Tastes Like Burning

Now that I’m done making wedding programs I can finally get back to obsessing over house projects.  Right now I’m trying to undo the “improvements” that the house flippers made to our living room fireplace.

Before our realtor showed us our house, she mentioned that it had been rehabbed but that there might be a few “taste issues”. In other words the people who remodeled it had none.  Taste, that is.

They covered the brick fireplace with a magical combination of travertine, ceramic tile, and marble.  Because lord knows when you walk into a 960 square foot California bungalow the first thing you think is “What this house needs is some MARBLE!”.

Here’s the fireplace before…


And here’s the during. Please note I am aware that it looks worse now than it did before, but hopefully in the end that won’t be the case, and it will suit the style of the house much better than that weird “I’m so faaaaaancy” travertine monstrosity. Also, kindly ignore that yellow gladiola, for it to not be in the picture I would have had to move it.


I still have to finish chiseling mortar off of the sides, and then I have to patch some chips and cement a few of the bricks back in, and patch some cracks.  Then I’m going to prime it and paint it white, and hope you can’t tell that all of the mortar didn’t come off.  The inside and the hearth I am going to leave as is.  I was hoping to sand down the weird barn red mantle and restain it, but the wood that it’s made of is so flimsy that it snapped while I was sanding it, so we’ve got to pry the mantel off and replace it with a new slab of wood.  Not exactly sure how to do that, but we’ll figure it out. Heck, my husband roofed a garage, he can hammer on a slab of wood, right?

I think the proportions are already so much better and I love the arch.   The bricks are stamped with the name of the company that made them, and we looked them up and found out that that they came from a Sacramento brick company right down the street from our house.  It’s dorky, I know, but this uncovering of history is exactly why I wanted to buy an old house.  It’s just not as interesting figuring out where that god awful travertine came from, somehow.

It’s also good that I am doing this while I have a terrible cold because – so disgusting – whenever I chip off another piece of marble or scrape off mortar, I smell old cat pee.  So that seems really healthy and awesome, no?  I can’t wait to cover the whole thing in white paint and forget about it.

(Nine hundred people just made a note to themselves NEVER to buy an old house. )

(Oh, who am I kidding, nine hundred people don’t read this blog!)

I would say that I can’t believe that some a hole ruined this fireplace in such a manner and it’s incredibly annoying to be scraping mortar off it every spare second I get but the bad taste of the flippers is what let us afford this house and hey, I’ve got all kinds of time, so mortar scraping it is.

Plus Eli is straight up no doubt obsessed with fireplaces, they are one of his very favorite things in this life, for no apparent reason, so he’s a big old help, as you can imagine.  Just SO VERY HELPFUL. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

Sorry, I think all the vaporized cat pee mixed cough medicine may be affecting my brain.  For the BETTER.


12 Responses

  1. The brick on our fireplace is hideous. I WISH I had a lovely arch like yours instead of something some cokehead put down in the 80s with weird things jutting out all over the place.

    I am still wrestling with what to do about it.

  2. I totally like it and I don’t even think you should paint it white! Good job!

  3. OMG, I think it looks wayyyyyyy better already. I love it!

  4. Fab, fab, fab! I love it. I even like it without the white paint. Good job!

    I did a fireplace rehab in my old house. The “flipper” had created (and I use that term so very loosely) a surround out of 1/4″ plywood painted doo-doo brown with an insert covered in marble-patterned CONTACT PAPER. If you can even believe it. The mantle was also covered in the same paper. You seriously can’t even imagine the hideousness. Or the fire hazard. Well, you probably can. It was kind of like the K-mart version of your travertine masterpiece. I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

  5. The fireplace you unconvered is lovely. I can’t imagine someone intentionally covering it up with marble, which was obviously out of character with the house. Keep us posted. And I’m glad you’re back!

  6. lookin good!

  7. This is exactly why I want to buy an old house (an also why my husband does not want to!).

  8. I love it and it is so much better than before! I totally get what you are saying about “flippers”- not everything has to be marble or travertine. Old houses look good with original fireplaces and fixtures, if they can be salvaged!

    By the way, we missed you!

  9. Why oh why would they do that? It looks like it was so much prettier before! What a shame. Glad you’re restoring it, though.

  10. Oh, I love the brick the way it is. Very distressed chic. But I prefer cottage-y stuff to cold faux marble slab any day. The first thing I thought of when I saw the before picture was those mini fireplaces in the “sitting room” areas of hotel rooms. Not exactly what you’re going for in your home!

  11. what IS that fixation with marble? gah.

    i’m loving that arch too but i’m with you on painting it white.

    it’s the only way i could keep my ocd hands from continuing to chip chip chip chip chip chip chip to eternity because it’ll never be exactly right. so, yeah, paint. plus it’ll look so nice once it’s contrasting with the color on the walls…

  12. All I have to say is:
    Best. Blog. Title. Ever.

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