When my husband and I were looking to purchase our first home, there were a couple of items on my wishlist (a whirlpool tub, a fireplace, etc). A girl can dream, right? These are things that many people take for granted, but I knew that I would put them to use all the time. The house that we ended up purchasing has many pros but, as with many starter homes, I had to compromise on many of the items on my list, like a fireplace.
We've been here going on two years now and I was still dying for a fireplace. I shopped for vintage fireplace surrounds, like the ones that I had seen on Instagram, but they were all too large. I had local carpenters give me estimates to build one but I didn't want to pay the $400 that they were estimating. So I began looking for plans to build one and I found free step-by-step plans for this one on Ana White's website. She had drawn them up for her friend at the Blue Roof Cabin.
The plans state that this is a beginner level project. However, I would consider myself to be a beginner and I couldn't have done this by myself. So I enlisted the help of my dad. My dad is newly retired, he's very handy, and he always likes to be doing something. And we've done a couple of other DIY projects together, one being a clubhouse bed for my toddler that I will share in another post. Dad agreed. So I headed out to the hardware store to pick up supplies.
All we needed from this list was the lumber. We had the other supplies left over from other projects. We chose to use select pine lumber. Pine is commonly used for furniture because it's a soft wood and it's easy to shape and stain. The total for the wood was around fifty dollars the first trip. However, I bought one extra board and was short a couple of other lengths so I had to make about two more trips before I had it right. Let's blame it on boards being out of place at the hardware store, not on the fact that I am a woman! Still I came in at way under one hundred dollars for the total cost (that number does not include painting supplies which I will discuss later in this post). And, in case you were wondering, all of that lumber will fit inside a ford escape, even the twelve footer!
The construction process was completed in one afternoon. It was just a few easy steps. We started by laying out the top board and the legs and attaching them together. Then, we added boards to the back to give the mantle some depth. Next, we added the decorative pieces to the front. Finally, we attached the top and framed the fireplace with the moulding. Getting the cuts right on the moulding was the part that took us "beginners" the most time! It was a lot of trial and error but we finally nailed it! We filled the holes with wood filler, sanded the project down, vacuumed up the sanding residue, and used tack cloth to remove any remaining residue on the surface of the project.
And then it was time to paint. I've painted before but I haven't experimented with a lot of techniques when painting furniture. I knew I wanted an antique, distressed look. And from everything I saw online, it seemed chalk paint was all the rage with the DIY weekend warriors! Everyone else that I mentioned this to thought that I was using chalkboard paint on it and seemed confused. Anyway, I found that they don't sell chalk paint anywhere locally. So I ordered from The Purple Painted Lady. I got a can of Annie Sloan "old white" chalk paint and both the clear and dark wax. The customer service was excellent! My order shipped the same day! And, it came with an informational packet and a cell phone number that I could call if I had questions! So I would highly recommend them the next time you're in the market for chalk paint. I had difficulty finding a chalk paint and wax brush and regretted not ordering them with my paint. I thought that I might find a better deal elsewhere but I didn't. Hardware stores didn't carry them. Paint stores didn't carry them. In the end it was Michael's craft store where I found some. They were made by Martha Stewart and I was very disappointed in the quality. Like, did anybody actually test these out before sending them to mass production!?! Because as soon as I started painting the nails holding them together fell out and my brushes fell apart. We used our own screws to rig them back together.
Even though I felt that the combination of chalk paint and wax would give me the results I was looking for, I was very intimidated to use them for the first time, especially the dark wax! I applied two coats of the white paint to the fireplace in between wolfing down slices of Monical's Pizza! I painted every direction with the brush even though my instincts told me not to! You can find a video of this technique being done by Annie Sloan herself on her website. Then, I tried sanding the places that would naturally wear and tear to get the distressed look I sought. This turned out to be a pointless exercise. Seriously, don't do it! All that I achieved by doing this was stirring up a lot of dust. Once that was cleaned up, I applied a light coat of the clear wax, key word being light, like you're putting on hand lotion. And, while that was still damp, I applied the dark wax, more and more liberally as a I went along. I found out that it is nothing to be scared of! It was actually a lot of fun to use!
The experience of working with my dad was great! If I had this project to do over, I would not sand the furniture piece. And, although the old white paint is a beautiful shade, I would use the pure white paint to provide more of a contrast against my taupe walls. But those are the only things I would do differently. I am still thrilled with the final product! And, I am thrilled to finally have a fireplace mantle! I can't wait to style it in all different ways! The possibilities are endless!