Agree or Disagree to Paint Mantel?

January 25, 2014

[pinterest]Our living room with french accents 1-2014 005

A big shout out to my decorator friend Connie, for graciously volunteering to be our first subject authorized decorating project. She has even provided great photos to share.

Here is her story:

Hi Kelly,

I have a dilemma ๐Ÿ˜‰

I have a faux fireplace in our living room(actually it does burn gel canisters). I like the wood (I think itโ€™s Brazilian pine like the armoire we have in our family room) BUT Iโ€™m wondering if its wood tone looks out of place in the room:

Our living room with french accents 1-2014 006

There are no other wood tones items in the room, either in the seating side where the fireplace is, or the opposite side of the room where the black grand piano is. Also, because the LR opens to the upper level, everything should flow nicely. No wood tone there either:

Our living room with french accents 1-2014 001

Iโ€™m kinda thinking the fireplace is the sore thumb and Iโ€™ve pondered over and over (and over!) about painting it. Of course, the next question is โ€œ Should I paint it white like the trim or use a faux finish to age it like my end tables?โ€:

end table 'after'

As a decorator myself, we do from time to time, have our own unsolved dilemmas ;).ย  Thank you Kelly!

What a beautiful room. It looks so comfortable (and so French!) Wonderful job decorating Connie. I think the fireplace wood mantel is very pretty and I would also hesitate to paint over. BUT as you stated, there are no other wood toned items in the room. For your first question wondering if the mantel looks out of place in this room, I would have to say yes. Your eye is immediately drawn to it because it is so bossy and different from anything else you see in the room. If this is your taste and style living room, I think painting the fireplace will work into your color and decorating design better:

Our living room with french accents 1-2014 006

If you look at the pictures you sent me, especially of the two inspirational photos you love:

french living room 1


Gustavian room 1


You will notice that they both have white mantels in a white room. I think you already knew the answer to that dilemma. Yes, it should be painted to work with the rest of the room.

Your next question regarding if you should paint it white or faux finish like your end tables, I vote for the white. Your sofa, lampshades, pillows and even your paint color looks โ€˜cleanโ€™, where the end tables:

end table 'after'

Have more of a โ€˜dirty/beigeโ€™ color. Do you see what I mean? I think they work in your room for contrast but for not for such a big piece such as the mantel.

What is the color of your trim Connie? Is it the same white you used for the staircase spindles? If so, I would paint the mantel the same to tie it all in together.

Thank you Connie for sharing!

Agree or Disagree everyone?

If you need advice on paint colors for your home, contact me today.


  1. Hi Kelly! Before I even read the text of your blog, as soon as I saw the photo I thought “Oh, she needs to paint that mantel!”. It really just sticks out like a sore thumb and draws your eye right to it instead of taking in the rest of the beautiful white room. So yay from me-paint it!

  2. Very pretty room. I would paint the fireplace white to tie everything together .one other idea would be to paint it a soft gray to blend more seamlessly into the wall. Let us know what you decide to do Connie!

  3. I have to admit that I was going for the antique finish and looking at the inspirational photos with the “white” mantels, I think they look “dirty” in comparison with the white trim. Maybe it is just that I have not had a coffee yet, have just woken up but my first impression was definitely the antiqued white.
    Either way, I think the fireplace will tie in better in a whiter shade.
    I hope others comment too!

  4. Paint it. It took me years to get up the courage to paint the brick fireplace in my, not too large,open transitional living room white.I am glad I did – the brick gave it a rustic look that just did not go with anything – and the white opened up the room. I also painted the brick hearth white.

  5. Totally agree! Right now the brown seems to be fighting with the rest of the room. It will blend in nicely if painted. Go for it!

  6. Agree straight across the board! In this beautiful room the wood mantel feels wrong. White will be stunning and- all will be right with the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I’m not a designer, but if I were and Connie was my client and absolutely did not want to paint that great piece, I would tell her the only solution would be to bring in other wood elements. However, the room would no longer be Connie, so painting the mantel white is absolutely the way to go. She’s done a very lovely interpretation of her inspiration rooms. The only thing I’d add (both inspiration rooms have it) is a touch of green Both rooms have plants and one has the trees out the window. Could be an object of some sort or a pillow or anything other small item. Well done, Kelly, and thanks Connie, for sharing your dilemma. This was a good “teachable” moment.

    • Good call on the touch of green Sandy! And yes, if Connie wanted to keep the mantel stained as is, we would work around that fact and bring in more natural wood, such as a coffee table. We work around those items that can not be changed.

  8. Yes on painting the mantel and area white. The room is beautiful and the darks color makes the fireplace look too small. I would add something on the sides to fill the area and warm it up.

  9. I know that Connie was not considering it but what about painting the mantel black to balance out the weight of the piano on the opposite side of the room? Would that be completely wrong? Teach me Kelly!

    • I look at it as the black piano is a statement piece in the room. The only way it might looked balanced in the room with both pieces black, is if you were looking at the whole room at once, which from the photos, they are two distinct different areas. I think the mantel would stand out too much (the same as the pine)if painted black. All the other furnishings in the room are light colored. Does this make sense Kim?

  10. I am sure everyone will disagree, but I don’t think the fireplace fits into the scheme of the room, white or wood. It’s too much and looks odd under the window.

    Everything else looks great.

  11. I’m a designer myself, and tend to agree with Kim about painting the mantle black! The other end of the room is SO strong with the black piano, so it would add a great balance and contrast to the other end.

  12. Yes, I have considered painting the mantel black but I agree with Kelly: it would stick out as much as it does now in its wood tone. The piano is more or less in a separate ‘room’ of its own on the opposite side of the room. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I agree with Gretchen – the mantel looks odd in the room. Painting it white will help, but removing it would be best! The rest of the room looks great.

  14. I would definitely paint it white if it’s going to stay; however, I think the scale is wrong. It is too small for that space & it is odd to have a fp under a window. Could it be moved to the master bedroom or dining room?

  15. Just wanted to mention that although I do understand removing the fireplace as some mentioned, it is a wonderful source romance in the room when it’s lit ๐Ÿ˜‰ Originally I left it ‘open’. It was just so empty looking ๐Ÿ™

  16. This post couldn’t have been more timely for me! Yes, she should paint the mantle white. I am dealing with a similar problem: I am in a beautiful townhome/rental where I can paint the walls but not the woodwork which is that orange-y oak stain: mantle, window and baseboards and kitchen cabinets. The walls are “stark white” which are making me crazy. Trying to choose a neutral color for all the public areas. I have primitive furnishings: red upholstery, toile and taupe-y/cream checks and natural creamy muslin. Do I try to match the oak mantle, etc. or what? Did I mention the carpeting is “pinky-beige?”
    Thanks for any help! Joy

  17. I agree that the fireplace should be painted white. I just wanted to add that I absolutely love that she presented her design dilemma. I enjoyed everyone’s comments and opinions. The open exchange of ideas is wonderful and a very “teachable” moment. Thank’s Kelly and thank you everyone.

  18. Wow, lots of comments on this one.. Everyone has an opinion, including me:)
    I agree with Kristie about it looking out of place under a window and my vote is for either white or glossy black! That will keep the room from looking too white and flat.. and look better with the piano of course..
    Can’t wait t see what Connie decides to do!

  19. I was just re-reading these comments and had to giggle a bit. Several commented on ‘adding a touch of green’ like in the inspiration photos. Well when this project was done it was winter. But in spring, summer and early fall, beautiful green trees are visible through the window above the fireplace. It is a lovely addition. ๐Ÿ˜€

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