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I’ve been dreaming of adding a faux fireplace to our loft since the day we moved into our home. Seriously, just look at my Pinterest and I literally have a board dedicated to fireplaces, many of them faux. There is just something about a mantelpiece that makes me all warm and cozy…even without a fire. One of these days, I would like to install a real i.e. electric fireplace downstairs, but for now, this satisfies my need to decorate, and just in time for the holidays!
I went through numerous ideas on Pinterest, debating between various plans to build the entire thing from scratch, but at the end of the day, I found a great deal on a mantel through the Facebook marketplace and went for that instead! I got this beautiful but kind of outdated mantel for $40! And as per usual, I forgot to take a good before photo so here she is in all her glory.
The Three P’s: Prep, Prime, and Paint
Since we now have white built-ins in the loft, I knew for sure that I wanted to paint the mantel white. We sanded it pretty thoroughly using both a Skil palm sander for the larger flat areas and by hand since there were so many little details and crevices. There were also a lot of little nail holes and cracks that would be really obvious once painted white, and I wanted a smooth finish, so I spent some time filling everything in with nail hole filler before priming. After lightly sanding again, I used a paintbrush to apply two coats of Zinsser B-I-N Shellac Primer in white. This has become my go-to primer. It prevents any potential bleed through and dries super fast.
Once I was ready to paint, I busted out my paint spray shelter (you seriously need this if you spray paint) and used my Graco paint sprayer. I applied three coats of the same white glossy paint we used on the built-ins, making sure to sand lightly with a sandpaper for between coats. Last, I applied a semi-gloss Polyacrylic with a brush to protect the entire thing.
How To Get The Look For Less
Now that the mantel was complete, I needed something to fill it in. I didn’t want to leave the center completely empty but also didn’t want to spend the money to install actual tile or brick. I ultimately decided to use a faux brick panel, which in its initial red brick state is not the prettiest, in my opinion, but I knew I could transform it. Because the opening of this mantel is pretty wide and tall, I had to cut the panel in half and then piece two together to fit the width. The gentleman at the store was kind enough to cut it for me such that the bricks lined up correctly once pieced together.
To attach the panel, I simply screwed it to the back of the mantel and then we attached a thin piece of wood down the seam in the back to secure the panel pieces together. Once the panel was secured, I filled the seam with nail hole filler and sanded again. My initial plan was to do a whitewash by mixing white paint with water at a ratio of about 50/50. I applied it to the brick with sponge brushes but unfortunately, the seam was still visible with the light whitewashed look, so, I was forced to do a full coat of white paint to cover it.
The full coat of white paint was a little too one note for me. To add a little more depth, I lightly brushed a light brown chalk paint across each brick. I absolutely love the final product and the seam is completely covered.
How To Put The Faux In The Fireplace
Onto the next dilemma, how to create the illusion of a fireplace. It sat like this for several weeks as I worked through some various ideas. I finally decided on something I had pinned several times, a faux fireplace chalkboard. I had previously built a frame using cedar fence boards for my downstairs bathroom project and decided this would be an easy way to frame out the chalkboard (made from a sheet of plywood painted with chalkboard paint). The mantel also needed a little more character, so I purchased a 2×6 and had it cut to the correct length and then stained it with Minwax Special Walnut.
The Big Reveal
I am so so happy with the final result! I love the character this adds to what was once a big blank wall. And of course, this is the perfect time of year to have a mantel to decorate. I love that I can also write on and decorate the chalkboard for different seasons or just hang a wreath over it like I did here. We even took a quick family photo for our Christmas cards in front of the decorated mantel. P.S. That cute Christmas sign is available for download at Mountain Modern Life.
I did this entire project for under $125 and it makes such a huge statement. My only complaint? It’s upstairs where no one but us will see it but at least it makes me smile every time I pass by it!
I DIY’d quite a few of the items you see above (check out the sweater stool here) but found some options you can buy online below!