Before and after: A red brick fireplace gets a $250 modern makeover

What an upgrade!

Love them or hate them, red bricks are a defining feature of vintage Australian homes. But for one Aussie mum, it was the red brick fireplace which was the sticking point in her living room. 

Better Homes and Gardens Online caught up with Krystel to find out about her brick fireplace makeover.

old vintage lounge with purple carpet and red brick fireplace
Before: The original red brick fireplace
industrial style fireplace with white painted brick wall
After: An industrial-style look that modernises the space

Tell us about your makeover and what it looked like before the renovation?

I’ve lived in the house for 16 months now and moved for a coastal change. The house has a very unique character which is what sold it for me. Ever since moving in, I have tackled bits and pieces around the home to put my twist on things. 

What inspired your renovation?

I decided to tackle the outdated fireplace while I was in lockdown. While I did love the original house features, I didn’t quite love the solid red brick.   

white painted brick wall above fireplace
Decorative finishings on the fireplace mantle

Have you done any renovations before?

I am a do-it-yourself person, regardless of the highs and lows that come with renovating. I feel more satisfied when I can look back and say to myself, “I did that!”

My first major renovation project was converting a 3-car garage into an open plan living granny flat and it took roughly 12 weeks from start to finish. I designed the whole outlay including all fittings, fixtures, colours, etc. I was like an apprentice tradie and project manager all at the same time!

What kind of look were you after?

I love industrial style, raw finishes and natural timbers. I wanted the gas fireplace to be the centrepiece of the room.

final look of black fireplace with white painted brick wall
After: An industrial-style new look

What was the biggest challenge of the renovation?

The biggest challenge was sanding. I sanded the bricks after painting them a total of 3 times until I was satisfied with how much red brick was exposed.  

The renovation process

  • Wipe down the brick to give it a good clean.
  • Paint the brick completely with British Paints 4 in 1 prep, just one coat with a large paintbrush. 
  • Once dry, begin sanding with an electric sander with 40 grit sandpaper.
  • Lightly sand the mantle.
  • Using a small paintbrush, apply Rust-Oleum Milk paint finish in Eclipse.
  • Apply 3 layers with a light sand in between coats with 240 grit sandpaper.  
  • Paint the brick on the bottom with the milk paint to give it more of an open fireplace effect.
  • Leave to dry for 24 hours then apply Feast Watson soft wax.
  • Leave to cure for 7 days before styling.
decorations on mantle top
Decorative pieces add a pop of personality to the space

How long did it take you?

14 days from start to finish. The first week was curing the wax. When painting the mantle, I waited 24 hours between coats of the milk paint as it was my first time using it and wanted it to be dry.

Budget Breakdown

I purchased everything from my local Bunnings.

Ozito Electric sander: $59.98

Diablo sand-paper sheets: $25.80 for 2 packs 

4 in 1 prep British paint 2 litres: $45.70 

Old cotton rags 

Renovator’s paintbrushes x2:$18.10 

Feast Watson soft wax: $17.90

Rust-Oleum Milk paint finish in Eclipse: $45.39


Total cost: $250 

pot plant on mantle
An indoor plant brings the outdoors inside and softens the mantle

Favourite part of your renovation?

The wow factor at the end was the best part! Being able to transform a space is always the most satisfying part of any project. Plus, I did it all for under budget. 

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