Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From the archives: Faux fireplace, and a year in mantles

Our apartment has a lovely "faux fireplace." Though it may more aptly be called "a mantle," because as far as I can tell it's just a wood mantle mounted on an otherwise normal wall. As in no inset, no tiling on the ground, nothing to really suggest there's any way a real fire could be involved, etc. The trim that runs around the bottom of all the walls even continues right through the "fireplace."

For awhile we kept various pieces of furniture in front of it - we couldn't seem to avoid putting something there regardless of how we rearranged (please ignore the fact that there's nothing in front of it in the above photo - I moved a chair to take the picture). Eventually I got fed up with how crowded it felt, though, and sold off a chair on craigslist (from whence it had come just six months earlier...) and moved a chest to the bedroom (where we pretty much put everything that doesn't fit in the rest of the apartment - hence the need for the current bedroom reorganization).

With the "fireplace" more visible, I felt like I should really do something with it. Per my typical "creative process," much internet searching of the term "faux fireplace" ensued. (That was a lot of quotation marks in one sentence.)

Some options surfaced, but nothing that quite fit the bill:

Bricks? A wee bit too permanent for a rental.

Tiling, a la this inspiring photo from my friend's house? Also maybe a little too permanent. (She owns her own home. Living the dream...)

(Yup, I take pictures of things in other people's houses that I want to replicate.)

Something decorative on the floor, like candles? There's a vent that pretty much heats our whole living space, so we can't cover that or put anything meltable near it.

But then I came upon something amazing:

Jamiescott, I don't know who you are, but you are a genius (

For those of you who can't tell, that's a chalkboard, with a fireplace drawn on it. Not as elegant as an actual fireplace with real flames and the ability to generate heat, but that wasn't ever a possibility. This is the only project that made me say "that's awesome," as opposed to "that's a creative way to cope with the heartbreaking reality that your fireplace is actually A MANTLE GLUED TO A WALL."

So I purchased myself some chalkboard paint, slapped on a few coats, (im)patiently waited for it to "cure" (several agonizing days), and then tried my hand at a chalk drawing of a fire.

Yeah, I'm not the most artistically inclined, so if anyone more talented wants to come over and redraw my fire that would be lovely. Because that's what's so wonderful about it: I can just wipe it with a wet cloth and it's literally a "clean slate." Also, I used "chalk pens," which are bolder than actual chalk but wipe off just the same - the regular chalk was too muted.

[Note: At this point, you might be saying: "But Sage, that doesn't just look like you were 'inspired' by that other person's chalkboard fireplace, that looks like 'plagiarism.'" To which I would respond: "Correct."]

So there you have it, a faux fireplace transformation. But I figured while we're on the topic of my mantle, I'd just show a few quick shots of the various ways this space in my apartment has evolved in the past year. I'm not actually much of a "change the decor with the seasons" person, but my mantle seems to be the exception.

It's spring!

I wanted a large mirror, but such things typically = way expensive. I found an "extra wide" door mirror on craigslist, then painted it with "champagne" acrylic craft paint. The clock and candle sticks I got at Goodwill and spray-painted silver (and the trim on the clock I painted gray). For a spring/summer feel, I added a bowl of fruit and some lilacs. My favorite flower....
(The vase and glass bowl are also from Goodwill.)

For fall
I added some fall artwork (a print of autumn in Vermont, a leaf I found on the sidewalk and framed in a frame that I...also found on the sidewalk! Yep, in a box on the curb on the walk home from work. I feel like that rarely happens in Boston). The blue mason jars were just jars I saved from pasta sauce and such and then painted with blue food coloring mixed with elmer's glue. Very high design. There are two blue glass candle holders (from Goodwill) mixed in. On the far left are the "faux craspedia" I made out of felt - very fitting for my "faux fireplace." A close up:

"That can't be how the pros do it" tip: the vase is filled with rice to keep the stems (made of wire) in the right place (otherwise they'd just flop everywhere). I thought of rice because it's generally the right consistency, and is pretty cheap to buy in bulk at the grocery store (it's a pretty big vase, though it's kind of hard to tell scale in the photo).

And the holidays! (at my home we celebrate Christmas and Solstice)

A little closer to examine the items on the mantle:
The stockings I bought last year from "personal," embroidered with our names. Darn, I guess our anonymity on this blog is shot to hell. I hung holiday cards we received on some red and white yarn I strung up under the mantle. In the vase are some faux sprigs of winter berries (grabbed during a supply run at Jo-Ann fabrics - I just grab everything in sight when I'm there since who knows when I'll next have a car and can go back, and then cram my "craft closet" - formerly a "linen closet" - full of off-season decor...). I replaced the autumn leaf in the frame with a snowflake I made from a coffee filter. The other glass container (Goodwill) I filled with red, silver, and white glass ornaments and some candy canes. Lastly, some lovely candles that were a Christmas present from Beth and Bob. (Can you keep a secret? They're battery operated, but I swear you can't tell even up close, they flicker and everything.)


  1. Blue food coloring plus Elmer's glue?!? Pure genius! Who would know those weren't vintage blue bottles! Love, Mom

    1. Thanks! Conveniently, they wash completely clean with warm water, so I've since repurposed them for another project I'm working on...and then maybe they'll be back to blue at some point!