Project House Mantel* Reveal

February 14th, 2013

Okay okay, I know I’ve been a major blog slacker. We did so many many projects in 2012 and I just didn’t have the time or gumption to get them posted. I’m feeling bloggy this week so I am going to hopefully do a bunch of quick updates so you can see what we did and a little about how we did it.

If this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon my blog, Mr. Project, my husband builds all our cabinets/furniture/built-ins. I dream it up, and he makes it happen,and somewhere during the process we work through all the design issues together and come up with a final product thats even better than my vision.

Okay back to the Mantle… this house was old, old and ugly when we got our hands on it. This is what the family room looked like before (brace yourselves):

We took out the old stove, and painted the brick charcoal gray, and thats how it was for a solid year. You can read a little bit more about that on my Mantle Plans post.

Mr. Project and I went through a lot of design ideas with this one. Should we build the fireplace surround out of the wall more? What about book-cases up to the ceiling? Doors or drawers or just shelves? etc etc. After a lot of discussions, we came up with this vision:

Once we had dimensions down, Mr. Project started the build (in our garage shop):

In the mean time we hired a contractor to come and chip out the mantle brick and the footer brick (took about an hour or so):

We decided to leave the existing brick (it was in great shape) to add depth instead of chipping it out and then having to build out the depth with steel studs and cement board.

Our tile guy came and installed cement board everywhere the tile would be and sealed off all the old brick with some sort of mortar stuff. Note the blue tape where we finalized the measurements/placement on the mantle beam. There’s nothing like actually seeing a representation of what you’re making to help with crucial decisions.

Mr. Project installed the cabinets and shelves:

Then he built the mantle, legs, and details.

Here you can see the elevation:

And then we had it painted:

Once it was painted we had to wait a few weeks for the tile to come in. We ordered a small 3/8″ stacked mosaic tile made of a natural stone… I am totally pulling a blank on the material – maybe lavastone??? I’ll come back and update when I remember.

We liked this because it wasn’t your run of the mill brick, rock, or large tile. On the floor we had  larger tiles of the same material flush-mounted.

A closeup of the mantle details:

Here it is all finished:

And finally with books & decorations I gathered mostly from around the house:

Never underestimate the potential of an old drab fireplace! Or as Mr. Project always says “There is always a fix”

I think we spent about $1400 on this re-do that includes, wood, tile, paint & labor.

*The ever-knowlegable Mr. Project just informed me that in this instance mantle is spelled mantel. So now we all know :p

DIY Decoupage Pumpkins

September 28th, 2012

So a few weeks ago I was browsing pinterest and came across these adorable decoupaged Christmas tree ornaments. This is definitely a project right up my alley and I decided to try it early on pumpkins!


So I went to my local Michaels and picked up a variety of pumpkins. I definitely recommend the white ones because you can have a few missing spots and they won’t show up. I’m not sure how the orange pumpkins do yet, but I’ll find out tomorrow!

This is what the final product looks like. I love the scrappiness of it, and its perfect for my more earthy halloween decor.

So the first step is to get your paper. I just grabbed a book that I was planning on donating and cut out a handful of sheets. For the big pumpkin I used about 20 sheets, for the small pumpkin about 4.  I cut the sheets out of the book and then trimmed the margins.

Then I cut vertical strips of varied widths.

Then I cut some of those into shorter strips.

Once I had everything cut and ready to go, I grabbed my Mod Podge and a small sponge brush and went at it.

I recommend using more glue than less. Glue before you put a strip down and then after the strip is on. In my opinion you can’t have too much glue.

This is pretty much how my progress went. I worked on the pumpkin about a quarter at a time and then finished up the bottom quarter after I went all the way around.

I recommend doing it this way because you can keep the smaller area that you’re working on wet and it makes the whole process easier.  Here’s the final big pumpkin again:

I also decoupaged a small pumpkin. This one was much harder because of all the small heavy creases. I used 3/8″ x 2″ strips on this one so it used probably just as many strips as the big pumpkin… just much smaller and harder to handle strips!

I also added a dusting of clear glitter on this one:

And here is the final product mixed with that gilded pumpkin!

I’ve got to do a few more of these (maybe go pick up another big pumpkin), and then I’ll be ready to do all my Halloween decor!

