My Accidental Valentine’s Day Mantle

I don’t usually decorate for Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s my post-Christmas need for simplification. Maybe it’s my busy schedule. Most likely it’s laziness. Whatever the reason, this year is different. This year I accidentally created this Valentine’s Day Mantle.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

It started with these arrows my mom sent me for Christmas. I LOVE them and knew immediately I wanted the metallic finish on my “weathered” wood mantle backdrop. (See how I built it HERE.)My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

Then I started searching the house for anything else metallic. I found this sparkly vase (an upcycled glass tea bottle covered with glitter) filled with pink tissue paper flowers from my sister-in-law’s wedding. I raised it up using a couple books wrapped in plain brown paper and a touch of washi tape.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

Next, one more splash of gold thanks to another Christmas gift.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

How adorable is that piece?! My sister-in-law made it based on this photo of my girls. I can’t get over what she can create with a needle and embroidery floss.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

This was the point where I stepped back to take a look and realized I had a Valentine’s Day vibe going on. So I decided to roll with it. A couple more pink flowers, hearts cut out of patterened scrapbook paper, and some candles finished it up.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

I didn’t mean to do it, but I really love how it looks when I walk in the front door every day. Can’t ask for more than that.

Have you ever “accidentally” decorated something? Or started a project that ends up completely different than you planned?

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My Fall Mantle 2014

I didn’t think I would ever get in the groove but Fall decorating is finally happening at our house!

The name of the game this year is simple and cheap (a recurring theme around here) and the most obvious place to start was the new fireplace.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

I’m proud to report I only spent $6 on this year’s mantle. Everything you see except the cornstalks was in my prop closet (aka the basement bedroom I took over for storing all my pretties). And if I were a patient woman I could have gotten the corn for free from a local farmer but obviously I’m not. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So first let’s talk about my inspiration. Check out this perfectly simple Pallet Wall Art from Allison over at The Golden Sycamore.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

I fell in love with it the minute I pinned it and knew I wanted to recreate the same clean, modern-rustic feel for my mantle. I already had the DIY wood backdrop so it was time to start layering some Fall on top of it.

Hanging wall vases and corn stalks. (The vases were a gift from my cousin but the labels say Home Interiors if you’re looking for a set.)

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

A wreath that’s survived years and years of use and a yellow garland for one more pop of color against the dark wood.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

And letters printed and cut out of cream colored scrapbooking paper.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

That’s it. Super simple. Super cheap. My kind of project.

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

My Fall Mantle 2014 | laughingabi.com

Are you decorating for Fall? I feel like I’m the last one to start but the good news is I’m really on a roll now. I have a new Fall chalkboard and an updated bookshelf to share next week. And maybe some window boxes too. Until then I’m raising my Pumpkin Spice Latte to you  – cheers!

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

I’m so excited to share our (almost) finished fireplace with you. We built a super slim-lined mantel and I even got it decorated for spring. Last you saw the space we had installed the tile and it looked like this.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

We considered a lot of different mantel designs and had a lot of colorful discussions about it. Our biggest challenge was actually the surround. If you look at how our fireplace is situated between two windows you’ll notice there isn’t much space for a surround at all, let alone something big or grand. At the same time we both felt like it needed some kind of frame to add depth and dimension. In the end we decided on what we’re calling a wrap-around-mantel. This Pinterest pic was our inspiration. Simple, clean lines, and a little unexpected.

We started with cedar 2x4s, cut them to length, mitered the corners, and used a nail gun to put them together. (Using a Kreg Jig would probably make these joints stronger but we don’t have one yet.) These three pieces formed the wrap-around part.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Next we cut a 1×6 approximately 4″ longer than the top 2×4. We centered it on our new wrap-around so it formed the shelf part of the mantel. Here’s a shot of all the pieces propped in place before we added any trim or paint.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Once we were happy with the basic shape and size we painted everything and started the actual assembly. I chose a deep brown color because I liked the contrast between the stone tiles and the wall color. Here’s Josh (or at least his feet) putting it all together.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Then it was time to hang it on the wall. I want to point out that using super simple materials didn’t make our uneven, unlevel walls any less of a pain to work with. We struggled and struggled to get all these pieces flat against the wall but it just wasn’t happening. It was like a jigsaw puzzle with only three pieces that we still couldn’t put together right.

