mantel story(ies)

I started sharing a few mantel photos on Instagram, and I thought I’d pull together a few more in a post here. M was working on the mantel in our room, but that story actually begins in the living room just below it.

The photo above is from our beautiful living room when we first bought the house. Stunning, I know. You can see the line of where the mantel used to be affixed to the plaster, but it was actually hanging out in another room of the house when we first saw the place. The fireplace was never a traditional fireplace in the wall. Instead there was a freestanding stove that sat in front of it, with a flue that went up and turned into the wall (and chimney flue inside it) at that hole you can see further up the wall.

We refinished the mantel eventually, and reinstalled it once we furred out all the exterior walls of the house and reinstalled all the trim. We found a cast iron summer front in an antique shop in our neighborhood, and attached it to the wall inside. These summer fronts were used to close up real fireplaces for the summer when they weren’t in use – but in the case of simple, working class homes like ours, the heat source was from a stove, so no summer fronts were needed. But because the house is Second Empire, and Victorians love their ornament, there is still a mantel!

There were actually quite a few mantels in our house. The first floor mantels were more decorative, with a simpler design for the second floor unit. You might remember that we installed an interior stair on the fireplace wall of the middle room in our house, so those mantels were not needed. We moved the more decorative mantel from the first floor up to our bedroom and installed it on the wall and painted everything white. I know it looks sort of strange to have a “fake” fireplace, but it’s really not that weird in houses from this time period around here. We always thought we’d keep our eyes open for another summer front, but we got busy with kids and life and we honestly never poke around salvage yards and antique stores anymore.

But then we installed a real working fireplace in the first floor living room and we had the old summer front hanging out in the basement. A few months ago M attached it to the wall up here, and we’ve just been waiting for the time to figure out a trim detail.

He ended up building up a few pieces to create this frame, matching the egg-and-dart detail on the cast iron. We’ll fill the holes and paint the whole thing black, and it will just blend in and look like it’s always been there. It’s a huge improvement already.

That made me think about the mantel that we relocated up to the third floor when we first finished our attic space and carved out the cutest nursery in the world. Instead of looking for a summer front for this mantel, we chose to do what is typically done in the center of these “fake” mantels – tile! And since I was starting from scratch, I decided to have fun with the tile.

I painted a scene from The Little Prince, and I added several of my favorite quotes. Then we surrounded it with glass tiles in the greens and blues and it came together just like I imagined it. I actually painted the tiles while I was pregnant, and I wasn’t convinced until the end that it was going to work out.

But it was perfect. Then…

…and now!

And that reminds me of a family movie that we just watched that was lovelyl! The Little Prince on Netflix. It’s so beautiful – the characters, the animation, the story within the story. Listening to E saying the phrases on her wall along with the movie was the best part. She’ll probably remember those words long after she leaves this room behind.

4 Responses to mantel story(ies)

  1. Becky Collins

    Love this room and fireplace. Remember all of us upstairs opening family gifts on her 1st birthday. Remember that “the greats” were with us❤️ Happy memories!

    • thirdstoryies

      Me too. I was looking at those photos recently – they are so cute. E looks so little and in every photo Momaw and Popaw are staring at only her and grinning from ear to ear.

  2. Your bedroom — wow! And, of course, the nursery — adorable! You are a very good artist.

    • thirdstoryies

      Thanks! My mom went with me when I painted those tiles and it was such a fun day. We had to do so much work on the attic and the roof and her room in general, and it wasn’t finished until she was about 9-10 months old, so having the tile project was a fun way of preparing for her arrival.

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