Chris - January 9, 2008

With some rare company due this weekend, I convinced myself to scramble and get fireplace (mostly) finished.  The previous owner of the house had some sponge-painting tendencies, and they had the misfortune of being applied to what was once a simple brick fireplace.  After a layer of thick and impenetrable stucco and a combination of yellow, pink and green painting, however, I decided it was best to just cover it up and start anew.  My first reaction was to install a tile surround directly over the stucco.  But, inspired by an image I had seen in a west elm catalogue, I ultimately decided on a different route.

the fireplace pre-renovation

The concept for the fireplace surround is a sort of mosaic of 4×4 blocks cut at different depths and arranged in a random pattern to give some depth and interest to the facade of the fireplace, with solid (and un-sanded) cedar posts and beams to provide the structure.  Each of the 4×4 blocks is glued to hardiboard to provide support and a consistent vertical surface.  The surround actually sits about 2″ in front of the original fireplace, and can be easily removed if the style doesn’t suit the tastes of someone down the line.

the surround, pre-stain

After installing the surround and returning it to the wall using cedar 2×6s and cedar fence posts, I stained the entire unit.  I used Watco oil (providing more moisture to the wood than actual stain would) in a dark walnut color to reflect the color of the new wood floors.  Because the camera flash washes out some of the shadowing and grain detail, the pictures,don’t do a great deal of justice to the fireplace.  But I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.  The last piece to complete is a mantle, and I’m considering going with concrete to match the kitchen countertops.

stained and waiting for a mantle

I’ll clearly never be burning any open fires in this fireplace - but I may one day get a gas insert for it (better for the air anyway).  At any rate, it’s a piece that brings some interest to the living room - and will surely provoke plenty of conversation…


  1. I must admit that I was pretty hesitant when I saw the unstained fireplace. However, with the dark stain — it does kind of look good. I probably would have gone with tile myself (but then again, that might be why you don’t see any pictures of my house on this blog. You’d have to file it under “B” for Boring.)

    Congrats on all the progress you’ve made. The place is really looking great.

    Comment by Catherine — January 14, 2008 @ 11:06 am

  2. It turned out nice- very WestElm.

    Comment by C. — January 17, 2008 @ 11:22 am

  3. Ooh, I like it. Not something I would have thought of, but it works.

    Comment by Rusty — January 28, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

  4. Hello Chris,

    I too am restoring a 1920’s bungalow and would love to know how you constructed the wall that divides the living room and the dining room. I love the decorate cut out and wanted to know how you framed it.

    Comment by Christy Schwindt — April 11, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

  5. Hello Chris,

    I too am restoring a 1920’s bungalow and would love to know how you constructed the wall that divides the living room and the dining room. I love the decorate cut out and wanted to know how you framed it.

    Comment by Christy Schwindt — April 11, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

  6. hmmm i wonder what it is looking like now.

    Comment by ash — July 21, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

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