The Fireplace: Rebirth

Regular readers will be familiar with the carbuncle that has adorned the chimney-breast of our abode for the last too many years.   For any newcomers, let’s recap:

Aw yeah.

For reasons that are surely obvious, it had to go.  Original-feature-based arguments be damned.

We stumbled across an affordable of-the-period cast iron fireplace.

Half-way through the stripping, two layers of heat-proof paint in.

I think that’s where I left you.  Two berks arrived on Valentine’s Day to give the tiled mess a good seeing to.  Sadly, being incompetent arrogant white British middle-aged tradesmen, they did a poor quality job.   Undulations crossed two dimensions of plasterwork, but because I was desperately begging Nvivo to answer my questions at the time I didn’t notice until it was too late.  I tell you this: the All Purpose Polish Tradesman would never have walked away from a job this bad.

K-man pronounced that he would force them to return.  A little part of me died, and I looked at this for three weeks.  The day before we went on holiday, and after we’d repelled all his excuses (numerous and ridiculous, I won’t list them), one of the tradesmen grudgingly returned to carry out a marginally better plastering job.  It became clear he wasn’t paying attention at plasterer-training.  After our holiday, K-man patched things up with some polyfiller.  The tradesman did manage to smash the offensive fireplace to smithereens, and here it sits outside our dining room window.

The company won’t take rubble away because the council charges them commercial rates for disposal, and we have to take it to the tip ourselves.  The dreadful tradesman ‘forgot’, twice, to bring rubble sacks to divide this heavy shit into bags we can lift without needing a hernia operation.  The pile has been there since 27 February.  Local bird-life is a-twitter with indignance.

Meanwhile, I have been applying elbow-grease to this:

Picked up in a charity shop when we had given up hope of ever finding one we could afford, it’s a copper and brass coal-scuttle.  Half an hour of internet later I discovered it is likely French and from the 1940s or 1950s.   Similar scuttles are being sold unpolished and unloved as ‘planters’ by antique dealers in the USA, a snippet of information I have filed under WTF.

K-man did an admirable job of re-wallpapering the chimney.  Paint was applied.  The magical power of WD-40 was rubbed into the hearth.  This, friends, is the view from my sofa:

Aaaaaah.  The fireplace was stripped completely back to bare silver metal and then two coats of fireplace blacking applied.  It’s more matt than it appears in the photograph.  Four wire brushes, an industrial quantity of Nitromors, and K-man’s back, bit the dust during the process.   The hearth is honed black slate.  The coal-scuttle was spotted, purchased, and polished by yours truly: it holds firewood.  The set of implements on the right is solid brass, and was found in a vintage emporium for the amazing bargain price of 15 quid.  Pleasingly they are now third-hand, having been the shop-owner’s father-in-law’s second-hand set before coming to a new home with us.

We got the wooden carving hanging above the fireplace from Sri Lanka, in 2004.  She is just the right size for the reduced gap below the picture rail.

We’ve used the new fireplace several times.   There is nothing quite like it for making the living room feel relaxing.

I am happy.

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16 Responses to “The Fireplace: Rebirth”


  1. 1 Smalltown Mom March 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Oh, I am sighing with delight. It is perfect!

  2. 2 michelle March 17, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Stunning! I love this!

  3. 3 sue b March 17, 2011 at 2:06 am

    absolutely gorgeous

  4. 4 Jenn @ Juggling Life March 17, 2011 at 2:45 am

    It’s gorgeous!

    I have a copper tub for wood by the fireplace–I love it, too.

  5. 5 Mrs. G. March 17, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Oh my God, Nic, it looks incredible!!! I love your bucket too. That’s it: I’m saving my mad money to come to London and lounge in your abode. It is such fun to see the changes. Also, I love the color of the walls…warm and soothing. Have fun shoveling that shit away. Not.

  6. 6 Mrs. G. March 17, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Also, love yo new header. Fresh.

  7. 7 Gail March 17, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Yes, I’d be happy too if that were the view from my sofa. It’s lovely!

  8. 8 trash March 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Ummm … if I promised to buy you a nice basket to hold your wood do you think you could see your way clear to sending that coal scuttle down to the West Country?

    I mean, it would be a really really nice basket.

  9. 9 Jonathan March 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Looks excellent :) Love the new fireplace.

  10. 11 P Fisher March 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    WOW! It’s fabulous! What a wonderful room to come home to. Your house is lovely. It’s been fun watching the changes, thanks for sharing!

    • 12 nic March 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      Thank you, commenters!

      I have been known to stand for minutes on end admiring the new fireplace.

      Now, we must deal with the hallway. And, boarding the loft so we can shove all the endless piles of our crap and other people’s crap up there where we can more successfully ignore it.

  11. 13 Lynda March 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    This is stunning! Congratulations on a job VERY well done.

  12. 14 Stacie March 23, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous! What a remarkable transformation that room has undergone. I’m glad all the work and effort (and putting up with less-than-desirable tradesmen) paid off beautifully.

  13. 15 Bella Rum March 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    It’s beautiful and fitting for your house. The black slate was an excellent choice for the hearth.

    I’m in love with your coal-bucket. You may think WTF about them being sold in America to be used as planters, but I’m on the lookout now that I’ve seen yours. I’d love to see it sitting on my hearth.

    We’re quite big on using antiques for things they were not intended – re-purposing. It makes us feel clever. I bought a ceramic planter the other day, and I’m using it as a trashcan in my guest bedroom. It was inexpensive but beautiful. See how that works, but I’d use the coal-bucket for fire wood. It looks so right there on the hearth.

  14. 16 Suzanne April 2, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Wow, Nic, nicely done! It’s gorgeous!


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