Our home was built in the mid 1970’s, and lacked character. One of my goals in the top to bottom renovation was to add the missing character in the form of built-ins. As I worked on the re-do design plan, I thoughtfully considered each room with a goal to add interest but also make it functional and smart for that particular space. Here is why and how we added the built-in faux fireplace in the master bedroom.
The renovation had significant changes to the look and layout of master bedroom. Three of the four walls would have window and door changes. The one wall of the bedroom was basically one huge window, (you can see part of that in the ‘before’ picture below). (HERE you can see more about changing that huge bedroom window too, not only was there the interior considerations, there were plenty of exterior considerations too!)
In the ‘before’ picture below you can also see the doorway on the left. That went into the bathroom. However, in my new plan that bathroom would become the hall bathroom and this doorway would need to be closed off. This future blank wall would be the best place to create a focal point and solidify the axis and create much needed symmetry in the space.
Nothing adds character to a room like a fireplace, especially up here in NW Wisconsin! With a fireplace design the style of the room can be clearly announced, which this blank space needed. The placement would be good, opposite the bed, so the design would include incorporating the TV.
Why faux and not real?
To put in a wood burning fireplace was out of the question, too messy, and no way to get in a footing and chimney etc. To install a gas fireplace would be much more expensive and invasive than this electric faux fireplace choice. If it was going to be a fireplace we’d actually use frequently enough to justify that cost, maybe that would have been a consideration, but our very user friendly and budget friendly version does everything we need and looks fantastic!
Below is the room at the start of the renovation. The doorway to the bathroom, in the picture has studs in it ready for sheetrock.
We had all the woodwork and doors removed throughout the entire house, (they were hollow core doors) and replaced with solid doors and traditional colonial farmhouse style moldings.
A key part of the faux fireplace actually were these vintage aluminum porch columns below:
I had the carpenter set them aside when we removed them from the porch, not to reuse, but to sell. Turns out I used them to barter with. I love bartering, don’t you? It’s such a fun way of acquiring things!
An acquaintance had this mantel she no longer wanted in her shop: (just the part that I circled in yellow was what she had, I forgot to take a picture of it before we started installing it)
So I told her I had the perfect thing for her…
The vintage ivy porch columns were just what she needed for display in her florist shop, and this mantel was the perfect size and style for my bedroom. This barter was a total win-win!!
With the newly acquired mantel in-hand I drew up a sketch elevation plan for my carpenter:
Final details would be ironed out as we went along, but this was the basic plan. What seem like little details in the plan, like how far it protrudes and how tall the hearth is etc. are actually very important details in the design for the finished proportions to look appropriate and be pleasing to the eye, not to mention to be assured the TV and fireplace components all fit well.
Next I searched for a fireplace screen that would be a good size for the opening of the mantel and would emphasize the Colonial styling I was aiming for. My carpenter needed to add a little bit of trim on the inside of the opening to make it smaller to fit it perfect. (HERE is a link to this screen)
I also found a simple electric log heater. This picture above show the back of it, but from the front it looks like burning logs setting on a fireplace grate. It actually does heat, or can just be a flickering light. The heating part is nice to warm up the room before bedtime. (HERE is a shopping link for the electric log heater)
To build-in the fireplace mantel, having these things before the construction started was important for accuracy in the final design. Not pictured, is the TV we already had as well, so we could get accurate measurements of it for the upper chase design.
The electrician ran an outlet for the TV on the top, and an outlet for the electric fireplace in the bottom, to totally conceal any cords. We also ran a coaxial cable outlet in the top for the TV.
As I studied pictures and designs of old fireplaces, I realized the fireboxes were angled on the sides, so had that detail added.
My carpentered built the back sides in plywood, since it would be covered with thin brick, it needed to be strong to hold the brick, but didn’t need to look good, as it would be totally covered up.
After he finished building in the faux fireplace, I caulked and painted the inside and outside. (HERE you can read my painting and caulking tips) I knew I’d still need to do a final touch-up coat of white paint after he was done tiling/bricking and grouting, but getting this painting done ahead of time would get the majority of the paint mess our of the way.
I painted inside the top section black. I wanted the TV to just blend in with it. I also painted inside the firebox top black. That’s the part that if it were a real fireplace, the smoke would go up the chimney. I wasn’t sure if a little part of it would be noticeable when you were sitting on the settee in front of the fireplace, so just to be safe, it was a quick painting job to do it black. Every little bit of detail in the faux fireplace design that is like a real fireplace, adds to the illusion of it being a working fireplace. To see a white inside where it should be an open chimney is a dead giveaway.
In order to do the face of the hearth bottom in brick, like I had originally sketched, I really needed a special corner thin brick to make that look realistic, which at the time was a delay in ordering. We opted to finish the front in wood that I’d paint to match the trim. By this point in the renovation, after months and months of mess and not having our home finished, I was more than happy to compromise on a few things to get it done. Fortunately, this compromise was tiny and I’m still pleased with the finished look.
As the brick went on, our carpenter started with the base hearth. (HERE is the shopping link for this thin brick)
Next, he did the backs and sides. He cut the brick with a wet saw, same thing he used to cut the tile with.
To keep the vertical brick in place and spaced evenly, Dan, the carpenter, cut skinny strips of scrap wood to place in-between each row of bricks. Those strips of wood would be removed once the bricks were dry.
Here is the built-in faux fireplace after everything was done in the room except for the carpet install.
Below is the detail of the firebox with the screen that fits perfectly, thanks to having it ‘in-hand’ during the actual construction process.
You can see the fireplace logs electric heater, but you can’t see the cord and plug, because that’s hidden in an outlet mounted underneath it in the bottom of the firebox!
The very simple inset shutter style doors close flat, concealing the TV inside the chase built for it. Then they open, folding out of the way when the TV is on.
I’m thrilled with the end result of the design. This faux fireplace is centered on the wall in the room, and gives that much needed character and focal point to this space. Plus, it offers the functionality of housing the TV as well as a little extra heat and ambiance.
I have recently opened an e-design decorating consulting service, if you’re interested in having me help you design a feature piece in your home, I’d love to help you! You can check out all the details at Frame and Frills.
Here are more carpentry tips and renovation projects:
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