Building the Fireplace

We are getting close to the end of construction. One of the last things to do is build the fireplace.

Although a pellet stove would have been a more effective source of heat, we thought an open fire would make the place feel cozier, so we opted for that.

Given all the doors along the backside of the house, the only place that made sense to put a fireplace¬† was in the corner of the living room. That actually works well because it means we can see it from the kitchen and dining area as well as the living room. Here’s the design we came up with.

However, the corner location restricted its size and we found we couldn’t make it as big as we wanted. Not the end of the world.

Since we wanted the fireplace to fit with the rustic character of the house, we decided to build it out of brick and stone using an old wood beam for a mantel and a space to store wood below the firebox.

Here’s the stone we found for the front of the firebox:

fireplace stone being lifted on crane

Here it is in place:

Here’s the old beam we found for the mantel:

The chimney pipe is covered in plaster:

Ta-dah! Here’s the finished fireplace:

Now all we need to do is test to see if it draws properly and then we’ll be ready for a cozy fire.

Fireplace Settling On a Design

During our trip in May, we discussed the fireplace in the context of its position in the room, especially its position relative to the interior stone wall. We settled on a corner fireplace near the back of the house.

Then, in July we settled on the general design.

Today, we received a rendering of the design. The front of the fireplace is brick, with two stone “wings” that angle back into the wall.

Fireplace design drawing
Front View of Proposed Fireplace
Click image to enlarge
Top view of fireplace design
Yop View of Proposed Fireplace
Click image to enlarge

I had two questions for Kevin:

  1. Didn’t we need at least one row of bricks at the top of the firebox area, below the mantle?
  2. Was the mantle too “heavy” for the design of the fireplace and the room?

Kevin reassured me that the bricks weren’t needed and that they felt the mantle was the right proportion.

In the end, we decided to trust our Italian brain trust.

Image: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

More Design Input Wood and Paint Colors, plus Fireplace Design

In preparation for our visit to the property, which happens next week, Kevin has given us some homework.

The trip will include meetings with a landscape designer, a kitchen and bathroom designer, and the architect, who is also an interior designer.

We have already provided enough guidance for the kitchen and bathroom designer and the landscape work hasn’t even been roughed out yet, so our assignment deals with internal elements.

door and window color choices
Windows and Doors: Middle color

Lintel stain color
Exterior Lintel Color
Click image to enlarge

The first part of our homework deals with paint and stain colors.

  • Confirm the color we chose last year for the (mahogany) windows and doors.
  • Ditto for the external lintels.
  • Decide how to stain the interior lintels.
  • Select the color for the main (chestnut) beams and cross (pine) beams.
  • Pick paint colors for the ground floor ceiling (the part between the beams) and the walls.

Kevin wanted us to gather some paint and stain swatches to bring as input. We went off to Home Depot to see what we could find.

It became clear right away that this not an easy task, with the stain being the main problem. Since each wood takes stain differently, we need to see actual wood pieces with the stain applied, not a brochure with color swatches. (Shockingly, there were no examples of stained European Chestnut.)

Without knowing the wood color, it is hard to make any paint choices beyond “something off-white.”

Anne also feels that choosing colors from an American source isn’t that useful. We need to see what’s really available in Italy.

So we’re pretty much an F on this assignment.


The other piece relates to the fireplace. This has always been a great unknown. The floorplan included a fireplace in one corner of the main room, but it has always been unclear just what fireplace shape and orientation were conceived.

The design issue is further complicated by one adjacent wall being stone, the other plaster, so how do you merge the two together via the fireplace? If we use a lot of stone is the fireplace and the wall above the fireplace, will that be too “heavy”? What if the fireplace surround is stone, but the wall above is plaster? Does that make for an awkward junction between the two walls and their different materials?

We thought maybe we could sort this out by finding a picture of a fireplace with the right design. Despite our best efforts searching the web and Pinterest, we couldn’t find a good example. We could find fireplaces with some of what we wanted, but even taken together they don’t show a clear solution.

So maybe we get a C on this part of the homework.

Next week’s meetings will be interesting. I predict we’re going to need more time for research, exploration, and discussion than Kevin has in his agenda.

Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure