When moving into a new place, an empty room can feel like an overwhelming design challenge. Making just one good decision, however, can jump-start the rest of the design. For me, it was painting our living room's brick fireplace a fresh white.
fireplace, before and after

When we bought our 30-year-old Colonial house last summer, I knew one of my first tasks was to lighten up the living room. As with most rooms I've designed, a little paint was the best -- and most inexpensive -- solution for an instant update.

When Your Room Feels Like a Cave

fireplace before

Thanks to dark walls, little natural light, and a brick fireplace, the room felt a bit cavelike. I knew that no matter how many other ways I attempted to lighten up the space, the dark brick fireplace would still be a looming focal point. Although I think red brick can be a great design element in the right space, it can also weigh down an entire room -- especially if it's naturally dark and has a low ceiling like ours.

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Painted Brick Means Instant Impact

fireplace after

The process of painting the fireplace was a fairly easy one that I documented on my blog. I was able to knock out the project in a couple of days and with a few coats of paint. Although painting brick is a permanent move, it was one that made the biggest difference in the overall look of the room. (Often big risks equal big rewards!) The white instantly made the room feel lighter and more open.

Pulling the Room Together

living room with fireplace after

Once one big design element was in place, it became much easier for me to make other decorating decisions. I wasn't trying to "work around" a dark fireplace that I knew didn't fit my style. Lightening up the brick also led me to choose a lighter paint color for the walls and to use furniture that feels casual and relaxed. I also like to add fun pops of color -- artwork, lamps, pillows -- to play off the light, neutral backdrop.

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