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Mountain Fixer-Upper: Our Stone Fireplace Makeover



As you may have seen, we were back at the mountain fixer last week, designing away while our plaster guy gave our bubble rock fireplace a makeover. You voted for us to ‘work’ with the fireplace rock instead of demo-ing it out and starting fresh, perhaps opting for our dream stone or a totally new design (see this post for reference). We liked the idea of stone – it’s a mountain house after all – and Brian’s masculinity is highly attached to the amount of wood and rock in this house. 🙂 I like a good rock, too, but I wanted ours to feel either more aged and organic OR new and fresh. When we bought this house, it just didn’t feel right for the style that we were going for.

But, it took us a while to realize why. The tone of the stone isn’t bad – it’s gray, not too brown. The shape of those rocks are more round than I like, but I like circles so why is that a problem? It was built with real stones, not fake, in a fairly random pattern, not looking too forced. Nothing objectionable there. Well, eventually, we realized that it was the darkness of the grout and the depth of the rock that was the problem.

Nothing some schmear can’t fix. Now, after doing a little research and not really being able to come up with a clear answer, we realized (or so we think) the schmear is just how someone applies plaster. It looks rough, messy, organic and shallow. It doesn’t fully cover the stone but it comes close. (Is this the correct definition for a schmear? If anyone actually knows the answer, please leave it in the comments and we’ll update the post.)

It could be that for months, we were saying the exciting phrase “German Schmear” all day, every day when we could have been just saying “plaster”, but where’s the fun in that. For this, I will never repent.

Here’s a quick reminder of the pre-schmear “before”:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Fireplace Before Furniture

Emily Henderson Lake House Before 1762

It’s hard to live with the above fireplace when all you want is the below.

Emily Henderson German Schmear Fireplace Mjolk
image source

That would be our dream stone fireplace, if we had old stones. But ours aren’t as flat or jagged and are a lot newer (from the ’80s or ’90s). We liked that the mortar was less deep and not as strong of a dark line. It was more monochromatic and natural, less “rock, grout, rock, grout.”

Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 111
image source

This fireplace is one that we also liked that seemed more achievable. Sure, our rocks were rounder, but maybe we could add so much plaster in a “shmear- like” fashion to just have it be a really pretty white-ish texture with the stones just peeking out, desperate to breathe under that schmear.

We sourced a faux finisher from LA but didn’t find anyone who had this in their portfolio who was affordable. Lots of people said they could do it, but when our GC said he had someone up there for $1k, we went for it because anyone in LA would have charged more. The project has to keep moving and frankly I was skeptical that ANYONE could give me the fireplace that I loved, so what did I have to lose? Worst case was that we would plaster it over, dislike the color and then paint it white.

Emily Henderson Fireplace Plaster Color Options1

At first, he mixed some gray in the white plaster, but it must have been a fairly warm gray so it looked kinda brown (on the left). It just wasn’t as fresh as I was thinking. Next, they mixed cement with the plaster and it looked mostly like cement (right). Too cold and concrete like. Here, you can see them both together:

Emily Henderson German Schmear Plaster Options

They removed both of those before they hardened. It was 11:30 am at this point and we had to leave by 4 pm. I probed my contractor, asking him “Are these the only options?” and he said no but that he thought this was what we wanted so they were going to have to go get other options and it couldn’t be done today. And then I asked him if this was definitely how you schmear and he acted as if he had never heard the phrase before. It’s then that we were told that German schmear was just a technique, not a material (we think…again, we welcome any information or suggestions).

When we didn’t like option #1 or #2, he said that we could just try it in white and I thought…wait, maybe that’s what we wanted anyway? No time to get more options and again, I had very little hope that changing the slight tone of it would make it better. They said it would be REALLY white, and so I figured, why not?

He went for it. Here’s the step by step:

Emily Henderson German Schmear Step By Step1

I wanted to title this “DIY Plaster Fireplace,” but obviously couldn’t because I didn’t DIY it. George did. I know like anything that looks easy, it requires skill, practice, mistakes and troubleshooting, but I figured I’d give you the steps in case you wanted to give it a whirl. It’s my totally inexperienced opinion that when it comes to schmear, you can be messier than you would be with other types of plaster. If I had more time, I would have liked to try my hand at the technique and give it a whirl.

