Today’s fireplace update is brought to you courtesy of my niece. You see, flea market madness is not isolated to me here in the cottage by the creek. It is a condition that runs in our family.
If you are a flea market, garage sale or Craig’s list devote’ you are bound to eventually run into an architectural piece that will wiggle its way into your heart and demand to be taken home with you.
For me it was an old rusty gate that stands in our dining room. For my niece and her husband, it was a salvaged fireplace surround that presented the perfect solution to providing the longed for look of a mantle in the bungalow that they bought as their first home.
While the dimensions where perfection, the finish was not. It was a bit heavy and clunky, and it was quite understandably a bit beat up. Let’s face it. It was “shabby”, but not in a good way.
As you can see, heavy and clunky is not my niece’s style. She has made her home a bright haven of color and warmth. As you can also see, it is a home well lived in by a couple of wee young men who help to determine the functionality of their mama’s decorating choices!
With that in mind, my task was to lighten up this beloved piece and make it fit Mom’s vision and still be able to withstand the onslaught of wee young men playing ball or wrestling with Dad.
The fireplace surround had good bones, but some areas just needed a bit of a spruce. Nothing that some paint and a little elbow grease wouldn’t take care of!
There was one flaw that I couldn’t get past. Since the fireplace surround had originally been built into the floor in its prior life, the column detail on the front ended about an inch from the bottom of the rest of the piece. My eye just kept being drawn down to that empty space! I couldn’t take it!
The Wildman to the rescue! He custom cut a block of wood to be glued into place. For added stability he also screwed it from the bottom into the column above then filled the joint with wood filler, sanded it back, and . . . problem solved!
My niece is a lover of color. (Hmm . . . not sure where she got that from.) While the fireplace would reside in the living room that is painted a soft white, the adjoining dining room is a brighter mid-tone aqua. The front door at the end of the living room had been recently painted a mid-tone green, so the fireplace needed to play off of those two main color influences and also look good against a glimpse of red from the hallway.
We determined that it needed to be a softer tone. Since it is large and would be such a major piece in the room we wanted avoid having it seem heavy. If it was too bright, it would also fight with the dining room and door color. My niece and her husband have done a lot of renovating to the house and had several partial cans of paint left. We thought we had struck gold with a soft aqua paint that had been used in the upstairs bathroom, but when we brought that color into the living room, it went gray on us.
We interrupt this DIY for some tips on choosing paint colors.
Picking the wrong paint color is not exactly a tragedy. After all, it’s just paint and can be easily remedied. If we’re talking about having to repaint an entire room, however, it can be a bit depressing. The same goes for a piece like this that will have the extra effort invested in distressing.
It is absolutely worth taking a little time to follow some simple steps to avoid a mistake. Paint cards are fine for small projects, but if you are choosing a color for a wall or an entire room, the paint card is not big enough to tell you what you need to know! Most paint stores will now sell you small sample sizes that you can take home to try in your room.
Paint a big section of the paint color, or colors, that you are considering on each wall of the room. If you will use two coats of paint, paint two coats on your sample swatches! The color will change!
Now live with it for a few days. Look at the colors throughout the day as the light changes in your room. If you just can’t live with color patches on your wall, paint large pieces of poster board that you can move from wall to wall.
In this situation the fireplace surround takes up a major portion of the wall in the living room, so my niece considered four different choices and, after letting them stay taped onto the surround for a couple of days, settled on Vintage Aqua from Valspar.
Back to our regularly scheduled DIY!!!
Time to paint!!!!
First things first! Always clean all surfaces thoroughly before applying your paint. If you know the piece is fairly clean you can use vinegar and water for this step. Because this piece had a lot of darkness to it and smelled very slightly of smoke from its previous home, I used TSP to wipe it down. TSP cuts through any grease or wax that might be on the surface and can be found at Walmart or your local hardware store. It is a fairly heavy detergent so wear gloves if you don’t want your hands to look like a lizard.
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The brick surround was going to be white washed to tone down the dark red. It was taped off to protect it while the wood was being painted with two coats of the Vintage Aqua paint.
Once the paint was dry it was time to distress. While many people prefer to distress by hand, I really like using the Black and Decker Mouse sander. It makes the job go much faster! I love this particular model because the handle makes it super easy to maneuver in small areas and for making distress marks in the middle of flat expanses.
Check out the demo on my Facebook Live post!
Start with the edges where a piece of furniture would receive normal wear and tear. Because this piece would have to live with two very active boys, I did a little heavier distressing, adding in nicks and “rub through” spots over the entire piece. Now it can take ball bounces and run ins with riding toys. If it gets scratched, who would ever be able to tell?
If you haven’t done much distressing, consider practicing on scrap wood first to get the feel of how to achieve the level of distressing you are aiming for. Begin with a light touch. You can always take of more if you need to in order to achieve the desired effect. Above all, remember it is just paint! If you feel you have taken too much off, sand the edges of the area smooth with the fine sanding sponge, paint back over the area and give it another go!
Once you have distressed to your satisfaction, finish off with the fine grain sanding sponge as needed in areas that the sander couldn’t get to or that may need a little extra smoothing of the edges of the distressed area. Your distressed should appear “worn”, not rough and peeling. Use a clean cloth to wipe off any residue from the distressing process.
Step away from large pieces during this process to get a full view to help insure that the entire piece looks evenly worn.
It was now time to remove the newspaper and paint the brick trim using Plaid Milk Paint in Petticoat. This paint can be used with a light hand or a heavy hand to achieve the look you are after.
In this case I used a diluted mixture of half milk paint and half water. I used a heavy hand on the mortar (bottom of picture above) and actually wiped the paint back off the bricks with a paper towel to leave a more aged brick look.
Minwax Finishing Paste Wax is the last step and can be applied with a waxing pad or brush. Apply to small section and then use clean soft towel or old t-shirt in a circular motion to buff the wax into the paint and provide a seal for the finish. Repeat the process until the entire piece is waxed.
The happy aqua fireplace is now back in its home looking bright and spiffy!
The Vintage Aqua color plays perfectly with both the brighter aqua dining room and the green front door!
I am totally in love with this color! It is so fresh and cheery, yet warm and homey at the same time! Doesn’t it just make you want to run out to the flea market and find a piece to paint?
As long as I’ve been painting furniture, it never ceases to amaze me how drastically a piece can be transformed with a little paint and a little love! Every project becomes my new favorite!
Hugs ’til next time!