I had always wanted a fireplace, but never owned a house with one. I’d also considered just putting up a mantel for ambience, and had seen mantels at salvage shops that were really cool, but none ever fit my budget. So, I decided to build one out of scrap lumber.
I happen to like power tools. A lot. So one evening, I went down in my workshop and scavenged through my scraps. Among the treasures I had stored away for future use (packrats triumph sometimes) I found a large old picture frame. It was the perfect size for the opening to a mantel. Using that as my guide for size, I designed my mantel around it. Since it wasn’t going to be a functioning fireplace, thought it would be much more functional to make shelves on either side of the opening to display tchotchkes.
I insisted on building it without any help from my husband, which means it isn’t perfectly square, plumb, or whatever precision is called. But that’s okay. I like it!
When we moved, I took my “fireplace” with me, the benefit of a faux fireplace.
I left the top unfastened and created a secret compartment inside the top which is perfect for hiding seasonal candles. For the finish, I painted it black, then painted a winter white over it allowing the black to streak through. I added some beige dry-brushing and let it all dry. Then I sanded the edges and random places to allow more black to show through. I used the router on the edges before assembling in order to give it more interest.
I stenciled on the front to look like carving. I painted the inside of the opening black and use a piece of uncut matting board (for picture framing) as the backing. After the black dried inside, I roughly painted a fire grate on the inside.
I have a couple of jars with tealights inside for when I want it to look like the fire is lit. The only way to make it safe is to have the tealights in tall jars! Finally, I added two pieces of marble that just stand freely on the floor in front of the mantel (purchased from building supply store). This makes it look more authentic too.
For a long time, I searched for the right thing to hang over my mantel. Then I found this antique beveled mirror at a garage sale for less than $20. It’s HEAVY. I had to anchor it into the studs and it hangs by a heavy chain, but it was just the right thing. And even through the cherry color of the frame doesn’t match the mantel, it ties in with the built-in cabinets in the room. I topped off the mirror with a garland of berries and rusty stars. I love projects that cost almost nothing, but give years of priceless enjoyment! By the way, my greatest compliment about this project was when our landlord stopped by for a routine inspection and suddenly his eyes widened. “When did you install a fireplace?” Lest he have a heart attack or evict us, I quickly reassured him that it was a free-standing piece of art. Hee, hee~
This post is on tour at these places on the web:
Shanty 2 Chic
Trash to Treasure Decorating
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