We are very lucky that, as renters, we have been allowed--by very generous home-owners it must be said--to make this house feel like a home. They are very laid back, artsy people who are not afraid of paint or wall-paper or color. That doesn't happen very often :)
When we moved in, they had recently repainted the entire thing white, top-to-bottom for the purpose of renting it so we had on our hands a big white box. As a lover of color, I couldn't wait to get some paint on the walls. Of course I was too impatient to get any pics before the paint job but the first thing we did--the VERY first thing we did--was get paint on the walls.
No before pics=impatient. So bad.
So we painted. Which helped. But it still felt so undone.
The problem was that the fireplace was kind of funny--just sort of stuck into the wall unceremoniously. With the darker wall color, it disappeared in a weird way. Obviously it had to have a mantle. My dream was a giant chunk of reclaimed, beat-up, 8x8 railroad tie or something similar. However, this wall was not going to support something that heavy. About 3 feet behind the fireplace is a hallway and it appears that it is just empty space inbetween two drywalls. So it had to be lighter and it also had to happen immediately.
See? So impatient.
I googled "DIY mantle" and found this blog post, RAN to my local home improvement store and got very serious for the next few hours.
Her blog post gives good detailed instructions but to sum up--after putting the pieces together, I beat it up good to give it a worn, aged appearance. I'm sure I could have taken the time to locate some lumber cast-offs but I really felt strongly about getting it done that day.
I think this is a good time to mention that I'm not sure if I've ever built anything out of wood. Aside from very basic frames in painting classes, I'd say pretty much nothing. Especially nothing meant to be pretty and functional. Diving in was my only option! So, I dove.
I assembled it, filled the grooves with putty, stained it with two coats of Minwax's Special Walnut (which would be a great name for a pet, incidentally), called my dad twice to make sure what I was doing even made sense and somehow it did, polyurethaned it, let it dry overnight and up on the wall it went first thing the next morning. (I attached a 1x2 to the wall, then attached the mantle to that.)
Makes a profound difference.
And! The color/texture of the mantle also inspired me to solve the mystery box on the left. The house was built in 1991 when entertainment systems where shaped very differently. So these boxes you see on the left would have worked wonderfully with your giant box-shaped TV, your VCR and your video collection. I mean...ugh.
We started by building the sliding shelf for our giant modern TV using plywood, heavy-duty drawer sliders, and a piece of trim.
But I could not figure out what to do with the box-space on top. Some friends said a sculpture, and I considered making something I could hang from the top like oh, I don't know, maybe a mini hot-air balloon installation! What? A little too obvious?
It went months sitting there unfinished before it occurred to me that it needed to connect with the other side of the wall and still not feel "too important."
I think wood is pretty much always a good solution. I love looking at wood and I love what it does to a space: instantly makes it earthy and accessible and warm and un-fancies everything.
The clock is from West Elm and the wonderful wooden owl is from my mother-in-law.
Kinda fools you even close-up :)
Next step: framing out the rest of the fireplace. Coming soon!