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A Modern Farmhouse Fireplace Update

It’s Ginny here with another design agony question and this time we have some really fun after photos to share with you. Erin, co-founder of blog Suburban Bitches emailed asking for some help with her fireplace renovation.

I don’t know what to do with my fireplace and hearth. When we moved into the house the fireplace was covered in rock and the hearth is slabs of big, thick rock. We put a reclaimed wood wall in this room and now the fireplace looks too busy with the wall. We just took the rock off the fireplace and I don’t know what to do to add some interest but not too much interest. I’m also trying to figure out a way to make the hearth less rustic and more streamlined. I would like to add a mantel to the fireplace but other than that I’m open to all ideas. I feel like my fireplace is sort of like Emily’s in her new house and I know she’s been researching all sorts of ways to update hers so I figured she’d have all the answers to help me out.

Suburban Bitches Emily Henderson Design Agony Fireplace White Redesign Makeover Brick BEFORE

Danielle, one of our designers (who just started an online pillow shop) got to work on coming up with two design directions that Erin could work with.  For both design options we went with a modern/rustic theme that would work well with the existing vibe of the room.

Erin Hatzis Design Agony Emily Henderson White Wood Paneling Floating Mantle Inspiration Option 1

For design option #1 we kept the overall feel light and bright. We think the crisp white fireplace wall will contrast nicely with your existing wood panel wall. We recommend a floating wood mantel. We selected sconces for both designs to add some personality and interest.

Erin Hatzis Design Agony Emily Henderson White Wood Paneling Floating Mantle Inspiration Option 2

Design option #2 we recommend using a stone surround and mantel. We love the modern look of the one on the design board. We added your existing wood paneling to the top section of the fireplace. We love the repetition it creates and how it unifies the space.

Erin came back with two questions:

1. If I choose to get a more modern fireplace insert, would there be one of the options that you see working better than the other with the new insert? We agreed that she should get something that felt more modern but advised not to do anything that felt too contemporary. We also suggested that the new insert could be used for both of the options we suggested.

2. Would it be better just to gut the whole wall and start over? I’m not opposed to starting over if the results are better than trying to make what is already there work. We didn’t think that she needed to rip out the whole thing, especially if she was trying to do this on a budget. We always love opening shelving at EHD and since it was such a long wall.

Now with Erin having her own blog, she documented the whole process and even did some layout mock-ups that showcased what we has suggested with the shiplap and how she interpreted our ideas.

Erin Hatzis Design Agony Emily Henderson White Wood Paneling Floating Mantle MOCKUPS

The first mock-up focused on keeping the majority of the wall intact but replacing the stone with the horizontal white shiplap and adding a rustic wood mantel.  She also added the mirror and sconces like we suggested.   We pretty much agreed with everything she said in her blog post and whilst definitely helping to modernize the space this option felt off balance because of the lack of symmetry from the shelves. The location of the TV also felt kinda strange and got lost in that shelf nook.

The second option felt a lot cleaner with it’s symmetry and uniformity. And while I personally don’t love putting TVs over the top of fireplaces this did feel right to me.  I did however miss the shelves, and felt that a full wall of shiplap might start to feel too one note.  So I suggested to Erin that she could do two narrow shelves either side of the TV in a similar size to the one she had on the left. I also advised her to consider doing less drawers on the bottom and that way it would feel even cleaner.


For her final reveal post she did a mock-up showing some of the changes we’d discussed.  I think by adding the shelves it feels more considered and breaks up the back wall with some nice cohesion. And since there are only 6 shelves, they would be easy to style out so that they aren’t full of tchotchkes that I knew she didn’t want to end up with.  I also loved the idea of the sconces sitting above the little shelf nooks to help bring some three dimension to the wall.

Suburban Bitches Emily Henderson Design Agony Fireplace White Redesign Makeover Brick_67

And here is the end result! Pretty cute don’t you think? It just feels lighter, brighter, and overall just happier. I like that she went for a narrower fireplace and that way the wall isn’t governed by two larger black boxes and the TV has a good amount of breathing space around it so that it feels like it’s not taking over the wall.  I also love that she opted for a smooth wood mantel and shelves rather than a more rustic approach. Unless you can hunt down a really beautiful piece of live edge wood or have an awesome country barn, rustic mantels can start to feel heavy and dated.

Suburban Bitches Emily Henderson Design Agony Fireplace White Redesign Makeover Brick_73

Opting for the three drawers makes the hearth feel less busy and the shaker style fronts bring in some detail without feeling over done. These are also balanced out nicely with the simple black hardware and ties in with the sconces.

Suburban Bitches Emily Henderson Design Agony Fireplace White Redesign Makeover Brick_74

Erin Hatzis Design Agony Emily Henderson White Wood Paneling Floating Mantle Before and After

Because we’re pretty open about how much things cost over here, I cheekily asked Erin if she’d be willing to share how much she spent on the project.

I’m pretty open myself so I don’t mind sharing the cost with you. We spent around $10, 000 on the wall. And typing that out makes me think, crap- how does one wall cost that much?!?! A little over $4K of that was spent on the fireplace insert and installation alone. Those things are super pricey. Another large chunk of money was spent on the carpenter who framed out the whole wall, built new drawers, cubbies floating shelves, and mantel, and custom made the ship lap. He is on the expensive end of carpenters, but his work is impeccable and he shows up everyday and sticks to a timeline. Qualities that are rare in contractors! The cement hearth and fireplace surround was pretty reasonable and came in right around $2K. Which is really not that much considering we had a hearth that was over 10 ft long. Doing any sort of natural stone or quartz would have cost much more. There were other small costs here and there like electrical, plumbing, and painting. And looking back the whole thing cost more than I expected when I first ripped down the rock and decided to re-do the wall. But that’s usually how home projects go.
“I really enjoyed working with Emily and her team. Being a fan for years of Emily’s work, it was a great opportunity to get some design advice from someone I admire. And Emily’s team did a great job responding to my questions and have even helped me with a few other little questions I had along the way of the project. Both of the design options presented were very much within my style and gave me new ideas to consider for the wall.” – Erin Hatzis


Vintage Barn Angled Shade Sconce | Lucent Lightshop Chandelier | Kerouac Black Leather Chair | Fireplace Insert |

Thanks to Everyday Interior Design for sending along their after photos.

