Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fireplace Renovation

One of the first things that you see when you walk into our house is the fireplace.  It's large, Victorian and just a little bit shabby.  I've been meaning to do something with it since we moved in 14 years ago.  It's been stained, painted and stripped so the wood isn't in that good a condition.  The tile is in an even sorrier state.  It's original mottled green, but almost every tile on the hearth is cracked and it's impossible to clean.  So, and I know this may upset some people, and the decision wasn't taken lightly on my part, I decided to pull it up and start a fresh.  Don't worry all you conservators out there, I did keep the original tile, although be it in many pieces, and carefully placed it in a box in case someone wants to replace it one day.
Fireplace circa 1997
fireplace circa 2005
cracked tiles

more cracked tiles
The hardest part was removing the mantel.  Not because it was difficult, but because I was a little bit worried about what I might find behind it.

original tiles saved and stored safely

I also decided to strip the black paint off of the surround and summer cover.  I was inspired by the gorgeous fireplace in Emma's home from The Marion House Book.  I realized later that her fireplace was actually spray painted gold, and that would have been a much easier choice to make, but oh well.  Four cans of paint stripper and four full days later, it looks kinda OK.  I thought that it was solid brass, duh, until I found out that if you put a magnet to it, if it was solid brass then the magnet wouldn't stick.  Oh course the magnet stuck and it is in fact brass coated cast iron.  But where the brass shows is really pretty, the only thing is, it's kind of patchy.  Still it was a labour of love and you can now see more of the detail of the summer cover.  I never knew it was of a lady standing on a stag with a bow and arrow.  I think I avoided looking at it before because it was so dirty.

I love the clean look of carrera marble on fireplaces.  I think it looks classy and elegant and somewhat timeless.  It also goes with most everything else, unlike the green and brown tile which was hard to decorate around without clashing or looking too busy.  I ummed and ahhed about what size of tile to use, and when Home Depot started carrying marble subway tile, my decision was made for me.  It's not the best tile, but it is easily available and affordable.  I could also buy it and try it relatively risk free because of the low cost.  The second question was whether to carry the subway up the face.  But I do have a thing for herringbone at the moment, so I bought some herringbone tile off the Internet and am probably going to go with that.  If it looks too busy then I'll just go with the subway, but sometimes you have to take risks.

Anyway, without much further ado, here's some pictures of the work in progress.  It probably won't be completed for at least another week or two, because I'm going to paint the room first and then tile.  Plus I'm really slow when it comes to finishing things.  I always have to ruminate over my decisions for days before I actually commit, so who knows the design may change between now and then.

I did toy with doing a herringbone pattern on the hearth, but I think it may be too busy.  I'm currently leaning towards the plain subway tile on the bottom and the smaller herringbone subway tile on the face.  Wish me luck!


  1. I think the marble will be really pretty! The inspiration pictures definitely are, anyway. :)

    Our fireplace desperately needs a makeover too, but I have no idea what to do with it! It doesn't have a pretty mantel or anything.

    Jessica (Rees' mom)

  2. Hi Jessica, thanks so much for the comment. Glad someone is reading my blog ;)

    You should show me your fireplace sometime. Maybe I could come up with some suggestions.

    I should be getting out the wet-saw today to cut the tiles, wish me luck.

  3. It is funny to see your own hearth in someone else's house, isn't it? I think you are making the right decision as well; we can't have all these sacred cows in decorating. I truly despise my green tile, and if I had known it was there I wouldn't have stripped the paint off! I'm also pretty close to painting my damn woodwork, too.

  4. zhenefaire, I told you my house was like a minime of your house! I say keep the wood in the main areas, because it really is lovely and warm looking. I just painted the fireplace white and am going to get some white bookcases to line the wall. Fingers crossed it looks OK with the woodwork.

  5. The fireplace transformation is amazing! Looks like it was a lot of hard word but definitely worth the effort.

  6. Hi there - I know this post is old but I love your fireplace. Can you tell me what size herringbone tile you used for the surround? Thanks!

  7. The tile is 1x2 on a 12 inch mesh from the builders depot.