Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Anatomy of a Fireplace

or how Nita's house got her Fireplace Groove back.

First project in my home...was fixing the cracks in the plaster in the living room. My Mom did this. She did a great job. She'd never plastered before...and she was amazing. But then she can always do whatever she sets her mind to. 

Second project in my house...was designing and building a fireplace.

As I stated in a previous post, someone had removed the fireplace from my home ages and ages ago. I talked to people who'd been in the home within the last 15 years and they said there was no fireplace then. The next door neighbor was a man of 75 who'd lived here since the 70's and he had been in the home many times and said there was no fireplace.

But you could plainly see where a fireplace had once been.

The fireplace had been where the TV cabinet was in the Realtor photos. This is how my home appeared the day I bought it.

When I first got the house I knew I had to have a fireplace put back in. I figured I'd find a vintage mantel I liked and use that or I'd find something new that would mix well. But my Mom had a whole other idea.

You see, almost all the houses in my neighborhood have art tile fireplaces. These fireplaces were very common in the late teens, 20's and 30's. They are most often associated with Bungalows but they are also very common in tudor revivals and storybook houses.

Each of the homes I considered before finding my house had art tile fireplaces and I had my heart set on one. It was really unbelievable that mine had been taken out.

This fireplace was in one of the houses I considered buying.

Arts & Crafts fireplaces are often seen in Bungalows but they usually have bookcases on either side when in a Bungalow whereas in a Storybook or Tudor Revival...they are stand alone....although sometimes you'll see one with bookcases on either side. Such as this one below...

and here's another stand alone....

There were many tile manufacturers in the 20's and 30's. Most of them existing in California. Many of these tile manufacturers had showrooms in prominent cities across the U.S. and sold tile across the U.S. A few of these tile companies remained in production into the 40's but most went out of business during the depression of the 30's. Some of these manufacturers were ...Claycraft, Malibu, Grueby and Batchelder.

These are some books that have been invaluable to me to learn about the history of art tile. These books show many examples...
You can find this great  two book set all about California Art Tile on Amazon.

These books tell about all the big art tile manufacturers and show lots of examples.

So my Mom decided I needed a tile fireplace. Therefore, I started searching for tile. We looked all over town at new tile sources...nothing was right. I started searching on Ebay and within a few weeks, I scored a 6"x6" Batchelder tile from the late twenties - early thirties. This tile was pristine and sold as an art piece but I told the seller that I was actually going to use it for it's original intent...that it would be the center piece of my new fireplace. At first he was upset that a pristine tile would be used as such, but then he decided that since the tile was originally intended for that purpose and I was putting it in a historic home, he approved and offered me some smaller decorative tiles....also Batchelder.

The center tile was $300 and the smaller tiles were $45 each, so it wasn't cheap and it took me months to save the money to buy all the tiles I needed. I ended up buying 18 of the smaller tiles.

While researching Batchelder tile, I soon learned that he was a big name in tile back when my 1931 house was brand new. And therefore totally appropriate to the age of my home.

There is a book all about Batchelder...

also on Amazon.com

I did searches for Batchelder tile on the internet and soon found a website that actually sells copies of old tile catalogs. Another site had scans of pages from an old Batchelder catalog with the plans of how to build them.

Here are the pages from the original catalog that inspired my fireplace.


Here's a link to the site where I found these pages. There you'll find many more examples of the designs of the old batchelder fireplaces. TileNut.com

Many of the Batchelder tile fireplaces had the actual top mantel part built out of tile too...but all tile fireplaces I was finding in Oklahoma City had wooden ones. My Mom and I went from Open House to Open House on Sundays in the Historic neighborhoods doing research on how the fireplace should look.

A friend recommended a tile rep who'd helped her with her vintage kitchen tile. We contacted her and she helped us find field tile to go with the vintage Batchelder tile. Originally, I was going to do a very neutral field tile. But then I found this teal/aqua/green colored handmade field tile and it just went so well with the Batchelder tile...that I went with that.

The side serpentine column tiles were a closeout at the tile store. Our rep said no one could really come up with a use for them, so they were discontinuing them. They were perfect for my application and although they were a closeout...they were not discounted...bummer. Handmade tile is very expensive.

So with all my ingredients picked out....I did a quicky drawing on the computer to figure out how many tiles I would need and how I wanted the fireplace to look exactly.

The only snafu in the planning...I could not find stone or tile corbels. So I had to buy wooden ones that I would faux paint to match the columns.

And here are photos of the final fireplace....



