I Can’t Stand My Ugly Stone Fireplace – What Can I Do?



Dear Laurel,

I loved your post about the ugly brick fireplace.

Well, I have an ugly stone fireplace.


ugly stone fireplaceAmy’s ugly stone fireplace

It might not be the worst one you’ve ever seen, but I can’t stand it. I’ve considered painting it, and in an unprecedented situation, lol, my husband is open to that idea.

It seems to me there was another post where you spoke about some special finishes for brick, but I can’t find it. Can you do similar techniques for stone as you do brick?




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Hi Everyone,

This is based on a real note I received a while back, and it’s a great topic. That’s because, over the years, I’ve seen a lot of double-story family rooms. Now, I know that many of you have them. I know this because they are as common as cornflakes. And, indeed, getting rid of one of the cavernous spaces will most likely not work.

It’s also not like all of them are bad. But, that’s not the topic of this post.

This is the topic.


two story stone fireplace
The ubiquitous late 20th century and beyond the ugly stone fireplace.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, for one thing, it’s a big dark thing and in a room with white walls. And, it will be challenging to balance out that element.

The divided light windows are based on traditional and classical style windows. The stone is rustic.

In my opinion, it’s too much.

However, it’s not the ugliest stone fireplace I’ve ever seen.

Please see below for a collection of far uglier stone fireplace surrounds.


This overbearing (IMO) monstrosity.

this – with matching fugly 70’s wall paneling


ugliest stone fireplace

Close Encounters of the worst kind.


Richard Dreyfus is always so excellent.

Perplexing, ain’t it?

Giraffes looking confused

Hey, you guys lookin’ at me? I swear I didn’t do it! Please, don’t kill the messenger!


Bowling ball cemetery, I guess.


Please do not pin these to Pinterest unless it’s to a board entitled “Don’t Do This.”


Of course, many homes have a perfectly appropriate stone fireplace in these situations, and possibly others.


  • In an antique home– usually.
  • In a home that is genuinely rustic, through and through.


My parents built a rustic home in 1980 on the shores of Lake Michigan, just north of Milwaukee. The living room was two stories with floor-to-ceiling windows. In the center of the room was a magnificent Lannon stone fireplace that formed the entire core of their hexagonal-shaped home. Lannon stone is an indigenous stone to Wisconsin.

It was quite impressive as the staircase to the second floor wrapped around their stone fireplace.


Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of their fireplace. However, above is the look of the stone to give you an idea. The home, as this one is, was contemporary and rustic. In this situation, it felt appropriate.


Below are some other natural stone fireplaces that do feel like they belong


Ruthie Sommers

The home is rustic, and the stone fireplace is a natural extension. I also like the juxtaposition of her furnishings against the rusticity.

Remember James Farmer’s successful rustic showhouse, but with traditional furnishings? He’s amazing.


Please do check out the post in the link above. There are several examples of stone fireplaces that I think do work beautifully, including one by Gil Schafer.


His is not fully stone, but I love what he did.

Let’s look at an interesting example of a stone fireplace that’s not terrible but I think could be better.




The first thing I notice is that the stone fireplace looks too cramped between the two doors.


Otherwise, the stone fireplace above isn’t terrible, but I think it would be much better if the walls were painted in a tone to coordinate with the stone, like maybe more of a deeper warm gray. That would be stunning with the white furniture.


Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray hc 168

Maybe a color like Chelsea Gray or Kendall Charcoal.


Kendall Charcoal hc-166


Or, I think it would look great to paint the window muntins and door frames black. The walls could still be white, a pale gray, or a deep gray, in that case. And, then on the walls, I would add some art to balance that out. I also think a darker floor or a rug with deep colors to go over the seagrass, might be good, as well.


But, at least this stone fireplace isn’t going up 20 feet as in “2001, A Space Odyssey” monolithic fashion.


2001 A space odyssey monolith



There rarely is one solution, as long as all of the elements come together harmoniously.


Below are some more fantastic homes with beautiful rustic stone fireplaces.


Mallory Mathison - rustic kitchen - white cabinetryMallory Mathison – rustic kitchen – white cabinetry


James F Connor - architect interior design -Tammy Connor

And, this wonderful home by Tammy Connor has a beautiful old stone fireplace.


But now we need to get back to what to do if our home’s style doesn’t work with the stone fireplace someone else put in.


A logical idea for a quick and relatively cheap solution is to paint the stone.

But, is that a good idea?

Let’s check this next one out and see what we think.


Cool! These folks painted their fireplace, to look like a giant piece of gorilla dung.

I mean, could it possibly be any uglier?

