Q: I want to update the look of my floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. Can I paint it? What might be other alternatives?
A: You can paint most stone fireplaces (limestone, sandstone, and river rock do not lend themselves to painting), but be sure you will like the results, because once applied to stone, paint is difficult to remove. If you are convinced paint is the answer, spend some quality time in preparation.
Clean your fireplace thoroughly with a heavy-duty cleaner such as trisodium phosphate, and rinse well. Once the stone is dry, apply a masonry primer, then two coats of latex paint. An indoor latex paint withstands temperatures of up to 200° F, so it can be applied to the external portion of the fireplace but not within the firebox. An alternative treatment to change the look of your fireplace stone is to apply a tinted masonry sealer.
If you would like to better integrate the fireplace into the room, consider framing it with built-in bookcases or display shelving. By using the same wood to create a new mantel, hearth, and crown molding, you can not only downplay the role of the fireplace on a wall, but give it more visual warmth.
If you want to play up the texture and color variations of the stone, install recessed lighting fixtures in the ceiling above the fireplace. There they highlight the fireplace and whatever you choose to display on the mantel.