Monday, December 28, 2015

Tuscan Villa-Fattoria: Keeping the Home Fires Burning

It could be that I've put the cart before the horse. I spent many hours in December building a fireplace for the living room of my villa-fattoria.The fireplace is all finished now, and I could build a roaring fire for warmth or a low, slow fire for ambiance. But there's a problem with that plan. There is no living room! There's only an unattached, unfinished wall where the fireplace will eventually stand between two currently unfinished windows. So the cart is way ahead of the horse, but it's time to tell the story of the fireplace anyway.

This is the living room wall where the fireplace will be installed. 

Cutting the styrofoam pieces for the fireplace.

The fireplace components are loosely held together with toothpicks so that I can see how (whether) they all fit together.

I experimented with various types of "embellishments" for the ornamentation on the fireplace.

The styrofoam pieces are glued together using toothpicks and Elmer's glue. This photo shows the back of the fireplace. That little snipper tool is perfect for cutting off the excess bits of the toothpicks.

I have applied the first layer of joint compound to the main fireplace pieces. The pilasters will be attached separately.

I attached the pilasters by pressing them into the joint compound rather than using glue.

Another view of the fireplace.

And yet another view; I've put on a really thick first layer of joint compound!

I cut the back part of the firebox into the styrofoam wall of the living room.

I lightly sanded
 the first layer of joint compound on the fireplace...

...and applied a second layer.

I wanted a grape motif as ornamentation on the fireplace, but after searching in vain for clusters of grapes that would work, I made my own from Sculpey.

Some experimentation was necessary to find the best placement of the decorative pieces. The  black scrolled shapes are from an "embellishment" package that I bought at Hobby Lobby. Should I place the side grape clusters here?

Or are they better here?

The final sanding is finished.

The embellishment pieces have been glued onto the front of the fireplace.

I painted over the ornamentation with a primer coat. I also applied paint to the cotton cording that I wanted to use for simulated carved stone, to make sure that the paint wouldn't obscure the twist pattern of the cording.

An upright view of the fireplace with the primed ornamentation pieces.
I have drawn the fire bricks on the firebox, using the tip of a small tool to make grooves in slightly set joint compound. The bricks don't show well in this photograph.

I glued a line of cording across the top of the mantel and applied a coat of paint to the firebox.

Cutting the styrofoam piece for the overmantel.

I've applied joint compound to the overmantel.

Sanding the overmantel. That's a lot of joint compound dust for such a small piece!

I attached the overmantel to the fireplace mantel with toothpicks and glue.

I glued a line of the cotton cording around the top and the base of the overmantel.

Another view of the fireplace with all the components in place.

I painted  a second, lighter shade of gray onto the entire fireplace. You may think that I'm being very thorough, but I'm actually being very indecisive! I don't know how dark or light I want the fireplace "stone" to be.

 Another shade of gray; just a little lighter.

I applied another experimental color. This is an antique white that I "pounced" on with a stiff brush.

After making my final decision, I pounced on a palest gray finish, then I brushed on a slightly darker wash, keeping the brush bristles as dry as I could. 

 I painted the firebox with various colors: a medium gray, followed by a brick-colored wash, then a gray wash. Finally, to achieve the look of an aged, fire-darkened brick, I added soot and ashes that I rubbed on with my fingertips.

This will be the final resting place for the completed stone fireplace. It's all ready now for that comforting fire of hearth and home. If it only had a home!

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll come back to see whatever progress I make in January. I'm not sure what comes next on the construction agenda, but those potential windows need a lot of attention!

And speaking of January, this wintry view from the window of my basement workroom reminds me that January will soon be upon us, bringing another New Year. I wish you much Joy and Contentment and many Blessings, both large and small, for the whole of the year of 2016. HAPPY NEW YEAR!