Uptown: How to Makeover a Fireplace

I was so happy to see a gas fireplace in my house when I first toured it with my real estate agent 2.5 years ago. After I bought it, moved in, and planned my various renovation projects, the fireplace was on the reno list, but it wasn’t a priority.

Over the last few months, however, I tackled this fireplace makeover*, and I’m so pleased with the results. Shall we walk down memory lane together?

Here’s the before photo of the fireplace. It was always in perfectly good working condition, but the tile was old, the 80s gold did nothing for me, and the step riser took up space in the smallish-size room. IMG_5806.JPG White-Cabana-fireplace-makeover-2The plan?
1. Get rid of the tile and the step.
2. Paint the gold.
3. Install a beautiful mantle.
4. Install a tile surround.

Thankfully, things went according to plan with this project!

My dad carefully removed the step and tile and ensured that additional supports were installed before adding more plywood/drywall to the surround.

White-Cabana-fireplace-makeover-7 White-Cabana-fireplace-makeover-3 White-Cabana-fireplace-makeover-4White-Cabana-fireplace-makeover-5My mom’s incredible detective skills resulted in a gorgeous mantle frame that was just about the perfect size for my space. My resourceful and handy parents took care of the few adjustments (and adding more trim).

White-Cabana-fireplace-makeover-1The painting and tile work was my responsibility. After taping around the fireplace screen, and covering my room’s floor with tarp, I painted the gold using high-heat Rustoleum spray paint. I completed a few light coats to ensure good coverage.

White-Cabana-fireplace-makeover-8Once the mantle was installed, I was able to get on with the tiles. I sourced 2-inch matte black hex tiles from my KW go-to tile team at Twin City Tile. I had my heart set on black from the get-go, but I did contemplate white hex and marble for a bit, too (you saw a bit of marble in one of the photos above).

White-Cabana-fireplace-hex-black-tilevia Instagram

In the end, I’m definitely glad I went for a black hex tile surround as the fireplace blends in, and it’s all very sleek.

White-Cabana-fireplace-DIYvia Instagram

Before painting the mantle, I sanded the heck out of it (thankfully I have the Black & Decker matrix with sander attachment, so this process went fairly quickly). I did all the sanding before I installed the tiles, by the way. I then put on three coats of white door and trim paint to freshen and brighten up this old mantle.

White-Cabana-fireplace-2via Instagram

White-Cabana-fireplace-1via Instagram

And there you have it – a step-by-step recap of my fireplace makeover.

* Thanks again, Mom and Dad, for your help!
If you’d like to see more of my house, check out my house tour or read the articles in the Uptown category.

News: Article #3 Now Published on Domino

My third article has been published over on Domino magazine, and I’d love for you to take a look (click here). Here’s a sneak peek:

Chapel-Hill-Powder-Room-After-1powder room in Chapel Hill, photo by me

White, black, and gold – how perfect for 2016!

Here’s my first article and my second article if you haven’t already read them.

The Friday Five: Paper Christmas Trees

Last week, I shared five black and white Christmas trees. This week, I’m sharing five paper Christmas trees. Who will be doing a bit of DIYing this holiday?

trees.pngREDDIY paper Christmas trees in black and white, Therese Knutsen

79ideas_the_invasion_of_the_paper_treesDIY paper Christmas trees in black and white, Seventy Nine Ideas

tks_hir_tre_1_largeDIY pop-up Christmas card, Maurice & King

v12523(1)5576b61561cc4via Creativ

paper-Christmas-treevia Craftaholics Anonymous

 Have a great weekend!

DIY: Painting with CIL

If you’re a regular reader, then you know that my parents have helped me with just about every reno project I’ve done at my home. They are both very handy people. Dad’s great with electrical, plumbing, and BBQ cleaning projects, and mom is a genius sewer, stylist, gardener, and painter. I’d be dumb not to cash in on their talents. (Mom, Dad, I hope you’re amused by this introduction.)

So it goes without saying that if they have a project that needs me, I’m happy to help. Most of the time this means that I’m moving a piece of furniture. But recently, my help came in the form of painting. I worked with CIL and helped my parents paint their garage doors. The doors weren’t in terrible shape, but since my parents recently replaced all their outdoor eaves and trim, the existing door colour didn’t work.

We opted for this CIL exterior doors and trim paint:

CIL-Doors_trim-exterior-paint-101CIL Smart3 Triple Weather Protection Doors and Trim

I picked up the paint at my local Home Depot and had it colour matched to a piece of the eaves. Perfection!

My dad took the lead on the painting. Since this was an outdoor painting project, we waited for the weather report to call for a few days of warmth and sunshine. CIL suggested  (via Twitter) that the ideal temperature for exterior painting is 15°-20°C. (I’m pretty sure that those temps are good for the paint application and the painter’s fingers!)

We didn’t need to begin with a separate primer because the CIL Smart3 already has a built-in primer (cue the confetti!). Dad liked working with this paint; he reported that there were no bad smells, no splattering, and that the application was very smooth.

