The Fireplace is Finally Done!

Now here’s a project we’ve been putting off for for-ev-er!

Post-renovation, an open concept kitchen and great room spans the back of our house. Here it is during construction:

“Renovating is pretty” said no one ever.

It’s hard to visualize now, but this area was originally broken into multiple spaces: a side entrance with closet, full bathroom with shower, hot tub room, tiny sitting area and a second sitting room with a wet bar. 

But in many ways, the house we bought wasn’t uncommon.  Built in 1969, it was reflective of the era: more rooms were better, kitchens were closed off, “open concept” wasn’t a thing.  But for our needs, it all had to go. And so out it came, and in went the new plumbing, electrical, HVAC, floors, windows, trim, kitchen, fireplace … and then this room sat. For months.

A sad, sad state of affairs.

Why? Well, partly because homeschooling and work and pandemic and a million other things. Partly because we took advantage of the summer weather to work outside. And partly because, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with this room. We’ll have two seating areas, and unfortunately it was the fireplace wall at the far end (aka the main focal point) that was giving me the most grief.

But then the weather turned cooler, we returned indoors and hubby was tapping his foot waiting for me to just make a decision (anyone else get this??!?!).

A few things about this wall were challenging:

  • the bulkheads, necessary to carry pipes upstairs, are awkwardly placed
  • we had bought the gas fireplace insert months earlier in a rush. It was based on what we had in our last home, but we didn’t consider that it would look very different with our 8′ ceilings than it did with our previous 10′ ones (duh)
  • we needed any built-in to be quite shallow, so as not to encroach too much into this seating area or the traffic flow

And perhaps most importantly, I just wasn’t sold on going “new” with a built-in unit. I wanted character. I wanted charm. We’ve been careful in this home to create moments that appear original, from using a vintage console for our powder room vanity to finding a huge concrete sink for the laundry room. This felt like another opportunity to inject a little character.

So, I did what every decor devotee does and went down the Pinterest rabbit hole for ideas. And I kept coming back to this image:

Via Rebecca Gibbs Design

I love the moody colour, styling and panelling. So much goodness!

In our case, the fireplace is across from our very white kitchen and we needed to inject some visual warmth.  I felt wood would accomplish this nicely, so planned to incorporate that as well as make a few other modifications to my inspo picture:

  • a Samsung Frame TV that could double as art (because #reallife);
  • a wall colour that was still rich but slightly lighter — as this would be an accent wall, I didn’t want it too jarring;
  • a ribbed or fluted detail to tie into the millwork in our kitchen;
  • brass picture lights (because I’ve always wanted them);
  • a vintage wooden mantel and marble surround; and
  • modern elements layered in to achieve a balance of styles.

And with that, the hunt was on. I knew I wanted the fireplace to sit proud, so the mantle would be a definite focal point. Now that I knew what I was looking for (wood, vintage, the right size for our fireplace, fluted/reeding detail), it should be easy, right?

Ha! No. One thing I’ve learned is that incredible vintage options exist, IF you are willing to be patient. And scour every vintage source you can find like a madwoman. Even when your husband is waiting for you to make a decision. (Tap, tap…).

And then. And then one morning on Facebook Marketplace, my unicorn popped up:

We bought this from the storage locker of the world’s loveliest people.

It needed some work, but it was the right size. It had a reeding detail in the doors (hidden liquor cabinets!) that wasn’t exactly like the fluting in the kitchen — ok, technically it’s the opposite — but potato, potato, it still worked.

And it fit!

The wood was in rough shape and it had a few dings, but it wasn’t anything a little TLC couldn’t fix. After stripping, patching, sanding and staining, it was looking good as new:

Before refinishing

After refinishing

And then we were ready to build the false chimney breast. This gave the mantle something to sit against and gave the elevation dimension:

The circle of life: clean, make mess, clean again …

Added panelling and tested paint colours:

Added paint, TV, picture lights, mantle and stone andddd…. done!

My pictures of the TV in art mode aren’t turning out, so I turned it off to photograph here 😉

(Also: Christmas. I actually don’t have any photos of this wall pre-holiday decorating … because I started before we were actually done, lol. Things will look a little less chaotic post-holidays!).

We still have to build a frame for the Frame TV, which will make our digital art selections look more legit. For the sides, we brought in the modern element I was after with shallow consoles, modern sculptures and DIY art that won’t compete with whatever piece we ultimately select for the TV.

And that’s a wrap! A final before and after of this one:


Now onto the next project! Mudroom, I think … or pantry … or bookcase … or … hmmmmmmm…. 😉


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