From the moment we first toured our house, we knew that the fireplace was going to need a major overhaul. As you can see, it was pretty frightening – shiny and dark and definitely outdated:
While we liked the idea of a stone fireplace, the prior owner had ruined the natural beauty of the stone with a thick coat of lacquer that was blindingly shiny. We tried everything we could think of to remove or minimize the shine, from scrubbing the stones with steal wool to applying industrial strength paint thinners – in a moment of desperation we even considered having the fireplace sandblasted. (Thank goodness we didn’t take that route – can you imagine?!?) After consulting with a variety of professionals, we decided that the best thing to do would be to take down the stone and start from scratch.
Looks pretty crazy, right? At this point we were a little freaked out – look at that pile of rubble!! And we were shocked to find out that the opening for the fireplace was a lot bigger than we originally thought – the opening used to stop where that metal bar is in the picture, so we were pretty happy campers to realize that the new opening to our fireplace would be huge.
After all of that old stone was gone, we got to pick out our new stone. We realized that we now had a blank canvas so our fireplace could look any way that we wanted it to – brick, traditional with a white mantle, rustic, etc. In the end, we knew that we wanted our home to feel comfortable and inviting with natural elements thrown in, so a new stone fireplace with a dark wood mantle would give us just the look that we were going for. I scoured through magazines so that I could have a picture of the perfect fireplace to show the mason and I finally found one that I was totally in love with – it was made out of stones in a variety of sizes so that it was visually interesting, and each of the stones had a hand-chiseled look that just couldn’t be beat. Since it was even topped off with a dark wood mantle I knew it was “the one” – I just held my breath that the mason could make us a fireplace that was just as beautiful.
After deciding on the style of fireplace that we wanted, we went to a few dusty stone yards and contemplated the pros and cons of manufactured vs. natural stone. We finally decided to order a natural stone called “cave rock,” and since the stone yard didn’t have samples of the stone in stock we ordered based upon a picture in a brochure and figured that would be good enough. We were so wrong!!! The stone yard wound up delivering the wrong stone and after we checked out cave rock in person at another stone yard we were SOOOO glad that we weren’t going to be stuck with cave rock – turns out it is a crumbly, concrete-looking stone that would have looked terrible on our fireplace. Lesson learned – never order stone based just on a picture!!
We ultimately went with a white limestone called Austin stone – it’s a beautiful off-white color that we thought would look great with our dark wood floors and the earthy tones going on in our granite. We were freaked out when the guy at the stone yard asked how many tons we wanted to order – TONS?!?!? Who would have thought our little fireplace would need two elephants-worth of stone? Turns out stone is a lot heavier than I realized, and the stone that was delivered on a pallet was a much smaller and more manageable amount than I had envisioned.
Once the stone had been delivered, the mason arrived and set out all of the stone on the patio so that he could make sure that everything fit together perfectly. One thing that was really important to us was the keystones above the opening to the fireplace – we were set on having keystones in a fan pattern. That was a bit of a discussion point with the mason because it was going to be difficult to make the keystones the perfect size so that they were the right height and width for both the mantle and the opening to the fireplace. After taking some measurements and fiddling with the pattern a bit, the mason said he could make it work – yay!! Check out the mason’s handiwork after the first day:
Let me tell you, I was so excited when I saw this that I hardly knew what to do with myself! I may be a bit biased, but I think our mason is a genius. And look how he was even able to work around the outlets above the fireplace opening so that we could hide the cords for our TV! Pretty cool stuff. (And if you look closely you can see where the hearth was carefully demolished to keep the gas line intact.)
Once the stone for the fireplace was laid it was time to figure out the mantle. That took a bit of trial and error, as I don’t think the carpenter and I were on the same page. After convincing the carpenter that I did in fact want the mantle to run the length of the fireplace and start at the top of the keystones, the mantle turned out perfectly:
The mantle is stained the same color as our floors, and it breaks up all of the stone without distracting from the mason’s beautiful work. You can also see the raised hearth in this photo – we went back and forth for awhile about whether to keep the raised hearth, and I’m really glad that we kept it because it provides great additional seating and keeps us from having that “floating fireplace” look. The top of the hearth is made out of two 4 foot by 2 foot slabs of Austin stone – one of the slabs was cut in half and placed on either side of the center slab so that we didn’t have a distracting line right in the middle of the fireplace. The finished fireplace looks like this:
Do you guys think we pulled it off? Anybody else have tales of their own fireplace makeover?
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