When the wood of your salvage-yard fireplace mantel or the one that is already in your home is damaged or has been painted and repainted, forgo the stripping and wood staining and choose a painted mantel of your own design. Whatever you decide, the choice of color will influence selections for the furniture and the walls surrounding the mantel.
White on White
A white mantel against a white wall is a clean and stunning look and particularly suits an elaborate, curlicued and carved mantel. The natural shadows of light falling on the piece will highlight its design and anything placed on the mantel shelf becomes a piece of art on a pedestal. Painting the mantel with the exact same paint as the wall is one option. Tinting a white paint slightly, to pick up the color of another focal point in the room, keeps the look elegant and contemporary without it being stark. And setting off the white mantel with an inside border of handpainted tiles complements a traditional as well as a contemporary decor. For a really personal touch, paint the tiles yourself and fire them at a local craft studio or "print" them with your child's handprint and fire. Date the handprints for a permanent record of the family who lived in the house and a delightful reminder of evenings spent reading aloud to small children in front of the fire.
Faux marble is a perfect choice for a mantel paint job because it is so traditional. A marble fireplace and mantel will give your room an air of refinement and quiet wealth---even if the marble is really clever paint, applied with sponges and a feather. To fake marble, paint the mantel a light color. Then choose a darker color---it might have a rose, gray or golden base to mimic real marble. Mix the darker color with four parts glaze to thin it and sponge unevenly over the base color. Use a real sponge for this because it is not symmetrical and will make the faux paint job look more natural. Use a feather (you can buy these at a good paint supply or hobby craft shop) dipped in the darker shade of paint to trace wavy lines across the paint, simulating the veins in real marble.
Dark and Dramatic---or a Dash of Color
Paint your mantel a high-gloss black---almost a patent leather look---for a theatrical focal point. The black contrasts perfectly with plain white walls, appears elegant next to ecru or linen-colored walls, holds its own in a room of vivid color, especially when paired with a fake zebra or cowhide area rug, and covers a multitude of sins if the mantel is old and damaged or already covered in layers of paint. Alternatively, choose a dark or bright color to echo a trim, a favorite piece of furniture or the pattern in a rug. A burgundy mantel in a pale peach room could be beautiful when set off by gold candlesticks. A shiny blue mantel in a cream-yellow room pulls the eye toward the fireplace and the folk art or the painted canvas hanging above it.
- Photo Credit Fireplace image by Mistik from Fotolia.com
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