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Photo: Christiaan Blok
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Fireplace Face-Lift: After

Who: John and Casey Spencer
Where: Tampa, Fla.

The nonworking brick fireplace in John and Casey Spencer's 1920s bungalow was more of an eyesore than an eye-catcher. It lacked a mantel, and hiring a carpenter to custom-build one was beyond the couple's budget. Their solution? Make one using off-the-shelf supplies. For the mantel's pilaster-style legs, John boxed the corners of the existing surround with MDF boards secured to the brick with construction adhesive. He then detailed the smooth surface of the legs with astragal molding and used baseboard to create plinth blocks at the bottom. Topping the legs is an MDF frieze and a mantel shelf that's trimmed with a two-part cornice made from crown and egg-and-dart quarter-round moldings. Wood appliques adhered to the face of the frieze add vintage charm. To give the fireplace more prominence in the room, Casey designed and Jon installed faux paneling above the mantel by securing baseboard and mullion moldings directly to the wall with construction adhesive and finishing nails. A few coats of cream-color paint unite all the disparate parts. The couple's finishing touch was to enclose the firebox with a Victorian-era cast-iron front that they found at an antiques fair. "Everyone thinks the mantel is original, and that we just restored it," says Casey. "Our fireplace is the centerpiece of the house."

Shown: Creative use of stock moldings and a vintage cast-iron firebox cover turn the hearth into a showpiece.
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