A full year and four months after my dad built this mantel for me and Mike, it is finally the way I want it and ready to display a few of our other treasures. This is the mantel we were given for our first wedding anniversary present from my parents in April 2012. ♥ My mom bought the wood for it, and my dad made it in just one day, in the hours before Aunt Laurie, Uncle Warren, and cousin Mark arrived from out of town for the weekend. "Make it extra small for them," my mom had instructed my dad. "They're in an apartment, remember." And even though it goes goes against all his furniture-building instincts, he left the mantel unstained since he knew I would want to paint it anyway.
It was the sweetest surprise, but since Mike and I hadn't been expecting it, of course, we hadn't rented a car for that weekend with enough trunk-space to accomodate a mantel, so it had to be stored at my parents' house another full year, until we rented a car again for our next anniversary trip.
In the meantime, I worked on redoing the wall I knew would be the Mantel Wall. The mantel is a little over three feet across, and this shortest wall in our apartment is only slightly longer, so this is the perfect spot for it. Our first two Christmases in this apartment have seen our tree in a cozy nook area just to the left of this wall, so imagine this winter when our tree is beside this tiny white mantel and sweet pink wall! ♥ But I'm getting ahead of myself. I knew I wanted the mantel wall to be different from all the others in our home, and since we are not allowed to wallpaper, I worked around the rules by attaching a few yards of fabric to the wall instead. This pretty print is Tanya Whelan's "Barefoot Roses." I love it. I nailed it up in a few spots and then decided to hot-glue painted yardsticks to its edges to make a border of sorts. I didn't do World's Greatest Job cutting around the smoke alarm, but my mistakes aren't so noticeable in the end.
By the time we unloaded the van--a van! We took no chances this time--we'd rented for our anniversary and visit home to my parents this April, the wall was almost ready--I was still in the middle of hanging family photos and revamping my beloved "Home Sweet Apartment" needlepoint, but the fabric was up--and I was more than eager, after a year's wait, to finish the mantel that would grace it. I bought a rose applique for the mantel's front, and while the combination of tape and wood glue worked its magic, I finally began painting.
First I went with the Sherwin Williams-brand "Captivating Cream" left from the hutch re-do.
It was pretty, but I hadn't realized that the sides of the mantel's wall were almost the same shade as the now-cream mantel and yardstick-border, and it just didn't thrill me.
By the time my birthday Tulips were resting on top, I had tried the leftover "Mesclun Green" from the hutch project. I love bold-colored mantels. There are some vivid Kelly green ones online that make me happy just to look at, and I've saved photos of gorgeous pink ones too.
The green was a definite Strike Two, however, and after a couple days spent analyzing various shades of pink paint, I chose a couple, "sure" that if I didn't love one, I'd love the other and could use both for extra projects around the apartment anyway. First up was Sherwin Williams' "In the Pink." And by this point, Mike's parents' wedding portrait and my parents' high school graduation portraits were watching over all the action. ♥
This was too "Barbie's Dream House" pink for me, especially against the pink wall and now-pink fabric-border, so I opened the can of "Charming Pink." And was not at all charmed, as is evident in the mess of a photo below. It looked more white than pink when dry, but more unintentionally-faded-white than true white. By this point, I was tired of the entire project and took a break from all things mantel-related for awhile.
Until yesterday, when I decided that white was the "obvious" way to go. It would connect the white of the photos' mattes to the mantel, and the brightness would "pop" against the pink wall better than any other color--except maybe black, but this was too sweet a mantel for black. I explained to the clerk at Sherwin Williams yesterday morning that I wanted a "real" white, not at all cream, not at all gray, nothing yellowed or faded or subtle about it, but instead a true white, and he instantly said, "You probably want our 'Extra White.'" And he was right. This was, I see at long last, what I'd wanted all along. ♥
It looks crisp and bold but still sweet and cottage-ey, it is striking against both the pink floral wall and the framed photos of our parents and siblings, and all the little things that have been set aside for displaying on the mantel will really shine against the bright white. That patchwork wing chair I've been redoing? It will be going to the left of the mantel, with the Christmas tree between them every winter. ♥ With an overstuffed ottoman and a vintage rug in-front, and string lights. And red hearts! And trailing houseplants! And! And! And!!
The white seems to show off the mantel's details best too. Dad did such a beautiful job with this.
After straining back, arm, and neck all afternoon yesterday with paintbrush in-hand, I saw that I was finally done, and I called Mom late last night to tell her. She completely "got" it and was so excited to hear the news. "We told you you'd know the right color when you hit upon it," she reminded me. I had shown her, Dad, and Aunt Laurie photos of the mantel during my birthday visit home a few months ago, and she and Aunt Laurie had said that it looked pretty already but that they could tell I wasn't thrilled with it. I'm thrilled now, and it was a relief to be able to say so, especially after all the work and wait-time my family had put into this first anniversary surprise for us.
So sweet! ♥
And now this dear little mantel and the space around it will get to be decorated, certainly a more relaxing stage than the painting one. I'm mailing pictures to Mom, Dad, and Aunt Laurie tomorrow. And I'm not even looking at paintbrushes today, I assure you. My mantel is done! ♥