File this one under: things Anne messes with that were perfectly fine in the first place…

One of the big projects I tackled in 2017 was our fireplace. Our house was built in 1993 and because of that, there were several things that could use a facelift. Since we bought the house, I’ve wanted to do something about our ’90s builder-grade mantle and surround, but I wasn’t confident in my woodworking abilities until…wait. I’m still not there yet. But I dove in headfirst anyway.

Here’s what I was working with.

It was fine. But only barely “fine.” I had ruined the top right surface of the mantle with water damage from a plant I kept up there for awhile (OOPS/didn’t care). What’s more, I always felt like the fireplace had a surprised look or a receeding hairline to it: the proportions felt off to me because of the large expanse of 12×12″ fake marble tile. And strike three: the paint was a very yellowish cream/ivory color, when we prefer more true whites and gray tones in our home. We had made it work so far, but enough was enough.

So on July 3, I ripped off all the parts of the mantle I didn’t like and enlisted Kenny’s help in hammering out the tile. (He could demolish 6 tiles in the time it took me to remove 1.) Plus, Ken LOVES demo day. It’s also the only part of Fixer Upper he truly appreciates.

After we demoed everything, I needed to add back in some wood to support the new tile, which is what you see in the pic above.

Then I began rebuilding the mantle using 3/4″ MDF. I actually had to use brainpower for this, which is NOT as easy as it used to be #momlife. And I went very slowly and was very picky for how the boards fit together, since I knew some (not all) of the joints would be exposed. I used the existing pieces of the mantle that we hadn’t demolished as the base for the new mantle.

Once I had the basic shape in place it was time to add the trim. This was my favorite part. I used 1/2″ MDF for most of it, along with some crown molding, baseboard, and scrap wood left from the old mantle and our master bedroom project a few years ago. Again, I took my sweet sweet time on this since I wanted it to look super professional and not at all like it was built by an amateur DIYer (all the lolz).

Then it was time for paint. I initially tried spray paint (which is why I had things taped off in such a way in the pic below), but it was a huge fail–way too blotchy and uneven. I ended up using the ONLY kind of oil-based paint I could find at Home Depot, an interior/exterior semi-gloss enamel. It initially went on VERY thick and VERY shiny and I was panicking. You could see every brush stroke and it was SO reflective! YIKES.

But thankfully, after a few weeks, the sheen really evened out and the paint settled so you can no longer see the brush strokes–it’s way less shiny and is oh so smooth! Just what I’d wanted.

The next step was tiling, which also involved more math and stuff. I started at the top with 3″x6″ marble subway tile, worked my way down the sides, and then ended with the hearth. We had removed the glass doors earlier in the project, and I finally got around to spray painting the gold strips with high-heat black spray paint.

The final task was grouting, cleaning, and the transition strips between the marble tile and wood flooring. Things were getting VERY exciting since we were itching to use this room once again

Oh, did I mention this took us ALL SUMMER and most of AUTUMN?! Speed is not in the cards with a little one afoot. And…my current brain processing levels also don’t help in this area.

Someday I’d love to take this fireplace surround up to the ceiling with some shiplap, but the thought of redoing the crown molding was more than I could handle at this juncture. It’s a project for another day. But we love how this turned out.

One last before and after for the books:


We’re now all moved back into this space and I got not one, not two, but three new rugs! I’ll save that saga for another post. I’ll just say this: returning rugs is not for the faint of heart.

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