to give it some age and depth. I also think you could maybe live with this for a year or so and see what else happens in the room first — none of your other decisions depend on having this done early, do they?

  335. I voted fresh start but not because I don’t think you should work with it, because I truly believe you could! Mainly because it seems to me you really, really don’t like the actual stone work. Sooo, I know how it feels to kinda get stuck with something you don’t love! You are fixing up this beautiful home and have the opportunity to do it so, go for it! A fireplace definitely needs to be cozy so natural elements are a must! Lots of Wood and other type of stone or brick. Never tile! Too bahroom like indeed! Anyway, I am certain that whatever wins, you will make it work and rock it! Like you always do. Good luck!

    1. *not because I believe you couldn’t work with what you already have I meant!

  336. As a designer myself, I would definitely work with it! Your fireplace is made up of three parts. I would dry wall the top part over the wooden beam mantel to reduce the overwhelming round bubble stone effect, and paint it white. Then, I would replace the “newish” wooden beam with an aged one. Finally, I would resurface the bottom slab base to get rid of the stone effect there too (personally, I like the look of concrete – not too warm, but edgy)! But, if all that failed, I would seriously consider resurfacing the middle part of the fireplace and coating it with a paint that looks like CorTen. That would make a SERIOUS statement fireplace – MAGAZINE WORTHY!!!

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  338. I say work with what you already have. I really think if the “grout” wasn’t dark it would make a huge difference. Go with more of a creamy stone color for the grout (and maybe cover some of the stones a bit) and then it won’t look so bubble-y. And possibly do a wood panel treatment above the mantle. I actually mocked something up in Photoshop for you. I’ll send to one of the email addresses you listed above. Good luck!

  339. I always think it’s harder to work with what you have, but in the end it seems to stretch your mind further as well. I would really love to see how you make this work. Oh, and please, no wood out just for show. The bugs!

  340. I actually like the stone in your fireplace, Emily. You could fill in around the stone with grout and use a natural looking wash over it. I think that the raised hearth with the wood storage will look amazing. Can’t wait to see the final product, I know that it will be amazing.

  341. a couple of practical things…:)
    1. there is a reason that fireplace is in the corner. My guess is that they wanted to run the chimney as close to the roof peak as possible. Wood burning fireplaces have chimneys (i know, bear with me) and they have to be a certain height above the peak of your roof, so if you moved it to the wall to get it out of the corner, you would end up with a pretty crazy chimney on your exterior. (of course, having gas solves this problem.)
    2. The cuckoo birds that say wood would attract mice. what? no. I grew up in a wood burning house. A tight house does not have a mouse/rat problem. It would be a dust/spider haven though. ;).
    3. Modern stove inserts/wood stoves will easily heat an entire house. to the tropical paradise level. :). My parents have a seventies ‘swiss chalet’ style three story house in the PNW (canada). Their stove is in the basement and it easily heats all three floors (2000 sq feet) with single pane windows and not the greatest insulation.
    3. My sister and I have ‘twin’ 1920’s houses. We have an open fireplace mainly for looks. It eats logs like you wouldn’t belive and heats our living room (kind of). She has a wood stove in the basement and it bakes out the entire house with a couple of logs. open fireplaces are pretty much for looks, not for heat. And it sucks to see most of your heat escape out the chimney. My other sister has a 70’s split level with a typical stone fireplace, but it has an insert, and pretty much heats the whole house (except for the basement).
    4. There is ALWAYS mess with wood -ash, woodchips, etc. It’s tough to keep that area clean if you are actually using it (30 years experience here). Any light surface near it will be dirty.
    5. painting the rocks seems like a bad/ugly idea.

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  343. Hi, I’m too curious to see what you will do with this fireplace. I can’t stand it. We have a condo at the mountain in Tremblant in Quebec. See pictures on VRBO #420910 and our fireplace. So whatever you’ll do will inspire me. I love what Erin Lauder did with her mountain cabin all dark but now I’m just awaiting for you and your design !!!!

  344. Could you try darkening them? Not necessarily with a fancy aging process, just a blackwash or brownwash or something instead of going lighter with whitewashing. Still some transparency so not full coverage paint either. I have no idea whether it would work at all but it might help it blend in a bit more instead of looking so new. And give it some weight as a natural material along with all the wood you’re bringing in. I also like the more mortar idea as a complement to darkening them.

  345. Hi Emily, could you try darkening them? Not necessarily with a fancy aging process, just a blackwash or brownwash or something instead of going lighter with whitewashing. Still some transparency so not full coverage paint either. I have no idea whether it would work at all but it might help it blend in a bit more instead of looking so new. And give it some weight as a natural material along with all the wood you’re bringing in. I also like the more mortar idea as a complement to darkening them

  346. I filled the grout in a bubble stone fireplace at our lake house. The biggest challenge for me was finding white mortar to make it look like old motor but after that it was easy. I did it myself with plastic gloves and applied it with my hands. It really transformed the look of the fireplace for about $30! If you decide to to paint or whitewash you can always do that after – because even with a painted stone fireplace, the less depressed motor looks more antique.

  347. I love the dark stone. Work with it and darken it!

  348. I LOVE that you share your thought process so that your content is so much more than just beautiful photos of beautiful spaces. (Like when you explained why you wanted your kids’ outdoor playhouse to be off the ground. I’ve banked that in memory for future use!) Looking forward to your journey on this house!

  349. Daniel from Manhattan Nest repointed a rock wall in one of his projects. It was on his IG story so it’s gone now but I’m sure he would send you some pictures 😉

  350. I would keep the stone as it is! It looks fun, bubbly, and it _is_ original to the house. I would though make it more modern by getting rid of the mantel all together and see if there is stone underneath. Just to hold some candles. Then make the hearth and bench bigger and tile them with something very streamlined and modern. Maybe black?

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