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How to Create an Antique Fireplace Mantel with a Whitewash Technique

How I thrifted a vintage Mantel and transformed it into an Antique Fireplace Mantel with a whitewash technique and a faux birch wood insert.

I’m not going to lie, I was super bummed when we bought our home a few years back and it didn’t have a fireplace.  As silly as it might sound, a fireplace is such a statement piece and creates so much warmth (even with no fire, no pun intended). Christmas’ just aren’t the same without stockings hung by the fire, amiright?!  As impatient as I am, I couldn’t wait for us to scrounge the money to “add” a fireplace.  That’s when I decided I would create my own Antique Fireplace Mantel with a whitewash technique.

antique fireplace mantel

You know I love antiques and anything with history.

I don’t have much of a budget to work with, so finding a great fireplace mantel was hard. It took me about 6-8 months of searching craigslist and thrift stores to find what I was looking for.

Vintage fireplace mantel from Craigslist

vintage fireplace mantel
vintage fireplace mantel
vintage fireplace mantel

Here she is in her original glory!

This vintage piece of history was salvaged from an 1890’s home.

I could tell there were many many layers of paint and polyurethane that needed to be stripped off.  After all, a furniture piece this old was for sure to have lots of lead paint.  With my very curious 2 year old, I try my best to keep anything toxic out of our house.  The first step in restoring this beauty to gather supplies and begin to strip the paint.

By the way, check out my easiest paint stripping method. I promise, you will be amazed!

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Supplies to transform an antique fireplace mantel

  1.  Paint Stripper – I used the gel stripper that I’ve attached here. It seemed to work well to strip nearly 8 layers off.
  2. Plastic Scraper
  3. Gloves – make sure you use rubber gloves because the paint stripper will surely eat through skin!
  4. Sandpaper
  5.  Sander – I’ve attached this sander because it comes with a bag to collect the dust. This is VERY important when sanding lead paint because the dust is toxic. And it makes the clean up A LOT easier.
  6.  Paint stripper after wash – this is an important product to use to remove all the extra “gunk” that the excess stripper and old paint leaves.
  7. White paint

I followed the instructions on the paint stripper can and began to slowly strip many many layers off of this antique mantel.

Stripping the vintage mantel

It took about 8 applications of the stripper (and waiting and sanding in between each layer) to get to the bare wood. And after we stripped all the old paint, we used the stripper cleaner to be sure the surface was free of any old sticky “gunk.” Below are some progress pictures:

stripping the fireplace mantel

The fireplace mantel pictured above is shown after stripping about 3 layers off.

fireplace mantel stripped off paint

Finally, after about 8 layers of stripper, it’s down to almost the bare wood.

Next I gave the salvaged fireplace mantel a whitewash finish.

I still wanted to see the wood grain, but I also wanted to mute the red tones from the wood. In order to whitewash the wood, I used a mixture of 50% water to 50% white paint. I used a Valspar white paint, but any white paint will work. I applied the paint with a rag all over the mantel, and let it sit a good 20 minutes to dry. After I made sure the paint was dry, I sanded it with a fairly fine grit sandpaper.

White washing the antique fireplace mantel

  1. Mix one part water and one part white paint
  2. Apply the mixture to the mantel with a brush IN THE DIRECTION of the wood grain
  3. If the finish is too heavy, use a rag to wipe the wood

Note; I wanted to be able to see a lot of the wood grain so I mixed 1 part water to 1 part paint. If you want more of a “white” look, mix 2 parts paint to 1 part water.

Pretty simple huh!

Related Whitewash furniture posts:

How to Whitewash Bare Wood with a Latex Paint and Water Mixture

how to whitewash wood

How to use Lime wax with a Lime Washed Coffee Table Makeover

Lime Washed Coffee Table Makeover with Liming Wax

How to Create the Weathered Barn Wood look with New Wood

DIY Weathered Barn Wood look

White washed furniture makeovers that will wow you!

white washed furniture makeovers

Best White Wash Wood Stains with Products

white washing the kitchen cabinet

Do you need to seal whitewash furniture and wood?

sealing whitewash furniture and wood

Now that my historical antique fireplace was finished, what would I do inside the fireplace?

I wanted to create the look of birch wood in the middle. I was inspired by a photo from the infamous Magnolia Market shown below.

faux fireplace mantel

You can see all about how I created a DIY birch wood fireplace cover for a faux wood insert.

Spoiler alert; it was so easy!

DIY Birch Wood Fireplace Cover for a Faux Wood Fireplace Insert

My antique fireplace mantel

antique fireplace mantel with white wash finish
antique fireplace mantel with white wash finish
antique fireplace mantel with white wash finish
fireplace mantel
vintage fireplace mantel
vintage fireplace mantel

Even though I live in a new home, I love having pieces of history too!

I’m pleased with the way my fireplace mantel turned out and I can’t wait to hang my Christmas Stockings up on my vintage mantel (and yes, Christmas is 10 months away!).

Update; check out my vintage Christmas mantel, spring mantel, Fall inspired mantel, and the vintage mantel’s new look on our DIY blue feature wall. Or you can see all the different looks of the fireplace mantel over the years.

