Alexi of Seeking Alexi loves to create designs that reflect her personal taste— especially in her home. We invited her to take part in our Holiday Style Challenge, and sent Alexi a mystery box of Home Depot Christmas decorations to get her started on her Christmas decorating.
For the Style Challenge, Alexi gave her living room a modern look with a fireplace mantel makeover. Then she added gorgeous Christmas decorations in time for the holidays.
A home’s mantel is likely the centerpiece to a family’s home. It’s also one of the very best places to decorate during the holidays! For most of December, (and probably part of November if you love Christmas as much as I do) most homes have stockings, garlands, and maybe some lights or artwork attached to or surrounding a mantel to create a beautiful focal point in your home.
This year, as I was pondering how to decorate the mantel of our new home during the holiday season, it dawned on me that I didn’t even like our fireplace mantel! There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, except it didn’t feel like “us.” My husband and I like a more modern and minimal style, so I couldn’t see us with putting so much focus on our mantel for Christmas when I didn’t even love the look of my mantel in the first place.
So I made the decision to go for a complete fireplace mantel makeover to create the new perfect mantel from scratch.
I’m excited to share with you my journey and share the steps if you would like to create your own modern mantel.
Here’s the before and after:
Fireplace Mantel Makeover
Remove Existing Mantel
If you have a mantel like mine, made of tile and a painted piece of wood, then you can get away with ripping down your existing mantel and any other parts you want to replace.
To get your mantel off, take a razor blade, and slit around the outside of the mantel near the wall where it has been sealed with caulk. This step is crucial to taking off your mantel easily.
Then to loosen it, use a crowbar and hammer to lightly tap around the outside where it meets the wall. When you start to actually pry, place a slat of wood (like a sample floorboard) between the wall and your crowbar so you don’t damage the drywall. My mantel came off pretty easily at that point. I also ripped off my tile using a crowbar as well, although that part was a little more time-intensive.
Prep Your Floors
My first step before I put down tile was to put down cement backerboard, which you can score with scoring knife. I used cement board to make an even surface on top of the plywood, and I also needed a little more height so it would be even with my new wood flooring. When you screw cement board into place, use these special cement board screws.
Tile (And Grout) Your Floor
I had never tried tiling before, and after watching this video, and talking to some Home Depot associates, I felt ready to give it a try.
I was scared before I began, but tiling was much easier than I had anticipated. Just go slow, be meticulous, and as precise as you can. Also, if you select larger tile like I did, then you can also have your local Home Depot cut a few pieces of tile in half so you don’t need to rent a tile saw or buy your own tile cutter.
These are all the supplies you will need to tile, including the grout:
Figure Out Your Mantel Dimensions and Build a Frame
I ended up using mostly 2 x 6-in. wood you can find in the lumbar section of The Home Depot.
Basically, build a frame for your new mantel, and attach it to the wall screwing directly into your existing studs. Your dimensions will be different than mine, but just make sure your vertical studs are spaced close enough that your drywall (coming up in the next step) won’t be damaged by something hitting it.
This step was relatively easy, just be meticulous, again.
A tip for cutting drywall is to score it, just like the cement backerboard, but using a razor blade, bend it, and it will snap. You may need to slit the other side of the drywall to make a clean cut. But then just screw it into your new frame.
Mud Your Drywall
This step is the only one I would highly recommend finding someone else to do. I hired some professionals, but still bought them all the supplies from The Home Depot. Watching the swiftness and skill from professionals helped me realize that this step was definitely worth it for me.
Paint your Mantel
I didn’t photograph this step, but it was pretty straightforward.
I painted the whole mantel in bright white, and while I was at it, I painted the wall white too so it would feel nice and simplistic.
Add Your Solid Wood Mantelpiece
This was by far the most rewarding step. It was so nice spending time perfecting the mantelpiece and then adding it to the mantel.
I had to special order the piece of wood from The Home Depot because they don’t keep the dimensions I wanted in-store. It was a 6 x 8 and very long, so it was huge, and so heavy.
My new favorite Home Depot associate ended up helping me cut it to-size at the store and loaded it into my car. Thank you, Paul (no but seriously, Paul also taught me how to stain properly)!
When I got it home, I sanded it down really well so there were no rough sides or edges. Then, since it’s a soft wood, pine, I used a wood conditioner to treat the wood first. This step allows the stain to apply more evenly. I’m so happy I included this step, it made a huge difference, and only took an additional 15 minutes. Just follow the simple instructions on the conditioner if you do this step.
Then, I stained the wood using this wood finish espresso oil-based interior stain. The best way to stain is to use an inexpensive brush, and make sure you follow the grain as you apply.
Then let it sit for 5-15 minutes, depending on how dark you want the color, then remove all the excess stain by rubbing it down with a disposable rag.
You’ll then need to let the stain dry for a few hours, but then you’re ready to add it to your mantel! Attach it with construction-grade adhesive using a caulk gun, and you will be good to go for the last step!
Christmas Decorations for the Fireplace Mantel
You can take a look at all of their gorgeous holiday decor here! Having a mantel that fit my style made it even more fun decorating for my favorite holiday. And it turned out awesome in the end, take a look!
Thank you, Home Depot for letting me be involved in the Holiday Style Challenge, I had a complete blast! And a huge thank you to my friends who made the final moment even more special.
Alexi Politis of Seeking Alexi is a design-aholic, Instagram junkie, wannabe blogger, novice letterer, master DIYer, expert chip-snacker, pretend traveler, semi-outdoors-(wo)man, football supporter, church-goin’ person, self-proclaimed foodie, domestic-lovin’, & hugely motivated creative director, graphic designer & web designer.
You can find additional inspirational blog posts by checking out our Holiday Style Challenge. Also be sure to follow our Holiday Style Challenge board on Pinterest, for more Christmas decorating ideas. Take a look, too, at our blog post, Holiday Mantel Makeover.
The Home Depot has everything you need to decorate for Christmas in our Holiday Decorations Department.