Or, weirder?


Gorilla dung from the side. But, wow! This is a beautiful room, with a lot of potential, otherwise.


Okay, not to be discouraged from painting because I think painting IS a viable solution.


Of course, painting your ugly stone fireplace brown is probably not going to help.

Some of you may recall that I posted gorilla dung images before. Nancy Keyes kindly sent them to me and shared her incredible makeover.

Below is the after.


Nancy KeyesYes, she painted it white. Here, you can see that she rendered the formerly horrid brown fireplace, virtually invisible.


Above is an oft-posted image of Nancy’s seriously gorgeous living room.  Here’s the proof that a white room need not be boring, nor does it have to look antiseptic. This one image is like an entire course on how to do it.


Below are two graphics of the before and after you can pin to your Pinterest boards.


stone fireplace makeover before and afterand

Stone fireplace makeover, before and after



So, yes, one viable option for the ugly stone fireplace is to paint it.


Just white it out. Or, it could also be painted to match the walls, whatever color that is, if that works for your space.

Below are some excellent examples of people who painted their natural stone fireplace white or a neutral color.

For more of Nancy’s exquisite designs, including her fabulous kitchen and her before and after home exterior in Atlanta, please check out these two posts:


Astonishing Makeovers Before and After

An Amazing Home Exterior Transformation Before and After

A Kitchen Renovation Has Charm to Burn!


Below are some other successful stone fireplace transformations with paint


lovely white painted stone fireplace disappears creating a white-on-white textured contemporary space

See how the stone almost disappears? It’s just a wonderful texture in this contemporary white-on-white room. Sorry, couldn’t find the original source.


Coastal Collective Company

This is a terrific before and after. I think the paint job here is superb. And there’s an excellent tutorial by Anneke McConnell detailing how she did it.

Anneke linked to Amy Howard Chalk style Paint, but she also recommends Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

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I think this is an excellent job here, and the stone looks much better. Again. Gray stone looks great with gray walls. (source unknown, despite the watermark)


So, Laurel, is that it? Just paint over the ugly stone fireplace in white or a light to a medium neutral paint color?


Oh no. There are many other options, so let’s look at them.


House Updated


You could tear the damned thing down!

However, it’s massively expensive, toxic, and potentially dangerous. Plus, this is only a small mantel. So, that one is probably off the table. But, it would be possible, and you’d have to vacate the premises.


Rather than tear it down, I think, if possible, it would be better to build over the stone.


stone fireplace can be built over!

via DIY Network (but probably better to hire a pro)


But, aside from painting and building over the stone, let’s look at other interesting options for dealing with an ugly stone fireplace.


Patina Farm – Home of Steve and Brooke Giannetti

This is from Brooke and Steve Giannetti’s magnificent dream home that they built 80 miles north of Los Angeles several years ago.


Patina Farm.


patina farm parged stone fireplace and exteriorCan you believe this is a new house?


The Giannettis started with French Limestone, and I believe it was then acid washed.

Now, get ready.


Patina Farm over-grouting or parging technique makes new stone look old and softer.


They had it “over-grouted” to give it the look of a stone wall that had been there for centuries. They use this incredible technique all over their unique and rustically beautiful home.


Over-grouting is also known as parging.


(my Grammarly insists on it being “parking.”)

Typically, parging is done to repair cracked or damaged masonry and may not be applied so artfully. Here, the type of grout or mortar used gives a chalky appearance of an old-world wall.

As you can imagine, in the years following this fantastic new build, over-grouting has become quite a trend.

Brooke’s blog Velvet and Linen has an excellent section about how they built their home from design concept to completion.

In addition to the technique of over-grouting, or parging,


There is white-washing and lime washing.


Oh, and something called a German shmear, or schmear if you’re hungry for a bagel and cream cheese.


So, if you’re interested in seeing what that’s all about, please check out one of my favorite posts about painted brick. There is a ton of helpful information in this post.

True, these techniques are over brick, but I don’t think the process is significantly different if going over stone.


This links to an excellent post I discovered on Pinterest.


One thing I love about Pinterest is the “More Like This” dozens of images to follow the one at the top.


So, if you check out that lovely on Pinterest, you’ll see many gorgeous examples of painted, lime, and white-washed, parged, shmeared, and over-grouted stone walls and fireplaces, both inside and out.

I hope you guys learned something new in this post. I know that I did.


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This is one not to be missed as these are not the end-of-season left-overs.


Nope. They put almost everything on sale, including their new items for fall/winter. There are some fantastic deals to be had. However, you need a Nordy’s charge card to get early access.