Easy Fireplace Makeover

A chalk painted fireplace

Don’t let a small budget stop you from your dream fireplace with our DIY makeover! 

When it comes to enjoying the holidays with your family, many picture cuddling around the fireplace. But what if a brand new hearth is well outside of your budget but you still want to make some cuddly memories? Take a page out of this frugal mommy’s book and upcycle an old clunker into the fireplace of your dreams!

When my husband I started house hunting for our second home, we had a fairly long ‘wish list’. We had lived in our first home for almost six years and had learned what we didn’t want and were focused on finding our’ forever home’.

Amongst the en-suite bathroom, multi-level layout, and beautiful neighbourhood, I was harbouring a deep love for a cozy addition to our livingroom: a fireplace. But of course, with any home search, it came down to a question of wish list versus reality and when we finally found our dream home (a 1980’s back-split fixer-upper) it did not have a fireplace.

A Dream Fireplace

Of course, my husband and I were well-aware of the fact that we could always pay to have a gas fireplace installed, but two years later it is low on the list of priorities and likely still years away.

Hearth for the holidays?

With the temperature starting to dip and the return of fall, I found myself once again longing for my cozy fireplace. With an tiny budget and an open mind, I decided to check out my favourite place to shop: VarageSale.

Among the many high priced resale fireplaces, I found the perfect diamond in the rough. A chipped white and brass number that was the perfect DIY candidate and a great price: $45.

Although there was a lot of interest in the unit due to the low price, I ultimately was able to snag the deal because the unit needed a little TLC and I believe the other interested parties didn’t want to take on the work. Their hesitation was definitely my gain!

DIY Fireplace Makeover

The first thing I did was clean up the unit with a clean rag. Once I removed any surface dirt and dust, I was able to take a closer look at any damage to the hearth. From there I roughed up the surface with some sandpaper and then wiped off any excess dust.

To address the chips in the corners I built up the chips with wood filler and sanded once dry. I had to repeat this process several times to get the desired smooth finish. I also had to use wood glue to reattach a small detail at the bottom.

Making the Perfect Mantel

Once the unit was ready to be painted I applied several thin coats of chalk paint. I choose an antique mustard colour because I have used yellow as an accent colour in the upper living and dining room and wanted to introduce it in the lower level of our home. I also wanted to get a little bit out of my comfort zone in terms of colour choice. This yellow was definitely a bit of a bolder choice for me, but I am very happy with it.

It took about three coats to get the desired effect on this piece. Sometimes I like to have the original colour peek through when I use chalk paint, but for this fireplace, I choose a complete cover.

Chalk Paint Makeover

Although the colour was a departure for me, I still wanted to add my signature stencil accent. Once the paint was fully dry (24 hours) I applied the stencil and used white acrylic paint to add this cute little accent. My husband always says it should say: ‘this is our happy fireplace’.

The top piece shows the original colour and the bottom shows the difference after the wax finish.

I really wanted to do an antique wax finish on this. I started with a coat of ‘antique’ brown wax which I applied liberally and then wiped off the excess with a rag.

I used a white wax for the next layer and wiped off the excess.

I repeated both these steps again to get my desired look. I find that by doing this technique you can add texture to smooth furniture so I especially like to use it on MDF pieces like this.

Irresistible Insert

The final step for the hearth was to apply a further coat of clear wax on the top of the hearth. I really wanted to make sure it would be protected in case anyone was to ever place anything on top.

While the painting of this fireplace hearth was an involved process, there was still one more necessary step. The heating unit of this unit was an dated brass. I used 600 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface, taped off the glass and sprayed the brass with a high heat black paint. This easy step really did make a huge difference in the look of the whole fireplace! It is very important to use high heat paint. I got mine at Canadian Tire.

Now that the fireplace project is complete, I love turning the unit on and getting cozy on the couch with the kids. I can’t wait to have a fireplace for the holidays so we finally have a spot to hang our stockings!

While we will eventually replace this fireplace with a gas counterpart in a few year’s time, for now, I don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort because of a tight budget.

Have you ever done a fireplace makeover? Let me know in the comments and tag me on Instagram @keepupwiththerobertsons! Your project could be featured!

The Perfect Cupcakes for your Little Mermaid

Cupcakes are the perfect handheld treat for birthday celebrations. A perfect portion for everyone, they are an easy cake alternative for the busy party-planner. Check out my mermaid cupcakes inspired by under the sea. 

When my daughter and I decided on a mermaid theme for her eighth birthday, I quickly decided to try and make her own cake this year. After all, it is generally cheaper and tastes better than store bought, but how was I going to pull it off?

After finding inspiration for some shell-shaped cookies, I decided to use them to top cupcakes to stay on theme and on budget.

I used a cake mix and premade icing from the local bulk food store to save on costs. After preparing my cake mix according to the instructions, I added sprinkles to create the requested ‘funfetti’ flavour. Once the cupcakes were baked, I used an icing tip to create a hollow space and added some star sprinkles for an extra bit of crunchy fun.

After replacing the cake circle top, I added two different shades of icing (teal and purple) to my icing bag and piped on a multi-colour swirl. The trick to this is to put each colour on its own side of the piping bag for a cool swirl effect.

From there I let my creativity take over with some pearl accents, gummy fish and of course, my shell cookies.

I wanted to make my daughter’s cupcake stand out, so I added two shell cookies together with a huge swirl of icing and then put a pearl in the middle.


The cupcakes were a big hit! While I momentarily feared there would be fights over who got which cupcake, they all disappeared within minutes and without a fight. We were even able to persuade guests to take the leftovers home to enjoy the next day.


Are you a DIY baker? Let us know in the comments!

Make Your own Mermaid Party Popcorn!

When you combine an easy to make recipe and cheap ingredients you have yourself a real party hit! Check out our simple mermaid-inspired party popcorn mix that will be perfect for your next soiree!

One of my favourite frugal investments has been our air popcorn popper. Not only is it easy to use, but it makes for a cheaper, healthier alternative to microwave popcorn. It’s also a great base for sweet party treats.

All you need for the mermaid popcorn:

  • 2 cups popcorn kernels

  • 2 cups white melting chocolate wafers

  • 1tbsp of coconut oil

  • Food colouring*

  • Edible pearls*

  • Sprinkles*

  • Edible glitter*

  • Gummy fish*

*All of these add-ons are optional but delicious!

Pop the kernels in batches to avoid burning. Fill up to your machine’s fill line and make sure to remove any unpopped kernels from each batch.

Melt the chocolate wafers over a double boiler with coconut oil. Divide into two equal parts once melted. Add one colour of food colouring in each bowl and mix.

Put prepared popcorn into two separate bowls.

Add melted chocolate into each bowl. Cover completely. Add sprinkles, pearls and glitter if desired. Once the chocolate has hardened, combine the two colours together.

Are you planning a mermaid-themed party? Check out our super simple shell cookie how-to!