Mantel saga

After three sets of revisions, the fireplace mantels are in.

Last May, I was cruising around online looking at fireplace mantels. The experience was a huge snooze fest because everything looked the same: ordinary and boring. I wanted something unique, but that would also mesh with our style, which is we’ll-know-it-when-we-see-it.

I don’t remember the exact search terms used, but when I stumbled upon this image from Mendota Mantels, I knew our search was over.

week 43-1

I showed it John and he liked it a lot. We liked its simplicity: subtle curves, plank shelf, undersized corbels, two-toned stain. There wasn’t one thing about it we didn’t like except the price, but that was because it was made of reclaimed timbers. Our builder told us that his carpenters could replicate the design and the stain for much less money, so we were happy.

Fast forward eight months to last Monday night when we went to the house and saw that the mantels had been installed. We were shocked at how little they resembled the one in the photo. Seriously, the only thing they had in common with the example was that they had a shelf and a base.

Because the mantels were nailed up for only 24 hours, there wasn’t time to take a picture, so I drew some boxes on the photo below with the final version to try to highlight their shape:

week 43-2

The curves were too long; the corbels were too long, their faces too square, too curved and in the wrong position (too close to each end); the shelf was trimmed with cove moulding, and the base was too tall, making it look boxy and chunky.

I sent the project manager a quick email, noting that, “We’re pretty sure you will see instantly what we’re referring to.”

I met him at the house the next morning where we spent about 45 minutes studying the photo while he sketched the changes in pencil right onto the mantel.

We are fortunate that our project manager’s experience and background is trim carpentry; he was spot on with all the changes and asked all the right questions. Between the two of us, we flagged all the missing details, right down to the amount of overhang for the shelf.

Here is the finished mantel on the kitchen side of the fireplace. The mortar joints in the center around the mantel appear darker because they are fresh/wet.

Here is the finished mantel on the kitchen side of the fireplace. The mortar joints in the center around the mantel appear darker because they are fresh/wet.

He apologized, explaining it was his third time to sketch this for his carpenters, adding that he had even gotten some pushback about the design from the owner of the cabinet company doing the work. His response was, “You took a lot of artistic license and it doesn’t matter if you think it’s not going to work because it’s not your house.”

It was also nice of him to mention that when he showed his wife the photo versus what had been installed, she could find no resemblance either. I think he wanted us to know that he agreed that the mantels in their current form were nothing close to what we wanted, which was reassuring.

Two days later, John and I visited the house after work and were surprised to find the project manager there. Flashlights in hand, we all went inside to inspect the mantels and found that only the corbels needed tweaking. They were trimmed the next morning, after which the mantels were nailed into position.

Earlier today the tile guy finished setting the stone around the fireplaces. Whew. We hope things go more smoothly when it’s time to figure out the stain.

Here is the finished mantel on the living room side of the fireplace. The mortar joints in the center around the mantel appear darker because they are fresh/wet.

Here is the finished mantel on the living room side of the fireplace. The mortar joints in the center around the mantel appear darker because they are fresh/wet.

Hold on, why are those mortar joints so much wider than the ones already there? Even after they dry, we’re not sure this will look okay.

week 43-5

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2 Comments

Filed under house

2 responses to “Mantel saga

  1. Rhonda

    Ah! The joys of construction project management. 🙂

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