Momentous Day!

I feel like today has been a very long time coming – even longer than the 16 1/2 months it really was.

In June of last year, I began tearing up my sewing room – the official start of a complete remodeling. No, I’m not anywhere near done with the entire project, but today I completed  what is undoubtedly the single biggest project within the project – the fireplace… or actually faux fireplace. I’m obviously eager to share it with you all, and I thought this would be a good time to show everything that was involved in doing it. Yes, it was a lot of work. No, it wouldn’t have taken nearly this long if had only been focused on this one project (Get real!), and hadn’t been waylaid by occasionally having to depend on someone else and by having only an outdoor work area that is useless during at least a third of the year.

So anyway, here is what I started with June a year ago:

Sewing Room Scary!

A little scary, isn’t it? Seriously not the look I needed for the vision I have of my room.

Sewing Room 002

We hauled it outside, and I spent days stripping it.

Sewing Room 004

The outer coat of paint bubbled and came off nicely, but the under layer was a total nightmare, first refusing to soften at all, and then turning into a molasses like substance that dripped all over everything, but didn’t clean off the wood easily. The process reminded me just how much I hate stripping paint. 😦 Eventually I did get it clean enough.

Sewing Room 005

I never did manage to positively identify the wood, which was really pretty. I wish I could have used it just varnished, but there was just no way. The bottom of both columns was rotted out. The photo below actually shows the far better of the two sides. The other bottom was almost entirely missing, and what was still there was a series of wafer thin, gill-like strips of wood from the stronger part of the grain. Of course, I did that side first, then realized I’d forgotten to take a picture… sigh…

Sewing Room 004

I dug out my Apoxie Sculpt and used it to reconstruct the missing areas on the columns, to reinforce the areas that were honeycombed, and to also replace the missing corners on the top of the mantle. I love this stuff – total miracle product in my opinion. The uses are endless, and here it was a lifesaver!

Sewing Room 007

Since this is easily sanded when dry, I didn’t worry about doing a perfect job when filling.

Remodel 002

Here is one of the columns sanded and primed – definite improvement, eh? In fact, by the end of July, the whole thing was looking substantially better. 🙂

Remodel 001

This is also when I started running into some problems. First, it was far too hot outside to paint for the better part of several weeks. The paint was drying almost on contact, producing a nasty, lumpy, torn, and streaked finish. I scrubbed one entire coat off (in tears) while it was still damp enough to do so, and then I parked the project until the cooler days of autumn. I did get the painting done before I took my somewhat unexpected trip to Honduras for 3 weeks, but by the time I was home, it was past the outdoor work season. My freshly painted mantle spent the winter parked on sawhorses in the driveway, right where my car belonged, collecting dirt. Glad we didn’t too much snow last winter. 😉

As soon as spring arrived, I got out a bucket of warm water and a miracle cloth, and cleaned my baby up – thankfully no long term damage! I lit a fire under hubby to get the next part of the project done, as I didn’t want to leave it out during the approaching rainy season. Originally, the mantle had hung on the wall, more or less resting on the carpet, but with the carpet gone, there was a big gap between the bottom of the columns and the floor. I had him make plinths to go in this space and also to help support the mantle a bit, rather than have the entire weight on the wall brackets we’d installed. The plinths weren’t an easy project for him. First of all, he’s still not fully comfortable with using the router, especially to do an edging. Secondly, the floor is extremely sloped, so the pieces he needed to make weren’t the same, and weren’t even square. He did a pretty nice job, though, and the final product looks almost original.

Fireplace 006

Oops! Where did that bit of dust come from?

Meanwhile, I’d also decided very quickly that the piece of brick paneling was NOT going to be part of the finished look. After several hours of internet research, I decided on antique fireplace brick and a fireplace cover as the solution, and with many more hours of effort, I finally found exactly what I wanted. When the brick arrived, though, I discovered that I’d been misled about what I was getting. I had another huge project ahead of me before they could be used – hours and hours and hours standing outside at the bench grinder getting rid of the old mortar. Pix of the tile grinding are in this blog post.

On the other hand, the fireplace cover was absolutely splendid, and very much to my taste.

Fireplace 005

The moment I saw it, I knew it was “the one.” She reminds me of Lady Liberty on the 1800’s coins – much like the draped bust coins in feel but even better, and she reminds me of my internet handle of “Face From the Past.” 🙂

Once the tiles were cleaned, I was facing yet another daunting task. The floor is sloped, but the mantle is level, so that I can put clocks on it. I had to lay the tiles in such a way that they didn’t make anything look out of plumb, even though all of it was. I took loads of measurements and drew everything out on the backing board, then spent a long and tense evening while hubby was on the road a couple weeks ago  spacing tiles in such a way that they were parallel to the mantle at the top edge, but parallel to the floor by the time they got down to the fireplace insert. (See why I was knitting the Un-Spun projects? Definitely needed to de-stress!)

Clock 003

I was terrified that it was going to look awful to have such a dramatic change in spacing in only a couple of feet of space, and it was terribly tedious work, as I couldn’t even use spacers. I stuck the tiles down one at a time with Dap StrongStik after testing it on some scrap and finding it impossible to remove the tile the next day.

About a week later – last Sunday, actually – it was time to do the grouting. With a bit of a giggle, I dug out my tools – the postal scale I use when shipping merchandise, a big cranberry mixing bowl, a small measuring cup, and a rubber spatula – enough to make any man cringe – and stirred up a batch of grout. May not be exactly standard equipment, but I definitely feel comfortable with it, and I think it’s a lot easier to use than the suggested trowel and who knows what sort of container.

Stash 015

It looked so much like a bowlful of batter that I just had to laugh, and I laughed even more when I was washing the tile down a little later, as I noticed the water and my sponge had taken on the definite appearance of

Stash 016

a square yoked egg! 😀

Anyway… I was extremely relieved to see that once the grout was added, the variation in tile spacing drifted into the background, becoming something that I only notice if I look for it.

Now there was the problem of mounting the cover, and after wondering for weeks how I was going to accomplish it, last night the solution came to me suddenly and totally unexpectedly – and it was SO simple! I’d already thought about using the StrongStik to adhere it to the tile face, but I was still concerned that if it ever let loose, it would slam forward and possibly damage something – a special concern since I expect my china dolls will want to hang out around the fireplace once I’m finished with the room. I don’t know what took me so long to think of this, but there was a solid wire loop attached to the back of the cover, and all I needed to do was twist a screw-eye into the backing board below the tiles and tie a strong string between the screw-eye and the wire – instant insurance! Why that took me months to think of is beyond me!

So today was the big day – the day we picked up this monstrously heavy tiled board and moved it into the sewing room, lifted the mantle off the wall, and put it all together, allowing me to see for the first time in real life what has been living in my dreams for over 16 months. I am definitely NOT disappointed!!!

Drumroll please….

(and perhaps another peek back to that original photo at the top of the post???)

Sewing Room Scary!


Fireplace 004

Sorry picture is a wee bit dark - bad lighting in the room... for now...

Yup! I’m seriously thrilled!!! 😀 Can’t wait until I can dress it now!

Dancing away for the second time this week…


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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL De-De!

  2. Oh, my!!! That’s GORGEOUS! I’m very impressed! Thanks for sharing!

  3. It looks fantastic, and I *love* success stories – they give me hope that one day we may actually get to the end of our project!

  4. This is a fabulous job!! Congratulations on having it finished!! You have talents that I am envious of!!

  5. WOW! Such a lot of work, and it looks FABULOUS! GOOD FOR YOU!!!!

  6. Absolutely gorgeous, my friend, but then I would expect nothing less!

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