I’ve been holding off publishing this tutorial because I was really hoping to come up with something creative to put in the middle of the fire place that resembled the black hollowness but my creative juices have just not been flowing so open to any suggestions at all!
- Eco Balsa Wood
- Thick piece of wood
- MDF board
- Chalk Paint
- PVA Wood Glue
I was lucky enough to purchase a ready made mantel from Early Settler (on sale for $99), so all I had to do was put it together. If you are unable to locate one however, there are usually plenty of recycled mantels being sold on gumtree as well as various tutorials which show you how to build your own (I wasn’t clever enough):
DIY Mantel tutorials:
I’ve also recently been looking for an old colonial window I could restore and stumbled upon a warehouse which salvages building materials. They had a ridiculous selection of mantels and fireplaces – Adelaide & Rural Salvage
Assemble your mantel and place your piece of mdf behind its frame to trace the edges. This is so you have a guide on what parts of the mdf will be showing through the fireplace so you don’t have to waste materials.
Do an arrangement trial on where and how you want your balsa wood to sit. This step is optional but I liked to play around with the placement.
Roughly paint each piece of the Balsa Wood until you get the desired effect. I covered some sheets with a heavier coat of paint, and some with a lighter, to achieve a mismatched look.
Using some PVA wood glue, start sticking some down in an mismatched fashion to achieve a stone layers look.
Once all the balsa wood sheets are arranged and stuck on, give the board another rough coat of paint, if you feel like it needs it.
Align your mdf board with the mantel and nail it in to the edges
Once the mantel is complete, it’s time to mount it on the wall. Because I didn’t want to cut our skirting in order to make the mantel sit flush against the wall, I had it resting on a plank of wood. It’s pretty much the same thickness as our skirting and I just found it outside my house, as scrap wood. Gave it a coat of paint and we are good to go!
Mount mantel on the wall as per instructions
The story behind the mantel inspiration
Our first build is very stock standard. We didn’t want to overcapitalise on a home we knew we’d only be in for a few years before we start building our dream house so we built something very plain and neutral purely for resale/rental value later on (and also because I love everything white). I absolutely love our first house though and do everything I can to make it feel like the cosiest home. I did however really want a fire place but we just couldn’t find the space to fit one in, nor did we want to spend the money.
Shortly after we moved in, I stumbled upon a listing, advertising an old mantel which had been ripped out of a house that was getting demolished. Instantly a light bulb clicked and I searched through Pinterest to see if what I wanted was achievable. It was pretty much a ‘come-and-pick-this-up-right-now- or-it-goes-in-the-bin’ kind of ad and I had just missed out. I then searched through the wonderful thing we call the internet, for tutorials on how to build your own, because ideally, all I needed was a frame an I could style it however I wanted. Easy right?! .. Wrong. I can do magic with some hot glue and corrugated cardboard but unfortunately, my skills are yet to transpire to timber and actual tools. I continued to search listings for recycled mantel pieces but never found anything that was EXACTLY right.
Then, my wonderful mother in law, found me a mantel for 99$. It was perfect for our simple house. Plain white, without any detail, so .. a BLANK CANVAS. I went to pick it up the next day and forced my husband to put it together then and there because I couldn’t wait. We actually could not believe how well this thing fit into our house. It was thin enough to not take up too much space, and it finished the room off perfectly. So now, we have a fireplace, in our brand new, stock standard, first home, and we could not be happier (even though it’s currently a heat wave in Adelaide and it’s been 40 degrees almost every day, but I’m sure it’ll be great in winter!)
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