Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mantel Update / Transforming a 90's Fireplace

We had two sides of the family over the other day. My brother was over and 
Bill's sister and her boys were here too.
My husband made the comment that he didn't think the living room was comfortable because he and his sister ended up sitting in the kitchen.
I was feeling dissatisfied with the living room after my reveal last week. It just doesn't wow me anymore. 
I tried to think through what the issues could be.
Dave was watching the game and was stretched out on the couch.
 The T.V. in here is really pretty small and there were not any lights on so he could see the T.V.  It is housed in an antique armoire.  Bill thinks that is the issue. He thinks the armoire is outdated.
 I really don't think that his sister was repelled from the living room because of a piece of furniture we have had since the 80s. 
One of the issues I have with the room is the huge brick fireplace.
I have seen all the cute pins and blog posts about mantels.
Frankly, I was sick of mine.

When we moved in, I loved it. 
Our first house didn't have a fireplace. Our second house didn't have a mantel for the first year or so.
Our third house had a 70's mantel that was painted white.
This mantel was perfect for 1990!
I loved hanging the stockings at Christmas. I love having the kids pose for pictures in front of it.
I loved draping it with garland.
But I had fallen out of  love with it.
It was a big, boring sea of brown.
I felt many times that we lucked out in getting tan brick instead of red. Many houses on the street have red brick. The tan is a little more neutral. I was also happy that we didn't have the brass and glass insert with the doors like some of the other 90's homes.

I have tried to photograph the fireplace many times and got very few usable shots. 

I thought it was hard to photograph because it is on window wall and that the sun made the grout lines look like a checkerboard or something. All my pictures were blurry.
It has been frustrating.

This room has changed over the years. It used to be very sunny and almost too hot. 
The neighbor's tree in the back and my trees in the front are providing tons of shade. I have never lived in a house this long, so I haven't seen the evolution of light as trees mature.

To me it looked like a typical 90's fireplace that needed to be updated. 
I have been wanting to paint the mantel since I took pictures of it this past spring.
I never suggested painting the mantel or the brick because I never thought he would go for it in a million years.
Bill is a huge fan of craftsman design and he loves old oak.

Since he was lamenting about the living room I mentioned that I thought the hearth was the issue.... and that we need to think about updating it. First I mentioned dry walling over it.
When that didn't get a thrilled response I casually mentioned painting it. Now... it sounds like I was trying to manipulate the situation but I wasn't. I was genuinely trying to figure out a solution. 
He said yes he thought we should try paint. (Paint is way easier than dry wall.)
I am never one to look a gift horse in the mouth so I proceeded to break out the primer and paint the very next morning.  
I  slapped the primer on and thought it needed more. 
It needed columns under the mantel to beef up the sides and provide a pallet for more white.
I went out to the stash of wood in the garage just to see what might work.
I grabbed a leftover piece of a 2x4 and low and behold two in a L configuration fit perfectly over the brick edge of the fire box. :)
I screwed them together. 
This is where the drill driver becomes important. 
Learning the forward and backward motion as well as inserting the drill bits and the screwdriver is key. 
I used 2 2x4's to make the columns. Bill said they were about $5.00 each. 
 I'd like to tell you that I knew exactly what I was going to do at this point to finish this.
 I thought about stacking two by fours and attaching them to the brick. I would have had to research masonry bits to do that. I finally figured out that I could just attach the back to each side. I had an old shelf from the Creepy Doll Room (here
for the back. I cut and ripped another board and attached it to each side to make the back of the surround. (The second board was supposed to be used for my laundry room make over.)
Read about it here.

I went to Home Depot and got some fluted molding to cover up the seams. 
 The molding in the center was just some casing that looked like crown molding. It was easier to work with than crown. The total for the trim was under $40.00. Trimming it out was easy, because I didn't have to miter anything.
 The surround fits snug under the mantel so I didn't even have to attach it to the brick. I don't know how to drill into brick at all!
I wanted to finish this while he was at work, so that if it didn't look good I could just shove it in the garage. Plus I didn't want to over engineer this thing. Did I just imply that Mr. Bill might 
over-think some stuff?? Take it as you will...

Slipping a sale ad behind the mantel and columns prevents paint on the brick. This would be very hard to tape. 

I primed it as soon as I was finished and sat and enjoyed it just primed. 

I'm hoping that by lightening up a big, brick feature that I am warming up the space.

Primed and painted and back with cute accessories.

  I know that in the paragraph it takes to write this, I
make it seem that this was super easy. It was a pain. The screws I used were horrible and worthless. Tip? Use good screws! 

When I went to fit it, it was a hair too wide. (I did measure, several times.) When I went to adjust the width of the back, the screws stripped and nearly caused me to scream because I couldn't get them out. Maybe I did scream.
I finally came up with two methods. Tape inside the stripped screw head or drill tiny holes all around the stripped screw until you can pry it out.

 It was 110 yesterday. By the time I was finished I was so hot and sooo crabby!
But I am so in love with it. 
I have always wanted a white traditional style mantel.

The new fireplace surround makes a huge difference in the look of the mantel. 


When Bill got home tonight from Bible Study, he stood in the
kitchen and said, "I don't think we can paint the mantel." 
Too late. 
He came in and saw it and he said, "I am not worthy." 

Sprinkled with construction dust,
Linking with,
Funky Junk Interiors
Feathered Nest Friday 
The Brambleberry Cottage 
Common Ground 
Between Naps on the Porch 
Debbie Doos 
Savvy Southern Style 
Lavender Garden Cottage
Faded Charm


  1. Hi Katie: Oh my Goodness. Did you do a number on that old mantel, or what? I think you did the best thing that you could have done to make it look so beautiful, and I wouldn't even begin to know how to do that. It makes the room look so differently, really more formal but very comfortable. And I like how you rearranged the furniture. Great job, and I Guess! no man would be worthy!!..Happy Weekend..Judy

    1. Thank you, Judy. I just keep staring at it. I can't believe I did it. I have always, always wanted a white formal mantle. It never ever dawned on me to do anything about it before. I have so pleased you stopped by and have a good weekend yourself!

  2. Wow! What a makeover!!! I love what you did. Painting it white made a huge difference. It looks wonderful!

  3. P.S. I'm a new follower, please stop by for a visit!

    1. Thank you for following. I love stopping by your place.

  4. My compliments on a job well thought out and executed! The white brightens up the room. Now, if I can just work up the nerve to do mine...
    New follower ;)
    Visiting thru Brambleberry Cottage party

    1. Thank you JoAnn. I am so pleased with it. It feels like a new room.
      Thanks for following.

  5. Looks great Katie and to think you did that all by yourself in one day. I congratulate you. Went from boring to WOW !!! Sure made a difference in that room. I will take a second look at our fireplace, but don't think anything like that would work.
    Audrey Z.

    1. Thanks for that Audrey! I love it. I hope you can do something to yours.