Below is the first, second, and third installment of this post about the ultimate neoclassical fireplace mantel. (Part 3 is the one to click if you’re opening this from 8.31.2023 and beyond, and you’ve read everything else. Or, you could read backwards like I often do. lol)
If you are here for the first time, please read part I first so that part 2 makes sense.
If you’re here for the first time, please click the link below to go to part 2
Part 1 of the post is below:
Well, the architectural plans are finished. There are some superficial details, like mouldings, that need some tweaking. However, one doesn’t need formal architectural plans to put up mouldings.
Now, we have to pray super hard that the draconian building department doesn’t make us add 15 inches to the length of the staircase. The verdict won’t be in for several more weeks.
So, what’s on Laurel’s mind this week, now that we have the sconces sort of sorted out?
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the new fireplace mantel.
Oh, you’ve definitely decided to change it, Laurel?
I think so.
But, here’s the problem, and raise your hand if you can relate.
For the last three years, the following neoclassical fireplace mantel, Georgian, to be precise, is what I knew I wanted. Final answer.
And, believe me. I would be ecstatically happy with this mantel that was in a former home of William McLure.
So, what is the problem? You love this fireplace mantel, Laurel; what is giving you pause?
It’s a few things. As many of you know, I love to feature the brilliant work of ABKasha on Instagram. They are the husband and wife geniuses who turn Parisian nightmares back to their former glory and then some.
One element they frequently share is their jaw-dropping neo-classical fireplace mantel vignettes.
Sigh… We saw this in this post about mirrors over the mantel and what size mirror to get.
@idalindhag_photographer for @ABkasha on Instagram neoclassical fireplace mantel Louis XVI-style mantel and mirror
Clearly, the answer regarding mirror size is as big as possible.
These are both neoclassical fireplace mantels in the French Louis XVI style. There are many variations on a theme. These beauties are usually made from lovely honed white Statuario (Statuary) or Carrara marble.
They usually feature carved corner rosettes. (AKA, acanthus paterae end blocks, I just learned.) You can see an example of my new back kitchen cabinet above in an early iteration (long before I was working with Crown Point). The jambs (legs) may be curved like the one above or straight. There is usually fluting on the jambs and sometimes the architrave or apron. (The piece going across.)
In addition, there can be neoclassical carvings like the crossed laurel leaves above.
One last detail of an ABKasha Parisian masterpiece neoclassical fireplace mantel vignette.
And then, there’s this Angel pianist taking a break from her heavenly duties to play for the rest of us earthly beings.
As if that isn’t enough, she further knocks us out of our orbits by practicing in front of the most beautiful, antique Louis XVI neoclassical fireplace mantel adorned with golden statuettes.
All we see are tiny glimpses of her gorgeous Louis XVI neoclassical fireplace mantel.
There’s a lot more music and her lovely mantel on her page. The girl has chops. And yes, I do realize she doesn’t use her fireplace, certainly not when it’s mere inches from her very expensive baby grand piano!
However, between the Kashas and Elizaveta Frolova’s charming Parisian “practice room,” I realize that my 19th-century historical home would adore having one of these gems.
Interestingly, most of these antiques were created in the 19th century, not the Louis XVI period at the end of the 18th century, thus making them of the style.
Okay, Laurel, they’re beautiful. This is, obviously, the type of fireplace mantel you’d like to have. So, why don’t you just go with it and move on to something else?
Well, not so fast because there are some issues here. One of them is going with something on a whim! Right? Like everyone else, I need to plan this out– carefully!
Let’s go over the issues:
One, these neoclassical French mantels are not very tall.
Most of them are 40″-43″ tall. Part of their beauty, I think, is that they are not big, bulky things.
I was planning on doing a neoclassical mantel of the Georgian style. That’s roughly the same period as Louis XVI but in England. Those mantels were more commonly made of wood, and the styling, while still neoclassical, had different neoclassical elements. The Georgian fireplace mantels are more architectural.
So, many would say that I need a taller, hunkier mantel for my room. But, is that true?
While a fireplace mantel, no matter the style is on a wall, I still think of it as a piece of furniture attached to the wall. And, as you may have heard me say a few times before, “Furniture exists for the people living in the room, not for the room itself.”
Of course, we have to work within the limitations of the space.
Photo Credits: Emily Followill, Robert Roth, Architecture William T. Baker
Above is a perfect example of a not-very-tall fireplace mantel happily sitting in this room with ceilings so high, they’re nowhere to be found. By the way, that mantel appears to be painted, so it’s either limestone, plaster, a composite material, or wood.
How can you tell how tall the mantel is, Laurel?
Well, I know these chairs are about 34″-35″ high. So, the mantel is between 40″ and 45″high. My Georgian mantel was to be about 48″-50″.
While I don’t want something dinky, I also don’t need the mantel to be 50″ high. I think 45″ would still be okay, but not any lower because my wainscoting is 40″ high.
But, there’s more.
It’s the Massachusetts building codes, once again, coming to bite me in the arse.
There must be at least 12″ of non-combustible material, between the firebox opening and any wallboard or wood, on the top side of the opening. For most everyone else, the minimum is 6″. However, the sides, like the rest of the world, can be 6″.
This would not be a problem if I were doing an all-marble fireplace, as nothing is combustible. However, I’m afraid those antique neoclassical fireplace mantels will be too petite, which is where we started.
In addition, the neoclassic marble fireplace mantels I love do not exist in this country.
Or, if they do, they are at least $20,000. That is, for an antique. There are many gorgeous pieces in Europe for less, but getting them here is the issue. I made that mistake once and paid dearly for it.
Oh, those old posts are so bad!
Anyway, the fireplace does not have to be made of marble.
