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Debbie Travis house to home: Stone faced

This week Debbie answers reader questions about stone on fireplaces old and new
A plain fireplace surround gets an elegant limestone finish that suits this traditional living room dècor. Sand-coloured glazes are blended together to replicate the shades and texture of limestone.

Dear Debbie;

We have just moved into a new build home. Our living room fireplace is very plain, ultra-modern, and does not suit our more traditional style. Can you suggest how we can decorate it on a slim budget? We want to warm up our new home before the holidays. Thanks for your help. 


Dear Beverley;

The fireplace is generally the center of attention, the focal point of any room that it warms. There are many styles depending on the materials used to build the façade. Decide if you want a light or dark front. You can then face it with wood panels or tiles. There are also faux brick and stone veneers available. My choice for the fireplace shown here was a painted finish. I favoured the elegant look of tumbled limestone and laid real stone slabs for the hearth. The flat surface of the fiberboard surround and curved mantel were perfect to paint. I copied the colours of the real limestone in a stone-blocking finish that complements the pale walls and antique furnishings in the room. Here's how to replicate the look.

Prime the surface with a high adhesive primer and let dry. Using 1/2" low-tack masking tape, tape off slightly irregular rectangles. Use a spirit level to make sure the rectangles are straight. This will be the colour of the grout. Mix three coloured glazes, white, light and medium sand shades: each one part water-based glazing liquid to one part paint. Apply the darker sand glaze first using a small roller and move in horizontal strokes. Cover three or four rectangles at a time. Follow with the lighter glaze, and finally the white glaze. The colours will blend together. Dab over the paint with a soft rag to further blend the colours. Fold a piece of plastic wrap horizontally then open it and press it over the wet glaze to create tiny creases, different for each block. Remove the tape and let dry. Go over the grout lines with white paint and an artist's brush. Make the grout lines slightly irregular and more authentic looking.

Dear Debbie;

Can you help me with updating my stone fireplace? I've heard of painting it, but not sure that is the best solution. We do not use the fireplace, but don't want to seal it up. Thinking of resale down the road. Thank you.


Dear Sue;

Modern fireplaces tend to be lean, with minimal detail. They are often fitted flush to the wall and have no mantel. The beauty comes from the type of flame, whether biofuel, gas or electric, and the facing. This can be made up of various metals, including brass and steel, striated wood planks, or flat stone such as marble.

Your fieldstone fireplace is ageless, but it can appear heavy in a contemporary setting. It's a big job to remove the stone, and I wouldn't suggest that.  Instead, why not lighten it up by making a new surround using plywood or fibreboard to cover part of the stone, and also the stone that rises above the mantel to the ceiling. You won't harm the stone and it can be revealed in the future. If you paint the stone, it is very difficult to remove.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to You can follow Debbie on Twitter, and visit Debbie's new website


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