Your fireplace choice: update it or re-create
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