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!


  1. Me gusta mucho como te ha quedado la chimenea!! Que calorcito más agradable dará a la casa cuando haya una nevada como la que nos muestras en la foto!!
    Feliz Año Nuevo para ti y tus seres queridos!!

    1. Thank you, Pilar, for your nice comments. I'm just happy that I have a real fireplace in my real home. Although the snow is almost gone, it's extremely cold, so the fire is very welcome.

  2. Genial esa chimenea y el paso a paso fantástico. Continuaré viendo tus avances. ¡ que maravilla la nieve!, estamos nosotros deseando que llegue , pues tenemos un tiempo inusual. Feliz año nuevo para ti y tu familia; con mis mejores deseos.Besos:-)

    1. I'm so glad you stopped by. Thanks for your comments. Our last snowfall amazed us too, because it was completely unexpected! The weather man must have been looking south. The snow is beautiful, and we have a lot of it in Nebraska. I'll be happy to send some of it your way to enjoy.

  3. Happy New Year to you too, Marjorie! I hope you and your Loved ones have a wonderful 2016!
    Your fireplace looks fantastic! I understand the getting ahead of yourself when it comes to wonderful expressive details like the hearth... the home is incomplete without one.... so why not start there? It sets the mood for what will surround it! I really look forward to following your construction on this house this year!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Betsy. I'm happy that you'll be following along during the construction of my villa; I'll appreciate the company and the encouragement!

  4. Dear Marjorie,
    Wishing you a lovely New Year! and, of course - fantastic New Year's Eve dance :-)
    your fireplace is beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Magda, for the New Year wishes and for your nice compliment on the villa fireplace. I'm excited to get busy with the next thing - whatever that will be!

  5. Hello Marjorie,
    Happy new year my friend! I wish you all the best for 2016! The fireplace is beautiful and very cleverly made. I's design is beautiful and perfect for that style house. I love the grape clusters you made and I think your placement of them was the right decision. It may have taken several coats, but I think the final color is just beautiful. I think making the fireplace before the room was ready was not a bad idea. A fireplace is a focal point and having built it first you can re-work the room and window placements if need be. that being said, it will look perfect on that wall. I just love it and the over mantel is the perfect touch. Well done Marjorie. I look forward to seeing your next post.
    Big hug

  6. Hello Giac,
    Thank you for the wishes for the new year, and thank you as well for all the positive and pleasing comments you made on my villa fireplace post. That was a fun project. I think the coming one - windows - will be more challenging than fun, but at least it should be an interesting challenge rather than a burdensome one! I hope.

  7. Thanks for stopping by my own blog. As a result I have now discovered YOUR blog which I am visiting for the first time. I love your fireplace. What a transformation from the initial lumps of styrofoam you stuck together. Very impressive. Looking forward to seeing more.

  8. Hello, Carol - Welcome to my blog! I had such a great time looking at all the beautiful things when I visited your blog recently. You have amazing and varied talents, and I can't wait to see what's next. Thanks for looking in on my styrofoam creations. My Tuscan villa-fattoria project is moving along slowly. But it is moving!


I'd love to hear your comments!