 One of the faux painted wood corbels

Detail of the wood mantel with it's finish 
I did several stain colors with a little white paint on top highlighting the decorative details. I sanded between every coat of varnish with steal wool. My Mom says it feels to the touch like a store bought piece of furniture because the finish is so smooth. And my Mom is the pickiest when it comes to the feeling of a furniture finish. So that was a real compliment.


Now after all that...it is not a working fireplace. 

In the twenties and thirties it was considered modern and affluent to not have a wood burning fireplace but to have a gas heater in it instead. Of course my gas heater was long gone. Many of the homeowners in my neighborhood put candles in their's or ventless gas logs.

The funny thing was, everyone at work knew all about my fireplace creation...they kept asking when it would be done. One friend of mine just could not believe I was putting all this work into a faux fireplace. A fireplace that would never ever have a fire in it. I would just laugh and say...I only want it to have candles in it.

So...shortly after it was completely finished...we had a huge ice storm and I lost power at my house. I came in to work the next day complaining that me and the dogs had been soooo cold and weren't looking forward to being cold the next night. And my friend who had been teasing me all along about this whole fireplace project....said, "Oh, it's a good thing you built that fireplace and can have a fire. Oh...wait a minute...it's a FAUX fireplace...looks like you'll be cold. Too bad you didn't build a REAL fireplace that burned wood and could keep you warm".

Of course we laughed about that.

If you are lucky and your home has an original arts and crafts fireplace in it...it adds about $20,000 to the value of the home. The cost of creating this one was about $7,500.

Now, I go visiting my neighbors and love to look at their fireplaces but I always return home and think mine is the prettiest. I'll even catch myself thinking how lucky I am that I have such a beautiful original tile fireplace in my home. I totally forget sometimes that I designed and built it. It's only been completed about three years. Give myself another three years and I probably will totally forget that I made it.

Last thing. At the time that I completed this fireplace I was the editor of the neighborhood newsletter. I wrote an article about vintage arts and crafts tile and how I created my fireplace and included a few photos. After the issue came out. I received a letter and photos from a woman whose daughter had lived in my neighborhood at the time of the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. Her name is Sally Ferrell and she wrote me telling me how much she'd enjoyed my article in the newsletter and she wanted to send me photos of her daughter's fireplace and tell me about her. Her daughter, Susan, had been killed in the bombing but she had loved her home and her fireplace and she wanted to share the photos of it. She and her husband do not live in Oklahoma City. But they have kept the home and stay there when in town. I don't think she will mind if I share photos of her daughter's beautiful fireplace. I want to share them...because I think about her often. I think of how excited I was to be in this house and to have this home and how Susan felt the same and had her life taken away in such a horrific senseless manner. I think of her every time I drive or walk by her house. I know I would have liked her. She had a lavender living room....and I know anyone who had a lavender living room would have been my friend. So I wanted to share photos of the fireplace she loved...so others can appreciate something she loved and she isn't forgotten.

It really is a spectacular one...with the original gas stove in place. Her mother, Sally and I had talked about doing a book on fireplaces...I don't know that I will ever get that done...but I wanted to share her fireplace. I know both Sally and Susan would approve.

Now, I'd like to share a little fireplace fashion created by a very talented blogger.

Go over to The Lettered Cottage to see Layla's fireplace makeover...
Click here to go directly to her fireplace redo post....

This is the before...wait till you see the after!

and here's another fireplace makeover I've admired

again this is the before...go to The Old Painted Cottage to see the after

join the others sharing at Funky Junk Interiors for Saturday Nite Special

linking up with all the others over at Miss Mustard Seed's

I don't have a hubby, so of course I made it without one. I'm linking up


Lamp Tramp said...

OMGoodness! This post is amazing and so informative. I love that you stayed true to the Craftsmen style. Your fireplace turned out so beautiful! I love the colors and the lovely wood faux painted corbels! Just amazing!!!!

Nita Stacy said...

I'm so glad you stopped by to read it. I've really enjoyed many of your posts on your blog. Thanks for taking the time to come by. I'm just getting started at this blog thing and so far it's been very fun.


Lettered Cottage said...

Oh my goodness- you're fireplace is to die for!!!! I am in love!!!

Layla :-)

Nita Stacy said...

Thanks so much... It was a labor of love. I wanted this house to have back in it a fireplace similar to what it originally would have had. Thanks for coming by to check it out.


Funky Junk Interiors said...

Stunning! The colours, the lesson, everything. Truly much more than a fireplace; I say a work of art. :)

Thanks for linking up to SNS!
FJ Donna

Unknown said...

