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  • Writer's pictureSamia Verbist

Orange County Fireplaces: Trading Functional Brick for Modern Fireplace Style

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

In many homes, and sometimes in multiple rooms, a fireplace serves as a focal point. Because it holds such an important status, you want to make the most of this architectural feature, which can really set the tone for the room. In California, we love our fireplaces, and I rarely see a home without one. But like every aspect of home design, a fireplace can become dated.

This is what happens when a traditional brick fireplace takes center stage in a living room or other area. Does this sound like your fireplace? If you’ve decided to update it, your first instinct might be to paint it. That can help, especially when you change a red or brown brick surround to a solid neutral color like white or gray. But why not take your fireplace to the next level by replacing the uneven brick with a sleek stone or tile look?

Modernizing Your Fireplace

To create a contemporary fireplace design that also offers the opportunity to make an amazing statement piece, I cover the brick with slabs of porcelain, quartz, or even tile. Adding this new top layer imparts a sleek, modern look but does not require replacing the brick. Nevertheless, covering brick with a porcelain slab can be costly. In order of budget friendliness, painting the brick is the least expensive, using tile would be next, and choosing a slab would be most expensive at between $1,500 and $5,000 for the slab itself plus the cost of the fabricator. But wow – the impact is worth it!

With this technique, you can create a half or full fireplace – meaning you can either take the stone to the mantel, or you can extend it all the way to the ceiling and omit the mantel for a dramatic look. If you have a brick hearth on the floor in front of the fireplace, you will need to cover that too, and you can use the same material.

Choosing a New Fireplace Surface Material

When deciding what to use to cover the old brick surface of your fireplace, there are a few options I recommend that will give you the modern style we have been discussing. Slabs of porcelain or quartz are good for updating a fireplace, and of the two, porcelain is better because it is less likely to break from the heat.

When there is plenty of room in the budget, I prefer to use a large slab of whichever material we choose. With slabs, you can avoid grout lines, so the surface is pure and sleek. It makes a big difference and gives the room a decidedly modern look.

Because a fabricator cuts the slab before installation, a thicker slab of 12mm is the safest choice. You would not want your slab to break during cutting or installation!

However, large slabs can be expensive, so tile provides another attractive option. Tile also allows you to do many interesting things with patterns – think chevron, geometric designs, or even incorporating multiple designs on ceiling-height fireplace walls.

Selecting a Palette for a Contemporary Fireplace

While there is no limit to the color options available when you look at materials like porcelain and quartz, white and black are two of the most popular. Both bring intense personality to the room and create a striking look, especially when taken up to the ceiling.

Marble-look porcelain is also a good choice, making a room look luxurious and high-end. More and more, we are also noticing a preference for porcelain with the look of stone with striations.

An extra benefit to choosing these neutral palettes is their staying power. Although modern, they offer a classic look that will be in style for many years. Of course, if you prefer something more colorful, the possibilities are endless, and there is a tile in any shade you can think of.

Resurfacing a brick fireplace is an update that can be made indoors or out. This modern look works well in homes such as transitional, farmhouse, modern, contemporary, beach houses, and others. You can incorporate the same look in a new-build home, too – it just won’t have any brick underneath. And yes, we use it a lot in California, as you may have guessed!

Updating the fireplace in this Orange, California home created a dramatic difference! We removed the mantel and covered the white brick with a dark tile in large-format slabs from floor to ceiling, creating a focal point for the room and a modern look still perfect for hanging the television above the gas fire.

Before & After

Fireplace Interior Design Inspiration

For more inspiration, here are some additional modern fireplace designs to consider:

The easiest and least expensive option for refreshing a brick fireplace is to paint it like these living room fireplace examples.

Source: Pinterest

Choosing tile to cover a brick fireplace allows you to play with pattern, texture, and finish.

Source: Pinterest

These fireplaces combine modern and rustic design. The use of a simple shiplap look can be more modern when it’s taken the ceiling height.

Source: Pinterest

And more examples of my favorite contemporary fireplace solution – a slab or slab look to create a true statement in your space!

Source: Pinterest

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