Sunday, August 28, 2011

Design Challenge #5 Jen's Fireplace and Niche

Hi Everyone,
welcome to a weekend edition of
Design Challenge!

Sometimes we have design challenges that were ready made for us.
In this case, Jen from Easy Peasy Chic 
is trying to work with the placement of a fireplace
and adjoining niche in her Great Room.

Below are some photos of Jen's Great Room
that show the culprits.

She is trying to find a way to make the fireplace the focal point of the room
while at the same time utilize the niche for their flat screen TV.
 Take a look at the configurement and you'll see what she's up against!

Here we have it in Jen's own words:

It just so happens that I have a BIG dilemma and the only cure I am afraid, is very expensive. The builder's niche has made keeping the fireplace a focal point in my great room almost impossible!!! It is soooooo frustrating. I think a custom built unit to fit the niche may help but the best price I have found is $1000 and I can't swing that. Of course my dream would be to demolish it all and rebuild a fireplace in the center of the wall and hang the tv above that. But that won't be happening for 20 years! So ANY advice would be great!!! The TV needs to stay here and I need storage that the dresser so freely gives for dvds, wii etc. I sooo need some wonderful and cost effective ideas on how to help my fireplace win the focal point battle it is having with the dingy niche? :)
Jen :)

More from Jen...

Making the fireplace a focal point again!

Anyone ever stained a precast stone fireplace? I am wanting to make my fireplace more of a focal point. After finally choosing paint we love we realize that it made the fireplace disappear. So I have been researching the possibility of staining the stone. It sounds like it can be done and for probably under $45!!

Here are some lighter colored ones that stand out nicely against their background paint..

Jen is looking at a custom design cabinet for the niche,
but needs some help right now as that might be a little while in the making.

Anyone out there know anything about painting this precast stone
since she wants it a lighter color?
Also, it sounds like they just painted the entire room so that might not
be an answer to this challenge.

Put on your decorator's hat/thinking cap for this one.
Let's get creative and and see if we can help Jen out!
Thanks a bunch in advance, everyone!
Hope you're having a great weekend,


  1. Hi Jen (and Debra),

    There are always no money ideas, little money ideas, and expensive ideas.
    My ideas in no particular order are:

    First, paint the surrounding wall- all the way to the ceiling in a tad darker color in the tone of the fireplace.

    Custom built-ins in the niche would be nice, but I understand the cost issue.
    I would ask the contractor what it would cost to get rid of the niche by walling it up.

    If that is too expensive, I would try to make it invisible by painting it and the furniture piece in the same color as the new wall color- so everything fades away.

    I would also try and pull the dresser a little forward to create a built-in illusion.Recessing it emphasizes the niche.

    Another idea-
    ask the contractor about folding louvered doors- all painted-
    They would hide the niche and can be closed when you want a wall.

    Although I am not ordinarily a fan of angled furniture, I would angle the couch facing the fireplace so you can still see the tv.

    That would draw the eye to the fireplace corner .

    Place a thin library table behind the angled couch with matching lamps for lighting.

    And then try a rug to anchor it all (zebra or cowhide would look cool).

    Good luck,

    White Spray Paint

    I would then

  2. This is a hard one. The fireplace is in the corner and the hole beside it becomes more important that the fireplace. I agree to paint the whole wall around it to the ceiling instead of the way it is painted now. If there is any way possible, I would take the TV out of that hole and try to make the hole reflect a part of the fireplace. Built in's do not have to be that expensive.I am sure your husband can do it. I can see a lower level at the bottom full of wood and baskets for other storage.maybe a window seat atop with a cushion for extra seating. A couple of shelves from wall to wall in that hole with nick nacks, books and pictures on the wall. These shelves can be hung with some decorative metal brackets or perhaps a bead board backing. The TV and the picture above the fireplace are to much the same size and seem to fight for attention. good luck, this is a hard one.

  3. What kind of fireplace is it? Is it truly built in? She mentions precast stone - my mom had one of those and it was movable. (With about 5 strong guys!) Maybe moving the fireplace would be less intrusive than she thinks?

  4. Possibly you could:
    1)add crown molding across the top of the brown painted focal fireplace wall with a center decorative piece
    2)build in white shelving into the recessed area beside the fireplace rather than the furniture piece
    3)paint white the current fireplace surround area (not the square tiles beside the firebox and not the whole fireplace wall, just the mantle/surround area)

    This would create continuity in "white" between the top crown molding, white shelving in recessed area and white painted surround around fireplace area.

