07 August 2011


When we moved into this house, there was a brick fireplace in the living room with a small wooden mantelpiece that was painted green.  And for some reason, the previous owners had attached the mantel to the wall by driving nails at an angle through the top into the wall, resulting in large nail heads sticking out of the top and sides of the mantel, and it wasn’t attached very well so it would wobble a lot if touched.

I prefer fireplaces that have decorative wood molding rather than just brick fireplaces, but at least it was a nice color of dark red bricks (not the orange or tan ones).  With all the grand plans of first-time home buyers, I was picturing doing a little woodwork and ending up with something like this over our bricks:

We kept the fireplace how it was for about a year, then we got around to painting the living room, so we removed the wobbly mantel piece for painting, and just left it sitting in the garage. We had plans to sometime get some more wood and molding to add it and enlarge the mantel, paint it all, and then attach it to the wall correctly.  I was thinking the mantel had been sitting out in the garage for a few months, but I was looking for some photos and realized that our fireplace has been mantel-less for a little over a year now.  At least I did finally get around to removing the ugly gold glass doors (I did keep them, though, in case the next homeowners want it), pulling out the metal pieces that the previous owners had left in the back of the fireplace (don’t really know what the purpose of those was), and scrubbing out the whole thing so it looked decent. 

So, on Friday I had lots of cleaning to do around the house in preparation for a little BBQ we were having this weekend for Michael’s birthday. I hadn’t planned to leave the house that day because we had so much to get done at home, but I decided to run and hit a few garage sales that morning before getting into the big housework. I stopped at a garage sale right down the street, and there was this large wooden thing that looked like an extra-long shelf. I asked the lady how much it was, and she said she didn’t know. I offered her $10, and she took it, saying that her husband had commented that he didn’t think she would be able to sell it. I guess it was used as a valance for curtains over a large window. So, I threw it in the minivan, took it home and was pleased to find that it fit just about perfectly as a piece for our fireplace mantel.

So I put it back in the car and the kids and I headed to Home Depot to get some spray paint, some little pieces decorative molding, and to figure out a good way to mount it all to the wall.  I had a little bit of an adventure wrangling boys in Home Depot while trying to measure and get wood cut, but I found what I needed.

We got what we needed and headed home, and later on that afternoon, after cleaning the house and making some birthday cakes, I got started painting. I thought I’d spray paint everything white, but quickly realized that I hadn’t gotten nearly enough cans of spray paint, so I decided to switch to a paintbrush and the can of normal paint we had down in the basement, which took longer, but there was no chance of running out of that. I sanded and then painted the wooden piece from the garage sale, the original green mantelpiece, the piece of wood I got for the top of the new mantel, and all the trim pieces. It took a while, but I got it all done while Michael fed the boys and let them watch a short movie, and then I had a quick dinner and we put all the boys to bed before starting to work on it again.

Michael helped me cut the trim pieces, and we mounted the original mantelpiece into the studs, then mounted the new piece from the garage sale over the top of that one, then added the board across the top, and the decorative trim in two different spots. Michael was exhausted and went to bed after that, and I finished up by filling in all the nail holes and little gaps between pieces of wood with caulk, then doing a final coat of paint. And the wood piece that I got from the garage sale originally had an off-white and black crackle effect to the paint, and I was planning to just cover it in plain white, but after the 2nd coat of white paint just a little bit of the black crackle showed through in a few spots on the face of the mantelpiece, and I decided to leave it because it looked cool.

Here’s the finished product. I’m pretty excited about how it turned out. It’s probably not exactly what I would have done if I’d planned it from scratch, but I think it turned out pretty cool – and it doesn’t look like we put together a bunch of different pieces to make it. Our painting that hangs above our fireplace is just slightly too big to fit there now with the larger mantel, but we set it up there and I think it looks pretty good (it’d be perfect if it was just 2 inches shorter, but I still think it looks nice – a smaller picture might look too small over such a grand-looking mantel). Anyway, Michael laughed and didn’t think there was any way I’d get it all done that night. I did stay up until 1am, but I got it done, and it looks pretty nice. Now the living room is all done (except I do think I’ll paint the hearth a different color that coordinates better – I’m not too fond of the light grey color that the previous owners painted it). But other than that, that room is all ready to go.


Beth said...

WOW. Stephanie, I have seriously been impressed with you since finding your blog on Crystal Leckie's page. Seeing your raise 5 boys while doing all day cooking sprees, and keeping up a family history blog, made me suspect you just might be Super Woman--but this whole build an amazing mantle out of scratch thing has clenched it--you ARE super woman!! :) Really love what you made! It looks awesome, and like a very expensive piece! Nice work!

Kimberly said...

Stephanie - you never cease to amaze me with all of your projects - great job!