Here’s a look at the after:

White-Cabana-CIL-paint-exterior-garage doors102_1261The garage door is a taupe-grey-stone colour that is a perfect match to the eaves and trim. The colours of the whole house are now much more cohesive. It was an easy weekend project that made a big impact to the home’s exterior.

Thanks to CIL for sponsoring this post. Photos by Jordana and Dad.

Event: Pottery Class at Inspirations Studio

Recently, I was invited back to Inspirations Studio in Toronto to take part in a pottery class with a group of my blogging colleagues (hi Renée, Brittany, Shannon, Amy). It was so fun! You may remember that last year, I designed a collection of pottery that was sold at BlogPodium. This time, though, it was my turn to get behind the wheel. Oh my goodness. I made a mess! And it was fun!

The afternoon began with a pro-potter giving us step-by-step instructions on how to throw the clay and form it into a small bowl using the wheel.

White-Cabana-pottery-2In just a few minutes, she made this perfectly formed bowl:

White-Cabana-pottery-3I made several attempts, but couldn’t quite get a symmetrical bowl. A little wonky bowl is a conversational piece, though, right? We also had the chance to roll out the clay and use different materials to imprint patterns on our pieces. I made a tray and rolled a piece of lace over it to create some texture.

White-Cabana-pottery-1Our pieces should be ready soon, and I’ll be sure to show you how they look post-firing. For now, here are a couple more photos from around the studio.White-Cabana-pottery-4 White-Cabana-pottery-5If you’re in Toronto and would like to have your own pottery experience, you might want to register for classes at Inspirations Studio.

Thanks to Lindsey T. and the team at Inspirations Studio for organizing a wonderful afternoon of pottery!

Uptown: Herringbone Tile Installation Process

As you may recall, I decided to install a marble floor in a herringbone pattern in my small foyer. The project is just about complete, and I’m so so so thrilled with how it has all turned out. I’m extremely happy! Here’s a bit of a how-to for you in case you’re considering doing this type of thing yourself.

My herringbone floor is my third tile project. My first tile project was my hex tile floor in my powder room. Then, I tackled my kitchen backsplash with large white subway tiles. For foyer floor, I picked up a gazillion marble tiles from the ReStore about a month after I bought my home. I knew they’d look great in my foyer.

My first two tiling projects went very smoothly, so my confidence to tackle the marble was fairly high going into the project. I have found tiling to be quite interesting. It’s sort of zen-like because of the repetitive installation process, and it’s also like solving a puzzle because of how all the pieces need to fit neatly together. It also includes a bit of baking skills, I’d say, because of the mixing of mortar and grout. Just work with me here, people!

While I was mostly confident that I could tackle the foyer tile installation, I was also hesitant because I knew I’d have to use a wet saw for the gazillion cuts involved because of the herringbone pattern. I didn’t even own a wet saw when I began this project!

I didn’t take photos throughout the process – it’s hard to do when my hands are a complete mess! – but here’s what I did do.

1. Get educated: I read this article and watched this video.

2. Upgrade tools: I bought a wet saw from Canadian Tire (it was on sale for less than $100 one week).

3. Prepare work area: My dad ripped out the old linoleum for me (thanks, Dad!), and we both installed a new piece of plywood (5/8″, I think it was). Installing the new piece of plywood caused us both frustration because of the tight space.

4. Prepare marble tiles: I cleaned and sealed the marble tiles pre-installation.

5. Play with patterns: I tested out different patterns just to be sure that herringbone was my favourite.

6. Organize tiles: I sorted the tiles by colour variation so that I could install more light than dark tiles (that was my preference).

7. Measure, measure, measure: I did a lot of measuring in order to ensure that my tile placement was straight. Because I didn’t have a wet saw when I began the project, I didn’t begin the way the article suggested (with the cut triangle piece against the straight edge). If I ever do a herringbone pattern again, I would definitely start with the triangle cut/piece, so that there would be fewer tiles cut.

8: Plan layout: I dry-fit the tiles (again).

9. Mix mortar and install tiles: I mixed the mortar, spread it out, and started sticking the tiles down on the floor. Hooray! I went slowly to be sure that I wasn’t screwing up the pattern, and I used tile spacers (the smallest ones I could find). I also laid down a white plastic edger thing to protect the carpet stairs and to make my edge as neat as possible.

White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-2White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-8White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-7I left all the edging (which included the cut pieces) for another time (post-wet-saw-purchase).

10. Cut tiles: I bought a wet saw and convinced my dad to come help me with all the cuts (it didn’t take much convincing…everyone loves a good power tool). The tag-team effort made the process go much more smoothly and quickly. After we learned about the best way to cut the marble tiles to avoid chips (see the video link above), things progressed well. I measured the heck out of every piece (measure twice, cut once, right?), while dad was on cutting duty. We also used the measuring attachments that came with the saw (e.g., the angle guider attachment) as they made the cutting easier.

This could have been a one-person job, but it was much faster to have two people do it. We made about 60 cuts for the edging and the space around the vent. The cutting took us maybe 4-6 hours.

