Photography: Tracey Ayton | Story: Two Sisters, Two Similar Condos, Two Different Styles
Want a fireplace but live in a new-build? No problem. Here's how you can DIY one no matter where you live.
If you’re like most urban apartment dwellers, you’re working with limited space, finishings you can’t mess with and (saddest of all) no fireplace. But, there’s no reason why you can’t live like those chic Parisienne girls who have gorgeous fireplaces with ornate surrounds and perfectly curated mantle pieces — you just need a faux version.
Designer and blogger Tim Lam is here to help you add some of that French girl charm to your space with tips and tricks for DIY-ing your very own faux fireplace.
Step 1: Find the perfect surround
You can build your own surround, but if you’re not that handy with a mitre saw, you have options: “Many big box stores offer mantel surround packages at affordable prices,” says Lam. We love this wood version from Wayfair. Or, if you’re looking for something more unique and budget-friendly, check your local antique markets. “Vendors often have one or two fireplace mantels in their collections, and all you need to do is give it a fresh new lease on life.”
Step 2: Pick your spot, and check it twice
If you're going to buy a pre-built surround, you’ll want to mount it to your wall for extra stability, especially if you plan to decorate the mantel. “Make sure you map out where the fireplace will go and figure out where the studs are behind the walls,” suggests Lam. The best way to find those studs? Use a stud finder, or get out a tape measure — studs tend to be about 16 inches apart, starting from the edge of the wall. Screw a few L-brackets right into the studs to properly support the surround.
Step 3: Choose the flooring for the hearth
“I personally prefer to keep the floor clear for a more streamlined, contemporary look, especially when floor space is at a premium in an apartment,” says Lam. If you already have wood flooring you love and the surround you chose keeps it exposed, feel free to leave it as is. But, if you want to change it up and cover your existing flooring, placing a few tiles or bricks, or even a pretty rug in the hearth can give it a more rustic feel.
Step 4: Decorate
“You can stack short, wood logs for a charming cabin look, or pile books for cozy library flair,” Lam suggests. “But, my favourite has to be groupings of thick, chunky flameless candles.” Flameless candles are a great way to go because you can get that flickering ambiance without having to worry about sparks. For the mantle, decorative accessories or treasures from your travels and antique markets are perfect. A mantle can also be the ideal spot for a vignette of artwork and mirrors. Just place your favourite pieces on the mantle, and you’ll have a mini gallery wall above your brand new fireplace.