After creating countless images and graphics of fireplaces, our Creative Manager, Jennifer Lindsley, was excited to find that her new condo had a fireplace. The condo was built in the early 2000s and featured a peninsula fireplace that was in need of an update.

The ceramic tile, oak crown molding-esque mantel, and beige paint surround was long overdue for a freshening up and Jennifer’s keen eye for design concocted a plan quickly. She could picture a modern farmhouse look that would embrace the permanent features of the space while allowing her to breathe some new life into it at the same time.

Here are some important things Jennifer learned about transforming a fireplace surround and mantel to enjoy another day.

Peninsula fireplace with ceramic tile and oak mantel before remodeling. Peninsula fireplace after remodeling with black tin tile and alder mantel.

Get Outside the Box with Design

Few things anchor a room architecturally like a fireplace. Not only was this fireplace a visual centerpiece to this open-format living space, but it also acted as a partial divider between dining and living rooms. It had the power to dictate the design for the entire space.

The design for the fireplace surround was already unique, but Jennifer found herself having to think outside the box a bit to pull the design of the kitchen, dining room, and living room into one cohesive whole.

Jen selected a dramatic black matte tin tile by American Tin Ceilings for floor to ceiling coverage of the surround. The combination of the black tin tile and the black frame of the fireplace lengthens the space and creates a seamless black fireplace surround. It introduces a modernity to the design that doesn’t detract from the rest of the space.

The mantel, is simple yet stunning wrap-around alder mantel shelf that plays off the oak kitchen cabinets and lighter tones in the wood look flooring. The change from the molding-look mantel to a sleeker shape with rustic detailing was just what the space needed to achieve that modern farmhouse look. 

Finishes Are Important

Modern farmhouse design style is the more polished, less rustic cousin to traditional farmhouse. Much of that look can be accomplished in the finishes.

For instance, the tin tile is finished with a wrap around molding on the front corners of the three-sided fireplace. There is also a finished edge on the tin tile against the wall—a detail that most wouldn’t notice but one that makes a difference.

As a designer, Jennifer knew that every design needs a little black. The finishes in the rest of the house were black so introducing a substantial black fireplace surround right in the center of the open-format space was the right move to highlight those finishes.

The kitchen featured another larger black element: the countertops. Having a horizontal surface in the kitchen and a corresponding vertical black fireplace surround provides a balance to the space that only a professional would hone in on.


Person attaching tin tile panel to the wall.

Order Matters

The order in which Jennifer completed her fireplace surround ended up being a big deal. She placed the tin tiles first then the mantel. In hindsight, she wondered if it might have been easier to place the mantel first then fit the tiles around it.

Every situation is different, but planning is essential for every project. If you’re not sure of the best way to proceed, consult a professional or hire a contractor.

It’s also important to manage things like the budget, timeline, and measurements to ensure a smooth experience. It’s no fun to run into problems with things not fitting, showing up late, or having to find more money to fix unexpected problems.

Even though Jennifer planned meticulously, she was still amazed at how complicated things could get.

People holding the mantel up to fit it properly.

Nothing’s Perfect

Not only can things get complicated in a home improvement project, but they very rarely turn out perfectly. Jennifer learned this when measuring for her mantel. It’s not uncommon for some walls in a home to not be straight. Such was the case with Jenifer’s fireplace project.

When taking measurements for her mantel, she discovered that the wall was not exactly straight. While this isn’t usually something to be concerned about, it did present a problem for the mantel. If the mantel was cut straight, it would mean that there would be a slight gap where the wall met the mantel.

Jennifer had to choose from one of two options: cut the mantel to fit the wall or keep the square edge of the mantel and adjust it to fit. Since getting a precise cut for a snug fit can be hard without specialty tools, Jennifer chose to sand down the edge to make a more custom fit.

There was also a slight gap between the bottom of the tin tile and the top of the mantel. The white walls underneath peeked through interrupting the fireplace surround. Luckily, this was easily fixed with some touchup paint.

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