Transforming a red brick fireplace with a German Schmear technique

So if you remember back to my fall tour post, this is how my brick fireplace looked.  Now I love brick… but red brick with red mortar?  No, not at all.  I knew when we bought the house that I wanted to change it for sure but I wanted to live with it, research some ideas, figure out exactly what look I wanted (and how to achieve it).   I knew I didn’t want to just paint it white or do a whitewash on it – I wanted to preserve the texture and color of the brick and make it look like aged antique brick.

Cozy and Neutral Farmhouse Fall Tour (24 of 35)

So I tackled a faux brick wall a month ago in our master bathroom and part of the whole reason I wanted to do that was so that I could practice a German Schmear technique without permanently messing up a permanent fixture in our house.  I loved how the faux brick wall turned out so I finally had the courage to tackle our fireplace!

DIY Faux German Schmear Brick Wall (3 of 15)

And I am so excited because doing a German Schmear technique on the fireplace completely changed the look of the whole room!

So once again here’s the before…

Cozy and Neutral Farmhouse Fall Tour (24 of 35)

German Schmear fireplace fall mantel (3 of 11)


Cozy and Neutral Farmhouse Fall Tour (26 of 35)

And after!

German Schmear fireplace fall mantel (10 of 11)

So I detailed my technique on how I did my bathroom wall in this post and I also did step by step videos on Instagram stories that you can check out – bathroom brick wall stories here, and fireplace stories here.   I would check out that post and watch all the stories for detailed step by steps.

But in a nutshell, I used the same joint compound I used on the bathroom wall and instead of smearing on with a trowel, I piped on with a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off.  I wanted to get as much of the joint compound in the mortar line and keep it off the brick if possible.  But in having to smear and smooth it you end up getting a lot on the brick.  So then I scrubbed and rinsed several times with a sponge concentrating more on random bricks to give it that exposed brick look.    The joint compound takes awhile to dry so you have time to work with it.  Plus even after it is dry you can continue to get some off just with scrubbing and water.

German Schmear fireplace fall mantel (6 of 11)

I loved it but I was hoping to get a bit more haze off the brick and have more of the red peek through… I scrubbed several different times over a week but I think the residue on the sponge and in the water would just continue to leave a haze.

German Schmear fireplace fall mantel (5 of 11)

UPDATE:  I finally tried one more thing last week after I had taken all of the after pictures and taken down all the fall decor.   I filled a spray bottle with water and added just a bit of white vinegar.  And then just sprayed down the brick fairly heavily and concentrating on the bricks I wanted to be exposed, allowing the water to run down and off and then just cleaned it all up with towels.  So I wasn’t rubbing with a sponge or really even touching the bricks at all.  And I love it!!  Finally the haze was gone and this was the exact look I was wanting.  I still need to spray down the front of the hearth area one more time.

German Schmear fireplace fall mantel (12 of 12)

I love how it looks like antique aged brick and all the mortar area is now white.

Hard to believe it used to look like this!

Cozy and Neutral Farmhouse Fall Tour (32 of 35)

I cannot wait to show it to you all decked out with Christmas decor!!  And the best part of this was it was a HUGE update done completely for FREE!  All you really need is joint compound which I had already bought for the bathroom and a sponge and trowel which I already had.

German Schmear fireplace fall mantel (13 of 13)

So come spring, the outdoor brick on our house will be getting an update too!   I cannot wait!   (Just not with joint compound, I will have to use a different product that will stand up to weather.)

Oh and I know I will get questions if I sealed it or whitewashed over it… no, I haven’t.  Joint compound can be a bit chalky feeling and leave a chalky residue on your hand.  BUT, since I have washed and scrubbed it down so many times I really get no residue on my hands if I rub it.  I don’t want to whitewash it because I want to see some of the red exposed brick so I plan on just leaving mine as is.  If you are wanting a more muted German Schmear look and want to seal over the joint compound than I would consider doing a very watered down whitewash over it.


  1. Christina, you always do a great job. I love the fireplace. Two thumbs up!

  2. Christina, I absolutely love it! What a difference!! Can’t wait to see it for Christmas! You inspire me!
    Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Looks so nice! Both the more washed version and the version before you went back over it.

  4. Love how it looks! It looks so nice, especially with everything white around the fireplace. Happy thanksgiving!

  5. Great Job!

  6. I’m getting ready to try your technique on my fireplace. However, my husband is concerned that the joint compound will rub off on anyone who sits on the hearth. Have you found it to be dusty or easily transferred if touched?

  7. You never leave me disappointed! Awesome as usual

  8. I’m looking for someone to do my fireplace in Gresham oregon

  9. Nancy Perry says:

    You did a great job on the fireplace. It is the way I would like it to look. The spray bottle was ingenious. Doing an entire house would overwhelm me! Good luck to you. No doubts it will be beautiful ?

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