There are a lot of wonderful things about living in a house instead of an apartment. For me, one of the things I was MOST excited about was having a fireplace mantle to decorate. Especially around Christmastime. So I was super thrilled when we bought a house with not one, but TWO fireplaces! The catch? No mantles! NO. MANTLES. The builders clearly underestimated the sheer joy to be had in decorating and RE-decorating these wonderful focal points. What’s a cozy fireplace without a mantle full of family pictures and holiday decorations? And WHERE would you hang the stockings?
We decided to tackle the one in the den first, since it gets the most face time with us and our guests.
Before: Bold & Brassy
Isn’t it so dark? Just think what it would have looked like with the original wood paneling before it was painted. It must have been like a cave in here!
To be honest, I actually love the challenge of getting this little guy brought into the 21st century. Plus it gives me an excuse to try out this fireplace makeover technique I saw from The Yellow Cape Cod via Pinterest (where else?!).
And because I’m terrible at taking progress pictures, here’s the AFTER for the whitewashing portion of the project. Instructions below!
Phase 1: Whitewashing
Here’s what I did:
- Mixed about a cup of leftover white latex paint with water. I started with a 2:1 water to paint ratio, but found that a MUCH thinner mixture worked better. I just kept adding water so I’m not sure where I landed, but basically you want it to look like skim milk. You can always go back over any thin spots later, but it’s much harder to un-paint the areas that have too much coverage!
- Sponged the paint/water mixture on very liberally with a utility rag and an old paintbrush and followed with a dry rag to catch drips.
- Pre-mix plenty of paint and water so you have enough for the whole project
- Cover the hearth while you paint the vertical brick… otherwise the drips will dry in little circles and will show through when you white wash the hearth. They can be sanded off, but it’s easier just to put down some paper.
- Vacuum the cracks before you start. It’s amazing how much loose mortar “dust” is hanging out between the bricks!
It probably took about an hour and a half to whitewash the whole fireplace. It still needs some more work, but I love that you can still see the different shades of the brick. Although now that the brick is painted, the brass surround stands out even more! 😐
Phase 2: Painting the Surround
The next step was painting the brass surround using Barbecue Black. I followed the tutorial at from Infarrantly Creative, but the steps are pretty intuitive if you’ve painted before. The major twist, however, is using spray paint INSIDE. Black paint, no less. This had serious potential to get reallllll messy.
My sweet husband helped me cover all the brick around the surround with packing paper. We made sure to slip it behind the metal and the brick so no paint spray would get through the edges. We also taped off the glass panes using pieces of cardboard we cut to fit.
Then, we assembled a crude paint tent with a plastic dropcloth and a chair. Hey… it doesn’t have to look pretty to work!
I suited up in black scrubs from head to toe and covered my hair and neck with plastic bags. I even taped my sleeves over my gloves to keep any paint spray from getting on me. Finally, I put Pond’s cold cream all over my face so the paint couldn’t stick. The heavy duty breathing mask was a MUST. Not shown are my dirtbiking goggles… gotta have eye protection!
Even with the mask, I ended up holding my breath while I spray painted under the tent. The fumes were crazy toxic! I ducked in and out a few times (even running outside to get fresh air) before I finally finished spraying the whole insert.
Here’s the before and after:
I liked the black, but it still looked so… BARE! We discussed installing a floating mantle shelf, wiring it for power so we could mount the TV over it…. I mean we probably waffled back and forth for weeks looking at pricing and wiring and such. Then, one happy Saturday, I came across this “headboard” at my favorite local flea market/antique shop. Thank goodness it wasn’t being sold as a mantle… the price ranch for headboards is much cheaper!
We had to remove the fabric covered panel and trim it down to size with a skill saw (it was too deep for our fireplace). We cut it down from 16″ to 9″.
But then, we had to learn how to affix it to the masonry. That was kind of scary. I pictured future children hanging on it and pulling it off the wall. I let the husband handle that part of the show.
After: Fresh and Bright!
Finally… at long last, the mantle is securely mounted and now just needs a fresh coat of paint! And some accessories. It looks so much more balanced… I don’t know how this house lived 45 years of mantle-less life. I think it’s happier now. 😀
Just in time for Christmas! 🙂 I gotta say, this makeover took some patience. We moved in June 3 and got this done in December… but it was SO worth the wait. I love my bright, fresh, cottage-y mantle and can’t wait to hang some stockings!
Thanks for reading!