Friday, February 28, 2014

the story of our fireplace wall

Our fireplace wall has been a big work in progress.  

The wall the fireplace occupies is one of the only walls in our house that has stayed put throughout the remodel process.  It was this lovely green color that eventually got covered up:

It is completely load-bearing so we didn't have a big choice, but we did want to move back at least part of it to make the family room wider (more about that back HERE).  

So they moved all the load-bearing stuff to the middle around the fireplace and moved the other walls back.

And then we had all that darn trouble with the ceiling being off.

Like, WAY off.  A whole inch and a half higher on one side than the other.  
Lots more about that back HERE.

But finally we did get it straight enough so we could get on with our big plans for it.

Initially I bookmarked these ideas:

I wanted something very simple and linear.

As we got closer (and with help from my "pretty committee":), I narrowed the wall finish ideas down to  two inspiration photos.

This one:
(all those different size boards but still simple and straight...with pictures similar to those as well...)

Or this one:
 (I just love how simple it is.)

My trim guy said he could get that effect with mdf board and I decided it was more clean-lined than the first option so we went with it.

And decided to do big huge frames on either side of the fireplace sort of similar to these:
But colorful and way bigger and probably not quite so many.

Kind of inspired by all these colorful canvases as well.

I wanted to do something different from your average fireplace walls with cabinets and shelves so I scoured the internet for ideas.

This cement bench idea "spoke" to me:
I love how it's just so simple, narrow in the front to let it go straight across...

So I drew up my little plan on a picture I had taken.
...and we got to work.
Whoops, I made that sound like it was all easy-peasy but it wasn't.

Remember all the serious ceiling problems we had back HERE?

I was just glad to have that part done.

Next it was on to making that cement bench idea come to reality.

These guys came to measure and got going on that thing.

We went to their shop (for the first of what seemed like 72 times) to figure out how high we wanted it off the ground, what color, etc.
After we finalized it I kept worrying that it would be too "heavy" looking so I went back and had them bring up the front edge to make it lighter.  

See how it's a little higher in the front?

They made it and were trying to figure out how to smooth out some of that character on the front that was kind of a mistake (but kind of cool too).

And in the midst of that process there was a rainstorm (I think the same one where Dave fell off the roof and all our baseboard got ruined in our house leak).

And that darn rain promptly ruined that bench.

They were sure they could fix it up and refinish it to look how we wanted it.

So they worked their hearts out on it.

 But the first fix-up looked like this:
...and the second one looked like this:
(no character at all)

So they gave up and re-made the darn thing.

As I walked down this little well-known-by-now-alley-way to get to the "shop" to see the newest try, I was so nervous because I just hoped with all my heart that this time it would work.

And guess what?  It did!
I fell in love at first sight with that thing.

I told Jose I wanted to give him a hug (I probably should have) I was just so happy.
(Is Jose not the cutest ever?  If anyone wants anything done in cement let me know because this guy rules.)

So they installed that bench.
Then we painted the walls:

Got ceasar stone to finish off the fireplace:

Added shallow shelves for my big photo idea (above):

And added white cabinets at the bottom:
(they're kind of camouflaged in there, see them?)

And it was all super easy-peasy, no problems at all because it's so easy for me to make decisions.


I do love how it's turning out though.  The cabinets are designed to be a perfect back rest for people sitting on the cement bench for all the wonderful discussions I envision us having in this room.  

And with a little photography color it may end up to look something like this:
(I photoshopped some possible pictures I want to enlarge in there on those shelves...imagine a television in the middle...I know, not the most beautiful accessory but I'm trying to pick my battles wisely :)

I'm trying to figure out if I want to do canvases or just black frames, or a mixture of both.  

Someday it will be done and I think I'm gonna love it. 


  1. Shawni,

    Once upon a time, we got some large canvases (three to be exact) to fill the big wall space above our stairs. I wanted no frames. My hubby wanted black frames. We compromised and got one of them framed in black and left two without. I have to say, it was the exact look that I didn't realize I wanted and turned out fantastic! I'll also put in a plug for Costco canvases. They are very high quality and a great price! HIGHLY recommend!

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  3. My parents have a bench like that around their fireplace, but with wood tile. It's kind of hard to sit on, so they had some custom foam cushions made that are firm enough to sit on their own - not floppy like couch cushions - that they store in a cabinet under the bench. Just something to think about.

    Also, it's neat seeing this come together, but it also drives home how much work it is to design your own house. I'm in awe of your efforts; don't think I could do it!

  4. This is coming out absolutely beautiful!! I can't wait to see it when it's done. What color are you going with for the sofa and chairs?

  5. You have wayyyy more vision than you realize!! B/c piecing together those picture ideas to actually make it happen is SO hard!! It looks AMAZING!!!!

  6. It is gorgeous. i love everything about it.

  7. I love it! I could never build/remodel, I don't have the patience! Can't wait to see everything when it is complete. You do have a great vision!

  8. Shawni, not sure if you have the time to respond... but I'd love to know if you've found any great barstools. I've been on the hunt for I swear a YEAR. Just wondered what you've found that you like... we have a mid-century ranch style home, and I just love your taste!! :) Thanks!!

  9. LOVE LOVE LOVE the fireplace! All of it! What kind of fireplace insert did you go with?

  10. Are you going to have an eating area off the kitchen, or just use bar stools or separate dining room?

  11. Hi Shawni, I love all of your style choices. I love your cabinets: I noticed that they are not inlaid but they have the same type of look. Would you mind sharing your cabinet source or is that too invasive?

  12. Hello Shawni, your house is turning into a master piece! Great choices, great taste. I want to make the following observation. I think you are one special lady, you have so much respect for people. I like how you admire the talent of all those hard working men who are building your house. Trough your photography I can tell that you really see people. You are my favorite blogger ever!

  13. Oh Paola, that was the sweetest ever. Thank you for going out of your way to be so very kind. Made my day. Thanks everyone else fun to feel this thing come together!

  14. Just realized there were questions here too...kms, yes, there is an eating area off the kitchen. Hopefully I'll get to pictures soon. Charla, the cabinet maker is "Joseph Christian Cabinetry" and I think they've done a great job. Patrick's email address is patrickalanfunk at gmail dot com.

    Jill, we are still trying to figure out the other colors! Trying to get some good color in there with throw pillows and accent pieces. The couch will be navy or gray. Rodriguez crew, I think I'm getting barstools from Crate and Barrel (the "felix" walnut ones). Kathy, I can't remember what the fireplace insert is! It's just the longest one we could find for the best price, if that helps at all! :)

  15. I have always kind of veered away from a more contemporary look because it didn't feel so homey to me, but I may have to rethink. I totally love what you are doing with your home and can't wait to see it all decorated. Well done on putting your vision to life!

  16. Nothing beats the warmth and ambiance of a crackling fireplace. If you are looking at purchasing or upgrading a fireplace, wood stove or fireplace insert or any hearth appliance there are lots of choices important element of the fireplace.