Remodeler’s Challenge: What’s up with that fireplace?

Atascaderofireplace_2Is there anything better than looking at houses? I find it exhilarating to see inside people’s homes, either remodeled houses I tour for my newspaper and magazine articles, or houses for sale that people are ready to leave.

Sometimes, I see something that needs to be remodeled, fixed, altered, or otherwise made right.

I saw this beautiful 1980 house for sale last week. The dining room, which you see here, has so much going for it: That amazing wood ceiling, the hardwood floors, the light streaming in from the window wall on the right, the double French doors to the backyard.

But what’s up with that fireplace? I’m not crazy about that brick hearth. It seems too big and featureless, and too close to the doorway. Maybe the owners thought so, as well, and tried to distract the eye away from it with the wood mantle. But the mantle — which is really pretty and which I think I’ve seen for sale at Costco — is way too small. And the mirror over it is way too big.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this scene work for me. Maybe just turning the mirror 90 degrees so it was narrower than the mantle and reached farther up toward the ceiling would work? And the bright gold-look frame would have to be either painted black or replaced with a wood frame.

What do you think? If you were buying this house, what would you do? Or does this fireplace work for you?

(Do you have a remodeling challenge? Send a photo to and maybe we can give you some ideas.)

4 Comments on Remodeler’s Challenge: What’s up with that fireplace?

  1. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Lil Gaucha, love your vision for the wall. I thought the purple paint was the problem, but it’s just the starting point! Love the idea of adding a white mantle and bookshelves!

  2. lil_gaucha

    and add some white built-in bookshelves on either side of the new mantle, to stretch the span of the hearth. That could really be cool. Then the gilded mirror would look really funky. Add an outrageous chandelier above the table and there you go.

  3. lil_gaucha

    I actually really like the gold mirror with the purple walls. It’s the mantle that’s all wrong. The mantle needs to be replaced with something twice its size, and maybe in white. I can see a big white mantle working here with the gold mirror tilted 90 degrees and the bricks painted white with some wild cushions on top. Then maybe add some funky curtains or something.
    All this, of course, is based on that purple paint. If you went with a more neutral paint, you’d have to start again from scratch, but I think it has potential to be a very fun, funky room with a lot of energy.

  4. Jeannie

    In my opinion, the mirror is totally out of place and looks ridiculous. It is too high for anyone to use as a mirror. It dwarfs the fireplace, and distracts from whatever beauty it has. As for the fireplace itself, the border and mantle piece is much too small for the base. They need a bigger mantle piece. I love fireplaces, but somehow they have managed to make that part of the room an eyesore.