How to create symmetry with built-ins, paint and tiles.
Q. My fireplace is off-centre by 13 inches and I would like to build floor-to-ceiling shelves on either side. Will this look odd due to the asymmetry? Also, we want to reface the old stucco fireplace but we are limited by the fact that the door itself is inset so far. Can we reface it or do we have to demolish the structure?
? Christina Lee
A. Adding built-ins will actually help disguise the asymmetry of your fireplace wall. The cabinetry will make the wall look more continuous, and you can trick the eye with strategic mantle and accessory display.
You should definitely start with a clean slate where your fireplace is concerned. The existing stucco surround makes the fireplace seem distant and unwelcoming. Remove the surround including tiles, as well as the fireplace door. Spray paint the door with a satin finish Tremclad in black for a classic look. Depending on your budget, tiling around the fireplace opening with a charcoal slate or simple marble would be perfect. A less expensive option is to choose a porcelain or ceramic tile. One that mimics stone would be best, and a dark grey colour will add contrast to the new built-ins and mantle. Use the same stone or tile on the floor for the hearth. Since the surround protrudes from the wall, either tile the sides as well, and install a simple wood mantle above the opening, or think about adding a traditional mantle “surround” that will cover both sides and the top of the fireplace opening. Paint the mantle and your new built-ins a warm white, like Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White (OC-130).
If budget permits, try to add doors onto your built-ins instead of just open shelves. Doors at the bottom of the cabinetry will allow for extra storage. A mirror atop the mantle will reflect light into the room, and replacing the track lighting with a simple hanging fixture will add sparkle and style. A classic black fireplace screen will bring the fireplace further up to date and placing fireplace tools on the left will add more bulk and interest to the wider side of the wall. Group your mantle display more towards the left side of your mantle as well, again adding a little more interest to the wider side, making everything seem balanced.