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11.06.2020

fabulous faux mantel & logs

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before i ever began concepting or creating this years' holiday decor,
i decided that it was finally time to create a prop that i've longed for:
a fireplace mantel.

we don't have one - ours is just a Craftsman--style cabinet with a faux electric fireplace in it.
it's very nice, but it has no mantel. and hanging above it is a television.
not exactly picturesque.

wanting a setting that would work as a backdrop to my holiday decor content,
i looked at what i had already, and came up with a plan...
my faux fireplace mantel would live in my studio/office,
providing easy access for setups and the best light to be had around here.

scraps of wood from the garage made easy work of it,
and they will come apart easily when i decide it has served its purpose.
that's my kind of decorating!


continue reading to see details - AND how to make those fab faux logs!

the first thing i should divulge is that the fireplace mantel itself is not 'life size'...
taking a page from the Walt Disney design handbook regarding playing with scale,
it is only 36" tall - about the same height as a dining table.

i can play with the way it appears in photos
because i built this to fit on TOP of a sideboard that is in my studio:

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i chose this location because of the huge wood gate that hangs on the wall - 
it's white, it's sort of farmhouse-y, and it is the perfect light-reflecting photo backdrop.
a bonus is that with the mantel sitting up on top of the sideboard,
i am working at waist-height when setting up and snapping photos -
and that helps my back more than i can say.


the design made use of elements that i pulled out of the stash in the garage:

* one 1" X 9" X 8' pine board, cut down to two 1" X 9" X 35" pieces for the lower front panels.
* two identical pieces of salvaged moulding became the front apron and the top of the mantel.
(i had an ulterior motive there that you'll see in just a moment...)
* three 2" X 4" X 35" scraps of wood (saved from a picnic bench that fell apart)
form the sides and top brace.

i painted all of the pieces white in the garage, then moved them into my studio,
 
laying everything upside down and flat on the floor while assembling it.

the apron was affixed to the top of both flat pine boards with construction adhesive,
then the three two by fours went into place:
one upright on each side, glued to the back of the pine boards and the apron,
and one horizontally on the top back of the apron. 
the top piece was glued flat on top of that horizontal two by four and the side two by fours.
the back of that top piece is even with the mantel sides,
while the front hangs over the apron by an inch.
.
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after the glue dried, i stood the mantel up on the sideboard and adjusted the placement.
to ensure that it would not fall forward when loaded with decor,
i used zipties stapled to the top two by four to anchor the mantel to two screws on the gate on the wall.


now... here's my reason for using a piece of moulding as a mantel top:
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because i placed the grooved part of the piece toward the back of the mantel,
it serves as a plate rail!

i've done a few different setups on it already, and it works PERFECTLY for this.
i can prop plates, platters, art, paper creations up there and they don't slide forward.
you can't tell it's there from the front, only from the sides.

most of the photos i will take will be head-on shots, cropped close to focus on the decor,
so this is what you'll see the mantel look like:

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it looks amazing with decor on it!
(links to previous posts below this post so you can see)

now, about those logs in the top photo...

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a fireplace needs logs, right? and a faux fireplace needs faux logs.
so when i discovered something that would help me achieve that, i jumped right in...

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this faaaaabulous woodgrain is on gift wrapping paper from Dollar Tree!
i grabbed a roll and then thought about how to make log shapes. logs are round...
i had some empty round cans on a shelf out in the garage. i could make that work!
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two cans and a bit of the wrapping paper make up the structure of each log.
i measured the length of paper it would take to wrap around the cans, cut that length,
then cut that into varied widths for the logs.

two cans were placed at the ends of each paper section, leaving a bit of space between them.
hot glue on the outer can edges holds the paper in place.

a paper towel roll worked well for a smaller log.

i kind of 'scrunched' the ends of the logs a bit,
 to create some texture via wrinkles in the centers of the logs.

small rounds cut from kraft paper had details added with a brown crayon.
those were glued onto the can bottoms. 

and then, just because i wanted to see what it looked like,
i grabbed an LED flickering flame candle and tucked it behind the logs...

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i'm really happy with the results! 

this would be a fun way to create a 'campfire' or fake fire for kids to enjoy indoors.
there's nothing here to hurt anyone - and no mess to clean up!

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i am going to enjoy having this piece in my studio this winter,
and i can guarantee you that it's going to show up in most of my posts for awhile!

thing is, i created this as a photo prop - a visual 'sleight of hand' for temporary use.
i've been doing that for decades as a visual merchandiser & designer,
and it's fun to apply those skills to photographs just as i do in window displays.

DISCLAIMER:
if you want to build a faux fireplace mantel for your own holiday home decor,
it will need to be 'life size' scale and built + mounted securely for your safety.
there are loads of tutorials online that will walk you through every step of the project,
made by people who actually build things for a living. with real tools.
i'm sharing this idea for inspirational purposes only.

links to previous related posts:

paper paint chip leaf wreath

painted toile floral pumpkins

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