What a beautiful post and of course a beautiful fireplace. Thanks for sharing I learned a lot!

Old Time Cindy said...

That is totally amazing!
Cindy at Lakewood

Treasia Stepp said...

Simply stunning! It's gorgeous. I also love the mirror that is placed above it as well.

Shannon said...

oh wow, this is amazing. Fabulous job! It looks like it was a large project.

Unknown said...

FABULOUS!! Love the colors of it. It is just so beautiful. Great job!

Nancy @ Live love laugh said...

Your fireplace is just beautiful and the story on how you created it is great. It was very sweet for you to include Sally's daughter's story, as well.

Unknown said...

What a beautiful labor of love. And a spectacular job. Your post was uniquely interesting. I love old homes and their history and can't wait to read more about your home.

Meadowsweet Cottage said...

Your fireplace is amazing! Susan's fireplace story brought me to tears and reminded me to enjoy life to the max.

Miss Mustard Seed said...

What a beautiful fire place! And I love the glam mirror and chandelier paired with it. It takes a style that's very heavy and masculine and gives it that girly touch.

Allison Shops said...

What a great post. You need to start on the FP book! I'm glad the mom contacted you about her daughter's FP. It is lovely.

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

I still can't believe this fireplace isn't original to the house. You did a brilliant job recreating one. Bravo! I wish more fireplaces were this beautifully and creatively built these days.

I was also really moved by Susan's story and her fireplace. I love that her mother reached out to you and shared that story!

~ ~ Ahrisha ~ ~ said...

Your redo of the fireplace is amazing. All the research you did certainly paid off. Stunning! I love the colors you choose, lovely design.
~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

BungalowBILL.com said...

Great job at mixing a few old accent pieces in with new to create something that is completely yours. That's something I tell my clients all the time. Your fireplace is beautiful.

There is also a 4 volume set of books called the Encyclopedia of American Art Tile by Norman Karlson. It shows vintage art tiles of all the American companies from some of the best collections.

I've collected and sold antique tiles for years. it's an amazing and durable art form.

Meander said...

WONDERFUL post! Thanks so much for sharing, it turned out gorgeous, absolutely GORGEOUS! Take care sweetie! xoxo

Melanie {The Tiny Tudor} said...

I loved this post. Your fireplace is beautiful- what a labor of love! And so worth it...You really did your tile homework!

The Vintage Stylist said...

love that mirror and your jean harlow and clara bow prints- where on earth did you purchase them?!

Gypsy Heart said...

Well, I'm totally in love with this fireplace ~ absolutely beautiful! You are extremely talented and I love the story, etc. Do you mind sharing where you found the candle holder(s) that are in the fireplace? Love that look!


Blessed Serendipity said...

Love the vintage tile you picked out. It came out beautiful!


Courtney/Andrew Ennis said...

Mu husband and i are looking for a house and YOU BET YOUR BUTT I WILL VISIT EVERYDAY FOR INSPIRATION!!!!!!!!!!!! BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!! IM IN LOVE WITH YOUR HOSE!!!!

Liz @ the Brambleberry Cottage said...

Nita, that design fits your glamourous style perfectly!!! It is a beautiful addition to your room.

Liz @ the Brambleberry Cottage

Unknown said...


Unknown said...


Alison @ The Polohouse said...

This transformation is amazing! I am so impressed... in fact I think this is the best before and after I have seen!
Thanks so much for stopping by my blog this evening. My husband is an Okie from Miami and he went to OU. I swear he is their biggest graduate fan EVER! His mom and family are in OK City too! Love it there.
I am your new follower. Thanks for the inspiration this evening!
A :)

Michelle said...

Your blog is just lovely. What a visual treat and a great source of ideas. Thank you for sharing!!!!!!

No name said...

This was a most magnificent post. You're project is beautiful; probably the most beautiful tiled fireplace I'll ever see to be honest. This definitely has made me apt to consider re-tiling our already tiled fireplace. Drably tiled that is! I love all your links and details. If you had a facebook button I'd definitely like you all over the place. lol.


No name said...

Hi again,
I really think it's special that you paid tribute to Sally Ferrell. That makes you special. People like you are a rarity and to be cherished. I'll be by often and hope we can be friends.


Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and I have to say it mesmerizes me...I love your writing style, your soul comes out through your words. I love chandeliers too, even though I don't have any (yet) and I love your fireplace!!! Read your posting about why you love your house and it struck a chord with me. Keep up the good work...I will be following your blog.

Mike said...

I didn't think purple could look so good on a wall. I love the room that is all orange. The fact that even the chair is orange is adorable.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

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