Published on February 19, 2020

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A fireplace is a big draw for any house hunter hoping for a place with character (the mantel decor possibilities alone!). Georgia Otto felt no differently when she found her 1930s fixer-upper in Hampshire, England—and it was littered with not one but four hearths. The only problem? The dated fixtures weren’t exactly design-forward. 

“We already had wood floors, a wood dining table, and a large vintage wood sideboard…I liked the dark stain, but there was just too much of it,” she explains. Pair that sensory overload with the fact that the finish had been damaged over time, and you have the perfect recipe for a DIY. Otto scouted reclaimed terracotta tiles for the floor and a striped hexagon-shaped option for the main event, then got cracking. Since she’s no stranger to rolling up her sleeves and breaking out a paintbrush or two—she and her husband completely renovated their entire home in less than a year to get it ready for their upcoming adoption—we asked her for some behind-the-scenes intel. 

Look Beneath the Surface

Turns out, that wood hearth was a bad DIY job to begin with; underneath, Otto discovered a layer of rubble. She removed all that to fashion a smooth surface (“We created quite a hole!”), topping it first with brick and then cement for a true blank canvas. 

Use Up Those Leftovers

You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but that bright pink? It wasn’t necessarily Otto’s number-one choice. “I was determined not to spend any more money on testers—we had so many from the house project,” she explains. “I got them all out to have a look at which colors would work best.” 

She landed on Zoffany’s Tuscan Pink, which she had previously color-matched to her ideal shade at her local crafts store. It matches the bannister, which adds continuity, not to mention it gave her budget a rest. 

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Courtesy of The Otto House

Prioritize Function Above All

First, Otto sealed both sets of tiles for protection—necessary when you have two young children running around and years of inevitable wear and tear ahead. Her second step is a bit less obvious: She coated the black insert in BBQ paint (incidentally, also left over!), not the regular interior stuff. The finish is heat-resistant and built to last. “We’re not using it as a fireplace for now,” says Otto, “but when we do decide to open it up, we know we’re good to go on that front.”

See more before-and-after projects that wow:
The Home Union Founders Retiled Their Bathroom in Less Than a Week
Domino Executive Creative Director Kate Berry’s Backsplash DIY Is Renter-Friendly
Renovating Her Rental’s Closet Was the Best Decision Anna Z. Gray Ever Made

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