Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Build your own Mantle/ Altar Part 1

A few years ago when I moved into my most recent home, I wasn't sure I would even have space for a living room. Less than a thousand square feet big, my one bedroom duplex space was an add on to an original adobe styled house built in the 40's. I loved some of the features enough to convince myself I could work it out, plus I like design challenges so I decided to go for it.
Right away, I knew it would have to be a functional space, a sort of transitional area between the dining room and bedroom. However, I did not want to sacrifice my idea of also having a hang-out where I could have friends over, in addition to a library/ work space.

My design plan started by searching for small scale furniture items and pieces with maximum storage possibilities. I ended up with an ideal sofa (for just $10), large newsstand bookcases that I got
for free from a former employer, and in a weekend re-finished a wood stump coffee table that's been in my family since the 80's (which I will blog more about later.)
Anyway, everything came together except for a blank wall that felt like it was begging to be more than a cork board. Flipping through a West Elm catalog I found the perfect solution, a mantle!

A mantle is the hearth of a home, a central point that can be decorated seasonally and/or used as a drop off area for keys and mail. It is sort of a modern entry way for people who live in small spaces, in one piece of furniture!

As much as I love West Elm, I am just not established enough to afford it, and to be honest, I feel like I haven't seen anything so amazing that I would splurge on it. So, I decided to try and build one myself and save the $375 for something more exciting, like a weekend trip to San Francisco...

(These images are from the catalog that served as my original forms of inspiration)

At that time, I was lucky enough to basically have my very own handyman... My good friend and former boyfriend Josh Houghton has a garage full of tools, and one weekend we had energy to give it a go. I started by sketching out a simple plan of action, and one trip to Home Depot later, we had everything we needed, which was basically a few 2x4's of pine wood, wood glue and nails.
I wanted it to be lightweight but sturdy, so we decided to give it the appearance of being 3 big blocks by attaching the smaller boards together, forming hollow rectangles to be staged together.

Josh using the nail gun to attach the base legs to the top shelf

Here is the completed structure, after sanding and ready to be stained

Since I have several different wood tones in my space, I wanted the mantle to give some contrast to the lighter floors and also kind of match the bamboo blinds I purchased for the adjacent windows. This is one coat of a mahogany wood stain I also got at Home Depot for less than $10.00.

I let it dry completely before applying a second coat, which made a rich difference

This angle shows the hollow back of the piece, and how I customized the legs to fit flush against the wall by slicing off a small portion where it would hit the tiles I have along the floor boards.

I have no idea what the technical term for this type of hardware, (so if you know please reply so I can be educated) but I basically found it in a bin at Home Depot and it was exactly what I was looking for to hold the mantle to the wall for additional support.

Voila! The finished look, newly placed in my home. It only cost around $60.00 for the entire thing, with all the lumber and materials included. Opposed to West Elm's replica, I saved myself a pretty penny, plus made something special for my home that I will have for years. (If I get sick of the color and/or change up my decor, I can always sand it and re-stain it any shade I want).

Pretty nice right?! Kinda love it... and definitely use it year 'round!

In part two of this post (tomorrow) I will give some holiday ideas on how to create a festive Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altar space using a mantle of your own.

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