White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-1White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-6White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-311. Mix more mortar for individual pieces: I labelled every cut piece of marble and its matching space on the floor, removed all the pieces, vacuumed the floor (again), mixed up another batch of mortar, and then installed the cut pieces individually. (This step could have been avoided had I had the wet-saw from the very beginning.)

White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-4 White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-512. Grout and clean: After wiping the marble floor and vacuuming (again), I mixed up some grey grout, and spread it around the floor. I followed the instructions on the back of the grout package, and spread it out using one of those rubber-like grout spreaders (what are they called?). After the grout was set/dried for just about 2 hours, I took another chunk of time to wipe off the excess grout, so that there would be no grout residue on the tiles. This step is essential, and it is essential to do it carefully and precisely.


13. Re-install the baseboards: Once the tile work was done, it was time to reinstall the baseboards. Easy. A few nails later, and they were done.


Here’s the space now:

White-Cabana-marble-tile-installation-11It’s just about complete. I need to caulk around the baseboards and then repaint them. I used the existing baseboards (to save time and money), but they need a fresh coat of paint.

Would I do something like this again? Heck ya! If I do marble again, I’ll need to upgrade my wet-saw blade (I think it’s done now). If I do herringbone again, I’ll definitely start with the triangle cut. I already have my next tiling project in mind!

Uptown: Installing Marble in my Foyer

Before I tackle my bathroom renovation, I thought I would get a smaller project out of the way – my foyer. It’s a small space, and all I have to do is install some marble tiles. Yup, that’s all. This project, however, is likely going to take a few weeks. It’s funny how the seemingly small projects take an extraordinary amount of time.

My dad was kind enough to rip up the old linoleum (bye bye linoleum!). I then used my newest gadget – a handy dandy jamb saw – to trim the door jamb frame and the frame around the stairs. (Sorry, I don’t have photos of the process, and I can’t even find a photo of the exact jamb saw I bought online. It’s Dewalt brand and it was $14.99 from the Home Depot.)

We then cut and installed a new sheet of plywood. This step was essential as it provides clean base to install my tiles. Since the space is small, installing the plywood was a real pain in the arse. After a bit of cursing, some deep sighs of frustration, and lots of discussion about the best installation approach, we got the plywood in, and it’s a nice fit, too!

Now comes the fun part – tile installation. I honestly love installing tiles (tile project 1: powder room floor; tile project 2: kitchen backsplash). I think I like it because the adhesive mixing and spreading reminds me of icing a cake, and installing the tiles is like a giant puzzle.

I bought marble tiles (for a crazy good price at the ReStore last year), and I spent a bit of time in between other weekend chores dry fitting them in different patterns. Dry fitting is an important step for me on this project because I really want to be sure of the pattern and the tiles that I’m going to lay down (e.g., I’m going to avoid using the darker shades).

I started with a herringbone pattern where the lines are perpendicular to the door.

White-Cabana-marble-2Option 1: vertical/horizontal herringbone

All I could see in this pattern were the vertical and horizontal lines, and it was not making me happy.

I then tried out a classic brick pattern.

White-Cabana-marble foyer-6Option 2: Brick

I think it’s pretty, and, like several Instagram friends, the variation in each piece of marble stands out. I’m not against the brick, but it seems sort of normal and expected. This pattern would definitely limit the number of cuts and reduce tile waste.

Back to the herringbone – the horizontal/vertical lines were annoying me, so I switched the layout so that the herringbone V pattern  (or zig zag) would be perpendicular to the door. Do you see what I’m talking about?

White-Cabana-marble-3Option 3:Herringbone V along the width

This looked instantly better in my opinion, but I released the photos to Instagram and let my friends weigh in. I LOVED reading everyone’s comments! Most people still opted for one of the herringbone patterns over the brick.

A few friends (and my mom via phone call) suggested I switch the direction of the herringbone so that the V shape would run lengthwise (i.e., parallel to the door). I ran with this suggestion and end up with this:

White-Cabana-marble-5Option 4: Herringbone V along the length

Much better. I did this quickly, so I didn’t actually verify that everything was lined up, but you can still get the idea of the shift of direction. I find this easy on the eye and flattering for the space.

A few people suggested inserting a border, so I tried that too.

White-Cabana-marble-4Option 5: Herringbone with simple border

I don’t actually think the space is large enough for a border (or carpet as I like to call it), but I can see how people like this option. It sort of finishes things off. It reminds me of colouring within the lines. All the fun happens inside the boxed border. For this foyer, I feel like the carpet style would just make the area feel smaller.

Shannon (8Foot6) suggested I try a basket weave, so I did. Here’s how it looks:

White-Cabana-marble foyer-6Option 6: Basket weave

I thought I was going to hate it because the basket weave reminds me of outdoor patios, but I don’t mind it. It’s certainly tidy, and it would require very few cuts, but I’m not sure that I love it for this space.

What do you think? What’s your vote? I’d love to know!

What was that about it takes a village

To everyone who follows me on Instagram and offered input – thank you!

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