Farmhouse Master // A Wild Goose Chase (ORC, Week 5)


Week 5 of the One Room Challenge was one wild goose chase – actually a wild fireplace chase – around Washington State!  I spent most of the week scouring Craigslist, vintage stores, and architectural salvage shops looking for an antique fireplace surround.  A fireplace has been in the long term renovation plan for our master bedroom since we moved in (we had hoped it would happen concurrently with the master closet and bathroom renovation in a few years), but last week, I thought why not just add it to our ORC master bedroom redesign?!  I’ve had such a difficult time choosing what to do with the large white wall in our bedroom anyway, I figured we might as well go with what we want most.

I had total confidence that we could turn this big white wall…


…into this:


faux fireplace via Manhattan Nest

Luckily, the kids and Garrett were good sports about accompanying me on “family outings” around the state while looking for the perfect fireplace surround. We scoured every salvage shop between Yakima and Seattle and plenty of antique shops too, but even after all that searching, we came up empty handed.  Ugh.

My last hope was an antique shop in Ellensburg.  If you caught my Instagram Story, you already know that I thought I had found *it* (i.e. the vintage fireplace surround) while trick-or-treating with the boys downtown on Monday night.  But when I went back to buy the fireplace in the light of day, I wasn’t sure it really was ‘the one’, or at least it wasn’t priced like “the one” should be (because obviously ‘the one’ would have a good bargain story attached to it), so I walked away empty handed.  Again.  Consider my dreams of a fireplace dashed.  Or at least postponed until next year.  On the plus side, all that antiquating wasn’t half bad.  I found a nice solution for the problem wall, which I’ll show you next week!


Despite all the time we spent driving around, Garrett and I did actually accomplish a few things during week 5.  We got the bedroom cleaned up (after refinishing hardwood floors there is dust everywhere!), laid the rug, assembled the bed frame, set the theater seats in place, started on the lighting, and moved our hanging chair in here (it turned out to be a bad fit for the nursery since our wobbly 12-month-old is obsessed with climbing).

We also retrofitted a nightstand for my side of the bed using a vintage table base and leftover marble from the Ravenna House kitchen countertops.  Of course by we, I mean Garrett, but don’t get too bogged down in the details.  We have hauled that marble around from house to house, saving it for the perfect project, and I am so thrilled that we finally found it.  I mentioned this on Instagram, but I can be a bit of a hoarder when it comes to leftover building materials, and seeing this marble reused, gives me all sorts of happy hoarder feelings 😉


Okay, that’s it for this week.  I promise tons of reveal photos next week when this room is finally done and check out Instagram for updates in between.  Thanks for following along!

You can catch up on my One Room Challenge posts here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4.





Building a New Fireplace: Patterned Cement Tile Surround


Last week, I introduced my favorite project at the Dexter House, the new fireplace.  When we left off, we had just installed the stove and drywalled/hardiboarded the new fireplace surround.

The Grit and Polish - Fireplace Construction 8

And this is where the tiling fun begins…

I really wanted to use patterned cement tiles on the fireplace surround.  After searching the whole entire internet for the perfect tile, I landed on these, which I also used on the kitchen backsplash.  I really liked the pattern and the black and white color scheme, plus I loved the free shipping that offered.  (When I priced tiles at other sites, the shipping often cost more than the tile did.)  At $18/sf, they were a big splurge, but I didn’t need much of them so I felt justified in the expense.  Plus I think it’s worth spending extra on items that will have big impact, and I’m hoping this fireplace will be a big impact.

So let’s talk tiling.  It took me a couple of hours to lay the tiles on the fireplace surround.  I already explained the process of laying cement tiles when I did the kitchen backsplash (here), so let’s jump to how it looks…

The Grit and Polish - Fireplace Tile Collage 2

I’m super excited with how this fireplace is shaping up!

Okay, let’s get down to the sealing and grouting process shown in the pictures above.  One big issue with cement tiles is how porous they are.  In order to minimize staining, you actually have to seal the tiles before grouting them.  I followed the tile manufacturers recommendation and used a penetrating/impregnator sealer for this job.  I applied one coat about two days after laying the tiles.  Although it turned out fine, next time I’d probably do two or three coats of sealant, just to avoid any staining from the grout.

Speaking of grout, it took me a little while to decide on a color.  I spent way too much time in the tile aisle of HomeDepot holding boxes of white Polyblend grout against a spare tile, praying I’d pick a color that wouldn’t mess this fireplace up.  In the end, I settled on Snow White, since it most closely matched the white of the tiles (in actuality it turned out a bit lighter, but I’m still really happy with it).  Since I had laid the tiles with 1/4″ spacing, I had to use sanded grout and unfortunately Snow White doesn’t come pre-mixed in sanded.  I really really hate mixing grout, so naturally I asked Garrett to mix it for me (hey, that’s what husbands are for…right?!).  He followed the directions on the back of the Polyblend box to a ‘T’ with one change:  I had him add a splash of extra water (about 2 extra tablespoons).  I know, I know, they warn you not to do this and then they warn you again.  But I find grout soooooo hard to work with if you stick to the recommended ratio.  And I swear, the grout turned out great, and it all looks lovely.  So no harm done.  I can’t be the only one cheating on this…right?!

The Grit and Polish - Tile Products

When I came back a couple of days later to seal the tiles again I noticed a tiny bit of staining from the grout.  It’s really subtle, and I’m pretty sure no one else will notice, but it’s definitely there.  I also noticed a couple of scratches on the face of the tile that I’m pretty sure weren’t there before, which I’m guessing are from the sand in the grout (which is probably why the manufacturer recommended non-sanded grout).  Again, not something anyone else will probably notice, but something I will notice.  Anyway, I ended up applying two more coats of sealer on the tile and grout (for a total of 3 coats) and called it good.

Next up, Garrett added rounded sheetroc corners to the edges of the fireplace with a coat of mud, and voila!…

The Grit and Polish - fireplace tile 17

Resources: tile | mortar | grout | sealant

Okay, I love this fireplace, but what about you?!  Are you onboard with patterned cement tiles?!

Next up, paint and a mantle.  I am dying to see how this project turns out!



p.s. I really dig Bill Rancic.  He seems like such a stand up guy, plus he’s always renovating houses, which is pretty dang awesome.  Take a look at his most recent project in Chicago.

p.p.s. Love how these DIY white concrete countertops turned out!  At $900, concrete still seems like an expensive option, especially for a DIY, but lovely none the less.

p.p.p.s. Check out this Spanish Colonial in LA.  I’m loving that sofa!

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