We gave George the direction to even out the rocks, but in a natural way. Some spaces would be deeper than others and then with the trowel and sponge he would make them even less even. The whole process took from 9 am to 4 pm – which I think is pretty darn fast. Watch for yourself 🙂

German Schmere

German Schmear Emily Henderson Mountain House

That’s George. My plaster dude. He humored me all day and was lovely to work with. He didn’t like it when I said ‘schmear’ and I reminded it him the importance of recognizing Old World European phrases that make us kind of uncomfortable, while still being pretentious.

Here is how it looked before it dried completely when we left last Friday:

Finished German Schmear River Rock Fireplace

DEFINITELY better than the before. Brian and I (and all of us) were pretty happy already.

Yesterday my contractor sent me the below photo now that it’s dried:

Emily Henderson German Schmear Dried

Even better! I’m pretty into it!! My apologies for it being blown-out and pixelated. We’ll replace this as soon as we take a better one. Meanwhile, he’s suspended from being an SBEH freelance camera phone photographer.

*(P.S. as you can imagine, he thinks our whole social media experiment and how we create all this ridiculous on-camera Insta storyiPhonee content is HILARIOUS and is always like “Well, have you asked that audience yet”…SUCH a good sport. As soon as we are done with the project, I’ll tell you who he is if you want to remodel/build up here, but I can’t have anyone else hiring him right now. No distractions :)).

Back to the schmear results. We are pretty happy for now. I haven’t even seen the dried rock in person. I bet it’s even lighter than it looks in that photo.

The next thing up for debate is, of course, that mantel. While we were up there, we were playing with wood options for bedroom ceilings and kitchen cabinets. Before we left, I held them up to see if any of these could help guide our decision on what to do with the mantel. It’s a really dark orange stain that we don’t like and we don’t think it’s real wood anyway. Maybe in a perfect world, we would just get rid of it, but as you can see the stone juts in above the mantel so we can’t without altering the fireplace a ton.

To be clear – THESE ARE JUST PHOTOSHOPPED RENDERINGS OF THE WOOD ON THE MANTEL. Sara even put our flooring sample on the floor so we could see how that works with things (don’t judge the wood flooring; it’s BEAUTIFUL in person but we had to stretch a tiny sample to fill that triangle portion of the floor).

Mantle Options 1 And 2

1. WHITE MANTEL. Now this is FAR more special than it looks in that rendering based on just a small piece. This is beautiful reclaimed cedar wood that we painted white gloss for a potential kitchen sample. We didn’t seal it so the grain seeped through (despite 3 coats). Obviously, we would seal it but I wanted to show you how pretty the grain is in person, even painted.

Rustic Wood Painted White

It’s EXTREMELY textured and I’m very excited about it for the kitchen (stay tuned…also could I possibly make life more complicated?). I thought after the plaster dried it would be my favorite but at least from the photo, I’m unsure. It feels very BRIGHT WHITE. But less-so in person. Sometimes Photoshop takes texture out of things and makes it look fake when it’s not.

2. BLACK MANTEL. This is the same reclaimed wood stained a matte black (SO PRETTY) also as a cabinet option. In person, it actually looks like this:

Black Reclaimed Wood

The white parts are the holes where the white paint leaked through because it was painted white. This is stunning, but in the Photoshopped image looks super JET BLACK.

Mantle Options 3 And 4

3. GRAY MANTEL. This is the original reclaimed wood in its natural form. Also gorgeous. But up there, it looks kinda gray on gray on gray.

4. PINE TONGUE-AND-GROOVE MANTEL. We had it so we tried it. Too matchy with the ceiling.

Mantle Options 5 And 6


6. MEDIUM WOOD TONE MANTEL. Just for fun, I threw up the wood flooring sample to see if a medium tone would be good, but it’s not right.

So now, I have a few things I want to do…1. Google “stone fireplace mantel” to see what the other options are. That is how we design, by the way. And 2. Darken the slate stone hearth. It could be a rich black, which would then perhaps make the black on the mantle really work.

Mountain House Fixer Upper German Schmear Before Update1

There you have it. I think it’s WORLDS better. I can’t wait to see it in person and feel good about it.

