So, what did you do this summer? The summer of Covid, the summer of no camps, no grand vacations, no large family reunions. Thanks to direct exposure from a co-worker, our family had to cancel our annual trip to Lake Tahoe. Not going to lie, it hurt bad. But we now had an extra two weeks on our hands, so why not make the best of it and do some projects around the house?
It started on a whim...
A friend of mine posted that she was making a faux wall to use a photo prop for her handmade signs. That sparked a project I've had on my list for a long time. Living in Southern California, not all houses come with fire places, which makes it a total bummer at Christmas time! I've always wanted to build a faux fireplace so I had something to decorate and to use as a prop for our garland photographs. And that's when the spark literally became a flame!
Let's take it back to the beginning...late July!
This room is our living room. It's a very underutilized, under loved room. We rarely sit in it, never watch the T.V., and basically just pass through it on the way out the door. It has tons of clutter, mismatched furniture, and random toys that don't belong. The only time it sees any love is at Christmas time when the tree stands in the corner. But this wall screams potential and is the perfect location for my new project!
After some push back about the T.V. being removed permanently, I set about making a plan. This involved a lot of drawing on my walls!
To make it easier to see from across the room, I taped out the basic outline. This helped me decide on size and style. I had already purchased an electric fireplace insert from Amazon, so I knew the size of the opening I was working with. Luckily, there is an outlet in the exact location it's needed! There is another plug-in attached to a wall switch. Perfect for the sconces I envisioned above the mantle, but more on that later.
And now we build!
Nothing like jumping into the fire! I busted out my big girl tools and got to work. Lots of 2x4s, measuring, cutting, and pocket holes. I wish I could say I had a pretty plan to show you, but I don't. I literally took the measurements off the wall and did the math, the old fashioned way...on paper.
Once the frame was built and test fit to make sure I was on track, it was time to wrap it with MDF. I chose MDF because it's smooth and makes for a nice paint finish. I knew I wanted to paint the whole thing white to brighten the room. If you want to use wood tones or stains, I'd recommend using real, quality plywood.
Here you can see the start of the trim work. I wanted a clean and classic look, almost a Craftsman feel. Above the fire place is the beginning of the "faux wall" I wanted to wire the sconces to. After some challenges with the fixtures and realizing I was creating a major fire hazard, I ditched the idea altogether and removed the framing. I still have the sconces, but I will need to hire an electrician to do it the correct way so I don't burn my house down!
I nailed the white trim directly to the wall and caulked the living crap out of the whole thing! Caulk makes all the messy edges go away and leaves a nice surface for primer and paint. Caulk every single piece of trim and where the wood meets the wall. I should note that we removed the part of the floor trim that goes behind the fireplace so it sits flush against the wall. Fill all the nail holes with wood putty and sand smooth before painting. I swear, the finish work takes much longer than the actual build!
The great tile debate of 2020...
Let's just say that not everyone in the house liked the idea of the peel and stick tile in a herringbone pattern. Someone, who shall remain nameless, thought brick would be a better choice. I reminded that "someone" that I went to (graphic!) design school and he did not! In the end we decided that since the herringbone was already here, we'd put it on and let it sit for a while. Now that it's up, it seems to work in the room. "Someone" has retracted his brick statement!
Like a phoenix from the ashes....
A mere 10 days later, we are ready for Christmas stockings and hot cocoa around the hearth, if only it wasn't over 100 degrees outside! I can't wait to decorate it for all the seasons and photograph all the things.
But the summer adventures didn't end here. Let's just say this one started a firestorm of more projects to come. Stay tuned to see a whole living room makeover.