We used these hanging brackets and after a lot of cussing and adjusting, our new mantle frame was up.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

We added some decorative trim to spiff things up a bit. I would like to add more but Josh disagrees. We’ll see.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

If you noticed the unfinished seams and nail holes you know there’s a list of details I still need to tackle. Looks a little sumthin’ like this:
1. Caulk seams/holes
2. Touch up paint
3. Paint and reattach baseboards on each side
4. Seal tile
5. Decide what to do about gaps between tile and surround

Did you notice #5 on that list? Turns out we didn’t get our edges so straight when we were laying the tile and once the surround/mantel went up we found this.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Gaps! I’m not completely sure what I’m going to do about it but I’m thinking grout like I used here. Any other suggestions or ideas would be welcome. Until then I’ll share some more mantel pics.

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.com

Our DIY Fireplace Mantel | laughingabi.comIt’s so nice to walk in the door and not see this anymore.

fireplace before 1

What indoor updates are you finishing up before the outdoor season is officially here? Or are you already outside digging in the dirt? I’m so jealous.

How We Got Our Tile On

Or for the serious DIYer: How To Tile Your Fireplace

It’s finally time to tile the fireplace! Truthfully we finished it over the weekend but I’m just posting it today because that’s the fastest blog pace I can keep around here. (How do other DIY bloggers post a new project every day?!) Enough about how slow I am. Let’s talk tile.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

We started on the floor with four travertine tiles. You might remember seeing them in this “prep” photo last week.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

We installed them as soon as the cement board was in place so they could be grouted and dry before we started working on wall tile since we would be stepping all over them. The process was pretty straight-forward.

I laid the tiles out in the order and direction I wanted them. Then Josh measured and cut them to size using a wet saw we borrowed from a friend.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

Next I laid down a line of painter’s tape along the carpet to protect it from any thin-set messiness.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

Oh, and see that piece with weird shapes at the top of the last photo? (Are those parallelograms?) That’s the light colored version of the edging we used on the face of the firebox HERE. It’s called a Schluter Systems Reno-TK Reducer (aka floor-trim-thingy) and this time we used it on the floor like you’re supposed to. Josh cut it to length with a hacksaw then I just squished it down into the thinset before I put the tile down.

Speaking of thinset, we used THIS based on a recommendation from the friendly folks at Lowe’s. It’s pre-mixed, ready to use, and super easy.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

After the edging, tiles, and spacers were down we let it dry for 24 hours.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

Then we grouted using this in a bone color and let that dry 24 hours.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.comThen, finally, it was time to start working on the wall!

We started at the bottom because any time you’re tiling a vertical surface you have to think about gravity first. Your bottom row needs something to sit on so it doesn’t slide down into a pile on the floor.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

You can see we used a sheet of plastic to protect our newly-installed travertine and some cheap wooden shims to create a small gap between the floor and wall tile. I have no logic or point of reference to explain why we added that gap. I just felt like we should. Sometimes that’s the only reason I have.

One of the advantages of this particular stone tile is there are no grout lines and no spacers. So installation really was as simple as smearing some thin-set on the wall (the same stuff we used for the floor), raking through it with a notched trowel, and squishing the tile into place. Josh did the cutting, again with a wet saw, and I did the sticking. After the bottom section was done we tackled the left side.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

See those shims sticking out? Every few tiles I would check for level and if things looked off I used a shim to fill the space and get us back on track. Yes, it created some gaps but I’ll get to that later.

Next was the right side and a custom-built piece for the top section.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

So what the heck is it? Remember before when I said you have to think about gravity first? Well that weird looking “table” is what we used to keep our top section of tile from falling to the floor. Worked a little something like this.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

I will confess that we didn’t put enough support in the middle of the “table” so if you look really, really closely at our finished tile job you’ll see we’re a tiny bit saggy in the middle. Such is the imperfect DIY life.

I want to take a minute to point out how quickly and easily the actual tile installation went. More importantly, to point out the immense importance of good prep work. If we hadn’t spent all that time shimming the cement board, making the overhang even, etc., this whole thing would have been a slow, frustrating disaster. As much as I hate it, prep work makes all the difference in the world. Don’t skimp or rush. It’s just not worth it in the end. Now back to the fireplace.