*In case you are an ‘I design, You decide’ detective, you’ll probably notice that we didn’t end up raising the firebox. Nor did we create a taller bench and create wood storage underneath it like we originally planned in this post. The reason is that once we removed the original stove, we realized our box was completely intact. GOOD NEWS FOR ONCE. We had a perfectly functioning fireplace. To demo out some rocks to move up the box to then replace the rocks would have just been a waste of money because the ROI would have been very little. If I were to build it new, would I have designed it to be higher? Sure.

Overall, I’m pretty darn happy that in one day and with $1k (including materials), we transformed that very controversial fireplace into one that is super appropriate for our mountain house.

The only thing that I’m still considering is painting over the plaster. Not because I don’t like the stone but because I fear that medium tone of the stone with the medium tone of the ceiling is kinda competing. I just wish one were darker and lighter. We could do this:

Emily Henderson Lake House Fixer Upper Mountain Home Decor Fireplace Ideas Rustic Refined Simple White Wood Stone 221
image source

Before you go, I have a couple of questions…now that Brian and I agree on one thing (the new fireplace):

1. Do you want me to consider painting the fireplace an all-over light tone like above? I haven’t seen the finished plasterwork dried so I may think it’s PERFECT in person and maybe the combo with the ceiling won’t bother me.

2. What is your gut feeling on the mantel finish? I’m not sold on any of those, so any inclinations or suggestions would be lovely before I comb the web and stone yards for 19 hours. Obviously, a rustic reclaimed beam is an option…

3. Who wants me to just explore the idea of using that gorgeous black stain on the…CEILING???? Listen, the chances are 2% that it’s something we would actually do out of sheer fear of permanence. I’m as shocked as you are that I, Emily-White-Ceiling-Henderson, would even consider staining that massive ceiling black. But in person, the black stain is so pretty and now that the ceiling is walnut blasted, the texture would scream “I’M STILL WOOD” but in a quiet, dark, moody, dramatic way. Brian wants cozy and masculine (plus he’s dark, moody and dramatic!!) and I want the ceiling to have a more even tone while still definitely feeling like wood so the now-pretty fireplace becomes the feature. Perhaps this could be the answer? Brian is going to LOSE HIS SCHMEAR over even the suggestion of this one…and TBH, it’s likely not going to happen, but it’s fun to fantasize…

Fin Mark


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It looks amazing! So impressed by how you solved this! Please don’t paint the stone. If anything, paint or stain the wood or vary your flooring. The stone is damn near perfect. The wood finishes need more considering. You are inspiring!


Agreed. The dual tone wood ceiling didn’t stress me out when you first posted, but perhaps it’s now crawled into my brain. I think the mantel question isn’t the stone or the mantel, it’s the ceiling…




Fireplace looks great and for such a low price!!! Just goes to show some small changes can have real impact. With the new fireplace I’m kinda digging the idea of black stained ceiling. I just feel like a dose of moody drama works for a cozy mountain house. I also think here is your chance to create moody drama not happy go lucky white brightness. Basically Emo Vaguely Danish Emily is an interesting concept for all of us to watch. 🙂 That being said I worry that the moody drama of a black ceiling might change your other finishes and… Read more »


“Emo Vaguely Danish Emily” hahahahaaa ????


Am I the first to comment today? My my…:D
I LOVE the makover! At first I didn’t know what the fuss was about: sure, the fireplace had this 80′ vibe, but I liked it better than your dream fireplace nevertheless:D.
But seeing the work complete – booom! You nailed it!:D.

As to the mantel colour – I like wood. I don’t know the exact tone, but I like it natural. No blacks and whites for me, thankyouverymuch. The same goes for ceiling:D.

Julie Gallagher

OH MY WORD! You are really amazing! I did not like the stone fireplace before – too me the stones were too round and it looked so “new”. NOW! it looks fantastic! Great job figuring out a good solution.


The fireplace looks amazing!!


Emily, congratulations on the new finish on the fireplace! It looks fantastic! I love it now, and don’t think you need to paint over it. The mantel is too dark however – anything to high of contrast will draw attention to the mantel and not the stone, so I think keep it light (I actually really like the pine to match the ceiling since it looks more intentional) but I think the reason none of the mantels look right (and maybe why the ceiling color is bothering you) is the flooring is too dark in the examples. A white painted… Read more »


From the pictures, I also liked the mantel matching the ceiling look as in options 4 and 5 … and that the floor color might then need to be different like Denise suggests. But there is one thing we have come to know – it will be appropriate and beautiful whatever you decide.


what an amazing transformation! i like options 2 and 4 but i agree that i’m not in love with the flooring? it feels too dark to me. can’t wait to see more of the process.


