The Shack: Our Little Poconos Getaway and Updating The Fireplace Mantel (Post #22)

Welcome back to my blog series on The Shack.  Now that we’ve mostly finished in the guest bedroom, I’d like to move back out into the main living area.  After painting the walls, then replacing all the floors, woodwork and trim in this little vacation home, my next big update will be the fireplace mantel.

Living Room Before

BEFORE: Here you’ll notice the fireplace with its patchwork of faux-stone surround and simple floating plank mantel.  It stands amidst the ancient brown carpeting, adjoining the vinyl tile from the dining area at a very odd place (intercepting the fireplace hearth).

The hearth of the fireplace is actually slate tile (although messily installed), while the stone on the wall around the firebox is a multi-colored faux stone.  The faux stone has a lot of color contrast from a light tan to the darkest of gray. This high contrast creates a very haphazard, patch-work appearance around the perimeter of the fireplace.  My eye goes right to the darker stones and then it doesn’t know where to rest…it’s distracting!  Visually, the fireplace appears super busy and it’s just not cohesive with itself, let alone the rest of the room.  I also feel like the scale of the overall mantel is a small in this large, open room with its vaulted ceiling.  My goal is to make the fireplace surround a true feature in the space, and a focal point which will anchor the main seating area.


I decided one of the first steps in the fireplace renovation would be to either remove or improve the existing faux-stone.  It was just too busy and did not have the look I wanted at all.  My husband pushed back a little when I told him I wanted to paint it white, but eventually I won him over.  In the image above, you can see what a difference it made to simply paint that faux-stone white!!  The overall appearance is much better already, even though it still has a long way to go before I’m finished with it.

So, in order to make this fireplace a true focal point, I’d like to take it up higher on the wall.  In fact, I’m thinking it could potentially go all the way up to the ceiling break–or close to it, at least.  I’d absolutely love to find an antique mantel, but it would need to fit the opening of our existing firebox.  Many older mantelpieces have a small-ish opening, and we’d like to keep our current working gas logs and insert if possible.


I found this gorgeous antique mantel in one of my favorite antique stores. It’s beautiful oak, and I adore the columns and overall simplicity of this piece. The size is fairly good, but I’d actually like a taller over-mantel, which extends up to the ceiling break.  The opening for the fire-box is also not the right dimension.  I toyed with purchasing, then taking this mantel apart and using those elements to create a whole new mantel, but decided that was just too risky and it would be more work than building an entirely new mantel from scratch.


So I’ve been exploring a custom build-out of our mantel space. This one is so pretty (found on Pinterest). I like how simple it is, and the size is similar to what I’m looking for. I wish it was a little more vintage and rustic, though. Since The Shack is a mountain house, I’m committed to adding as much vintage-rustic charm as I can.

I’ve decided the best way to proceed is to have my amazing husband use his excellent carpentry skills to build us a custom mantelpiece which will incorporate antique architectural elements.  Not only will this add that vintage charm I’m craving, but it makes fabulous re-use of previously loved items.  I’m super excited at the idea of using vintage pieces to create a conversation piece and focal point in The Shack.


I began searching around for just the right pieces to incorporate into our custom fireplace mantel.  Eventually, I found this awesome antique oak panel  all the way from Wisconsin on Ebay. It features beautiful quarter-sawn oak and some pretty beaded details. Plus it has some moldings at the top and bottom, which will look great incorporated into the new mantel. Can you guess the origins of this ‘architectural’? It’s a face panel from an antique piano! I think it will make a beautiful addition to the upper portion of our fireplace mantel.


The same Ebay seller in Wisconsin also had these oak pilasters or legs from the same antique piano. I snapped them up too, since I want to incorporate several wood elements into our mantelpiece.


From a different Ebay seller in Chicago, I purchased these solid Oak casing boards and matching plinth blocks. I intend to clean them up (they have a little paint around the edges from their previous home) and use them as part of my custom fireplace mantel at The Shack.


I also purchased these small corbels to use in our custom mantel at The Shack. They were a little gunked up, so I used some furniture refinisher and cleaned off all the old finish, then put new stain and polyeurethane on them, to match the other antique pieces as much as possible.

Even with all these antique pieces, there’s still not enough to fully create the custom mantel I have in my head.  So I decided I’ll do a little old and new combination and incorporate some new painted  wood in my design as well.  So I used a wonderful mix of Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint to create a custom dark gray finish for the new wood pieces of our custom mantel.  My goal was to create a color which incorporates the tones of those slate tiles into the design of the mantel.  I want everything to look integrated and cohesive.


New wood, painted a dark blue-gray and slightly distressed, which I’m planning to use in my custom fireplace mantel. I also painted the original wood mantel shelf which was existing when we bought The Shack. I decided we can definitely incorporate it into the new design as well.

Now I just have to sit down, crunch the measurement numbers, and sketch out the design, so my husband can help me build this whole thing.  Once all these antique and new pieces are joined together, it’s going to be fabulous!!

Join me again next time, for the next faze of our custom mantel build-out. Stay tuned for further updates about The Shack.  I’m planning to share the details of our custom fireplace mantel with you soon. Until then, make sure to like Robinson Interiors on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, and DO stay tuned for future updates on The Shack!

Click on this image to be taken directly to my website for more information on Robinson Interiors.

Click on this image to be taken directly to my website for more information on Robinson Interiors.


2 thoughts on “The Shack: Our Little Poconos Getaway and Updating The Fireplace Mantel (Post #22)

  1. I think that antique accents and features in the home are so good. They make your home feel comfortable and welcoming but keep them classy and timeless as well. I think having an antique fireplace mantel would look so nice!

    • I couldn’t agree more, Pam! Adding antique and vintage items gives a home so much personality. It was fun customizing these antique remnants to suit the space in The Shack. Thanks for commenting!

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