Photography by Kelli Kroneberger

Craving more Design Agony and E-Design posts? Check these out: Should We Paint Wood Panelling?, How To Layout A Narrow Living Room, Kitchen Nook Refresh, Cures For A Maple Orange Kitchen, Master Bedroom Refresh Plan, A Rustic Mid-Century Family Room, Neutral (Well Mostly) California Nursery.

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7 years ago

Love what you did with this room, especially the updated fireplace!

7 years ago

The fireplace turned out fantastic! The rug switch is also interesting, I like the pattern and colour. It definitely gives off a more masculine feel than the first rug. Both options would work well with the room

7 years ago

I love this! Everything looks beautiful! Thank you for another fun e-design story.

Erica Tennyson
7 years ago

Wow, this looks really great! Inspiration for my place, although I don’t necessarily want to spend that kind of dough on one wall myself. Very impressed with the way it turned out though!

7 years ago

This is a miss for me. The size of the TV dwarfs the new smaller firebox.

7 years ago

I think you did a great job with the hand you were dealt. The major misstep was the reclaimed wood wall, which is an outdated trend that looks ridiculous in a suburban tract house. I’m still not thrilled with the shiplap adjacent to the wood wall, but maybe the homeowners will remove that one day. The styling of the new wall and the lighter floors look great, though.

7 years ago

It looks amazing, great work!

It looks fantastic! And functional too! Great job to all the collaborators 🙂

7 years ago

Very nice and wow look! It looks so smooth and pretty, and I don’t mind the size of the TV vs. the fireplace at all. It looks like two organized black boxes. Not sure you’d want them the exact same size.

I think the reclaimed wood wall also looks stunning. It’s kind of weird to say “outdated.”… Is there anything that won’t be outdated? (Such as sconces?)

Looks great!

7 years ago
Reply to  Liz

Agreed, I would not want them the same size. If there was a smaller TV over a larger firebox, that would be preferable. But that big honker over the beautiful little firebox is just so sad. Much too top-heavy.

7 years ago

Okay, to be fair, her fireplace was not so cool and interesting as yours, Emily, so changing it to something much more sleek was a vast improvement and does look really awesome. For me, I LOVE your fireplace as much as I love mine 1970’s brick floor-to-ceiling, double sided fireplace! My Mother-in-Law wants me to white-wash it or redo ours so bad that she mentions it every single time she comes over. BUT, the fireplace is one of the main reasons I fell in love with the house. I will keep it in it’s original state for now….maybe down the road I’ll be ready to part with it’s vintage feel for something more modern. For now – it stays!
Anyway, I do think even if you were to update your fireplace to something much more modern, it still would be really cool…because YOU are cool!

7 years ago

When I saw the first picture I thought it looked really nice, but then when I scrolled down and saw the original, and I liked the original better. The original fireplace was really nice, but it did look busy with the reclaimed wood wall. I think the easier solution would be to get rid of the reclaimed wood wall and replace it with drywall and keep the fireplace wall as is.

7 years ago

Love how the ideas kept developing and became more refined. The end result is beautiful and perfect!

7 years ago

Looks great! And I love the ending quote on the cost and experience from the client.

7 years ago

Nice job! I like the TV and firebox dimensions, think they add an interesting perspective. The shelf styling on the sides seem kind of squashed and cramped to me. I think I would perhaps had only one shelf on each side and some varied height type of styling objects.
Changing the lower drawers to three makes a really nice cleaner look. Lot of money but spending less and not loving it would have cost more!

7 years ago

I just love this! I’m working on something very similar right now in my home and this was such a great inspiration! Love!

7 years ago

I agree that the final wall looks beautiful. The fewer drawers along the bottom of the hearth area are definitely better.

7 years ago

I love this makeover, and that rug is amazing! Where is the rug from?

7 years ago

I can no longer see images/pictures on your blog?? I was always able to until a week or so ago. I have no problem on other blogs so I’m not sure what is going on.

I really miss seeing your pictures!!!

7 years ago

Oh all I can see is that giant black TV. It totally detracts from fireplace. The mock up with the mirror looks 10 times better.

7 years ago

It’s full of insightful information and entertaining descriptions. Your point of view is the best among many. keep posting ..

Chaya jain
7 years ago

Interesting share and great help too.

7 years ago

That is nothing like Emily’s fireplace.. Emily’s is beautiful. Ever since I first saw it I wanted to have one of my own when I have my own house. That was the first thing I loved in Emily’s house.

This update tho is pretty good and Erin’s original fireplace wasn’t that nice.

7 years ago

Okay, Please someone help me. Where do you find/buy wood mantels like this? I’m stumped as to where to go to buy/have made a mantel?!!!!!

7 years ago

Loving your blog so much lately! Please could you let me know where the black and brass wall sconces from inspiration one are from? Thank you!

7 years ago

Your blog is really interesting and inspiration to many. I’ll be looking forward for more of your posts. Keep it up! I will follow you ..

7 years ago

Love the final result! So so gorgeous!

xo Bree