Agreed! Wood mantel. Lighter floors.

Heather Townsend

Another vote for that!


The whole “permancy” thing is what’s making my opinion waver…but I’d love to see the rock painted white and the ceilings plus mantle stained black. It is gorgeous just as it is, but how striking to be in black and white (like the above photo). Good luck!


I was thinking the same thing, actually! The stone has good color variance, but I think it’d pop better if it were brighter. Contrast on that would let it both blend (softer color, white on white), and stand out (with high contrast). Thank you for sharing!!


While I think I’ll never take on a similar project: I love this post. Why? It brings out the creative process blow by blow and just introduces so much “play” into a renovation in ways I wouldn’t have necessarily imagined previously. Things are questioned that I would have assumed were an immovable “given”. But you blow that idea up and make it playful in a masterful and insightful way. This makes me think about my home differently: maybe that solid seeming wall in the kitchen could be exposed to create some niche bookshelves… The schmear seems to have created much… Read more »


Please don’t paint over the stone/plaster. It’s beautiful and rustic. In order to make it more modern-mountain, go with the black stained mantel, and oil/wd40/seal the slate hearth stone. It’ll pick up the black in the mantel and really ground the space. Great update so far!


Great idea with the oil.


“Schmear” just means to spread! So yes, spreading your plaster on like peanut butter on toast is the look (and not the product). 🙂 The new fireplace and chimney breast is a fantastic upgrade! Looking really good now. An – NO – please do not stain the ceiling black!!! In terms of the mantle piece – I would paint it grey. It blends in nicely with the stones and doesn’t detract from them. You might also want to consider what colours your fireplace “furniture” will be? A copper bucket for the wood? Copper tongs, poker, brush handle? Or will you… Read more »


Oh – and I forgot to add – I’m pretty sure the last picture isn’t painted stone! That looks very much like a Cotswold limestone and mortar. Here’s a cottage (for holiday rent) in England with these kinds of walls for comparison …


Ah – just realised it was the black ceiling you were using as a reference point in that last photo! (Not painted stone). It looks great in this image but the ceiling is much lower here… I think would come to regret it over time in your large room with a pitched roof.


I agree! It looks like limestone, not painted stone. We have similar limestone in Texas, too.


I was thinking it was limestone as well… there’s no way you’d have such good texture and color variation with painted stone.


That’s exactly what I was suggesting – just couldn’t remember the ‘Cotswold’ part! 😀


What a difference a schmear makes! I’m a no on the dark stain on the ceiling only because even with the natural light it will make the room dark. I like the black fireplace mantel though and no to painted rock!


You nailed that fireplace! Went from the ’80s to a farmhouse in Italy. Well done on working with what you have and being an inspiration with a small budget! Mantle colours: nothing strikes me as right. Time to google it.


Don’t paint – I’ve never seen painted stone (not brick) that looked good. Never.


I agree, paint would make it look flat. I like how it looks right now, but if Emily wants it lighter I think it would look better to cover the stones with moore plaster than to paint them.


Love the way the stone turned out! My input on your questions: please don’t paint the stone. It looks lovely as is. Please don’t stain the ceiling. I’m afraid the dark will be too dramatic and draw attention away from everything else you do to the house. In regards to the mantle, I think the white or the black will both work. I would consider the furnishings and accessories you plan to use. If there will be black used throughout the room, go for the black mantle. If you don’t plan on using much if any black in the furnishings/accessories,… Read more »


^This. I should’ve read this comment before writing mine since it’s basically my opinion too.


1.) Do not make the fireplace all light-colored. It looks great the way it is now, very neutral and NATURAL. Plus, down the line you can always change it if you want, that’s an easy, non-construction-y change. 2.) Mantle – When you added the darker floor color (with your light ceilings), I was attracted to a mantle that was on the darker side (vs the lighter ceiling color family). I do think exploring something more rustic is worth it, the straight mantle seems a little out of place? 3.) Black ceiling……..please…please….BANISH THIS IDEA FROM YOUR PRETTY LITTLE HEAD! 🙂 Or,… Read more »

Vicki S Williams



The stone looks great with the ceiling as is.
I would Prefer a wood mantel, not black or white.
I can’t wait to see the whole house!


