Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Project House Update: Fireplace Thoughts

We've learned the hard way that things can go sideways quickly if you don't spend enough time sleeping and thinking on an idea. Maybe it's because we're lazy, but the ideas we've loved the most have been the ones that we've waited weeks or months to act on.

That being said, the front room fireplace needs to be tackled quickly. I'm just tired of looking at it. In hopes of minimizing the amount of time we just sit around, letting the ideas sink in, we got all kinds of engineering and nerdy on it.

I guess I should start at the beginning. Long before we painted the room, we knew what we wanted on the front of the fireplace. We fell in love with these dark blue gray tiny stones that formed this easy-to-bend tiles.

Because the fireplace is curved, these tiny stones would easily flex over the surface without too much work on our behalf. No grout, no problem.

We also agreed on covering the mantle with wood. We never agree on anything, let alone two things in a row! With those details, I mocked up the worst picture in the history. Seriously, you click that link at your own risk.

Dan got the modeling bug in him and decided to make one that was not only a little more accurate, but a little prettier, too (how is that even possible?) It's hard to match the colors and textures, but project the tiny tiles in the picture above onto his rendering below.

His model allowed us to play around with how we would build the mantle. It's easier said than done when you're designing for a curved mantle. Originally, Dan just wanted to cover the top and front of the mantle with thin sheets of wood. However, with the model, I was able to convince him that we should also wrap under the mantle. It would allow for more mounting points for the complicated wrapping of the front of the mantle. Also, Dan pointed out, it could be used to create some subtle detail, as if it were molding, to class up the fireplace a bit more.

The only real thing left to determine? The base of the fireplace. We really didn't want to use the tiny tiles as the flat surface because who would want to sit or step on those bumpy things? Two things we needed to determine: 1) The color of the base and 2) The way we would cover it.

From the original terrible mocked up image, you can see we were thinking of matching the color to the color of the tiny tiles. However, upon further review, we were afraid it would be much too dark of a fireplace. To break up the darkness of the bands of tile (on the fireplace and wrapping around the base of the hearth), we agreed a light white stone would work well in the room. Perhaps with some veins in the same color as the tiny tiles.

We went to Home Depot on a fact-finding mission. Dan really wanted to get a piece of stone counter top for one solid piece. We found a color we really liked called "Ripe Cotton" and then we started to do the math. The problem of the curved surface reared its head again. Because they would probably charge us for the rectangular piece that we would need to then cut to fit, it would be over $700 just for the one piece of stone.

Yeah, so we went over to tile instead. At under $10 a square foot, compared to $50 for the counter top, we could easily do tile for under $200. It was a pretty quick decision to switch to tile. This, however, lead to another decision: 3) how to lay out the tile. With small subway tile, large subway tile, and square tiles in a similar marble tile to the counter top, there were a lot of options.

We purchased samples of the squares and the small subway tiles and went home to try some stuff out. There was much debating over it. We even took a break, went to dinner at Village Inn, and continued to sketch ideas over breakfast for dinner.

After some deliberation, we agreed that a traditional subway tile pattern worked well because it mimics the same pattern of the tiny tile on the curved front surface. With the size of the fireplace and the tiles, it would look something like this:

Dan was convinced that an edge border was necessary to make it look finished, so he mocked that up, too.

And he was right. It does look much better with a border. By the end of the weekend, we've made some tough decisions: light white marble subway tile with a border for the base with a detailed wood mantle. We ordered the tiny tiles and they have come in, so once we pull the trigger on the subway tile (and buy a tile saw), we can get down to business!

{Sidenote: Part of the reason I'm going into soooo much detail on our decision making for our fireplace is because we couldn't find any details on designing for a cylindrical corner fireplace. If this helps someone else trying to style a similar curved fireplace, I'll call it a win.}

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