Resurrecting the Old Fireplace Mantel

I guess you could say that my first major piece was the fireplace mantel of my house. I was motivated to do it after painting a little bird cage my daughter and her friend found in the woods behind the house Christmas before last. It sat around here for a while before I picked up a can of white spray paint and went to town on it. After setting it in my garden, my desire for taking the “unwantables” and making them loveable again began. I haven't looked back since!

Back to the fireplace though.
The walls of the living room have been painted previously in a tan/oatmeal cookie (no chocolate chips though!), color and thickly stuccoed as well. Which means it takes anything short of a jackhammer to put picture hooks in these walls. My son actually thought of taking a nail, sliding it into his BB gun and firing it at the wall to see if it would go in. We didn't let him even though we thought it wasn't a half bad idea!


So the fireplace need a makeover in my opinion. I had just recently purchased my first can of dark Fiddes &Sons, jojobean wax as recommended by one of the many design sites I follow now and was itching to use it. I chose a quart of eggshell white and mixed half paint - half water, shook well until done. What follows sounds rather messy, but it really isn't. I took a damp old hand towel and dipped it in the paint and dabbed it on the brick. I followed with a dry towel to take off and spread the excess. It took a few minutes before I got the hang of it, but then I was sailing along.

A total hour was spent on painting this thing. Could it get any easier!?

I sanded the mantel down a bit before painting. It took two coats of the eggshell white since I hate priming and didn't use any this time. I know priming is a necessity in some circumstances, it wasn't on my to-do list for this piece. Since I wasn't exactly going for that “perfect” look, it was fine by me that priming took a back seat on this little project.

I think Miss Mustard Seed said it best when she said to “Check your OCD at the door”! I just love her wisdom!

Here's the part where I quietly and confidently became COMPLETELY paranoid that I had screwed the whole thing up (in front of my kids who were now home from school and watching me like a bad DIY reality show)!

I slathered on the dark wax.  I was inexperienced in the “art” of staining with wax, but still sure I knew what I was doing since I had been researching all the "how-to's" of.  Deep down inside..... I was not. My 14 year old twins – who are perfecting their ability to critique much of what I do these days because that's just the age they are in – were constantly nagging informing me that the stain was too dark. I kept reassuring them in a nervous tone that I wasn't finished yet.

Yeah, they were picking up on that nervous pitch and using it to their advantage since they suddenly went from being “informative” to downright antagonistic – because that's where they are at at this age!

Who would like to adopt two very obnoxious adorable 14 year old twins!?

After digging deep into my well of confidence, which was buried under my pile of insecurity at that point; I began to carefully sand that mantel section by section. I took the dark top layers off to reveal cracks and dents filled with rich, dark stain. Insecurity gave way to confidence, which soon gave way to giddiness!

It was working!!! My first time, and it was working!

Sarcasm from my loving children suddenly turned into quiet tranquility as they watched me transform the mantel from dark streaks to a gorgeous vintage focal piece. The conversation then changed to something like this:

“Yeah mom, that's looking really good now!”

“You just need to sand a little more here and there.”

Now both are hovering like vultures...

“Oh, don't forget THAT spot cause it's darker than THAT spot over there!”

“Oh yeah mom, I think it looks like a real antique now.”

I think you might know how to do this now!”

It was about this point I think I kicked everyone out of the room for homework and chores so I could finish it up without the “expert” audience chiming in every stinking 5 seconds!

So after a little whitewashing (easy), painting (easy), waxing and staining (intermediate for a beginnger), and sanding (best done WITHOUT kids watching), I had a new look in my living room that changed the entire dynamics of that room.


It took me the rest of the day to decorate it though - and then I screwed the iron decor on the front which I found at my local antique store.  I kinda dabbed some paint and stain on it as well so it would blend with the mantel.

The fireplace screen was a great extra for $5 that I found at the same antique store.  I found similar ones to it at Restoration Hardware for hundreds more!!


So that's my first real project I undertook.  Hope you enjoy!

Vintage Resurrections
               - est: 2011 -


  1. That looks great. I wish I was handy *sigh*. Visiting from Blogger comment club and glad I came.

  2. amazing looking I am glad that I stopped by your gave me some in site into redoing my fireplace Loving the new look

  3. The fireplace turned out great! A very professional looking job.

    (visiting via Blogger Comment Club)

    1. Hey Ms. Tara!! What's up down there on the Gulf Coast??? Been to anymore photog classes?

  4. I love it!! In the past two years I have been attempting to learn how to re-do what I already have into something I am proud to have and display. It can definitely be scary, especially when your family has absolutely no faith in you what so ever.

    I painted, stained and sanded some dining room chairs two summers ago - I waited until my hubby and kids were gone for the weekend. When they got home, they were almost done. That way I didn't have to have them watching my every move!

    I found your site through the blogger comment club. Thanks for letting me visit!

  5. [picks jaw up from floor] Holy Hannah Montana it looks awesome, well done!!!

    (visiting via Blogger Comment Club)

  6. Wow! Great improvement! You are brave to take that project on but I love the quote to "Check your OCD at the door!" That could be applied to so many things!!

  7. What a transformation - looks great! I love this kind of project. I've never used wax stain before, though I've been tempted after seeing it used on TV. After seeing your fireplace, I might give it a try!

  8. Nice work. I have marble around my fireplace and don't know what to do with it. It's scratched and smudged with something that will not come off. Very frustrating.

    1. Hi,
      Marble is very porous so be very careful what you use - never use anything acidic such as vinegar, and wipe up liquids as soon as possible.
      You could try a little baking soda mixed with water, but make sure it is mixed well and polish it off immediately afterwards. If you rub gently it won't damage the surface as it isn't abrasive enough to cause damage.
      The best way to do it would be to use a specialist marble polishing powder.
      These things will only work if the stain is on the surface - if it has soaked into the marble then it's almost impossible to remove.

  9. You did a great job!!! That looks amazing!! :) I only wish I had the creativity to complete design projects like this. Maybe one day I will get the hang of it!!!

    Clarissa D


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