The Elephant… er… Fireplace in the Room

Fireplace in Craft and Office Space via

Entrance to my Home via

One of the things I’ve never entirely shared here is our fireplace. There’s been mention of it, little bits here and there, but never full on. I’ve tried to take pictures of it over the years, but it is really hard to capture! Not only is it big, grey and featureless, every other room in the house shows up if you try to photograph it. I just couldn’t do it.

Today that changes, for two reasons. First, between my glacial progress on the dining room, updates in the family room and in my workshop, there’s much less humiliation on the table. But secondly, and more importantly, I’m eyeballing that fireplace for a makeover. I’ve wanted to make it over since the day I bought the house, but it hadn’t made the list until now.

The fireplace is the first thing you see when you walk in the door. In fact, if you were to walk in and walk straight forward, you’d plant your left shoulder right on it. Now you can see why I can’t have my furniture centered on or facing the fireplace! I know some of you had wondered about that.

Fireplace in Craft and Office Space via

It is beautiful, in it’s own way, and I am lucky to have it. But it’s very dark. Before I plastered the back of it, it sucked all the light out of the dining room. I’ve always wanted to do something about it, but I felt guilty covering up all that stone. But then my Dad told me that it wasn’t stone at all! It’s concrete and pumice that’s been shaped to look like stone. It’s 50’s fakery! Ha!

Here’s a picture of the back before I plastered it:

Dining Room Before Fireplace Back Plastered via

And here’s what it looks like now that it’s plastered:

Dining Room Fireplace Back via

SO much better, right? And I actually kind of love the plaster. It looks like a really old building to me, where the old stone has been plastered over centuries ago.

It’s kind of a messy, laborious process, so I’ve been putting it off, even though I have the plaster. But I want to try and get it done before Christmas. You know why?

Because of this:

Rustic Mantel from Country Living Country Kitchens via

Remember that mantel I showed you in the review of 80’s classic The Country Living Book of Country Kitchens? Well, Mr. Magpie said that we could build it, and it wouldn’t be difficult or expensive!!!

Can’t you just picture that mantel on this fireplace?

Fireplace in Craft and Office Space via

But with plaster on the stone?

Oh, I can. And then, as soon as it’s done, I’m going to finally be able to put my faux vintage door back on display.

Faux Vintage Door on Piano as Mantel via

I can’t wait.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, it’s all starting to come together.

Fireplace in Craft and Office Space via

Have you ever built a mantel from scratch? Any tips?

~Angela :-)

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  1. That mantel is gorgeous, and I know y’all can do it. Go team!

  2. I shall come sit by it and warm my bum and admire your mantelscape. A little layering can do wonders for some less-than-perfect interior architecture.

    • Hee hee! That sounds lovely. Clearly I need some cushions for the hearth. Oh, and wine. Can we add wine to this scenario? I’m craving a bit of Spatlese! Also, “less-than-perfect” is so very charitable. No architecture, really. We’ve removed most of the worst offenders! But I am happy to have this place to live, and it’s gradually becoming kind of cozy, so don’t let me complain further! πŸ™‚ ~Angela~

  3. Barbara H. says:

    I was so hoping that this was in the works when I saw the picture in the last post. Can’t wait – the mantel is lovely and with the plaster, it should change the room a lot.

    • Thanks, Barbara! πŸ™‚ It’s always a roll of the dice around here, but I really, really hope we can pull this off this year! πŸ™‚ ~Angela~

  4. The plastering in the back looks really great – I know you can do something awesome with the front of it, too! I would love have a fireplace and mantel instead of a woodstove. Our woodstove is nice and toasty, but dang, it takes up so much floor space and is a hazard in more ways than one. Good luck, I hope it all works out the way you want! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! I hope so, too!! We keep talking about trying to add something to the family room to keep us warm and cozy, but we can’t decide. Wood stoves are so efficient and warm, but they *do* take up so much floor space! Plus I’m terrified of one of the kids tripping and falling into it. Or myself! I tripped over my own feet the other day and skinned my knee. Inside! At least I didn’t break my foot again. Thanks for the encouragement! ~Angela~

      • Oh, and don’t forget the giant spiders that love to live in woodpiles. Just sayin’. *Shudder*. I’ll put it this way: since we fixed the furnace, the woodstove doesn’t get a whole lot of use.

