Faux “French Country” Fireplace: A DIY Furniture Painting Project

Even if you're not an avid furniture painter, getting a secondhand electric fireplace and chalk painting it yourself to get a sort-of-French-country look isn't too difficult.


It was as close as I was going to come to French Country. Our bedroom would never see a chimney, but I wanted a fireplace for some winter nighttime ambiance. I found plenty of electric fireplaces online, but many were costly, and the cheaper ones didn’t have the look I wanted. So I decided on a DIY project. I’d do a chalk-painted electric fireplace! I went on Craigslist, found a used electric fireplace that had some scrollwork and nooks-n-crannies that could (maybe) give it a sort-of-French-country look. This painting adventure was underway!

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. If I can do this, I think anyone could. Furniture painting takes some patience, but this was one of my better (and easier) projects.

Many furniture painting tutorials abound on the Internet. But, perhaps, I’ll write a longer post in the future about the boot camp crash course that a feisty buffet provided me in the art and frustration of furniture painting.

Before you start on a project like this, find a smaller practice piece and practice with some less expensive paint. I had worked with the Rustoleum Chalked paint and liked both the product and the price. I especially like their Serenity Blue. Using the Rustoleum saves quite a bit of money over the Annie Sloan chalk paint. But their white was too white, and their chiffon was too yellow for what I wanted to achieve. The Annie Sloan Old White hit the chalk paint Goldilocks zone for me. It was just the right antique-y look for this project. But I’m glad I took the time for advance practice on other pieces before I brought out the more expensive stuff!

If you’re working on a fireplace like this — a newer one that has a laminated-type finish vs. an old antique mantle — you won’t have too difficult of a time. You can put your chalk paint directly on top of the surface without a need for any shellac.

Tools for the Chalk Painted Electric Fireplace (Other Than the Fireplace):

Chalk Paint:

Instead of using the less expensive Rustoleum, I went all-out and used the Annie Sloan Old White on this one with the Annie Sloan Dark Wax and Clear Wax. Old White is more of a yellowish, vintage-looking white while the Rustoleum’s white is more of a pure, bright white. That’s not the look I wanted here.

How much paint did I use? Well, my memory escapes me, but I believe I used a little under three cans on this project. I had a couple of small cans of dark wax and a large can of clear wax.

Why wax vs. varnish? It gives it more of that “chalk-painted” look. You’ll need to wax it again occasionally, but so far, the finish on my fireplace has held up beautifully. Additionally, it has held up just fine while having the “fire” on during the winter, which was something that worried me.

Chalk Paint Brush:

You can use regular paintbrushes, but I found that it was truly worth it to buy a broad brush, especially for chalk paint. It gave my piece much better coverage with fewer brush strokes. You can find plenty of them at Home Depot or on Amazon. I think the one I have is the New Renaissance one, and it’s held up fine.

A Bunch of Rags

Save those old t-shirts or go to Home Depot and buy a massive bag of rags because you’re going to need them! This is for applying your wax, rubbing it off, and getting that dark wax into all of the crevices.


This is for giving your fireplace those rustic-y worn-looking edges.

A Mask

I wish it was still the case that we only needed masks for household projects. But I like to have one while I’m doing the sanding so as not to inhale chalk paint dust.

Plastic for Protecting the Floor

Important. Enough said.

Some Rubber Household Gloves

These are for protecting your hands from the dark wax. It will stain your hands as well as the furniture!

Chalk Painted Electric Fireplace How-To

  1. Make sure that you remove the electric fireplace insert before you begin so you don’t accidentally paint that while you’re painting the mantle.
  2. Prep the area, cover the floor, etc. Make sure your cat isn’t there trying to assist.
  3. If it’s dirty, clean it up and let it dry. For a newer laminated-type fireplace like this, just washing it off was fine. A dirtier one might need denatured alcohol. But we’re assuming here you’re working with a newer electric fireplace, so we’re not worrying about pre-prep like shellac.
  4. Put the paint on in broad strokes, making sure to apply it evenly. You might have heard that chalk paint only needs one coat. I have not found this to be true. This project required two coats. Let your paint dry about 24 hours before applying the second coat. Then let that coat dry.
  5. Now’s the fun part. Take the sandpaper and sand off some of that paint you worked so hard to apply. Just a bit around the edges. Make it look like an old piece of furniture that’s been around a bit (if that’s the look you’re going for.)
  6. When you’ve achieved the look you want, make sure you’ve cleaned off the dust and get ready to wax. Glove up and take some of the dark wax on a rag. Rub it into the crevices to give it an antiqued look, just a bit at a time. If it’s getting too dark, or you’ve applied too much, use some of the clear wax to “erase” it until you have a beautiful antiqued look in all of your crevices.
  7. When you’re done with that, take a clean rag and apply the clear wax to the rest of the piece in smooth motions, putting it on and rubbing most away to have just a thin layer.
  8. Wait about 24 hours, and then come back with a clean, dry rag and rub it vigorously to buff it and give it a beautiful, finished look.
  9. After you’re done buffing, you can put the fireplace insert back in.
  10. Wax takes some time to cure completely. I’d wait at least a few days before sticking your knickknacks on the mantle.

As you can see, this piece does have some brush strokes, but that’s part of that chalk-painted look!

Step 11: Enjoy your fireplace with a cup of pumpkin spice latte or cocoa depending on the season. Combine that with a good book and a cat on your lap.

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