    This would create continuity in "black" between your black wide screen tv (which would still located in recessed area), black fireplace opening and the black framed picture above the fireplace.

    The top crown molding with the center decorative piece unifies the whole area as a "unit".
    The white built in shelves in recess area adds counterbalance to the fireplace area...will look like a unified wall with the whole area being the focal point.

    Will send Jen an email with pictures to help this make sense...

    Can't wait to see what you decide to do!!!


  5. The room may have just been painted, but I'll bet it is still less expensive than staining that stone. I would paint that wall a lighter color - a focal wall, if you will. I would go with a creamy off white or the lightest color in the fireplace surround tile that is withinn that color family. Light, so the fireplace stone stands out from it. What color is the dresser? That color might be an option so this way, let the dresser disappear into the wall and give the fireplace top billing. Right now, the dresser is what catches my eye.

    The TV looks different in that in one picture it looks like it is hanging on the wall in the niche and the other looks like it is a stand on the dresser. Mounting it would be good if it is not already. Also, try your furniture in a "V" configuration. The way the one sofa is by the fireplace makes it like the fireplace is just there and in the way. If you move the furniture so it looks like it is taking in the TV and the fireplace, it might help.

    Good luck!

  6. I'm one of those women who can go buy wood, cut it and make it into anything I need... I'd build a new surround out of wood and carry the same wood to the right into the cubby hole in the wall with shelving,, paint it all white and the tv.. well that would have to go somewhere else in the room... Why would the builder put the fireplace in the corner like that?
    I built a fireplace surround in my home because the HOA would not let me put in a real fireplace.. check out my blog.
    good luck

  7. This isn't as difficult a problem as Jen thinks it is. Jen, sweetie, I hate to tell you this ... but I think you're going to have to repaint. The undertones in your fireplace and wall color are totally fighting with each other, and this may be the main source of your dissatisfaction with what's going on with this wall.

    I love the dresser in the niche! It wouldn't cost much to build shelves to span the niche ... two shelves should do the job. Put the TV back on its stand and sit it on one of the shelves to pull it forward and bring it forward into the room a bit. Use the other shelf for accessories, pictures, baskets, etc. This should give the look of a custom built-in at a small fraction of the cost.

    Replace the black-framed print over the fireplace with something lighter. The topiaries are great!

  8. That is a big challenge! But I think the solution is not hard. I agree with others...I would paint all the way to the ceiling to take advantage of the beautiful height that you have. The two tones definitely chops the room in two. The fireplace is gorgeous and I would not touch it. I would, however, remove the picture above it. I don't think you need anything on the mantle. You could use that huge space above the fireplace/niche to hang a tapestry or rug. It would add color. I would definitely go for the built in look in the niche. If you are handy (or hubby) you could use prebuilt cabinets on the bottom and shelves above and around the TV. I'm thinking it is already wired for the TV so that is perfect. Hang the TV on the wall. I would paint the built in a color similar to the fireplace.
    A good source for ideas is I typed in "tv niche" in the search box and it brought up a few thousand pictures. I saw a couple with a set up similar to yours and both had a built-in for the tv.

    Good luck!

  9. What terrific advice. I'm agreeing with the paint situation, the darker color really competes with the lighter color on top and automatically causes the eye to be distracted. I also like the idea of shelving in the niche to get that "built-in" cutsom look without much money. Keep up the suggestions, they're really great!!

  10. Wow! I am loving the great ideas! Keep them coming. :)

  11. This is a tough one...the one thing I know is that the chest in the niche needs to be the same color as the wall so it will go away.

  12. Rather than paint the whole expanse above the fireplace and niche, I would extend the color only above the fireplace and then only up so far. Right now, the eye just stops with the print above it.
    I would do something similar to the second "idea" photo you included. Perhaps if you added two faux half-columns to the mantel and a shelf across the tops of these (creating a fireplace overhang like the ones seen in old homes) it would create the focal point you're searching for. Adding mirrors always works and a great chandelier hanging in front of a large mirror would be hard to beat.
    I would paint the dresser black so that it becomes part of the tv rather than trying to make it disappear. Curtains are also a low cost option for the niche.
    Good luck.

