The Most Beautiful Piece of Artwork Ever!

After much waiting… (okay, only a very little amount of waiting)… the new art work for the mantle has arrived (sound the trumpets!).  I saw the huge box sitting outside my front door while pulling into the driveway from an IKEA run and ran, ran, ran to the door to finagle the box into the house.  I am a short woman (5’2″) and the box was my height but I am also a determined woman so I wrested it inside and took a pair of scissors to the box to reveal the MOST PERFECT PIECE OF ARTWORK EVER!!!  Alright, so that’s obviously my opinion as artwork is entirely subjective, but to me, it’s perfect and I know that at least 5 out of 10 of you will agree. 🙂

So, as I said in my last post, I wanted to liven up my mantle because the gold-ish mirror that I had leaned up against the white brick was not cutting it.  It was too small and too monochromatic.  Here is the before:

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And here is the after, with the most perfect piece of artwork E-VAH!:

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The gold and silver trees are seasonal and when the weather warms up, they will go into hiding and I will put something else in their places.  Since it is currently butt-cold outside, I think they are appropriate for now.

 

After looking at the artwork, I couldn’t decide whether to lean the canvas horizontally or vertically, so I tried both ways:

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After trying both ways, I think I like the horizontal layout better but it’s funny, I didn’t know that until I took photos of the mantle.  If I can’t decide on what I want or like, I like to take a picture of the space because I can then see the “scene” in a new, more objective way.  I also really like that the canvas looks great horizontally or vertically; that way if I change my mind on how to lay it out, it will still look great.

 

Dressing a Mantle

After taking down all my Christmas mantle gear, I realized that my mantle was naked!  This was all I had left (I kept the Christmas tree because I thought it could pass for winter and not Christmas… maybe…maybe not).

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My mantel needed some love so I headed over to my favorite store for home decorating, Tar-jay!  Yes, that’s right, Target is always my first stop for decorations.  Not furniture (because the quality is not so good), but knick knacks, tchotchkes, you know what I mean.  So, I loaded up my cart with whatever I thought might look good then I headed over to Home Goods and did the same.  I did this HGTV decorators style meaning that I bought way too much knowing that I could just return what I didn’t need.  Here is what I came home with:

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My dog, Bandit, in case it isn’t clear, is posing for the camera and is not a decoration!  As you can see, I wanted to stick with a fairly neutral color palette with blue being my one accent color.  I know you can’t see the framed picture in the background because of the glare, but no worries, it didn’t work at all anyway.  So, I moved things around on the mantle according to a great template that I found on Pinterest that came off this site:

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Here are my various combinations:

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I knew that the visual weight (#3 in the above diagram) had to be on the left because my fireplace is slanted and there is more wall space on that side; however, this combination is no good because the artwork is not big enough.  When I went to Home Goods this time around, there was nothing to choose from so I grabbed what I thought might work knowing that it probably wouldn’t but you never know, right?  NEXT!

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So, for this one, I switched out the artwork for my existing mirror and also switched out the light blue vase for the emerald one.  Emerald is the “IT” color this season, but I wasn’t feeling “IT.”  It was too bold for me and the shape was too traditional.  NEXT!

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This one is better but I didn’t like the white candles up front because it felt too busy so… NEXT!

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This one is too sparse and there’s not enough layering and dimension.  My mantle is on the narrow side so it’s hard to layer but this version was definitely out.  NEXT!

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Okay, so here’s the keeper for now…  This feels visually symmetrical on both sides and not too busy or too sparse.  I would like to change out the mirror for some art work eventually but I’m not in a hurry to get that.  Also, I ordered a couple wood like sculptures from Joss and Main that I will use to replace the gold Christmas tree to give the mantle some “movement” (#2 on the above diagram).  They look like:

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I think that they play well with the color of the mantle and they also darken things up a bit and will also add some heft (they’re pretty tall, although one is about 10″ taller than the other).  Is anyone else working on decorating a mantle?  Where do you go to shop for mantle decorations and art work?

Making a Mantle

So after a long hiatus, I finally have a chance to post some of the living room projects that I’ve completed.  The mantle was the one that I liked doing the most.  After painting 24/7, it’s fun to do something different (even if it still involves a paint brush).  I wanted a custom mantle for our newly painted fireplace but didn’t want to shell out the cash since I knew it would be expensive, so I headed over to my local building reclamation shop to see if I could find some inspiration.  I like to go to Community Forklift (www.communityforklift.com) in Edmonston, MD because it’s a huge warehouse chock full of recycled building materials.  There are thousands of doors, cabinets from full kitchens, tons of wood, antique elements, and many other finds.  What I was most interested in were slabs of wood since I knew I could fashion a mantle out of an interesting piece of wood.  So I found this beauty and like the nerd I am I was in love with it as soon as I saw it:

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I like this piece because it was the right length and I loved the highly grained quality of the wood.  I wanted to highlight the grain and not hide it with two much “product” so I tried stain and also lacquer on a a sample piece with the following results:

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The top (the tip of the wood) is a dark wood stain and the bottom is a clear lacquer.  I really liked the lacquer because I wanted something glossy that allowed the grain of the wood to pop and lacquer fit the bill perfectly.  I didn’t know that much about lacquer before I used it, so I don’t want to say that it was a crapshoot whether it would turn out the way I wanted, but it was :).  I painted about 8 coats of lacquer using a soft wide brush and allowed the coats to dry for at least 3 hours in between coats.  I wanted the piece to be GLOSSY and look wet so I just kept painting until I achieved that result.  But after all that painting I found that the bad thing about lacquer is that it REALLY smells, like the kind of smell that stays in your nose with you all day so use a fan to blow the fumes away from you and don’t paint in an enclosed area unless you like a major paint high and/or a killer headache!

So after three days of painting and then cutting it down to size, *ta da* the mantle now looks like this:

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The underside:

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Not to be too designer-geeky but, I liked keeping the mantle looking rustic against the modern white brick of the fireplace to add some textural interest giving the two elements a nice juxtaposition.   I kept the bark on the mantle to give it even more texture and it also made the mantle look more organic since the bark kind of curves a little making the mantle bow in the middle.  The  mantle also ties into the beams on the ceiling nicely.  This is definitely a project I recommend doing since it was cheap (it was $100 total to include the slab of wood, the lacquer, and the material to hold up the mantle) and it looks great!