Upcycling: Baluster Fireplace Mantel

As I mentioned late last year, my wife, son and I moved to a new house here in Bellingham.

Nearly four months later, we’re still chipping away at actually moving in, that process whereby all of the boxes are emptied, blank walls are adorned with decorations, routines and rhythms are formed, etc., and one item we recently checked off our list involved what became a perfect subject for my Upcycling series. (Note: 95% of the vision for this project came from my wife, who has a wonderful ability to see the artistic possibilities in objects that a mere mortal would be oblivious to.)

We have a gas fireplace in the living room, above which the builder did not include a mantel. And, since we celebrate Chanukah AND Christmas in our home, it was inconceivable that we would have no where to hang our stockings.

Well, we had all sorts of ideas for a mantel design, but the project kept slipping down the priority list, superseded by things like getting our clothes into dressers and closets, finding a dining table in time for Thanksgiving, and searching for that one box that held things like dental floss and toothpaste.

At last, after the holidays, we settled on the idea of a big, beefy beam of wood, preferably salvaged, preferably weathered and distressed in order to contrast with the pristine white walls and overall modern design of the room.

Finding such a piece of wood proved more difficult than I ever imagined. Driving around to various lumber outlets included a visit Bellingham’s own Targo Woods, whose tag line is, “Hardwoods to Get,” which seemed like a perfect choice, only hardwoods to get come with a hard price tag to swallow, and we were constrained by a meager budget. It would have been impossible to get anything there that met our specifications for less than $200.

Our next idea was a used railroad tie, widely available as they are popularly used for landscaping. However, a little research on the internets revealed that it’s not the brightest idea in the world to hang a hunk of wood in your home that has been soaked in toxic creosote. Additionally, creosote has a distinct stink to it, which, especially when the fireplace is blazing, wouldn’t exactly be pleasant to the nose.

Finally, one day, the Mrs. was browsing at our wonderful local outlet for all things salvaged, The RE Store, when she came across two massive, solid wood balusters that had been removed from some house somewhere, and instead of seeing two pieces of ugly lumber with chipping paint, lumber meant to be in a vertical position rather than horizontal, she suggested that we’d found our mantel.

Because each baluster was only 4-1/2 inches wide, we bought both, planning on mounting the two of them together in order to create 9 inches of depth, to accommodate knick-knacks, and to create a more substantial presence. Thankfully, the Re Store offered to trim the ends so that they were to the length we needed and symmetrical.

Here’s the mantel with temporary mounting brackets:

And, here it is with galvanized brackets to add an industrial aesthetic:

We’re VERY happy with the outcome!

One thought on “Upcycling: Baluster Fireplace Mantel

  1. what a beautiful re-use of the wood to create something unique. Moving in is such a process. I think last time we still had a couple of boxes left on packed 4 yrs later. And we didn’t end up unpacking them until we moved out to the next house. Honestly we gave away/sold most of the things in those boxes. If you have used it in 4 yrs probably not going to.

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