Monday, January 25, 2016

Quest for Fire

I have a weakness for dark chocolate, blue-eyed men, and fireplaces. In a perfect world, I'd have all three: I'd sit in the lap of a gorgeous blue-eyed guy (think Henry Cavill), and he'd feed me bits of Godiva salted dark chocolate while a fire snapped in the background.  As it happened, all I got was the chocolate.

On my first visit to the ranchburger, I went straight to the stone fireplace. It had been built in the early 70s, a handsome old thing. Even before we moved, I'd planned to build a rip roaring fire. You know, just a little celebration, maybe an indoor picnic. But we got sidetracked by the kitchen renovation and a host of other distractions.

I thought a mantel would be nice, but other than that, I didn't give the fireplace much thought. 

A year later, we moved to the burger and built a fire. The previous owner had left the screen and tools, so we were all set. Well, except for the mantel. I called Jimmy, and he promised to build one in time for Christmas.

One night, as flames brightened the fire box, I noticed some ominous cracks.

I also saw a hole that ate New Jersey.

I made a note to tell my contractor, but I didn't use the fireplace. Nor was I tempted. Even though it was December, temperatures had climbed into the 70s, and it was too hot to even burn candles. 

As promised, Jimmy brought the mantel right before the holidays.

I had selected stained oak, thinking it would add weight and balance to the fireplace "end" of the man cave. On the opposite side is a large, old oak bar, and it sets the whole tone for this room, in my opinion.

When my contractor saw the cracked firebox, he said it was a thousand wonders that the roof hadn't caught on fire. Glancing up into the chimney, his mouth set into a tight line. This didn't look good. He wanted someone to come out and check the whole chimney with a camera, but he couldn't schedule an appointment until after the holidays. Naturally, we couldn't build another fire until we knew the extent of the damage.
But I loved the mantel. Jimmy had added simple boxes and corbels to echo the design on the bar. A simpler version. 

Below, you can see how the previous owner decorated the man cave. I tried like crazy to buy those bar stools but I failed. At present, we're using the kitchen counter stools, and they're the right height, so there's that.
Decorating has been painfully slow at the burger--in fact, I may never get this place in shape--but I managed to prop a few old paintings on the new mantel. I liked the size and shape of the piano picture.

The Enchanted Forest felt too whimsical, but I liked the splash of color. (The blue tape on the floor is an attempt to pre-decorate.)

The ornate, round mirror didn't work, mainly because it reflected the ceiling and the frame was the same color as the stones.

I was antsy to get ready for Christmas, so I propped up the piano picture. I'd bought it decades ago, mainly because a baby grand was on my husband's bucket list, though he couldn't play Chopsticks and never listened to music. It was just a dream. So I did the next best thing: I bought a painting. Now, all these years later, I rather didn't like it, though I couldn't say why.

After the holidays, I tried a bird print (bought at Ballard's several years ago, specifically for the 1990s Georgian, so they were sentimental favorites.)

Instead of a building a fire, I lit candles. I was a little paranoid about the New Jersey-sized hole, so I put little mirrors beneath each candle to catch the drips.

I'd planned to hang the sea turtle print in the bedroom, but I just had to try it in the man cave. The ranch is many hundreds of miles from the coast, but the print felt just right to my eyes.

 I added two old, much loved silk orchids and a turtle shell sculpture. The wicker will eventually go on the screened porch. They'll be replaced by two old fashioned wing chairs, which will be a bit taller (and lots more comfortable).

A turtle is the perfect metaphor for my state of being. Slow but steady.

Last week, the chimney specialist stopped by. Unfortunately, he couldn't do a full inspection because our roof was icy. 

Still, the news was grim. The cracked mortar can't be patched; the stones will have to be replaced. He's not sure if we even have a liner. The flue rises at a sharp angle, and he couldn't see a liner, not without the camera. If we don't have a liner, the stone facade may have to come down so that a liner can be installed--and a new firebox. Just the idea of the mess and cost makes me want to put a cold rag over my eyes. But I'm very grateful that I didn't burn down the house. I sure could have.
After the firebox and chimney gets a complete exam and cleaning, we'll have to decide how far we want to go and how much we want to spend on repairs. A gas fireplace is also an option. My GC saw a liner at the top of the chimney, and we're hoping it goes all the way down. 

For now, I am burning candles--very carefully--and, since Henry Cavill isn't available, I'm making do with chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

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  1. Oh man oh man - how on earth did the home inspectors not find that before you bought? Grrrr. I am so sorry.

    Turtle print by far is my favorite you shared - looks excellent - I like what you have goin' on! Jimmy did an amazing job on that mantle - it looks perfect- can't believe how much better!

    As for The Doc getting a baby grand, you may want to explored getting one that has the hidden computer in it that actually works as a lovley modern day player piano - it's great for entertaining and you get to hear all sorts of lovely piano playing in your home. I have some friends who have them and they are really neat. : - )

  2. Loved the update and tour, oh and laughs too!

  3. The fireplace looks so much nicer with the mantel and surround. I do like that turtle picture- seems to be a great pickup to the warm tones of the wood and not too feminine for the man cave. I'm imagining there is a liner for the fireplace. Just doesn't seem possible that someone would have built it without one in such a nice home. The real questions is why did the cracking occur. I'm snickering about the Blue eyes, Henry Cavill and Chocolate! Reality is rarely like our dreams but then that's the fun of dreams!

  4. Oh, so glad you found the cracks before there was real damage! I had the same issue with the fireplace in our old home's basement. Our contractor said the least expensive fix would be to install a new liner inside the old, wouldn't require ripping out anything. Ultimately, we decided on a ventless gas installation. Hope you find the solution that is right for you. Love the turtle print and your mantle is gorgeous.

