If you follow me socially, you may recall seeing a little snippet of this “marble” project already…
Could you guess what I was making?
Well, in all fairness, my use as a fireplace hearth is rather obscure and it could have been almost anything. From a tabletop, to a decorative bread board, to a wall shelf, to a mantel, and everything in between!
This “marble” slab was designed to sit beneath my parent’s electric fireplace…
Although there was nothing wrong with it and it already stood on a bulky plinth, I liked the idea of giving it a more authentic look and helping ground the entire unit (as it is merely freestanding) with a traditional hearth-like platform.
My initial desire was to use a solid slab of real stone. Ha, ha, good one Kristine. Turns out even an inferior grade off-cut was gonna be waaaay too pricey. So, I considered several other options including, though not limited to; laminate, engineered stone, concrete, paving, brick, tile and vinyl wrap, before eventually settling on a DIY experiment using…contact paper!
Yep. I had no idea how this was gonna turn out though for just $20, and only an hour or so of easy work, I figured I had nothing much to lose. Fingers crossed!
Soooo, let the experiment begin.
Remember, although I’m using my “piece of marble” as a hearth it’s essentially a solid slab which could have many uses (some of which I’ve mentioned above). Let your imagination run wild!
YOU WILL NEED…
Obviously, this forms the base and you can use whatever suitable material you like. I wanted my little brass corners, which are 22mm deep, to fit exactly so needed my base to be the same depth. I couldn’t find an off-the-shelf material with a depth of 22mm, so I simply attached some 4mm deep trim to an 18mm deep plywood off-cut I already had to bring it up to the right depth.
MARBLE CONTACT PAPER
I used a carrara style contact paper with a light grey vein. It can be found online here at Crockers Paint & Wallapaper. The great thing about this supplier is that they offer contact paper by the meter, so you don’t need to fork out big bikkies on an entire roll. This particular paper is nice and glossy and pretty easy to work with too. It doesn’t stick to itself too badly and can be re-positioned if needed.
Note: International readers, it’s easy to find similar contact papers on eBay, Amazon or Etsy.
BRASS BOX CORNERS
Thinking to use these gave me an “ah-ha” moment.
You see, the thing with contact paper is that no matter how neat the application is any corners will never look seamless or be super durable. They force an inevitable break in the pattern, which belies any illusion of realism, and produce a point of weakness due to exposed joins which are highly likely to peel.
So, for the sake of both form and function, I needed to conceal them somehow. For the longest time I was contemplating the best way to edge the whole hearth when a light bulb suddenly went off. Duh! I only need to cover the corners. I bet I can find some cute box hardware for that. Yes siree, I sure can!
1 Cut wood to size.
Determine the dimensions for your hearth (or whatever you’re planning to make) then trim your piece of ply (or whatever you’re using as a substrate) to size. If you’re not keen on cutting wood, the hardware store will probably be able to do this for you. As touched on above, I also added some trim to bring the depth of my plywood up in-line with that of my brass corners.
2 Wrap wood in contact paper.
This can be a little daunting and it’s hard to know where to start.
Conventionally, once the contact paper has been trimmed to size, you begin attaching it at one edge of your substrate, peeling the backing and smoothing the contact as you go. For whatever reason I found that method challenging and ended up removing the backing sheet entirely, positioning the contact on my base then smoothing it from the center, out. I wrapped both the long sides first, then trimmed off any unnecessary excess before wrapping the short sides. I made sure the corners were tight and relatively neat though as they were being covered I wasn’t overly fussy.
Obviously, the above pic shows the under-side of my plywood.
3 Attach brass corners.
Simply hold your corners in place and hammer them home with little brad nails. My brass corners didn’t come with fasteners so I had to purchase some. I could only find steel brads at my local hardware store and was planning to paint the small heads with a gold paint pen, though they are so tiny it actually doesn’t matter.
:: Because plywood isn’t naturally smooth, any surface texture may show through the contact paper. Ensure your surface is as smooth and clean as possible. Although it wasn’t too much of an issue for me, next time I would probably use something smoother, like MDF or melamine.
:: Check to ensure your piece of wood is nice and flat. The last thing you want is a slight curve or warp ruining your “stone” slab.
:: The contact paper I used comes in a width of 45cm. If you’re planning to cover something wider than this, you might want to search around for a wider product to avoid having joins in your surface.
:: I simply used my hands and the spine of a book to smooth my contact paper though you can buy specialty film applicator tools if desired.
:: Make sure your brad heads aren’t too small or they’ll slip right through the little holes in the brass corners. Don’t ask me how I know this.
:: The brass corners come with a clear plastic coating. It’s kinda hard to see so just be sure to remove it first.
Whilst this electric fireplace will never be as glorious as a real one, it still has a certain charm and does form the focal point in my parent’s living room. So, in order to make the most of it, we also gave the surround a lift with some fresh paint.
The original white factory finish was two different shades and, although the surround is made of wood, it looked quite plastic-ish.
Please excuse the terrible before shot (taken with a crappy phone camera by my four year old!).
The new moody colour (Colourbond Woodland Grey by Dulux) picks-up on the vein in the “marble”, contrasts with the light walls and gives the fireplace a much more sophisticated overall feel (the darker colour will also help balance the television which will eventually be mounted above the fireplace).
As a finishing touch, I also painted over the visible gold text on the grill. It’s just a small detail though it does make for a cleaner look.
We contemplated adding a reclaimed timber mantel too though decided against it for now. Maybe that will happen in the future. Maybe.
I had planned to style this fireplace in a clean, trendy, contemporary way though no matter what I do things always seem to end up looking rather vintage-y around here :)
All of the accessories and artwork are thrifted.
The wingback armchair is from Ned’s (amazing price and free national shipping!). The block-printed throw cushion is an easy DIY project which I’m planning to post about in the future.
I am so rapt with the way this hearth turned out! Because it’s at my parent’s house I don’t see it everyday though each time I do it seems to look even better than I remembered! It’s almost a shame to cover it up with the fireplace (though, beautiful as it is, it would be kinda weird having a slab of faux marble sitting on the floor for no apparent reason!).
Have a great week all.
Just in case you’re wondering why I decided to spruce-up my parent’s electric fireplace, I’m actually working on a room makeover at their house which I hope to share more deets about soon!