Monday, December 31, 2012

pull yourself together.

Our mantle has needed some love. For a long time. In a big bad way. Case in point? This is how she looked on move-in day, June 2009.

In other words...she didn't yet exist. As I mentioned here, for those first few months, I toyed with the idea of having J.J.'s brother, a carpenter, build us a bookshelf-mantle that would flank the fireplace and hearth. After we realized how little flexibility that would leave us in terms of furniture arrangement (slash, how difficult, expensive, and time-intensive that would be to design and build), we went with a mantle kit - I think from Home Depot - that J.J. and his brother stained, assembled and installed. 

Et voila! A mantle, complete with a wintry Andy Goldsworthy framed poster and a jumbly collection of teeny-tiny picture frames and candles. Hey...at least the mantle existed now. The cool thing was how it made the fireplace look so much bigger, not to mention complete.

Our 2010 wedding provided us with some new mantle fodder - namely, pretty silver candlesticks (the Arden set from Crate & Barrel - a wedding present from my friend !Rachel), wedding photos to frame, and that cute box on the hearth. My mother-in-law painted it blue and added silver hardware, and we used it at our wedding for collecting cards. Nowadays I use it as a pop of color...and to store fabric scraps. It's also probably my 20-month-old niece's favorite thing to play with at my house. Oh, and I switched out the Goldsworthy poster for a Picasso drawing ("Don Quixote"). It doesn't have any special meaning...I just love it. It's simple but striking.

As for the fireplace doors, last winter, in a fit of random house updating, I decided to replace them. In all honesty, it was January and freezing cold, and I was hoping to install a gas insert in the fireplace (which already has a gas line inside). I had to measure the fireplace opening in order to choose a gas insert - which is how I discovered how easy it was to remove the doors, and how much cold air was seeping in around them. The fireproof insulation was worn away, and the gold face was dated and ill-fitting. Sounded like shopping time to me! I perused the options online and wavered between black and oil-rubbed bronze. ORB doors were so purrrty, but I decided on black for a more timeless, universally appealing look. Also? Almost all the other hardware in the house is silver/stainless steel (or gold, if we've been too lazy to update it), so it would be pretty random to have bronze fireplace doors. Pretty, yes. But also random. Plus, the hearth tiles are black. I think I usually resist black for some reason, but in this case, it was the right choice.

So black it was, and the gold doors hopped off to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I love the new doors - they're much more modern, they open smoothly (unlike the "curtains" in the old face), and we took care to install the new fireproof insulation pieces so there wouldn't be quite as much cold air creeping in. The gas insert? Still hasn't happened. It's costly, plus we have to have a plumber do a tricky installation, and...well, it's on the back burner. (Fireplace...burner...no pun intended. Or achieved, really.)

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. My sister-in-law recently decorated the mantle in her new home, and that inspired me to create a more purposely-pulled-together look for ours. Despite my usual resistance to black, I liked the black and white we had going on with the hearth tiles, the fireplace doors, and the Picasso drawing. I also have some black frames on the wall kitty-corner to the fireplace and thought it might work out to continue that trend:

Between Christmas and, um, you know, a certain recent expensive kitchen renovation, I didn't want to spend much money on styling the mantle. I decided to keep the Picasso drawing and the candlesticks, along with two small lanterns I already had. Off to Ikea, where I managed to find a large black frame (can't remember the name, but I think it was $14.99), two 99-cent Ribba frames, and a large Borrby lantern (for $14.99). I also scrounged up a small, secondhand, white Ikea picture frame to break up all the black frame-age. It's hiding there in the lower right-hand corner of the Picasso drawing.

In the frames, from left to right: a picture of our hand-holding shadows from our second anniversary; us on a yacht at my best friend's wedding; my family at my parents' 35th wedding anniversary (that one is hard to see - it's in the tiny white frame that's being consumed by garland); and one of our engagement photos. 

Of course, I don't always have a Christmas-light garland wound around the mantle items, or stockings hung by the chimney with care, or red candles glowing in the lanterns, but, hey - it's Christmastime! (...ish.) Oh, the two smaller lanterns are from Target. So are the snowflake stocking holders. 

So that's the mantle! It's not very kid-friendly, what with the glass-doored lanterns chillin' on the hearth, but...well, file under Perks of Not Having Kids. I'm actually kind of excited to see what it'll look like without the Christmas decorations. (Dork.) Buuut I do need to add some gratuitous Christmas tree shots here, since it's coming down this week and I'll miss it:

She's a bit...curvy.

Han Solo guards the tree.

And (just for kicks) a shot of the snowy back yard, which is on my to-update list for next spring, summer, and fall. We added a shed in fall of 2011, and this past fall, a nice neighborhood group removed all the invasive buckthorn between us and the park. Which means...this past fall, a nice neighborhood group removed the visual and physical barrier between us and the park. Bummer.

We're not uber-touchy about interlopers, but now there's literally nothing that lets park dwellers know where the park ends and our back yard begins. We'll probably add a fence, and I have dreams of creating a wildflower garden in the shady area behind the shed. Time will tell...but meanwhile, I'll be cuddled up with my space heater and enjoying the cozy view inside.

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