        • Uuuuuugh! Wood pile spiders. Blergh. Although after my run-in with the giant house spider, even wood pile spiders don’t seem *quite* as scary. Did you see that picture on Facebook? Yowza! I really don’t want to see one of those again. We don’t have a furnace, just heaters. A furnace sounds nice! ~Angela~

  5. Oh, I can see it so perfectly, it’s like it’s already there. I didn’t have a mantel either and bought one for cheap from someone who was tearing all the mantels in his house apart!

  6. Hi – I am one of your readers but just dont post on most blogs but that will a fabulous upgrade! cant wait to see your finished product- will be waiting… Ha just thought I would provide you some motivation

    • Thanks, Mindy!! I could use all the motivation I can get! Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it. ~Angela~

  7. Thirkellgirl says:

    Oh my goodness, I wish you lived closer. I have been storing (for YEARS) an antique mantel my folks got at an auction in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I have vague aspirations of putting it behind my sofa in my long-narrow family/dining/guest room but really, I’d love to just give it to a GOOD home.

    • Nancy, you are killing me!! You have a mantel that you don’t want? ARGH!!!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ No, really. You should totally use it in your home. I bet it would be gorgeous!! You’ll have to do it and send me pictures. ~Angela~

  8. Abso-stinkin’-lutely!!!!!! It’s gonna be fabulous…….and a mantel?? Oh, be still my heart! Love the progress you are making….slow and steady wins the race they say! Can’t wait to see the next progress! Dona

    • Thanks, Dona!!! It feels like I’m finally getting to a point where all the years of living with the ugliness are paying off. Finally! I’m hoping to scrounge the wood for the mantel at the Habitat ReStore, so it’ll be super cheap, too. Fingers crossed! πŸ™‚ ~Angela~

  9. P.S. Your fabric makes me green with envy. Mine’s still a bit of a mess.

    • You know what, though? Mind isn’t as neat as you think it is. There’s all kinds of wonky things tucked in there. It’s just that I have it stacked by size and color, and that makes it look pretty. Seriously. Even if you don’t fold everything all the same, just sorting by color makes a huge difference! ~Angela~

  10. That mantel is perfect! I can’t wait to see your ‘new’ fireplace. You’ve hit the jackpot, my friend. This is exactly the right way to go. We completely redid our fireplace and mantel quite a few years ago. It totally changed our home and we did the mantel from scratch – with a photo for inspiration. Yours will be as wonderful as ours is for us! My only advice: don’t get discouraged with the amount of work you will do – it’s worth every single minute!

    • Oh, thank you for the encouragement, Adrienne!!! That’s so good to hear. I’d love to see a picture of your mantel sometime, too! I know that will get me inspired. Fortunately I picked a fairly rustic style mantel, so it won’t have to be perfectly perfect. But it is definitely a big job. I will take it piece by piece. Thank you! ~Angela~

  11. I so know you can do this! The back looks fabulous!! I can’t wait to see it done. I think you are on a roll lady. Get off your duff and get going!!! πŸ˜‰

  12. Your fireplace idea looks great! I am excited to see it…

  13. You did a great job plastering the back of the fireplace.. it really does look like it belongs in some old English cottage! I think if you plaster the front and build a mantel , it will all look stunning because it looks like you have a lovely space there… Mmm, I can just see it at Christmastime with stockings or a garland hanging over the fire! Yum! Can’t wait to see more…

    • Thank you, Beata! I really really hope it works, *and* that the Habitat ReStore genie is smiling on me when I go. Fingers crossed! I can’t wait to hang stockings for the first time in my life! ~Angela~

  14. Nice room decoration. your room is now looking beautiful. I am thinking to change my room in coming holiday because my kids need big floor for playing .. πŸ™‚