What a transformation! Thanks for going this route and showing us. I love it. I think your mantle solution is to go no mantle. It would make the fireplace feel more rustic and at the same time modern. Or if you really want a mantle for Christmas I think something like in your last picture, the thin metal shelf-like one would be more interesting and editorial. The scale of the mantle you are considering, cuts the drama of the stone in half and kind of reads, “requisite chunky wood mantle, check!” No matter the finish it is going to relate… Read more »


This is an interesting option. And if something has to go there ( because we don’t know what type of structure is underneath the current mantel) maybe there is a stone slab option that would blend with the current stone.

Jenny B

Love the idea of trying to make something to blend with the stone of the fireplace – maybe something plastered with the schmear or a mantel veneered with a matching stone, that will look like just a big chunk of stone (the kind I remember them using on This Old House to make outdoor stairs out of – they would just take a big chunk of grey granite that was like 10 inches high and use it for a stair step – that always amazed me). Of course that would be too heavy for the mantel, but I’m sure something… Read more »


I loved those giant granite steps, too! So New England-y.


That’s an idea, but how would you cover the area where the mantle used to be? I think Emily wants to keep the mantle because she can’t really lose it without having to deal with covering the “hole” up.


I agree with no mantel if possible, too. We have a soaring stone fireplace with no mantel and I love it. (this is a listing photo from when we bought, so not our furnishings.)[email protected]/41748543335/

(first time flickr user to apologies if it’s a fail.)


Just a follow up note that the stone is not glossy – it’s just the light from the sun/windows.


The other reason she couldn’t really remove the mantle all together (as she states in the post) is because the stone above the mantle “juts in” – By this I believe she means that the stone below the mantle is a greater depth than above. Even if they could somehow fill the “hole” where the mantle was, the upper and lower sections wouldn’t line up!


Wow, the German Schmear technique really worked on that stone. Looks much improved. I like the black stain for the mantel the best. Black ceilings and whitewashed stone would be stunning!


I’m in the Option 3 camp!! Stain the ceiling black!! It would be gorgeous!! I think the contrast would be perfect with the now lovely, German-schmeared mantle. (P.S. My device for writing this comment absolutely detested my use of the word “schmeared” which leads me to believe it detests it, however I do not, so I persisted.)


The fireplace looks great and I’m going to find reasons to say “German schmear” as often as I can now. Answers: 1) Please don’t paint over the fireplace. 2) This is a hard one and I don’t think a decision could be reached until the flooring is actually installed and the firebox has been darkened. Good luck and I’m sure it will turn out great. ???? 3) Sure, 3-D render it, but dark ceilings just suck up light in photographs, generally. (Assuming you’re not using things to bounce the light around for every photograph.) Since this is not just to… Read more »


^This. I agree with all the points made here. I actually like #4 and #5 on the fireplace as is, but I really think the flooring needs to be done before you can get the full picture on the mantle. And the whole point of a mountain cabin is lots of wood tones so please oh please don’t paint that ceiling.


Have you considered a single piece of limestone for a mantle? You can have a large piece of limestone cut into the shape of the current wood mantle. You can have the stone cut so that the edges are smooth and modern ( often you’ll see limestone cut with “jagged” or “rustic” edges, which would probably be overkill in this space. If you do not seal the limestone it will patina beautifully. I’ve looked all over the internet for images but I unfortunately can’t seem to find any, but my parents had a similar two story fireplace in their last… Read more »




Fantastic idea!

Emily Franklin

Yes to ????!


I was just thinking that something natural stone would be my pick for the mantle, maybe even imitating the slate tile hearth, but I also really like this limestone option. Limestone is natural in my area (Kansas) so it gets used a lot, but brand new limestone is a beautiful bright color, and it wouldn’t darken too terribly much over time since it’s indoors (Limestone outdoors can get a very dark, black patina over time, but you can always brighten it back up with a good power wash/scrub).

And PLEASE don’t go black on the ceiling!


