klsymons

Living room fireplace advice needed

Katie Potter
2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

I would love some advice regarding our living room fireplace. Our house is late 1940s and I believe the fireplace is original. This room used to be the dining room, but we are turning it into a formal living room (we have a modern open plan kitchen/ dining/ family room at the back of the house). My husband has removed the mantelpiece, overmantel mirror and cupboards that had been built in on either side of the fireplace. He is planning to remove the plaster from this wall, which faces west, insulate the wall and then put up new plasterboard. He wants to remove the fireplace while he is doing this. I want to keep it.

The fireplace isn’t able to be used as the fire bricks were removed when the last owners installed a gas heater in the space. My husband doesn’t like the bricks and doesn’t think it’s worth keeping it seeing it can’t be used.

The main reason why I want to keep it is that it is a focal point of the room and I think the two small windows in the wall either side of it will look odd without having the fireplace, mantel and overmantel mirror in between them. Hubby does not want to remove the two windows - too much work.

So, does anyone have any advice regarding what we can do to fix the fireplace so it looks nicer, or should we just pull it out? Does anyone agree that the two small windows will look strange on the wall without something in between? If we do remove the fireplace what could we add to create another focal point in the room?

Thanks in advance for any help you can give and please excuse the bed and toys in the photos.







Comments (28)

  • Double D
    last month

    Love the windows they are a lovely featur.

  • Katie Potter
    2 months ago

    CP, no I’m pretty sure that he isn’t planning to replace the glass in the windows.

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  • l_ms
    2 months ago

    I had the same issue with the fire bricks and chimney dismantled in my 1920’s Californian bungalow. You can buy a zero clearance wood fireplace which has an insert and a flue so you don’t need a chimney or firebricks. It will probably heat the room better as well. We got ours from Agnews in Richmond,Victoria . With such a beautiful fireplace, highlight windows it would be a shame to lose these historic features.

  • PRO
    Lauren Shiels Interior Design
    2 months ago

    Oh my gosh please keep!

    That fireplace is cool, I would reinstall the mantle and when the walls are painted (or wallpapered) get a large piece of beautiful art to hang above it.

    If you are really having trouble convincing him otherwise, as a last resort, paint it.

  • PRO
    MB Design & Drafting
    2 months ago

    KEEP!

    I'd insulate walls and re-plaster then re-install the mantle and mirror. Perhaps find another mantle if its not a desirable style. Also retain the cornices, you've got some gold right there!


    Install a gas or electric insert into fireplace, maybe as Monia Basso Architects has noted use it for a plant or sculpture.


    I'd say removing will create more problems and therefore costs. That time and money is better spent elsewhere.

  • PRO
    Monia Basso Architects
    2 months ago

    Hi Katle, I would keep the fireplace as it is, exposed brick, if ties in with the rest of the room styling and the overall style you like and are after. I would than work with the idea f keeping it as a center piece, but utilising the firebox as a niche for a plant or sculpture. In addition, I would have a narrow piece of joinery custom design to work with the proportions of the fireplace, so on its entirety is like a new piece of furniture. The fireplace is still there but has a new function. Or could simple add a narrow shelf and painting over. Monia

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago

    Hi Katie, I have nothing I can offer except the following article might be helpful saving a lot of money and mess if it's correct, worth exploring. We all now have a better understanding of what and why Hubbie was doing what he was and wanting to remove the fireplace may or may not have made his job easier, but it is so worth keeping.

    https://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/49664/what-type-of-insulation-is-needed-for-exterior-walls-on-a-brick-house

  • C P
    2 months ago

    so are you replacing the glass in the windows as well?

  • Katie Potter
    2 months ago

    Hi Siriuskey, only the North walls are cavity brick in our house - which is the wall with the large window in the photos. This room is the only room in the house that has a West facing wall that hasn’t been insulated, because the rest of the West facing walls are new and we had to insulate them to achieve our energy rating. I might call another professional and ask whether there is an easier way to insulate it.

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago

    Sorry Daphnemaria I don't have any info on the coffee table perhaps you could search online for something similar, let us know how you go cheers

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago

    Hi Katie, I thought your external walls would be cavity brick?. I'am certainly not an energy expert, did you get any other advise from other Pro as it sounds destructive and the long way around, is it the only wall they suggested to do this.

    It would certainly be worth while keeping the fireplace along with chimney and hopefully maintaining other feature like picture rails. The photos you posted show some neighbouring houses and gardens that from what I could see were lovely and maintained. cheers

  • Katie Potter
    2 months ago

    Hi Siriuskey, thanks for your comments. The shelves either side of the fireplace in the photo are lovely! We were advised by the professional who did our energy report when we began our renovation four years ago to insulate that west facing wall. Hubby had tried many years ago by shoving insulation down the gap in the walls from the roof space, but was told that there would be gaps and that method isn’t very effective. So he’s planning to remove all of the plaster (house is brick veneer), insulate the wall space and the replace the plaster. We’ve been arguing about the fireplace since we moved back into the house after the bulk of the renovation was finished three years ago! I think I’m just going to have to insist that it stays!

  • PRO
    Feature Fire
    2 months ago

    The cutout looks pretty big so you will likely be able to find an electric unit to fit in there, but it will probably end up with a trim to fill in the remainder. Might not look as great.

  • PRO
    Kitchen and Home Sketch Designs
    2 months ago

    Hi There,

    As you want to make this into a formal living room with no TV which is a lovely room to have, I think you would be sorry to loose the feature of the fire. If you install a unit that has look alike flames it will enhance its appeal and focus in the room (Justifying its retention!) The pictures posted above show beautifully executed shelving and with picture rails, maybe copying arched window details for the little windows it will all tie together very neatly. My usual concern would be for furniture placement: to ensure that there are enough walls and places for the couches, chairs, toy boxes and tables, with options for rearranging too, required to make it a useful and happy room to enjoy. A room that has copious books is always inviting too so do not stint on the shelving!