Remember those gaps I told you I would revisit? Here’s a shot of one.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

All I did was fill those spaces with some grout left over from the floor tile and they were practically invisible. (I can’t take credit for the idea. A friend of mine recently used a similar stone on her fireplace and told me how she filled the spaces. Thanks Nicole.)

Since the stone was so uneven and rough I decided to tape off the area first to minimize the mess.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.comThen a shot of grout from my caulk gun which I smoothed out with my finger.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

Lastly, remove the tape and clean up the edges with a sponge. Can you find it?

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

I probably filled a dozen spaces this way. Most of them were smaller than the one I shared but still too big to look natural.

Guess what? It’s done! Well, the tiling is done. Now we’re working on a mantle. Can’t wait to share it next week. Until then, here’s a few more photos of the finished tile.

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

How To Tile Your Fireplace | laughingabi.com

So excited to have that done. Are you finishing up any big projects? Or are you getting ready to start something new for Spring?

Fireplace Redo: Decisions and Demo

It’s finally time.

For seven years our fireplace has looked like this.

Fireplace Redo: Decisions and Demo | laughingabi.com

I know, I know. It’s not horrible – just a handful of missing tiles. But seven years? Come on!

So this year, in honor of the F-Word, we’re getting on this project.

Part of the reason it’s taken so long is we couldn’t decide what we wanted to do. Should we just replace the missing tiles? Tear out all the tile and put up something new? Tear out the whole thing and start from scratch?

Slowly (very, very slowly) we’ve been gathering ideas and have finally narrowed it down to something like this or this or this or this. I know that doesn’t seem like it’s narrowed down but if you click through the links you’ll see they’re all pretty similar.

But before we can think about any of that pretty stuff . . . . DEMO!

Fireplace Redo: Decisions and Demo | laughingabi.com

Fireplace Redo: Decisions and Demo | laughingabi.com

Today all the tile came off. Most of it popped off with a couple whacks of the hammer/crowbar combo. There were a few stubborn pieces but I probably only spent 45 minutes total on it.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to start tearing out the hearth and maybe even the trim and mantle. We’ll see how the day goes.

Have you ever put off a project for years because you couldn’t decide what you wanted to do? Did you finally conquer it? How long did it take?

Last minute Thanksgiving decoarations

I don’t know if you’re aware but Thanksgiving is only EIGHT DAYS AWAY. This time next week people will be arriving at your house. Putting their feet on your furniture. Their heads on your pillows. Their bums on your toilets. It’s crunch time and while I’m no meal-planning or entertaining expert, I can offer some simple, last minute decorating ideas.

last minute Thanksgiving decorations

Continue reading

Chevron Halloween Mantle

I decided the Halloween mantle would be perfect for my first DIY chevron stripe. If it sucked I could just call it “spooky”. Here’s how it turned out. Totally not sucking, btw.

Chevron Halloween Mantle | laughingabi.com

Chevron Halloween Mantle | laughingabi.com

Chevron Halloween Mantle | laughingabi.com

Chevron Halloween Mantle | laughingabi.com

Chevron Halloween Mantle | laughingabi.com

As always, I did it on the cheap. Here’s a quick run down of my “sources”.

1. Large frame: this frame is actually part of a print that hangs over our fireplace year-round. I simply painted my chevron stripes on a roll of craft paper, trimmed it to fit, and stuck it on with non-permanent scrapbook adhesive.
COST: FREE

Chevron Halloween Mantle | laughingabi.com

2. Small frame: I shopped the little frame from another room in the house. The “31” is printed on more craft paper and stuck on with more scrapbook adhesive.
COST: FREE

3. Candles: I already had these little votives and the holder. I picked them up at a garage sale a few years ago.
COST: FREE

4. Birds and pumpkin: Dollar Store (Paint and embellishments from my craft stash.)
COST: $3

5. Branches: my backyard
COST: FREE

6. Spider & embroidery floss: craft stash
COST: FREE

7. Brown jar: barn sale, purchased specifically for this project.
COST: $1

8. Wood stump: This is actually a votive holder that I turned upside-down.
COST: FREE

My total cost was only $4. And I totally rocked the chevron. Happy-happy, joy-joy.