    1. One more bit of unsolicited advice, consult a dedicated fireplace and chimney specialist, don't rely on a general contractor alone.

  5. Oh my word, not good news. I love the turtle picture, I think it is perfect.

  6. What a pleasure to read .. I love your style!

  7. Dear Michael,

    I bought a 1960 mid-century modern house last summer. I am still floundering in incorporating my sense of style with what will look appropriate with the architecture. It is a slow process. I will keep the image of your turtle in mind as I try not to be so impatient and settle for what is truly not right for me.

    My home inspection missed a major plumbing problem so I truly know your frustration about the fireplace. I have been investigating gas vented units for my existing wood burning fireplace and think that will be the way to go in my house. Good luck with fireplace whichever route you have to go. You will get the burning fireplace and the dark chocolate in the end. I can't promise more than that. Iris

  8. At least the house lived through the one fire and chocolate is a steady companion. So there are those silver linings ;-)

  9. The mantle and turtles look are lovely!
    p.s. Here in IL, home inspectors must be licensed, and have been successfully held liable in court for missing something as big as this!!

  10. Sorry for the fireplace problems, Your GC will get it figured out, try not to worry. I LOVE the turtle print!!! It's much more "man cave" than the piano. The shape and scale of the turtle are right on point and your contractor did a genius job on the mantle.

  11. Oh gee! I like the idea of a gas firebox. We had one at a house and you had a lovely fire with the flick of a lever. I love the birds and the turtle prints as my favs. With a house...always something. We work to feather our nests daily. Stay strong, and enjoy that chocolate. Sheila

  12. Your mantel looks great. Good luck with all the repairs. I sent a link to my DIL. They also have issues with their fireplace.

  13. That turtle print is perfect! Really looks like it was meant to be there. Sorry to hear about your chimney. There is something to be said for a roaring fire...but,...there's a lot more work involved too. We converted to gas years ago...and we are really happy we did. I'd like to know why this wasn't caught on the inspection! ;)

  14. Oh, you've got to be kidding! That does appear to be a monstrous oversight on the inspector's part. Perhaps it will end up being a blessing in disguise if things are wonky within the structure. And just when you thought you could settle down for a long winter's nap! ;)

    I think the turtle looks the most striking and feels manly and it strikes me that the segmented shell mimics the stones.

    I'm with you on slow and steady. That's my normal pace and I hate being rushed. Take care and stay warm!

  15. I'm so sorry to hear this! Well, at least for now it looks really nice and the candles are a good substitute. I have a gas fireplace and I have friends that have happily converted to gas. I have to say that there has been a real improvement in the look of them. The logs are quite realistic looking now. My husband and I would convert to a real wood burning fireplace in a blue-eyed minute if it weren't so expensive. We love the smell, the crackling (although you can get fake crackling now), and the poking so much that it offsets everything else. I can't wait to see how your fireplace shakes out. You never know, all this difficulty may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

  16. Sorry to hear about the fireplace. The candles are a nice and cozy substitute, if not as warm! The turtle piece is perfect! It is a process. Slow and steady. It will all come together in time.

  17. Definitely can be grateful that a house fire didn't happen. I hope the chimney issue can be resolved. It seems the inspector should have caught the cracks.
    I like the look of the candles in the fire box, and the turtle painting looks great above that fabulous mantel. You may be slow as a turtle, but the result will be spectacular. Slow and steady wins the race, don't you know? '-)

  18. When we moved into our new home, it had a rustic stone fireplace, very similar to yours. I could never decorate it. No matter what I put on the mantle, it would get lost against the dark stone. Nothing looked right. Finally, my son, who is into Feng Shui, pointed out that I was spending a lot of energy pretending that the fireplace wasn't bothering me, so we re-did. The whole thing. I'm so glad I did! Your problems with the current fireplace may be a blessing in disguise.

  19. OH my goodness, Michael Lee, I hope all goes well with the fireplace. Yes, you're so lucky that the house didn't burn down. Praise the Lord for that!! The turtle seems perfect, and of course, the chocolate! You'll look back one day and realize that all this was a blessing in disguise. xo

  20. Love the mantel you choose and am very glad you didn't have major issues from the fireplace. Good luck...your home is gorgeous already!


  22. oh no, another big set back, agh! BUT! Your new mantel is totally fabulous, the candles are brilliant and look stunning, the entire man cave space is coming together and looking great, there's really only 1 more month of winter, and then you won't need a fireplace anyway, February is THE month for chocolate, and blue eyes are overrated, men with brown are much more trust, don't you feel a tiny bit better :)

  23. Sorry to hear you have fireplace woes but as someone else suggested re repair; I personally would consider seeking the advice of an expert. Also love the turtle ? - tortoise ? - terrapin ? piece of artwork as well. -Brenda-

  24. Michael Lee, Your mantle is so handsome on your fireplace which is very similar to ours here at the lake and mantle-less...I need a Jimmy :) Our fireplace has cracks too, we had it checked out years ago and it would need work to function. I would love a gas fireplace which we had in our house in Charlotte but we would need a propane tank out here in the boonies.

    Your writing always makes me chuckle, (too hot for candles, rag over your eyes) though not at your dilemma! I had to chuckle over Jenna's comment too and brown-eyed men. Love the turtle over the mantle...slow and steady wins the race!
    P.S. My laptop is cranky and my fingers are clumsy, but I'm blaming the New Jersey sized hole for eating my first comment last night. :)

  25. Your fireplace looks wonderful hopefully you can get it repaired meanwhile the candles are cozy! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!