    Sorry Husband but I think you may have lost this one this time. I do think you will be happier to retain or reinstate the original features of the home. With or without the fire, so may as well keep it, it will be a lovely place for peace, a good book and scotch after a busy day just as you deserve.

    Happy renovating!

    Cheers

    Margot

  • Daphnemaria
    2 months ago

    Where might I look for the coffee table, I like this one.?

  • Daphnemaria
    2 months ago

    Lovely room above.

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Hi Katie, some old houses do have a damp problem especially like those in Sydney that have sandstone foundations as they are porous and when the damp course breaks down you get Rising Damp, unfortunately we experienced this. So when you said that he was going to strip the plaster off the brick wall and insulate and then replace with plasterboard it made me think damp. But he should only be looking to strip back the old wall paper, sand and repair any imperfections, then paint The original cabinets would have helped with any insulation but having said that it would be best to get advice and tackle this from the exterior, pergola or other to protect the Westerly? wall.

    The features are so worth keeping, just with paint, sanding floors, depending on climate it will update and make the features special once again, a tip a painter introduced us too when painting rooms with high ceilings was to paint the walls below the picture rail with colour and then use white above including the ceiling, and timber trims. Do you have a favourite style. An electric fire insert would look lovely and easy to use without any mess from a wood fire.


  • bigreader
    2 months ago

    There are videos on YouTube on retro fitting electric fires into existing fire places. Dimplex also have a good catalogue of their range that would provide a starting point. Done well, with the mantel and mirror reinstated, it would add value and be a lovely feature for you to enjoy.

  • Katie Potter
    2 months ago

    Thanks for all of your advice.
    Siriuskey - the exterior wall is brick and interior wall is a textured plaster. The wall above where you can see the remnants of the built in cabinets were covered in wallpaper when we bought the house. The previous owners who built the house had removed the picture rail also. We do still have the mantel and mirror, so if I can convince him to keep the fireplace, we can reinstate them along with the picture rail. Why do you think there is a damp problem?
    Kate - thank you for your suggestion to call on our neighbours, there are still a lot of similar age houses in our neighbourhood.
    Feature Fire - do you think we could install an electric fire unit into the fireplace? We don’t have gas connected. That would make the fireplace functional and provide heat in this room as we have no heating unit in there at the moment.
    Dreamer - we don’t plan to install a tv in this room, as we have one in our family room and use an iPad or laptop if we want another option. If I can convince him to keep the fireplace, then I would like to build some shelving either side again.

  • Daphnemaria
    2 months ago

    Oh no madness.
    Put it back, I’m struggling to replace original features, that someone took out from our house.
    It could be such a wonderful feature.
    Bet hubby is thinking wide screen tV. To replace it...

  • dreamer
    2 months ago

    What a shame. Would your husband consider reinstating the cabinets and trims, after repairing HIS west wall. Either traditional or with a contemporary twist. Or I suppose you could put, between the windows, a low line tv unit, and a 80 inch television?

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago

    Consideration should be given to the house period when looking to remove just about any trace of this. The fireplace is part of this period, you can still see what it would have looked like prior to demolition by the markings on the wall. Things like removing period character of a house can ultimately decrease the over all value of the property. A local Professional needs to be involved to sort out why the interior "west" wall is being stripped and replaced with plaster board.

  • PRO
    Feature Fire
    2 months ago

    Definitely keep the fireplace.

    Two options for you to consider:

    1) Render over the bricks to appease your husband, but this would mean the fireplace is purely ornamental (most renders would crack when exposed to fire repeatedly). An ornamental fireplaces still adds value to a room though.

    2) Visit your closest pizza oven supplier - they will usually have fire bricks and all sorts of options to make the fireplace functional again. I would recommend a combination of thin firebricks and a 'refractory castable' (this is basically thermally stable concrete). This will give you a good performing fireplace with a concrete finish - could look very modern

  • John Turrell
    2 months ago

    I don’t know where the idea the fireplace is unique it is just standard stretcher bond and is not worth saving.

  • Kate
    2 months ago

    Personally the bricks aren’t my style either and if the fireplace doesn’t work then it won’t work properly as a focal point in winter either. You need a plan for the room. What furniture you need, will you have a tv. If you are removing fireplace could consider a third window or making the other two larger. Curtain style will be important to pull off any look with or without fireplace. An interior decorator is needed to help you navigate this with your husband. Interview a couple together to get right fit for you.
    Also consider walking around your area and looking for a similar house and see what they have done. Knock on doors and meet the neighbours. Good luck.

  • PRO
    Dr Retro House Calls
    2 months ago

    Oh dear, hubby has no idea! I agree with siriuskey. I see this a lot with my clients in that some couples approach "renovations" from opposite perspectives. In your case hubby is approaching from a functionalist perspective and ignoring the aesthetic and historical perspective. Over the decades hundreds of houses have lost their character due to ill-considered demolition. You should celebrate what gives your house character not obliterate it. This type of tapestry brickwork and craftsmanship is almost extinct today.

    Dr Retro

    Dr Retro House Calls

  • siriuskey
    2 months ago

    STOP Him from going any further before he removes everything that is part of the character and history of the house. What a shame he's already removed so much as it would have been perfect as a living room. It would appear that there must be a damp problem?, has this been looked at by a Professional as I don't think what is being done will fix the problem assuming that the walls are brick?

  • JE C
    2 months ago

    I agree that the fireplace should stay. The room definitely needs a focal point. It would be a shame to rip it out.