  15. Boy oh boy do I relate to your fireplace dilemma. I also own and lie in a 1950’ranch home with an “impossible” fireplace. I too have avoided putting a picture on my blog for more than a year and half. As a retiree on a fixed income, I just haven’t know what to do about this fireplace. The owners before us added oak paneling/mantle that definitely does not blend with the stones. In addition it is faced in multi-colored salmon toned Indiana Limestone that MATCHES the outside of my home. UG! (I have always thought this was real facing stone, but now you have me wondering?)
    Recently I decided to just embrace the ah hem uniqueness” of this fireplace and call it “colonial” and decorate it as such i.e. the black power gun hanging above it and the colonial candle box on the mantle. I do have plans to paint the paneling the same color as my rooms walls to tone it down considerably. Other than that…I am at a loss. I’ve considered painting the stones a very neutral color but have been warned by contractors not to do that. So another impass. Ah, the joys of an old home and non-existent budget!
    Small House / Big Sky Donna / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
    Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
    Facebook: (for portfolio of chalk painted work)

    • Interesting! Your fireplace sounds like quite the opportunity (as we call them around here). Is it the square type facing stone like mine? I did a bunch of tests on the planter box before I ripped it out. I knew I was going to rip it out so I took the opportunity to try paints, whitewashes, plaster…. I really thought I would like a whitewash or very subtle dry-brushing treatment. I have seem that done on brick to lighten it up without painting it and it looks amazing. But I didn’t love it on the stone. However, I completely fell for the plaster! If our stone had been a lighter color (or a warmer color) I probably would have worked with it. It’s really quite attractive on it’s own, it was just SO flippin’ DARK it was too depressing. DO you have pix on your blog of your fireplace? I’d love to see it. I’m sure painting the woodwork would be nice, plus a similar wall color can tone it down. In my first house a friend painted the house for me and he chose a really warm mushroom color pulled from the fireplace stone. I thought would be really dark and awful, but it blended so beautifully with the fireplace that it made it look gorgeous. Also with big artwork and fireplace screens you can cover lots of it up. Food for thought!! I love fireplace makeovers! ~Angela~

  16. Hi again Angela, 1950’s fireplace….an opportunity huh…oh why does it not feel like this to me? I do like the plaster on the back of your fireplace, it look real lovely. Our 1950’s Indiana Limestone is kind of chipped and notched out (meaning it is not flat stone like yours). See a small picture on this blog post.…sgiving-mantle/ I have several pieces left over from the project and it is actual stone. I do plan to paint the oak paneling that lies behind and around the fireplace to coordinate with our creamy wall color (even though coordinating is an old-fashioned idea according to blogs/bloggers these days). I want the highly figured oak paneling to recede and become neutral. I just don’t care for the oak and the stones together; busy and goofy looking. I haven’t decided yet painting on the mantle board itself. I think I’ll paint the paneled wall first and then see how the oak mantle looks before I make up my mind. I do have wood stained trim throughout our home (another old-fashioned thing) so the mantle in oak may be just fine. I do not plan to paint all the trim in our home, thought many are. 1) I’m too tired to do it and 2) I had painted trim in my last home and I had to paint it/touch it up every winter…just too much work for me now at age 63. It’s been 13 years of constant renovating/maintenance work and I just want to be done with this home so I can turn my attention to other, more fun things. Note: We have painted the four air inlet “screens” and plan to paint the brass fireplace screen too. Can’t wait to tone done that brass! For along time I was fighting the fireplace style and then finally gave up and accepted it. Our home/furniture is not modern in any way, quite vintage so I’ve kept the fireplace looking “Colonial” with my husband’s black power gun because that how it looks to me. Retirement is a “no budget” time of life and a 1950’s era home means constant repairs and replacement of old mechanicals, like this fall; new water heater and new house water pump. It never ends.

    • I hear you about the maintenance! My house is 50’s era, too, and it’s definitely an ongoing maintenance situation. I love painted trim, but I don’t like touching it up either, so I’ve compromised — trim that’s flat/horizontal like sills, mantel tops, etc.., is going to be waxed wood. The stuff that doesn’t collect as much like the case moulding around doors I will paint, since it doesn’t take quite the abuse! I love your paneled wall. I think if you painted the wall it would look beautiful. Leaving the mantel wood is a great idea. I think you’ve got it all figured! I look forward it seeing how it looks when you get it done. ~Angela~

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