Photo Pool Challenge: Replacing a Mantel


    It’s not House Beautiful yet, but here’s our new salvage living room mantel. The mantel it replaced, below, did not appear to be original to the house. We found this slate mantel, which is much more like the other mantels in the house, at Build It Green for only $250. We sold the wood mantel to an architect who needed it for a project for $800, and we paid a mason $1,000 to remove the old one and install the new one. The room looks better, feels calmer, and seems more itself.

    This is the mantel that came with the house. It’s transitional Queen Anne-Renaissance Revival-Arts and Crafts style and could date from the 1890s to the 1910s. One clue that it is not original to the house is that it’s made in pieces and is adjustable. Also, the proportions don’t work with the room. Nor does the wood match. (It is probably mahogany.) Incidentally, the tile is not real squares, either, but three large rectangular pieces scored to look like individual tiles. Pretty funny to think there was a mantel replacement market back in 1900 or so, so people could upgrade their houses with the latest thing.


    Here’s the parlor mantel in the third floor rental. Our original parlor mantel almost certainly was the same. (The rear rooms on the second and third floors have identical mantels.) This one has been painted over, so we have no idea what the original colors were, although we can guess at the decorations based on the incised lines. We should excavate a slice with a razor to find out.


    Here’s the old mantel out and the new mantel going in.

    The replacement replacement mantel with primer over the plaster. We would have loved to have fixed the chimney so we could have a real fire in this fireplace, but all the flues are being used by our boiler.


    Here’s a detail of the new mantel, with the center painted off black. The original faux painting and incised lines show butterflies and stalks of wheat — very Aesthetic Movement. The colors are very typical late Victorian. Unfortunately, the designs were installed upside down. Oh well.

    Here’s another mantel that’s original to the house. This is on the same floor as the one we replaced, in the rear of the house. As you can see, it’s in much better condition than the salvage mantel. Installing a mantel is a relatively easy and inexpensive project. Has anyone else here done it or is considering it? Please post photos and stories here.


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