If you enjoyed this post I would love for you to Pin the image below to Pinterest.

How to Create an Antique Fireplace Mantel From Craigslist


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  1. […] How to Create an Antique Fireplace Mantel from Craigslist […]

  2. […] How to Create an Antique Fireplace Mantel from Craigslist […]

  3. […] are more photos of my antique fireplace mantel decorated for […]

  4. […] from something different than a shelf! Oh the Joys of decorating aroundย  a fireplace, even if it a DIY vintage mantel with fake birch wood in the middle.ย  I’ve also joined with a group of other great bloggers […]

  5. JaneEllen Jones says:

    Admire your determination, looks like was worth all your hard work.Your fireplace /mantel looks great now, finally get to decorate your mantel.You’ll be enjoying that wonderful well rehabbed , mantel for lots of years. Fun to decorate huh?
    We had a fireplace/mantel in our first mfg.home in MT, had 20 acres. Living room also was sunken so floor was closer to ground than would have liked,colder. Our first winter there in 1992 was one of coldest they’d had in years, 25 below during day for weeks in late Nov/early Dec. We moved to MT from San Diego, quite a difference but I loved it. Was coldest winter they’d had for while also.Our water pipes would freeze so had to wait to shower til mid afternoon when they warmed up a bit.Felt like a pioneer woman,lol.
    We now live in a single wide mfg.home in western CO, west side of Rockies, few miles west of Grand Junction on 1/2 acre out in rural area. No fireplace but do have shutter shelf which works like our mantel, decorate it for seasons, holidays. Wish I was back in MT but looks like we’re here for duration, Mr Furry says we’re too old to move back to MT. dadgumit.
    Hope you and yours had wonderful Thanksgiving.

  6. Jamie H says:

    It turned out gorgeous. I love the moss that you added between the logs. I’m bringing back my Monday link party @ DIY Home Sweet Home (first one will be Oct. 16th) and I would love for you to stop by and link up your mantel!

  7. xxscharrer says:

    Love it! And what a steal! Those are going for $1,000 around here!

  8. acraftymix says:

    Such a beautiful find Lindsey and well worth the eight month wait. Not a lot of homes in South Africa have fireplaces and I’m always so envious looking at pictures on Pinterest of all the lovely ones and how everyone decorates them. This is such a brilliant idea. Now if only we had a Craigslist here

  9. Florence says:

    Lindsey, I like how you went after what you wanted to get that fireplace! Innovative idea to add those wood slices to the front! I also like the white wash on the mantel. I’ve done wood stripping before & that is a messy job!! Pinned.

  10. Virginia says:

    I love this! I’d love to do this is my guest room. I’ll be keeping my eye open for a mantel! Thanks for sharing such beautiful inspiration.

  11. I adore your mantel, it looks amazing. I cannot believe what people want to get rid of, so glad you got it!

  12. Leslie says:

    So pretty! Our house doesn’t have a real fireplace in it either, and I totally understand why it feels like a disappointment. Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

  13. AnnMarie says:

    I really love your makeover! It is just like having a real fireplace without the mess. The period your mantel came from is one of my favorites. I live in an 1870 Victorian with a mantel in the parlor. There is a heavy metal plate in front and even a flue but no evidence of any fires being built there. Just for show…which is what I use it for!

  14. Nikki G says:

    I love your “fireplace” and the whole vignette. I too did the fake fireplace with antique mantel and I love it. Both of them in fact. I have one in my bedroom too.
    ๐Ÿ™‚ gwingal

  15. JESS44903 says:

    This looks so pretty! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for recipes, crafts, tips, and tricks:

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  16. Michelle James says:

    Hi Lindsey! Just wanted to let you know that we loved your Antique Faux Fireplace Mantel so much when you shared it at the #HomeMattersParty last week, we’ve FEATURED it THIS WEEK! Hope you can check it out when you get a sec. Happy Friday!! Michelle

  17. […] Creating An Antique Faux Fireplace Mantel from Lindsey @ Repurpose and Upcycle […]

  18. […] Creating An Antique Faux Fireplace Mantel from Lindsey @ Repurpose and Upcycle […]

  19. […] Creating An Antique Faux Fireplace Mantel from Lindsey @ Repurpose and Upcycle […]

  20. […] Creating An Antique Faux Fireplace Mantel from Lindsey @ Repurpose and Upcycle […]

  21. Lindsey what a wonderful salvaged architectural element that really creates a great focal statement, And I love the birch logs! Which I had the room in my place to borrow your project? Thanks so much for sharing it at Fridays Furniture Fix!

  22. What a wonderful job you have done with the faux mantel. I think it would look so good at Christmas time too.
    Bloggers Pit Stop

  23. Emily says:

    This is beautiful! We lived without a fireplace for 12 years, but our new house has one. I grew up never using the fireplace and now we use it all the time and I love it. Thanks for linking up to #HomeMattersParty

  24. Rebecca says:

    What a great craigslist find, and you did a beautiful job of refinishing it. I’m sure it is a perfect focal point for your room.

  25. Lindsey, great job! I don’t think I’m willing to do all that myself, but I’d love to have that beautiful addition to my home.