Almost Afters: Gail's New Fireplace

Last Friday I attended my last official site meeting for Gail's Kitchen and Family Room renovation.  I started working on this project on Dec.11th, 2009 so its been a looong process seeing this new space evolve from paper to reality week after week.  This last meeting represented what I call substantial completion, meaning the construction is considered complete, and the homeowner moves back into her new space!!!  The crew packs up all their things and they move-on to another job site, returning as needed to finish off any outstanding small items.

When I was at the house early that morning, the guys were doing some final paint touch-ups, I didn't have the opportunity to take any 'after' shots because they were just about to start the big clean-up but I'll be back for a follow-up visit very soon.   One of my FAVORITE things in the space was the new family room fireplace and last week was the very first time I had seen it.  The fireplace itself is a new clean face model gas unit by Napoleon.  Since my previous visit the new surround and mantle had been installed so it was a bit of a 'reveal' moment for me when I walked in, and when I saw it there, I just stopped in my tracks and gasped! : )  The design concept for the fireplace had changed several times over the past couple of months....

Here are a couple of initial concepts,,,in each I had envisioned antique or reclaimed wood being used for the mantle.  It was an awkward space, to the immediate right was a window to the immediate left is a half wall with stairs to the basement and the fireplace wall is also the only wall in the room for the tv.

A short time later we discovered a stash of antique wood boards in the homeowners garage (located in an income property they own across the street).  Of course I went crazy over them and asked the contractor to make us a rolling door from the boards and.......if there was enough material I also wanted to use it for the fireplace mantle.

Then about a month later,,,,,the coppersmith visited the house to do a site measure for the new custom copper hood canopy I had designed.  He brought a few samples for me to review and as soon as I saw them I asked if he could also make the fireplace surround out of the same copper.  No problem he said (Oh I love to hear that!!!) so I sent him a sketch with dimensions....

Excuse the ugly 3D image, (this is why I prefer hand renderrings) but I used this 3D sketch to illustrate how I wanted the copper surround and the wood mantle to be built.  A seperate sketch had all the dimensions on it.   I emailed this to the copper smith and my contractor who was making the mantle.  Unfortunately my contractor called me to say there wouldn't be enough of the antique wood left over from the door so what was plan 'b' ?  I asked him if he could find some rough hewn, gnarly wood that was about 2" x 6",,,,,, and that was the last I heard from him.

A few days later I showed up for my final site meeting and this was what they had built.  I LOVE it!!!

The homeowner is over the moon about it, and seriously I wish this fireplace was in my own home.  Its rustic and contemporary and I have to say I've never seen anything else like it, my contractor hit it outta the park with this one.  The wood he used was rough-hewn douglas fir, the knots are absolutely gorgeous and have the same character as the loft grade natural oak floor.  When I took this photo it wasn't quite 100% finished yet, the mantle was about to receive one more light sanding and a coat of oil.  Then the copper surround gets a once over with steel wool to remove some of the black coating and bring out the copper, the steel wool also gives it a low lustre sheen.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of what the 'almost' finished space looks like, I have to say its a dramatic transformation from what was once there and I can't wait to post all the after photos. 

Note:  When building a surround and or mantle for any gas fireplace, its critical to refer to the mfg's installation specifications where you'll find all the minimum clearances that must be maintained.  There are strict clearances that must to be adhered to with regards to the use of combustible and non-combustible materials when cladding the surround and there are various clearance requirements with regards to mantle projections.  Always follow the mfg's specs for your exact model.

All Photos:  Carol Reed

Fireplace Facelift - Thin Stone Veneer

Fireplace Facelift Sketch by Carol Reed Interior Design for

As soon as I can feel the slightest chill in the air, I can't help but want to cuddle up in front of my fireplace with a blanket and a good book (or shelter mag!).   Enjoying the warmth and ambience of a fireplace is one of the reasons I look forward to the winter months ahead.  Living in Canada, I've always felt that a house just isn't a home without a fireplace, aside from the fact its an obvious focal point in any room, I love the character, warmth and mood a fireplace brings to space.  But this character.....has to jive with the rest of the house.   So its no wonder that fireplace facelifts are one of the most common design challenges I work on.

One of my favorite products for recladding an old outdated fireplace is a thin stone veneer panel product distributed by Erthcoverings in Canada.  I prefer the 3D slate or ledgestone series and have specified them for a variety of different installations over the past several years.  These are natural stone panels made up of multiple thin linear pieces of stone ranging from 3/4”th to 1-1/2”th which are adhered together to form 6” x 24” panels.   These panels of stone (made up of slate, quartzite, limestone, basalt) are made from 100% recycled post industrial waste and are thinner and lighter than using solid stone and much more eco friendly and natural looking than man made synthetic faux stone.  

