I'm crediting this project to Starbucks, Pinterest, and a nearby blogger.
A few nights ago, insomnia (induced by hyper-caffeinated black iced tea from Starbucks) led me to look for some Pinterest inspiration for our stone fireplace and mantel. With visions of whitewash dancing in my head, I drifted off to sleep for a few hours and awoke resolved to update our fireplace then and there. I threw on painting clothes, grabbed a cup of coffee, and Major the Shopdog and I headed over to tackle this overdue project. First things first, I snapped the "before" picture (above.) Like most of us who have reached a certain maturity, this fireplace didn't look her best in the harsh light of early morning. But it's great light to paint by.
We know from the property tax records that our #littlelogcabin was built in 1982 as a model log home, and the massive stone fireplace was typical for homes of the 1970s and early '80s. As with most trends, the cycle has swung back around, and once again, stone and rough-hewn mantels are in vogue. But today's modern use of rock and wood is a little more sophisticated than the 20th century version.
To add insult to injury, someone painted the tops and sides of the rough-hewn cedar mantel with black paint. Not the bottom. Instead of making it look tailored it just looked charred. It wasn't a good look for this massive piece of wood, hanging on this massive stone wall.
As luck would have it, when I couldn't sleep, Pinterest led me to a blogger with some fabulous photos of a fireplace that looks a lot like ours. (At least her "before" pictures looked like ours.) She was ahead of her time; her photos from 2013 are still fresh and beautiful. Check them out below.
I scrolled through her blogpost and came across a photo of her fireplace decorated with a huge watercolor map of Tennessee. Then I knew I was among friends who could understand exactly what I was up against. As the clock hands crept into the early morning hours, I read her story, and confirmed that not only are we in the same state, but we're practically neighbors. (Hey, neighbor!!!)
So it's with deep gratitude to Erin that I share our before-and-after photos of the fireplace in our hearth room, inspired by her photos and tips. If you want to try this on your own brick or stone fireplace, check out her instructions. And be prepared for some splatters and drips, because when you water down paint to whitewash stone, it will be messy. Just saying.
(And if you're like me, be prepared for that crisis moment when you wonder what on earth you've started. It tends to occur precisely when I've gone far enough that I can't undo it, but not far enough to imagine how it will look when it's done. Power through. At that point, there's no turning back. But with paint, you can always cover it up.)
For the mantel, I started out with a light gray paint, but it was too light and the mantel blended in with the stone. So I mixed together some black/brown and medium gray chalk paint, and the result was something softer than black, but dark enough to contrast with the stone. And yes, I did paint the underside of the mantel too.
We're eager to use this fresh, lighter, updated backdrop to stage pieces in our hearth room, especially as winter gives way to warmer months. (But we will be using that cute little electric fireplace you can see in the last picture to make things cozy in this space until then.)
So what project are you procrastinating over? Give us a shout if we can help you conquer your fears or show you some tips or products that will help you get started. And check out our class schedule - we've got milk paint and chalk paint classes coming up soon.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!