The Fireplace Back (and also, I’m Back!)

Hi. I PROMISE, we still exist. In fact, I logged on to write a blog post, and was horrified to discover that I had ALREADY STARTED writing it, at the beginning of September, and never finished. I have no memory of starting the post at all. Just to be off-topic for a moment – teaching this fall has been hard. I think, even harder than last year. It feels like even more stressors are being lobbed at teachers, and this fall, and marching season, and all the time it took, has been hard. I am so lucky to have amazing students, but this fall more than any other, when I come home, I am too exhausted to work on the house, to blog, or to generally be a person. Hence, the silence. And I hate it, because working on the house and sharing about it fills my soul with joy more than anything else, and I haven’t been able to do that. I’d love to say “I’m back!” and I’ll be posting regularly, but who knows? I really hope I am, because the void in my life when I’m not being creative and connected is the worst.

OKAY. Back to work!

As we were getting the Library camera ready for “Cheap Old Houses,” we had to make some quick choices about what we could finish, and what needed to wait. If you watched the show, you can see in the Library that a lot wasn’t done yet – the sconces, the ceiling treatment, and the back of the fireplace. The room looks a little empty to me without those details, but they weren’t needed to make it look like a finished space. (Our local paper did a lovely write up of the show, that you can find here!


I was the most eager to get started on the back of the fireplace. But, we ran into a little trouble.

The BEAUTIFUL clay tiles from Clay Squared were JUST a fraction too tall – they would have stuck out over the silver arch, and you would have seen the raw edge. Had I chosen a thinner tile, like porcelain, it would have been fine. To, the options were : don’t tile the back and leave the cast-iron as is, find coordinating tile in a porcelain that would work with the hearth tile, fine a way to build up the silver fireplace surround, so the clay tiles would work.

We opted for option three. We had a local welder add a strip of metal around the fireplace face, so the tile would have a taller spot to land against.

It looks crazy, but the edges of the welding material will be covered by tiles, so it’s fine!

Ready for tile!

I used the dining room table as a place to build my random pattern of tile.

The border pencil tiles went on first!

After that, we started building the field tile from the right side.

I’m really proud of this matching job we did.


I started getting nervous as we moved around the curve, but Doug was incredible with his cutting. There aren’t really any pictures of us working, because we were both too busy – he was making all the cuts, and I was doing all the install.

I was pretty giddy at this point.

I could work a LITTLE ahead with the install of full tiles while he was making cuts, but not by too much. I didn’t want to risk the pattern going off level too much.


I always leave enough time between tile projects that I forget how messy grouting is, and how utterly satisfying it is. I love it so much,

Goodness gracious.

Taking up the paper to see THE WHOLE THING AT ONCE!

I am absolutely, positively in love.

So, how did the left side of the tile match up to the floor?

Here are a zillion angles, because I love them all.

We’ve come such a long way!

Before :

And After!

It’s beautiful. And it feels to me, like it’s always been here. We’re so glad to have put a fireplace back, where one was once lost!!!


  1. That is absolutely amazing! Love the clamshell design. You both should be very proud of this accomplishment. Bravo!

  2. Love! Love! LOVE!!! perfect matching job! (I literally popped on the blog in Saturday checking that my auto update notification didnt break. Ive missed you! Hopefully winter/holiday season is easier at school!!)

  3. This year is HARD for everyone, so I’m giving you a big virtual hug because I KNOW you’re doing great! And it’s going to get better! As a very active former band booster, I am always amazed that you keep posting through marching season, so this year just seemed like what a normal person would do. heehee
    And now I’m laughing at myself because EVERY time you talk about adding more, I think ‘No, she should stop there because it looks great.’ And then you add more, and I think ‘WOWWW!!’ The fireplace looks absolutely fabulous!! Perhaps this is why I don’t own a Victorian. 😉

  4. I’m sooo GLAD you are BACK!!! I’ve missed your posts. The fireplace looks absolutely fabulous, like everything you two do. You are so inspiring! I am so bummed that we just have regular old TV and are unable to watch the Cheap Old Houses series.

    1. You are so lovely! Also, for the show, if you want to see it, I know several people who did the free trial for Discovery Plus and just canceled after the 7 days!

  5. As usual, everything is gorgeous and you two are so talented. Thank you for slaking the thirst of your fans!

    Also, reporting from higher ed — yes, this semester feels even harder than last year (which was the hardest year of teaching for most of us ever).

  6. Gorgeous! I’ve missed your posts and wondered how the library was coming along. It looks beautiful!

    We’ve just finished our eighth (and final — sniff, sniff) year of being marching band parents to one clarinet and one color guard member) and have been so grateful for all you band directors do. Band gave my kids, especially the older one, a reason to even come to school. I know those kids will never forget what you are doing for them. I know mine haven’t and will never forget their directors.

Leave a Reply to EricaCancel reply