Your fire­place choice: update it or re-cre­ate

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Leanne Brownoff

DEAR Leanne: We want to update our fam­ily-room fire­place from its tra­di­tional light-oak look to a more mod­ern feel. When we bought the house eight years ago, our fur­ni­ture was tra­di­tional and it worked. Now that we are chang­ing our de­sign scheme, the fire­place looks weak — not much of a fo­cal point. Do we tear the whole thing out and start again? Or can we do some quick fixes to make it work?

AN­SWER: The an­swer to both your ques­tions is yes. It de­pends on what your over­all ex­pec­ta­tions are, not to men­tion what your bud­get is for this project.

If you re­ally want to pull off a de­signer’s wow ef­fect, start­ing from scratch would give you the foun­da­tion to cre­ate the room you re­ally want.

Stay­ing with the ex­ist­ing fire­place is an op­tion that should be con­sid­ered, how­ever. Tra­di­tional man­tels fall into many dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing highly sculp­tured de­signs ex­ud­ing his­tor­i­cal pres­ence. These can have a phe­nom­e­nal im­pact in the room, but I sus­pect from your def­i­ni­tion, the man­tel and sur­round in ques­tion may not be that in­ter­est­ing.

So even if you sand it down and ap­ply a strik­ing ef­fect, such as gloss red, matte char­coal, espresso stain or a metal­lic paint, the bones of the fire­place may still be unin­spir­ing. If you have a tile sur­round or brick ac­com­pa­ny­ing the de­sign, these will likely need to be re­placed, re­gard­less of the oak.

Your most cost-ef­fec­tive op­tion is to re­fin­ish what you have. Some of the op­tions I have just shared will cer­tainly change the look of the fire­place and make it more sup­port­ive of a con­tem­po­rary en­vi­ron­ment. You could try this first and if it does not give you the look you want, go to Plan B — tear it down and re-cre­ate.

You can get some won­der­ful ideas sim­ply by skim­ming through favourite de­sign mag­a­zines and vis­it­ing show homes. To cre­ate a stun­ning con­tem­po­rary fire­place, con­sider geo­met­ric shapes such as elon­gated tri­an­gu­lar and trape­zoidal sil­hou­ettes. You may choose to not use a man­tel on the new de­sign, par­tic­u­larly if it de­tracts from the lines of the unit.

Keep­ing the up­per por­tion of the fire­place avail­able for art­work will en­hance the fo­cal ef­fect you are at­tempt­ing to achieve. If you do wish to have a man­tel, choose ma­te­ri­als that are sleek and mod­ern, such as metal, acrylic or stone. Con­tem­po­rary de­sign also masters the art of asym­met­ri­cal sym­me­try. This means that you cre­ate bal­ance with­out mir­ror­ing the items.

Bal­anc­ing vis­ual weight can be achieved with colour, shapes and sizes of the el­e­ments used. For in­stance, rather than one long, hor­i­zon­tal man­tel, three shorter acrylic or stone forms can be placed in stag­gered con­fig­u­ra­tion up the wall of the fire­place to dis­play eye-catch­ing ac­ces­sories.

Light­ing will also play an im­por­tant role in bring­ing your fire­place to life. Strate­gi­cally fo­cused halo­gen fix­tures can high­light the fire­place’s best fea­tures, whether it’s a gleam­ing cop­per fa­cade, a spec­tac­u­lar work of art or stag­gered sculp­tures.

Dear Leanne: How dif­fi­cult is it to con­vert an an­tique dresser into a bath­room van­ity?

A: I am reg­u­larly asked about this, con­firm­ing the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of re­pur­pos­ing an­tique dressers. Their stun­ning lines are mak­ing state­ments from pow­der rooms to mas­ter en­suites.

To ad­dress this phe­nom­e­non, ma­jor fur­ni­ture de­sign­ers have added van­i­ties to their com­pany’s lines. So buy­ing one would cer­tainly en­sure you avoid the work of trans­form­ing an old dresser. Still, there are plenty of an­tiques out there look­ing to be val­ued for their for­mer glory.

In terms of dif­fi­culty, this is not a project for a car­pen­try or plumb­ing novice. We are talk­ing about pre­ci­sion cut­ting and co-sor­di­nat­ing plumb­ing. If you have car­pen­try ex­pe­ri­ence, this project may be per­fect for you. If not, then take your de­sign ideas to some­one who can cre­ate the van­ity cor­rectly — the first time.

Many an­tique van­i­ties use the ves­sel­style sink as op­posed to the mounted op­tion. This is from a prac­ti­cal, es­thetic and a labour per­spec­tive.

If you choose a mounted sink, you may be limited in your op­tions due to width of the cabi­net. Small oval sinks and bar sinks will likely fit the space al­lot­ment, but this may not be the look you are in­tend­ing to have.

Re­mem­ber that you need to fit not only the basin in, but the tap and faucet assem­bly as well. If your dresser has draw­ers di­rectly un­der the sink, these will need to be per­ma­nently fixed in place. An­tique cab­i­nets with doors, rather than draw­ers pro­vide a more ef­fi­cient de­sign for this type of con­ver­sion.

When ready to de­sign your project, visit a lo­cal hard­ware and plumb­ing store and dis­cuss your plan with the ex­perts. A num­ber of do-it-your­self web­sites, such as www.house­and­home. com/de­sign/cus­tom-van­ity, can guide you through the process.

When you are plan­ning, re­mem­ber you are con­vert­ing a piece of old fur­ni­ture. The in­tegrity of the unit will de­ter­mine whether it is a good can­di­date for the project.

You must also con­sider that the wood top may be ex­posed to wa­ter. Take pre­cau­tions to pro­tect the fin­ish with Varathane or con­sider chang­ing the top to stone or gran­ite.

— Canwest News Ser­vice

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