Sold!

Remember this?

Since April I have waged a campaign against K-man’s love of this monstrous shit-splatter all over our living-room chimney-breast. I have heard arguments about how painting the wall a different colour will suddenly render it entirely acceptable, nay pleasing, to the eye.  And all those arguments about how it’s original to the house and if we rip it out we’ll regret it.

Bullshit, says I.

This weekend we took a turn about the local purveyors of antiques and found many things that were far too expensive. Goodbye, beautiful 1830s wingback green leather chair. Or things that were excellent and reasonably-priced but too risky for home installation. Goodbye, lovely 1940s bakelite light-switches from the USA.

Eventually, late in the afternoon, we came across this:

Hello, lover.

A 1920s cast-iron fireplace complete with mantel, grate, and the bits that go under the grate to collect all the clinker and ash.  There was no price attached, and you and I know that’s never a good sign when everything else in the vicinity is clearly marked.

In your head, I whispered to K-man, how much is this worth?

300, he said.  No, 350.

Yeah, I sighed.  That’s lots of money.  And usually, when we think of a price for something, the actual purchase can’t be achieved for even double that.

As we’re discovering with the endless seeking of original non-mass-produced bits and pieces for our house, it’s never a simple case of asking for a price and being told on the spot and then carting your item away.  The shop assistant had to go and phone someone and report back.  She came up the path and said the price would be 150.  She’d forgotten to ask about delivery but that would be extra.  Even K-man had to admit that’s a bargain.  Though of course he pointed out in the car later that I will be expected to show flexibility over any later decision of his choosing.  I have no idea what he’s talking about.

We tried not to look too enthused, while dancing around inside ourselves.  We pretended that threatening to charge too much for delivery might be a deal-breaker.

Now we’re the proud owner of an in-need-of-complete-stripping fireplace which will eventually take the place of that foul mess I’m currently ungraciously tolerating.   It adds to the list of things we’ve started and will eventually get around to finishing at some point:

  • stripping of glued-down laminate floor-tiles from bedroom floor
  • sanding and oiling wooden bookcases in dining room
  • sugar-soaping remaining layer of grease in kitchen
  • repair of vintage Italian car residing in the garage
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9 Responses to “Sold!”


  1. 1 Suzanne November 15, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Wow, £150 is really a bargain for that! I remember finding a Craftsman fireplace mantle similar to this one nearly 20 years that would’ve been lovely in my house. I was busily calculating where things would go and how I could afford the $250, but it actually cost $2,500, and sadly, there was no way a starving artist like me could afford that. I continue to hope and dream that maybe someday…in the meantime, I can live vicariously through you.

  2. 2 trash November 15, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Good job! Especially on only dancing with glee on the inside, that would have been a dead giveaway. So how long do you have to put up with the shit splatter for? Or should we not ask?

  3. 3 Smalltown Mom November 15, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    I’m on your side on the fireplace issue. Just because it’s original to the house doesn’t mean it’s not ugly. I love the “new” one.

  4. 4 Jenn @ Juggling Life November 15, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Now that is a piece with character.

    I found your description of the current situation to be both humorous and apt!

  5. 5 kellyg November 16, 2010 at 12:57 am

    your works in progress are a lot more interesting and labor heavy than mine. but yeah, I too have a list of projects that were started and then stalled.

    love the new fireplace, though. And I can see how getting the old fireplace out may take precedence over the bedroom floor, etc.

  6. 6 Jen on the Edge November 16, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Wow, that is gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cast iron fireplace surround before and cannot imagine what is involved with restoring it. How do you strip it? What happens after that?

    And just think of the glee with which you will attack the shitastic disaster currently surrounding your fireplace.

  7. 7 nic November 16, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Thanks, everyone – we are super-pleased. Still, today, we are congratulating ourselves on such a find! Cast iron Victorian/Edwardian fireplaces are super-common, but 1920s ones not so much: the world had moved on to hideous tiling by then.

    @Suzanne: that is the kind of thing that happens to us too! The fireplace you linked to is lovely. Lovely.

    @Trash: we need the whole house re-skimmed and it’s not going to be easy or cheap. It doesn’t make sense to bash away at the plaster until we’ve got the money to pay for the whole house to be done at the same time. We’ve been saving up, and I think another couple of pay-cheques should do it. I’d say another 3 months or so and then we will get the all-purpose tradesman to come in. Meanwhile, we’re going to strip that baby down and get it ready for installation.

    @smalltown mom and Jenn: thanks!

    @kellyg: the new plan is not to bother with the floor until all the plastering is re-done, which will include the fireplace. And for me to spend two days a week doing up the house instead of working. Yeah.

    @Jen: With a paint-scraper and a heat-gun most of the (several) layers of paint will come off. For the remnants and the bits that are fiddly, the alarming but effective product Nitromors will take it right off. We debated what to do with it next and I think we’ll polish it with some fireplace blacking rather than re-paint. Hopefully, it will look amazing.

    There is also the question of how to get the shit fireplace off. My friend did it in her house and she tells me they unscrew from the wall but they are very heavy because they’re made of concrete. We may have to destroy it to get it off but I’d rather not because UNBELIEVABLY people will pay a couple hundred quid for these things and that’s money we could do with.

  8. 8 Bella Rum November 16, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Oh, I do love the thrill of a bargain. Quite good that did your dancing around inside yourselves. Congratulations. Can’t wait for the “after” photos.


  1. 1 The Fireplace: Rebirth « lifesmudged.com Trackback on March 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm

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