  13. We have this exact lay out in our living room and funny enough almost the exact same wall color! Yes, a built in would be divine but like Jen just far too pricey for us at the time. We went out and purchased an armoire for our space. It fills the space up width ways and long wise and gives us the storage we need. To give it a tad more custom feel I hung a corbel on each side of the opening. As for your fireplace Jen it is fabulous but yes I agree it needs to go towards the white spectrum. Jennifer over at The Magic Brush does that kind of thing for a living so I am sure if you stop by her world she would be more than happy to tell you what you would need to accomplish the task!
    Your space looks lovely and I know once it is completed it will look divine!

  14. This really is a hard wall with the fireplace pushed in the corner. I agree with others that I would paint that one wall the same light color above the fireplace and tv. The beige seems to cut the space in half and diminish the grand size of the room. If the wall is the same cream color as above, then the fireplace will have more prominence and stand out. Then I would paint the dresser the same color as the wall so it disappears. Gorgeous room. If the wall above the fireplace is cream all the way up, that allows you to place something large and dramatic above it to make the fireplace the center of attention. Good luck. Hugs, Marty

  15. You just never know where design advice will come husband took a look at these photos and said, "Why isn't the top and other wall painted that same darker color?" Good question! I know it's a higher level, but my thought is that it's worth hiring someone to come do it if you can't personally, then you could paint your fireplace a lighter color and incorporate some of the other ideas. I love light walls, but in this space that darker color really has my vote.
    We're having some great feedback, keep it coming!

  16. Jen, I would do two things: stain the fireplace in a lighter color to give it more focus and build in custom shelves (same color as the wall paint). I am sure you could build in shelves yourself and pain it the same color as the wall. that would neutralize that part of the wall while putting more attention towards the fireplace. :)
    also, I would move/rearrange that couch because it is sort of blocking the fireplace. I think it would fit better on the other side and it would do you a favor of blocking the niche while opening more space in front of the fireplace. I would also put a nice eye-catching vase on the left corner. Hope this helps. :)

  17. You are going to have to paint the wall above the fireplace all the way to the ceiling! The picture frame on the mantle is competing with the TV. Try a white framed picture that is more vertical or maybe something beefy and round! When I look at the picture of the room, I see squares and rectangles. It may just need some softer shapes. How about a second larger framed mirror on the upper ledge above the fire place to create some layering of objects. I like the dresser in the niche and it is the obvious place for the TV!

  18. Well if it were me (and yes I know it isn't *winks* I'd start with painting a solid color to the ceiling. That break across the top of the fireplace picture chops the room in an unattractive way.
    What was that silly builder thinking?! I wonder if it was a venting issue? But anyhoo I'd pop a beautiful armoire in that space. I'd start with my favorite go to spot... craigslist *winks* I found this one in my area for $375 So it need'nt break the bank. I would look for one that fit the dimensions of the space as closely as possible but still has beautiful patina. I think this IS a very difficult decorating dilemma because no matter what you do the fireplace is always going to read as "strangely" placed JMHO Soooo rather than try to MAKE it the major focal point I'd simply add to its beauty. Please know that I'm no professional decorator, just an avid lover of antiques. I can't wait to see what you do end up doing! Vanna

  19. I agree with lvroftiques....I would just rearrange your furniture to help you more face toward the fireplace OR I saw once where that wall was filled in and the fireplace extended all the way across and cleverly decorated as one whole wall! I will try and find the photo....I know I kept it, just not sure if it was bc (before crash) or (ac) after crash.... Happy Decorating, Pamie G.

  20. Wow! I have again read through all these comments. A BIG thanks to everyone! Your comments are sooo helpful. And Debra a BIG thank you to you for such a great idea!! Now to complie your ideas and come up with a plan of action. Thanks again everyone!! :)

  21. I agree with Hartwood Roses and would build shelves above the cabinet then paint everything the same color to give the illusion of built in.

  22. I agree with all the others!!! Paint the whole room the same color up to ceiling.

    The couch below the windows needs to be moved or removed. Maybe put on the wall along stairs?

    Also I would take down the drapes. It helps to chop up the room. If you wanted an accent. Maybe put up bamboo roll up blinds. The curtains compete with the fireplace and chop it up

    You can rent scafolling from home depot for around 40 a day.


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