That’s an amazing transformation on the fireplace. The ceiling is not looking too shabby either. While the fireplace would look nice painted with dark black ceiling, it is probably okay as is. Assuming once you see the fireplace in person it looks as good as it does in the photo I would save the money for other things. But then the other option could be amazing…..


lolove the way you make “schmear” into “old world flair”, even teasing the masonry guy about it I’ve got a few degrees in German, and a few years lived in a Germany, to Get the humor. Just hearing that word makes me smile. Reminds me of people back home in Ohio/Pa who say things like “warsh”. Also brings back memories of hanging with my then-toddler in N Virginia at Einstein bagels, which is all about the schmear. I’ll admit I was skeptical as I started reading this, and pleasantly surprised in the end at how much more I like the… Read more »


1. No, don’t consider painting the fireplace right now. Maybe in a few years, maaaybe. I think it looks good as is, and I’d like to see how the stone tones wind up working with everything else in the room when the room gets furnished. 2. I like the white option or the black option for the mantle. Otherwise, it’s just too much brown when you factor in the floors, the ceiling, furnishings… Also, I think the floor might be a bit too dark or too brown or something – it seems to be fighting with the ceiling. 3. No,… Read more »


Love the fireplace! I vote “don’t paint it.” I also think the idea of a black stained ceiling is intriguing!


I like the grey mantel. The color had a good moody feel, but most importantly, the combination of light schmear and grey mantal makes the oddly slight (too slight) difference in the width of rockwork above and below the mantel just melt away. That particular rendering looks nicely balanced and finished to me.

Yes, I think it would be grand to play with a dark ceiling. Very distinctive, and a great move away from EHD wood + wood + white. Fun!


Black mantel, yes. So modern.
Black mantel, no. Bat cave.

Since you asked:).


Did you mean black “ceiling” for the Bat Cave comment?


Leave the ceilings alone and leave the stone and mortar alone! They look SO GOOD now. The “schmear” took away all the dated 80s vibes and really brought out the classic cabin look. PLEASE do not stain those ceilings black or paint the stone!!! Refinish the mantel in a midtone that balances between the ceilings and the floors and the house is ready for the next step. You 10000% fixed the fireplace and made it look like a timeless cabin, now onto the next thing. Black ceilings or a white painted stone will make the cabin look so LA or… Read more »

Julie S

Very much agree – well said.


Agree. I’m really loving the stone now—I never dreamed it would look this good!


YES to considering that gorgeous black stain on the ceiling!

Tanja Mäkitalo

I really love how the stone turned out! I’m so glad you didn’t demo it! Oh, and when looking at the mantle options, I feel that because the floor colour is so off in those examples, none of them really works. I also would have the mantel as warm wood tone as the ceiling but darker colour. I think that the fireplace needs some warmth to it since the stone and grout are so cold grey. All of those options feel just a little bit off because they are so cold. Can’t wait what you are going to end up… Read more »


Wow, the German Schmear technique really worked on that stone. Looks so good! I like the black stain for the mantle the best. Black ceilings and whitewashed stone would be stunning! But I think you could get the same kind of look without the commitment if you just paint a wall black in the living room. Its the same kind of coziness without the permanence, plus its only paint, and like the stone fireplace it can be changed easily with paint if you don’t like the color it is going forward, its a easier diy project. I say go darker… Read more »


Holy Schmoley, that looks perfect! I love the color & love the texture of the stone now! and I surprise myself by liking the white mantle. I don’t want to like the white one, I want to like the black or wood… but the white … i think i embraces the scandi feel you’re going for without committing to painting the whole thing white, but I think mantle might need some white legs to surround the entire bottom, and to ground it. I’m making stuff up. But that’s my gut feel.


Yes to a black mantel. So modern.
No to a black ceiling. So bat cave.

Since you asked;).

NB: this might a duplicate comment?


No to white washing the fireplace – if you plan to actually use it – it will get an awful noticeable heat line.
LIke the darker mantle vs lighter – the white looks too stark back to the other woods in the room.
don’t paint the ceilieng will feel off once you get it finished and you will regret it


It may seem a little industrial, but have you considered a metal beam? It would coordinate without matching the dark cabinets you’re planning. There’s so much wood in the house (beautiful!) that a natural wood beam may not pop. This photo doesn’t depict “the one” but provides some reference to show that it can look modern, without the farmhouse vibe

Ashley R

I vote for painting the stone. That last picture is INSANE in the best way. I want it in my house! And it wouldn’t even work because it’s a new build craftsman. Anyway, I love the look of the painted stone.


