We ended up having to totally restructure the fireplace, which was sad but has led to two good developments in the project:
1) We are going to repurpose the old mantel and use it as a decorative piece on the front porch – so excited.
2) We are going to use an unfinished-edge piece of vintage lumber as the new mantel!!
We started thinking about the possibility of using a vintage piece last week, and my brilliant mother knew exactly where to go: Woodstock Vintage Lumber. After wandering through the yard without any pieces really speaking to us, the owner Brent got a funny look on his face and disappeared. He then came back with the most unbelievably gorgeous piece of Tennessee Red Cedar. It was the perfect size, shape and color for the mantel! Here is what it looked like before sanding and planing:
It was love at first sight, so we purchased the piece. Billy, one of the Vintage Lumber geniuses, took the piece and planed one side so it would fit against the wall and sanded the whole thing. Here he is showing off his handywork:
And my cute mom (who hid from the camera), holding the piece over the unfinished fireplace:
So thrilled about this find!!