Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tom's Rustic Fireplace Surround

I love beautiful fireplace surrounds and am particularly fond of antique limestone.  While seeking inspiration for our living room fireplace, I found many reproduction limestone surrounds that I would have been happy with.....unfortunately most were not within the budget.

So I gathered photos of the ones I liked and reviewed it with Tom to see if we could create or substitute something with a similar look but stay within budget.  I love a good challenge but I really had to convince beg Tom to give this one a try.

This is what I really wanted!!

 From the book The French Touch by Jan de Luz, Photography by Tom O'Neal
 Jan de Luz has a wonderful store in Carmel Valley, CA and a linen shop in Carmel by the Sea

 And this is what I was working with!

This is a photo of our original living room wall with existing fireplace.  It doesn't require much creativity to get beyond this!   We first built the surround, then  framed in a new wall to cover the existing white brick. And when I say "we", I really mean Tom!

In a previous home renovation, we had fireplace surrounds made from a cement based product so I asked Tom to try and make a mold similar to the style I liked and distress the finish to make it look a bit old stone. 

It took some convincing but he was willing to give it a try.
He first measured and built a wood mold for each piece of the surround. After cement was poured and had cured, he would assemble the pieces, attach and grout in place. All the cement pieces were also reinforced with rebar to maintain strength and prevent cracking.

This photo is of the mold for the very top piece of the fireplace. Cement is smoothed into place in the mold and after a few days when cured,  the mold is removed around the piece.

He made a few practice pours to get the texture right.   Rock salt mixed with a little sand was sprinkled into the molds first (this created the ruddy texture on the face of the pieces), then cement was poured over it.  Once cement cured, he released from mold.  All the individual pieces were then ready to assemble and build the surround.


Assembling and attaching pieces to existing wall....

and grouting....

A close up of the texture the rock salt and sand left in the cement.  The cement also has varied colors throughout.  I think that gives it more of an aged look don't you think?

We originally thought we might use some of the limestone plaster we were using on the wall to do a light finish over the cement as in the Jan de Luz photo, but the more we looked at it, the more we liked the the original gray.

Here's an after shot

and another....

By the way, this was very inexpensive to make.  All supplies plus cement cost around $300.00 (yes that's three hundred)  vs. the least expensive reproduction limestone I found at $4500.00.

But the fact that he made it because I really really wanted it........Priceless!!

Take care,


  1. I love it, Sarah! Very clever and very cool :-) I like the raw grey....lots of charm and character. xoxo, Loi

  2. Um, this is AMAZING! I just happened across your blog and it is so inspiring, all that you've accomplished. Thanks for the fun and lovely read.

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  4. love it.. beautiful after effect.. really liked the aged-look.

  5. Your fireplace is looking no much beautiful ... It can be more beautiful by applying some paint, wallpapers or some other kind of stuff. fireplace Winnipeg

  6. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me. eco-friendly than wood-burning fireplaces

  7. An important a part of incorporating a hearth into your private home is to make sure that it fits nicely with your topic. If your home has an antique experience to it, then cross for a fireplace consisting of the Glam hearth Lotus Evils that looks traditional. This will encompass shopping for Modern Ethanol fireplaces with gold, peachy tones or the usage of an embroidered body to present them a traditional appearance.


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