My sister lives on a farm in eastern Ohio, complete with an abandoned farmhouse built in the 1840s. While visiting a few years ago, I explored the small house, stepping gingerly across the crumbling wooden floor so as not to fall through. The house was in sad shape but upstairs
an unassuming mantle was clinging to a brick chimney about to collapse.
Knowing she was planning on tearing the place down for safety reasons, I asked my sister how hard it would be to remove the mantle. Her husband grabbed it with one hand and tugged.
It came loose with one pull!
I washed off years of bird droppings and hauled it back to Colorado,
It found a home in my guest room/office. It was stained a very dark brown and, well, it was pretty ugly. A squirrel had gnawed the top. I wondered why I'd brought it home with me.
I bought a pretty cream-colored ceiling tile and had a frame made for it so it would fit inside the opening of the mantle. I painted the frame to match the dark brown. It didn't look much better.
I hung an old hotel mirror above it. . .
It looked forlorn and a I sighed every time I looked at it.
After I started reading blogs and magazines about French Country style,
I decided to try my hand at DIY. I sanded it, primed it, painted it white, sanded it again, and added one more coat of paint. It actually looked kinda pretty.
I couldn't believe the difference. Should I leave well enough alone?
The first time you take a piece of sandpaper to a freshly painted piece of furniture is a terrifying moment. I was sure I'd ruin all my hard work. But it slowly began to reveal itself. That dark dark wood peaked through the white paint on the edges and the detailing seemed to puff out its chest.
Even the squirrel-gnawed spot looked more interesting.
I painted the frame around the ceiling tile insert the same white as the mantle
and it all worked together beautifully.
The defining moment was when it came out to play in the dining room.
Released from its hiding place in the guest room, it took pride of place next to the dining table
and now is the first thing you see when you enter the room.
Most guests think it's original to my 1907 house.
The fun part happened when I could style it with
vintage lamps, old books and collectibles and an appropriate-sized antique mirror.
This mantle has lived through the Civil War and is rumored to have sheltered slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. It may be a long way from home
but I'm proud that its story lives on in my bungalow at the foot of the Rockies.