Fireplace mantels mesmerize me. Especially the old ones. Their architectural detail can change a room. That holds true for my family room in my finished basement. My family room was a challenge for me to decorate because of its size, shape, and support poles…but also because it had the ugliest fireplace I have ever seen.
Here is a before photo:
I love painted brick and the existing brick was hideous, so it made perfect sense for me to paint this fireplace. I asked my professional painter dad for tips. He had me use Kilz primer and Porter’s acrylic high gloss paint. I chose a buttery yellow. It turned out spectacular! Photos are coming. Keep reading. 🙂
Shortly after painting, I made a basic floating mantel out of a wood plank and trim, but I really didn’t love it. It’s not even worth sharing. It did the job for a while…
…Until one day when I was browsing one of my favorite antique stores. I found an old fireplace mantel that needed love. The owner sold it to me for $65. That is super cheap!
I got busy refinishing the mantel almost immediately. My plan was to strip the old paint and to paint it white. However, the project was more demanding than I ever imagined. There was a ton of paint and varnish on the wood. Layers! So much so that the grooves were deeper than what I first saw.
Here is a photo of me stripping the mantel:
It was a mess! I took a break for a few months from the project because it was so exhausting. By the end of it, I had used several large bottles of paint stripper, and sought lots of expert advice from my dad and the man at the Porter store. The mantel didn’t just need cosmetic help, the wood was dry. I had to condition it after stripping and sanding before I could paint it. Also, one of the legs had a chunk of wood missing.
More progress photos:
The crazy thing about this mantel is that it appears to have been made for fireplace. The chunk of wood missing could have stayed for a rustic look, but I didn’t want that. After measuring, I found that cutting the legs evenly above the damaged area would make it so that the top of the opening sat perfectly flush with the fireplace bricks that are lined above the opening of the firebox. What are the odds?! As an added bonus, the old mirror I had found and hung above my makeshift mantel fit PERFECTLY above the refinished mantel after cutting off the damaged wood! It was meant to be. 🙂
When I finally finished the mantel I had spent more money and time than anticipated for what I thought was a good deal, and possibly have lead poisoning from it ;), but it was worth it. Every time I sit in my family room I look at my fireplace and mantel happy with myself for doing that project.