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Antique Fireplace Before & After

Not that long ago I bumped into an ad for an antique fireplace
that needed a bit of love.

One with lots of details  and big potential to be absolutely incredible.
It also had a whole lot of missing paint and chunks of plaster
and a secret ingredient that I wasn't so sure about...

It started out looking something like this...

Chunks of the mantel were missing. 
Pretty much every single nook and cranny and detail was covered in dirt.
And I mean covered.
When we picked it up- the guy told us it had been outdoors for several years
while they renovated and waited to put it in the house.
And then... they changed their mind and went in a different direction.
And in the sun and wind and rain - the finish took a bit of a beating.
The paint chipped off. 
The plaster cracked and it basically started to look like it was a junker.
Okay- let's be honest... my husband knew we were picking it up...
but yes, he upon closer inspection I had to agree... the price was great
but it definitely reflected the condition.

Probably the best part about this mantel- aside from the carvings and details
was the sheer size and the fact that this mantel just so happened to be within about a half an inch of the fireplace in the little cottage bedroom that needed a mantel.
And so... kismet as they say.
We loaded that mantel up- piece by piece 
and then washed our hands and went to lunch at a favorite spot in Calistoga.

I noticed after literally spraying this piece with hose- that there was an interesting type of material included in the construction of it. I could see it poking out where the broken pieces of plaster were.

Any guesses?
It was horsehair.

Yep. Just like in old lathe and plaster walls.
Crazy right?
Once I cleaned the mantel up and peeled off the rest of the bubbled paint-
 I got to work fixing it up.
We set it up in the cottage- and honestly, I have to admit, 
I kind of liked the old worn look.

But I also wanted something pretty and finished. 
And enter my friend Marian AKA Miss Mustard Seed. 
Marian sent the most amazing colors of milk paint for me to try 
and I was so excited to use one of them on this piece. 
I chose Grainsack- which as you can probably imagine-
 is like that warm color on a grainsack. I would say it is a shade of white for reference- but a creamy taupey warm shade of white (if that makes sense) 
I wanted something that was a neutral but that also stood out a bit against the white walls
and this color was perfect.
The milk paint is one that you mix up when you are going to use it. You simply add water
and stir and then paint. It went on super easy and I did just one coat for coverage.
 Though I think you could probably make it as thick or thin as you would like to
 for the look you are after.

I started brushing on the paint and those details just popped.

You can see the color is a soft pale color-
 and just a bit warmer and darker than the white - white on the walls.


It is a little hard to see the complete contrast with the fireplace glowing but it 
is a beautiful subtle mingle that I am in love with how it turned out.
You won't want to miss any of the gorgeous projects that my friends did with Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint- click on over and take a peek at each of them! 

And something fun- I actually just painted 2 other pieces with a different color of MMS milk paint- and I will share those with you very soon.

Happy Wednesday everyone!


  1. Well done - wow - does that ever look perfect there.

    Amazing the pieces you find. Awesome surround!!!!

  2. Amei essa lareira decorada om guirlanda.
    Feliz Natal.

  3. MMSMP (Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint) has a great old world/old American finish and the colors are wonderful too! It's a little different to paint with because it's consistency isn't like chalk paint or latex, but I like the finished result of MMSMP best. The fireplace mantel looks great! Love!

  4. what a great find. You were right to paint, the details it brings out is incredible. slightly jealous

  5. I love all the texture and detail . . . absolutely gorgeous!!! I think that when you're putting white on white there is a necessity for texture and detail. Your mantel is awesomely elegant.
    Connie :)

  6. OMG, this is such a wonderful find! MMS milk paint gave it a boost and made it look even better, not that the shabby original after cleaning was bad. Both versions are gorgeous!

    ~ Elena

  7. The bound-to-be-glorious mantel found its true destiny in your home, Courtney. It is stunning. Happy Holidays, Ardith

  8. I have a faux marble mantle and I want to try the milk paint on it. I LOVE the beautiful, soft finish on your mantle! Its beautiful!!! I live in an apt..and would love to try it on some of my WHITE, yuk..walls!!!!!!! Love your website!

  9. This is so beautiful, Courtney. I sort of liked it in it's rugged state, too, but it looks so much more like you now. Just lovely!

  10. You rescued a true treasure...what a is truly a beautiful and oh so charming piece!!!...and then you got to have lunch too!

  11. Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing, has given me lots of ideas!

  12. Courtney, I am so green with envy! I want a fireplace mantle in my LR so bad. There isn't even a fireplace in that room but I figure if I have a surround and mantle I can paint a fire on the wall! Or, more practically, invest in a gas log.

    Anyway, you did a beautiful job restoring that baby. And it's just about the style I'd really like to find. And I agree that the color is perfect. I have followed Marian's MMM blog for quite a while but I've never used her milk paint. I even have two colors on my Amazon "save" list, but haven't bought them. I lack a good work space right now but I have lots of projects waiting for me that I could use the milk paint on. Have to do some purging first to clear some space to work!

    I love your little history lesson on your fireplace! I'll be tuning in for the up-coming projects.

  13. Yes horsehair was used frequently way back when,lol. My husband learned real plaster work from a very old plasterer back in the early 1980s. He didn't pass on his talents to many, he did historic restoration work and boy the tales he could tell. MMS milkpaint is wonderful, and the colors she has too! Dreamy. This mantel is just stinning with your cottage fireplace.

  14. As always, it turned out beautifully! Did you go to Boscoes in Calistoga? I am craving their eggplant sandwich😍 And maybe the artichoke, too.

    1. Indeed we did. Boskos is favorite spot for lunch or dinner :)

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  16. Where did you get those stockings! They add such a cute touch to the mantel!