How To Keep The Home Fires Burning

How To Keep The Home Fires Burning

One of the things that sold me on this house was the wood burning fireplace.

(No.  Scratch that).

Let’s backtrack a little.  When we relocated to Portland, Oregon (because of my husband’s job) we initially had to move into my mother-in-law’s home.   My husband had been living here for a few months and had the sole responsibility of finding a home for us.  He looked at around 50.  At the end of the 50, I was neither impressed by him  nor the homes that he expected us to live in.  Oy Vey.  The house we did put an offer on, fell through two weeks before closing.  The only option was that we would move in with my MIL. Double OY VEY.  It would be fine.  Right?

We arrived on Saturday 13th, 2008 during THE monumental snowfall that stopped Portland DEAD in its tracks.

The highways closed.  Everyone deserted Portland, pretty much everyone…except us.  Family members were unable to get to the airport to pick us up. We were – essentially – homeless and stranded in Portland.  And cold.  It’s not supposed to snow in Portland (that’s why I donated all of our warm winter clothes!!).  My mother-in-law had very kindly moved into a cousin’s home, to give us space to acclimate.   (Who’s kidding who? She’s a smart cookie, she knew that two Mrs. Grovers living under one roof was not a good idea).   No matter what weapon you used, you just couldn’t cut it.  Wars have been started for less.

So, on Monday 15th 2008 I went searching for a house to buy.  I was on a mission.  This was the first house I saw.   house(image courtesy of Google).

It helped that it had a wood burning fireplace.  So we bought it.  PRONTO.  And a marriage was saved.

So, back to the present day and the fireplace.

The first thing we did with the fireplace was remove the glass screen; I love the sound and smell of burning wood.   Oh man, the smell – you can’t beat it.  The only real negative about the fireplace was that although I tried to ‘dress it up’ – it always seemed to lack character.  It was builders grade red brick. Smooth red brick.  Just blah.  But my husband liked it, and I knew that he would throw a fit if I even considered painting it.  I mean, really? PAINTING brick??  Again, wars have been fought for less.


(and if I’m truthful, I wasn’t 100% convinced that painting the brick (especially with latex) would help matters.  Wouldn’t it bubble?  Look a little cheap and plastic-y?

So I waited.

And waited.

For eight years.   I really didn’t give it much thought, I turned a blind eye to it and just assumed that it was something that would never change.  And then –  I became acquainted with Pure & Original (my affiliate link), and I became schooled on the wonders of Fresco lime paint.  And things changed.  I fell in love. THIS product, this Fresco lime paint  was what I had been waiting for!  And the angels rejoiced, and all was well with the world.   A 100% natural (been around for centuries) style of paint, that is made up of quick lime and pigments.  And – wait for it – is heat resistant!

So I waited a little bit longer…

Until my husband left town on business.  And then I got to work.

(Listen, if he’s going to leave me to go to Vegas for a week what do you expect?).  I am powerless to the pull of improving my our homestead.

We use our fireplace several times a week, and so the first step was to prep it.  Groan.   Clean the brick. And through meticulous research, I discovered that using Scrubbing Bubbles (yes, the bathroom cleaner) was the key to removing dirt from brick.  scrubbing bubblesWho knew?

It literally took ten minutes to clean the entire fireplace.  Spray it on.  Watch it bubble.  And wait three minutes or so, and rinse off.  I used an old toothbrush to get in-between the mortar joints.  Brick is really porous, and so once I’d rinsed the product off, I went back and cleaned it again with clean water.  The brick was quite damp when I went to the next step.

I used Pure & Original Fresco lime paint in Ashes.  And I used a tiny amount of it, at a guess, no more than 4 oz.  You don’t need to use the Wallprim when painting over brick because they are so porous.  I made a wash, using cold water/Fresco 2:1.  And then I brushed it straight on to the bricks.  A little nerve-wracking, I can not lie.  As I went along, I wiped random areas with a shop towel (you can use an old rag).   What I really liked about it, initially, is that it suddenly made the mortar much brighter and cleaner.   When I’d finished and I took a few steps back,  I liked it.

But I didn’t LOVE it.  (and I seriously hate when that happens).

I’m not sure if it was just a shock to the system;  the Fresco certainly made the fireplace appear to be much more substantial in the room.  Bye bye dark and gloomy – to WOWZA!  And, I wasn’t sure if that much WOWZA was a good thing or a bad thing.  I think I had been a little heavy handed with this wondrous stuff.   It was too uniform.   So I got a wet sponge and started wiping some of the Fresco off. But it wouldn’t wipe off!!

Oh no.  Bugger!

Mr._Clean_logoEnter Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to your service.   Pure magic in the form of a sponge.  This made my life worthy of living again.  I didn’t want to take the entire paint off, I just wanted it to be less opaque.  A quick wipe and I had lots and lots of variance.   Mr. Clean – you baldheaded wonder, I love you.  I went to bed feeling quite pleased with myself.

New morning, new day, new eyes: I decided I liked it more – but not enough. (This, I swear, is the story of my life.  Just shoot me now.  Put a bullet in my brain and end the pain).  I decided that although the fireplace now had some character, it needed more texture.  I really wanted to rid it of the smooth appearance.  I put some Fresco on a plastic plate and let it dry out slightly.  Then I got a tongue depressor.  Why a tongue depressor, you ask?  Because it was the first thing that came to hand. Seriously, I was in the bathroom thinking about it (as you do) and opened my drawer and saw a tongue depressor (I swear, I have no idea why I have one).  I guess, technically, you can use anything.  I was looking for something that had a little bit of movement to it.  I wanted to drag it over the high parts on the bricks (especially around the edges) and spread it on thickly, in pure unadulterated abandonment.   Once it dried, I chipped/scrapped areas of it off.

If you look at this photo, you can see that the light area is after I ran the magic eraser over the Fresco.  The really pronounced area is gained by putting the Fresco on heavily over the high points (think corners, edges etc).P1080194

But wait there’s more.

Slowly falling in love.  Now I just wanted a little more detailing (I can’t make anything simple).  I had a tiny bit of Almond Fresco that I decided to do the same thing: leave it to dry a little, put it on quite thickly and then chip it off.

And then after that step,  I realized.

I realized I loved it.


The two white candlesticks have also been painted with Ashes Fresco lime paint.  I used Belgium Wilderness Wallprim and Marrakech on the wall (I’ll write about that palaver in another post). And I basically wanted to use some of the leftover paint.  The candlesticks were $5 each from Goodwill (the original state was a fake shiny gold).  I primed them with the Belgium Wilderness wallprim (which is a dark green), and then used the Ashes fresco paint over them.


It was incredibly easy to do.  Very little product.  And really a quick fix to an 8 year old problem.

Plus (fake legal disclaimer) “Very little skill was involved in the re-making of this fabulous fireplace!”

It’s almost a fool-proof method of bringing new life (and dimension) to an otherwise plain boring red brick fireplaceTwo

Doesn’t it just take command of the wall!  I, for sure, am keeping the home fires burning

(on a side note: my husband came home from Vegas, looked at the fireplace shrugged his shoulders and said something along the lines of ‘Hmmm, I kinda like that’.

“What?  OMG, I thought for sure you would go ballistic” said I

“Well, if you thought I would go ballistic why did you do it?” said him

I shrugged my shoulders and said “dunno”

End of story

{insert catchy ending phase here}


Diane aka The Paint Factory

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