Front Room Re-do

September 26th, 2012

I recently updated that we were working on our “room divider” in the living room. I needed Mr. Project to finish it really fast because I was hosting a bunco party. So he kicked it into high gear and start to finish he had the room divider and all the wall trim up and painted in less than two weeks.

Now I’m going to show you this before picture, but I do have to warn you that this is like SUPER before. This was what it looked like when we bought it:

Everything about this before is terrible, and let me tell you that if you had smell-o-vision that picture would stink to high heaven because of the 30 year old carpet and probably the 30 year old paint job. Let me point out some very special things about the before just in case you miss the subtleties. 1. Popcorn ceilings, 2. hideous 30-year old orange peal textured walls (like really bad bad texture, not new slightly bad texture). 3. old stinky carpet, 4. 1-inch stained pine baseboards & pine doors, 5. creamy old switches and plugs, 6. wall blocking the kitchen, 7. rickety metal railing (we tried to salvage the wood beam, but the stink had permeated it so we had to toss it).  Basically the whole space was repugnant and have I mentioned that everyone tried to talk us out of buying this house?

Well that was more than a year ago. Before we moved in, most of the work was done in this space – though I don’t have a good progress picture. So Imagine the space with the pretty stairs, hardwood floors, smooth white ceilings and walls painted gray. It was a nice space, but really boring and other than the stairs lacked architectural detail.  And for me, the biggest issue was that there was no clear division of space. I’m all for open concept, but I want spaces to feel like they have a beginning and end. Here’s my first progress photo to show about where we were at when we got started + the cabinets, beam, and columns:

So for the first part of this project, we decided the specs on the cabinets – we didn’t want them to feel too big and bulky, but yet they still needed to have some weight to them. We went with 12″ deep on the inside of the cabinets (standard size for an upper cabinet), 34″ tall (standard height for a base cabinet), and then 22″ wide (just a good size for the space).

Mr. Project built the cabinets – the face frames and doors are maple, the boxes and shelves are pre-finished melamine  board.  The outsides of the boxes are trimmed with 1/4″ MDF to create the paneling on the sides and backs. The cabinets are topped with a solid chunk of Black Walnut that we got from a friend who had cut down and milled some walnut trees on his land several years ago (whenever using solid wood, make sure that is is properly dried to avoid warping and splitting). It’s really gorgeous and Mr. Project was thrilled to get some solid pieces big enough to use without having to glue anything. Initially I had planned for the whole thing to be white, but I’m so glad that Mr. Project suggested walnut – it’s expensive, but in the end it brings some much-needed contrast to the very white space.

Once the cabinets were done, he installed them to the walls and bolted them to the floors. Nothing’s moving these suckers. Next he installed a 2×4 to the ceiling (screwing it into the beams above) and then built the beam out of 3/4″ MDF like a big U and screwed nailed and glued it onto the 2×4. The columns are built out of 3/4″ cabinet-grade plywood cut and mitered and affixed to one small square screwed into the beam and one small square screwed into the cabinet top.

Once all the main pieces were assembled and installed, trim work could begin:

Mr. Project continued the crown molding along the beam, and then trimmed out the columns and put baseboard on the cabinets. Then he started on the board and batten that we did all around the front room, one wall in the dining room, and then up the stairs.

Once all the trim was done the real work began… putting, caulking, sanding, priming, sanding, and painting. Mr. Project and nearly the entire house was covered in a fine white dust for a good 4 days. It was pretty awful. And all I wanted to do was keep cleaning and vacuuming because I couldn’t handle the dust. but in the end it was worth all of the hard work!

Here is the room divider all finished (missing the doors). It’s so so so so gorgeous, and just the perfect thing for the space. You would never know that it wasn’t always there either. It really is just a great focal point for the room. Especially since this is what you see first when you walk in the house.

And here from further back, you can see the expansiveness of the board and batten.

And head on with furniture in place, a peak of the stairs to your left.

And now the full stair shot – I loved my stairs before, but now I super duper love them with the trim.

And then a few days later Mr. Project installed the inset doors and shiny latches. This matches our kitchen cabinets & hardware to tie the spaces together.

And the over-all shot. Bestill my heart! Such a beautiful space, and completely unbelievable that it’s the same space that we started with over a year ago!