November 17, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There’s something inviting and whimsical about a fireplace—faux or real. I love the way it adds an artistic element to a wall. Even more, it’s a perfect fit for this holiday issue. Who doesn’t like to decorate a mantel this time of year?

It’s not the first time I have implemented this clever idea in a room of my house that did not have an actual working fireplace. I have previously added a mantel in place of a headboard in two prior bedrooms. After moving from these houses, each new owner wanted the mantels to stay.

So, I’m starting over with this mantel makeover project. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find tutorials for putting together a mantel and the accompanying surround, which would provide elegant ambiance and interest to the room.

I found my used surround on Craigslist for $25. Someone was remodeling and simply wanted to get rid of it. If you’re not so lucky, you can buy a new one from a fireplace shop (sometimes they have close-out models). Or check salvage/antique shops and auctions. Maybe you could just build one yourself? I ran across several tutorials on building faux fireplace surrounds online.

Regardless of how you find your mantel, make it your own. It will provide a real focal point in the room.

Instructions

It’s easiest to work on this type of project upright, so I leaned it up against the wall in the garage with newspaper around and under it.

Step 1: Remove any and all nails if you purchased this used.

Step 2: Sand down any rough areas or parts that may come through after painting, or if it has high gloss.

Step 3: Prime the mantel with spray primer, and use a sponge hand applicator to get into hard-to-access areas. I did several coats of spray, then went back over with the sponge roller for a smooth finish.

Step 4: Use top-coat in the color of choice. Seal if desired.

How to Mount on Wall

This part of my project required me to recruit my husband. After doing a little research, I decided the easiest way to mount the mantel without using any screws or nails was to use what is called a “French cleat.” You’ll find lots of tutorials on this procedure on the internet. The concept is simple: two pieces of wood are cut with a 45-degree angle and then interlock. One piece is mounted to the wall and the other to the back of the mantel.

Step 1: Take one piece of lumber (3/4- to 1-inch thick), then use a table saw set at a 45-degree angle to split that piece of wood in half. These two pieces of wood now match together.

Step 2: Take the lower piece and mount to the wall with chiseled face pointing up and out.

Step 3: Mount the other piece to the mantel and then interlock the two pieces.

Step 4: Hang on the wall. Keep in mind, you will want to either remove or notch out your trim boards, where the fireplace legs are, so the mantel sits flat against the wall.

As far as anything on the inside (normally where your fireplace would be), you can get creative depending on how permanent you want to make it. I had an extra mirror left over from a bathroom redo. It fit perfectly on the inside and the reflection makes it more interesting. This hard surface, where the hearth would have been, provided a flat space for arranging candles and decorative items.

Now decorate away! Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try different and unexpected things. And don’t forget that the grand reveal of my yearlong project will appear in the next issue.

Sandy’s yearlong DIY remodeling series began with an introduction to the room in the January/February issue. The first of five projects, a hanging coffee filter lamp, debuted in the March/April issue. Rustic wall vases followed in the May/June issue. Vintage classic chairs were in the July/August issue. A dresser redo appeared in September/October. Visit readonlinenow.com to review back issues.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Home.