I agree!! I’m sorry but I don’t love the new stone. I think the thing that bothers me is that the stones are sort of “floating” in the grout, instead of resting on each other… does that make sense? I LOVE the light “painted” stone photo though!!! reminds me of the south of france. dreamy.


My 2 cents: Leave your ceiling walnut blasted as-is, stain the beams black, paint the whole fireplace lighter like the picture you’ve referenced, stain the mantel black and darken the hearth to coordinate with the mantel. I think right now there are just too many competing tones.

Cris S.

No. No black ceiling. No no no no. I can imagine what it will feel like to have that looming over you all of the time. And the expense? And the expense to fix it after? Ugh. And this is from a woman who thought she got a great deal on two beautiful and heavy Restoration Hardware inset, lit, chrome non-returnable medicine cabinets yesterday for $1000, only to realize this morning (looking at the shallow framing and the placement of the electrical pipes through the framing of the under construction bathroom) that they will NOT WORK AT ALL and now… Read more »


Everything from Restoration Hardware since they became RH is so big, so heavy, so clunky.


I say remove the mantel. I think it looks really strange, no matter the material/color. I don’t know if you would be able to find stone to fill in the gap, but I think the fireplace would look 10 times better without a mantel.

I also vote “no” for both the black ceiling and painting over the stones.


Hi Erin I Love the plaster .however the proportion of the mantel feels old fashioned and wrong to me .. one option already mentioned is no mantel at all which I like. Another option is increasing the depth of the mantel so that the space between firebox and mantel is less. I would rest a new bigger mantel over the old one ( made out MDF and possible clad in a slate or similar stone ) almost the colour of your hearth . The whole mantel firebox relationship would feel more grounded . I would double the depth of the… Read more »

Vicki S Williams

Yes, per above comment. I’m starting to realize that it isn’t the color of the mantle so much as the size and placement over the firebox that is the real problem. I’m intrigues with a metal or limestone mantle possibly.
Black ceiling? Please no. Love the fireplace schmear! We are working on our tall fireplace and are going to have to brick it and then schmear it!
Can’t wait to see the next installment.
Whitewash on the ceiling, depending what you do to the floor might be an option. As always you are terrific, Emily.


Great job! For the mantel, go with a wood tone. It looks so much better than white or black. 🙂


I LOVE the after and on the stone and I am so glad you “made it work,” rather than reconstructing. But please don’t paint that stone!!!!! It’s so perfectly cozy now. A black stain on the ceiling could really be a contrast!


Mantel……..wrap in metal?


I LOVE THE FIREPLACE NOW. You did such an amazing job and this is actually an attainable solution for many people’s not-quite-right fireplaces. I love the current look because it seems perfectly old world while not trying too hard to be cool.


I think the fireplace looks absolutely great as-is – PLEASE don’t paint it! It has so much depth and character right now and it would just look so DIY’d if you paint over it. I prefer the idea of keeping the ceiling wood, making the mantle and hearth black, and then the mid-toned wood on the floor. I think that would give you a nice mix of finishes and colors that are slightly outside (but adjacent to) your preferred palette and still cozy and modern at the same time. I love all the mountain house content and wish you could… Read more »


LOVE the fireplace! I love that you worked with it and made it into something so beautiful.
1. Painting it doesn’t seem necessary, but it could work.
2. I actually liked the ‘matchy’ options for the mantle the best. I like the natural look of it, and I feel like it brings the outside in more than the paint or stain options.
3. PLEASE DO NOT PAINT THE CEILING!!! They look so pretty in natural wood! pleasepleasepleaseplease don’t


regarding this, “just explore the idea of using that gorgeous black stain on the…CEILING”. I vote yes! I think it would be cool and alleviate your wood tone mismatch concerns. (Although that doesn’t bother me at this point at all).


Can the mantle itself be plastered?


I like this idea!! I know some people suggested no mantle, but that would leave a giant empty space to contend with. Plastering it would look seamless I think.


Ha! When I saw that last photo I thought, why not stain the ceiling black in the mountain house as well and solve that dilemma. So I vote for the black ceiling


I think the fireplace looks great!
As for the ceiling, what about keeping the pine planks bare but staining the doug fir beams black?

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