Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Centerpiece

This centerpiece puts together two of my favorite things!  Antique scales and flowers-that-look-so-real-you-can't-tell-even-after-you've-touched-them-but-they're-not-so-they-last-forever.

It was hard trying to shoot around all the garage sale clutter amassing in this room!

I hope you enjoyed my simple centerpiece...a large, interesting object in the center of a table can look so much crisper than a 'collection' while not lacking any detail.  I can't wait till fall, maybe I'll fill it with white pumpkins!

Thanks for stopping by today

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just couldn't leave it alone...faux fireplace 'how to!'

I know I have been horribly negligent this week with my postings!  Our neighborhood garage sale is this weekend and I'm sure you all know the chaos that reigns when readying your home for a garage sale.
I'm going to try to make it up to you with a super thorough walk through our fireplace makeover!

Ok, so most people like the idea of a fireplace in their home for either decoration or function.  However many of us (somehow!) ended up with houses that don't have them.  The most cost effective way to get the beautiful look of a fireplace is to make a faux one!  As much as I loved our electric fireplace in the living room, we didn't really need it for heat and I felt it was a little small for the room.  

Hold my hand, it was a big project :).

Step 1.  Gaze lovingly at your electric fireplace for the last time.

Step 2.  Remove everything and wonder what you're about to do.

Step 3.  Pull together your materials and second-guess your choices.
I found the antique fireplace summer cover by chance at an antique store, they are as scarce as hens teeth!  I chose marble subway tile for the fireplace surround and the slab of marble hearth was a great find at the same place I got the grate, it is very old and somehow perfectly the right size!

P.S. When mixing marbles, make sure you lay them next to each other.  Old marbles are usually creamier with less veining, newer marbles are whiter and sparklier very often.  I chose each tile we used specifically for how well it looked with the hearth.

Step 4.  Decide on your tile pattern.
Originally I was thinking of a herringbone pattern.  I finally decided against it for two reasons, first we didn't want to rent a tile saw and a herringbone takes a lot of cuts.
Also it looked a little "busy" next to a grate as decorative as ours.

We finally decided on a "random" subway pattern.  I had never tiled before and thought that a perfect subway pattern would be a little too much to handle right away.
 Remember you won't see very much of the surround once you add the mantel.

Step 5.  Lay it all out before you commit!
This mantel was found at (wouldn't you know it) the same antique shop the grate and the hearth came from.  If you can get multiple pieces from the same shop the owner will very often give you discounts in order to move more stuff outta there!

Step 6.  Put it all out there.
I decided to lay out everything on the wall juuuuust to make sure.  Thank goodness I did!  Turned out the mantel was about ten inches too high.  You can see by the crown molding where the ceiling is, even my biggest decor pieces looked dwarfed up there.  I would definitely keep your mantel less than half the height of your wall if possible.

Sooooo we cut it down shorter...
...and shorter...until it was perfect!

Step 7.  The fireplace surround.
We decided to use a cement backer board for the tiles in case any future homeowners wanted to remove them.  Cement board is also just a really good surface for tiling.
Thank you hubby :)
oh the chaos.

Step 8.  Begin tiling...and realize you're in over your head.
Make sure you mark where your grate will go before you start tiling.  Always start at the bottom so your tiles don't slide down, we wanted to save money by not tiling behind the grate so we had to screw on a temporary support board to rest the tiles on.  We used a high heat (might as well be authentic!) spray paint to cover the cement board behind the grate.
Obviously this process went late into the night :).  This being my first tiling job I learned a few lessons, the most important being always use pre-mixed mortar and grout!  Make sure to mix up your tiles first so you don't end up with blocks of different colors.

Test again!  Our version of "tile cutting" was Allen throwing them against the street until they broke in half so it was a good idea to make sure everything fit before they set up.

Grouting was actually really fun!  Make sure you push your grout float diagonally in order to not pull the grout out of the joints.  I let it set for the recommended time and then came back every 15 minutes with a damp sponge to wipe off the "grout haze".  Make sure you use unsanded grout with marble or it will scratch the surface!

Step 9.  On to the mantel!
You can build your own with a simple frame and wood moldings if you like but I wanted to use something vintage.  
 This mantel is from the 1800's and somewhere along the line someone had filled in the curved detail on the posts.  I have no idea why!
How sad!

We used a Dremel (awesome invention) to start chipping off the filler piece...
...and a crowbar to pry the rest off.

We brought the mantel back inside and attached it to the wall with a cleat system (wood pieces screwed to the wall and the mantel).

We had to add a piece of wood to the inside of the posts to fill it in, some mantels already have this piece, it just depends on what type of fireplace they were on.  

Step 10.  Attach the summer cover.
Many summer covers will have screw holes you can use to just screw it to the wall, others will have iron hoops in the back you can attach with wire etc.  Make sure you do any touch up painting or cleaning of your grate before you screw it on!  Once we cut the mantel down shorter our grate started to look way too tall.  I actually found and called the only blacksmith in town who somehow magically agreed to cut it down shorter for me at 9:00 that night.  He wouldn't take any money for it (such a nice guy) but I promised to bring him a piece of my pottery soon!

Finish up!
Now that everything's attached there's nothing to do but caulk, tape and paint!
I just used a chip brush and "Ultra Cream Delight" by Valspar to match our trim.
The best way to get a perfect seam is to caulk the fireplace to the wall first, then paint over it with the wall color.  Finally tape carefully and paint the mantel!


 I love the detail of this piece, I've never seen another one like it!

 The decorations I had used before looked too small on the bigger mantel.  I found the 2'X3' already framed, vintage print of J. Constable's "The White Horse" in an antique mall out in the country.  I don't think it's a permanent solution but it is filling up the space nicely right now!  Also it's nice to have a darker piece over the mantel to balance out the black summer cover, I love the hanger being visible.  The whole wall needs some work as it's a little cluttered but I'm just too happy that it's done to care right now!

Aaaaand there you have it!
This wall was really important as it's the first thing you see when you enter our house.  It is definitely more in-depth than many faux fireplaces but it is 100% believable no matter how close you are.  It is also 100% removable in case we ever change our mind!  Everyone who walks in the door thinks we have a functioning fireplace in there.  You can put candles on the hearth for ambiance or a fern or christmas presents for the holidays!

Really it just takes some patience to find the pieces you want and put them together.  Since it doesn't have to be fireproof you can use almost any materials you want.  You could use an old plank for the hearth or use stone instead of tile for the surround.  The summer cover is key to getting the look right, ebay occasionally will have some pretty ones.  I have the one below one in my Etsy shop right now (I had bought it initially before finding this one which fit our space better).

If you already have a grand fireplace in your living room, what about one in a den, basement or bedroom?!  I am wild about them, pretty soon I'm afraid I'll have one in every room!

Happy Fireplacing!

I can't wait to show you what we did with our electric fireplace :)

The Lettered Cottage

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Advertising and an Etsy Special!

Would you like to advertise with us?

I'm happy to announce that we are now offering ad spots in our sidebar!

For a whopping $15/month (on a month-by-month basis) you can have your shop/blog/website or whatever you like featured in a prime location on our blog!  

Ad size is 125 pixels high X 210 pixels wide...if you have an ad designed already please email it to, if not I'd be happy to design one for you!


One of our sponsors, Jann at Lamp Goods is offering a special for Grey Stables readers!

For the month of May, if you enter "GreyStables" as a coupon code at checkout you will receive 10% off your purchase from her shop!

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Thank you so much to everyone who has been so supportive of our little corner of the net :).  If you have any questions concerning advertising please email me at!