The panels can be installed over any substrate and are installed fairly simply in the same manner as stone tiles, they even offer pre-made 90 degree corner pieces to wrap around corners seamlessly.   Its a versatile product that can be used inside or out and is suitable for cladding the exterior of buildings or interior installations especially great in spaces where you want to bring the outdoors in.  It retails typically for $12s.f. and up so a 6‘wide by 8’ high fireplace would cost you less than $1,000 in material.

The sketch above, and concept board below is a sample of an e-design fireplace facelift I designed for a client back in July where i recommended using these thin stone panels. The homeowners painted their existing 80’s brick fireplace out when they moved into the house earlier this year and wanted me to help them with some ideas on how they can update it.  This fireplace and its seating area are off to the side of the main living spaces in between the living room and dining room.  Utilizing a pair of existing leather chairs, I suggested adding a hide carpet, an ottoman some small tree stump tables and funky metal reading lights to compliment the updated fireplace.

Digital Concept board by Carol Reed Interior Design Inc. for

Below are before and after photos of a fireplace facelift I designed about 3 years ago.   The existing fireplace and adjacent wall (which continues beyond what's visible in the photo) and colum were faced in brick, but we chose to add thin stone veneer only to the face of the fireplace and then paint-out the rest of the brick, including the hearth which was done in a tone that blended in with the new stone panels. 

Brick Fireplace Before

Brick Fireplace After - clad in thin stone veneer

The results you can see, were quite dramatic and the fact that we painted out some of the brick didn't detract from the impact of the stone cladding.   The small recessed nook to the right of the fireplace was customized with floating shelves and the brick wall of behind it was paintd out in a dark eggplant colour.

Below are photo examples of various types of installations using this product.  All of these images are from the Erthcoverings website.

The stone wall in this dining room continues thru to the exterior.

Again, in this family room the stone continues thru to the exterior.

Exterior cladding on a contemporary home.

Close-up detail of the stone's texture.

I'm drawn to this product because i think its an effective way to bring an organic and natural element into your space,,, in a modern way.  Because of its linear composition, to me the stone has a very west coast feel that evokes a bit of a retro style in its similarity to the angel stone of the 60’s 70’s.  

My tips for a ledgestone fireplace facelift:

  1. Go all the way - on fireplaces this product looks best from floor to ceiling to really maximize the effect of the horizontal lines of the stone and emphasize that west coast mid-century modern look.
  2. Return it - wrap the stone into the fireplace opening.  if its a gas fireplace unit, recess the fireplace box back from the face of the fireplace.
  3. Keep it clean - Use with clean face style gas fireplace units for a true masonry look or use with modern linear multiple flame burners for an super contemporary chic west coast style.
  4. Its not for every house - this stone looks best in rustic modern, modern eco-zen like spaces, modern country, contemporary spaces, and mid-century era style houses.  If your house is laden with lots of traditional mouldings, cornices, chair rails, panel moulding and formal antiques....this look is not for you.
  5. Light it up - highlight the texture and colours of the stone with lighting.
  6. Tone it down - avoid using lots of bold patterned fabrics in the same space, the texture and multi-toned colour of the stone is very dominant on its own.
  7. Don't clash  - avoid mixing this stone with other heavily veined or patterned flooring.
  8. Opposites Attract  - contrast the heavy textured rough stone with some shiny nickel and clear lucite or glass accent pieces to keep things from looking too rustic.
  9. Enhance it - you can apply (by brush, or sponge) a matte finish stone enhancer on to deepen the colours of the stone
  10. Take it outside....if there’s an opportunity to incorporate some of the stone on the exterior of the house it will reinforce the idea that the stone is part of the structure of the home and integrated into the architecture. If you can actually continue the stone from the fp right thru to the exterior it will really blur the line between inside and out.

For custom tailored design ideas on updating your fireplace for the coming winter season, check out the fireplace facelift e-design service at the design shop.

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation or partnership with any mfg or product that I endorse on this blog nor do I ever receive any compensation for promoting any product or service on this blog, other than my own design services.  Anything that I write about here or specify for client projects are products I recommend based solely on my preference for their performance, quality, value, or style as well as my personal experience with them.

Photos:   1 thru 4 Carol Reed, 6 thru 8 Erthcoverings