It can be painted wood and maybe verrrrry lightly antiqued to mimic statuary marble. I don’t want to do plaster.
Laurel, there are many places in the US where you can get the kind of fireplace you’d like at a reasonable price.
Okay, if you know of any tasteful sources, I’d love to hear about them.
However, like most of the furniture I see being made, fireplace mantels of this type tend to be clunky or overly ornate. Another common issue is crowns that are way too big. Several don’t do that examples are in this post about the best mantel proportions.
Incidentally, I have devised a little trick to fake out the 12″ noncombustible requirement so that it won’t look like a mile of black marble below the white mantel.
I will share that on Monday night and also my favorite French neoclassical fireplace mantel design.
I plan on doing a scale drawing for the new mantel.
The other day, I batted my eyelashes, and my contractor said his guy could make it for me. However, he said he needed to know the exact mouldings and precise measurements.
No problem! But, this is another compelling reason to do the French neoclassical mantel as opposed to the Georgian neoclassical fireplace mantel. The former is a lot less complicated than the Georgian.
Besides, the carved corner paterae and the fluted jambs suit my place and fit in beautifully with the existing window and door casings. By the way, I got a quote for the French Doors and plain transoms I decided to go with. You can see them here.
I recommend that you sit down for this one. No, wait. Please drop gracefully to the floor first. I don’t want you to hurt yourself!
Not including installation, hardware, shipping, and Massachusetts sales tax, the quote was for $28,000.00. Yes, the doors are tall. (90″), and yes, they are custom, but I know exactly what I want. I GOT CRICKETS when I asked about a trade discount (twice).
I need custom doors with slender 3″ stiles. That’s a non-negotiable. So, if anyone knows of a great source that isn’t the place in Montague, Massachusetts, please let us know in the comments. I love that company’s doors. However, the silent treatment doesn’t work for me.
In the meantime, please enjoy these beauties I found on 1stdibs.
Marc Maison is another fantastic source that will keep you busy for a while. He has dozens of these beauties at a wide range of prices. But, they are overseas.
I love the iron inserts, but one doesn’t often find this in the USA. The neoclassical fireplace mantel is available through Marc Maison.
Finally, for today, I also love this fireplace mantel by Jamb. It’s not quite right for me, and I’m sure it’s way out of my price range. However, I think it’s perfect for this charming English country home.
Please stay tuned for more Monday evening!
Part 2 Begins Here
It’s Monday evening. :]
Guys, some of you, anyway. We need to talk. But, before I do, please let me say, I love all of you to bits. And nothing I’m saying is even remotely personal. In addition, everything you sent is very much appreciated. (Please do not send links in your posts because it makes a lot of extra work for me.)
However, this is a little tough love because some of you are not getting the salient point of this post.
When I say neoclassical, I mean seriously neoclassical from the late 18th century and much of the 19th century. Many of you sent me sources that are anything but neoclassical. While I know you mean well, it’s not right for me.
To further confuse the issue, some sources may say it’s neoclassical, or Louis XVI. But, that doesn’t mean it is. I know. It should, but it depends on the source. Please understand that I studied this at length in design school. I had to trace furniture. Yes, trace antique pieces in a book.
And, I’ve been studying neoclassical furnishings ever since.
But, here’s what I need to stress even further.
My house is 143 years old and is part of the national registry of historic homes. How cool is that!
I have enormous respect for these antique homes. Unfortunately, there are many who either don’t know or don’t care. However, no matter the reason, many interiors around here have been raped of their character and turned into something they were never meant to be. That is on the inside.
The outside we’re not allowed to touch without the approval of the Back Bay Architectural Commission. I even had to get approval for my condenser in a private walled-in garden facing an alley filled with garbage cans and rats.
Let me put this another way.
I am trying to breathe old life back into a home that has suffered long enough from neglect or renovations that don’t do this grand building justice.
The fireplace mantel is the center of my home. I want it to look like it was put here 143 years ago. And, it needs to fit properly.
About the French doors.
While I don’t want to pay $28,000 for a pair of French doors, they also need to look like they’ve been here for 143 years.
Back then, for French doors, even very tall glass doors, the door frames (rails and stiles) were quite slim. The stiles (side pieces) were from 2.5″ – 3″ wide. Today, doors are made with stiles that are 4.5″-5″. That’s fine for a solid door. However, as you know, these are glass doors. And, each glass door is only 18″ wide. So, if the stiles take up 9 inches of the width, the pains of glass will also be 9 inches.
That is not going to work. It will look like a mistake. 12″ of glass is what I’d like to see.
My contractor says he has a source, Dorchester Door & Window. Their website doesn’t impress me, but I will talk to them. Still, I see no evidence of my elegant doors. Instead, I see a lot of talk about vinyl. Ummm…
Still, there must be another source in this huge country that makes custom doors the old-fashioned way, that returns emails, and isn’t price-gouging; especially when they will be getting a lot of great exposure on the blog. I know these doors aren’t going to be inexpensive. I was fully prepared to lay out 20k, but that would be the bottom-line price. Great, if someone can do them for less.
Okay, I need to finish this up.
But, please know, that I need unusual sizes, especially for the doors and transoms, and it is highly unlikely that what I need exists in an auction house or architectural salvage place.
This isn’t to say that getting items secondhand is a bad idea.
Not at all! 80% of the furniture I have is second, third, or fourth… hand. However, it is usually better to go with a custom option for things that need to fit precisely in a confined space.
Please also understand that I’m immensely grateful and touched by your kindness and wanting to help.
Okay, where does this leave us with the neoclassical mantel?
Well, I need to have it made.
As it happens, I have (exceedingly brave) friends who ordered a custom mantel from China and are thrilled with it.
It’s not neo-classical; it’s Rococo or Louis XV. Rococo is probably what most people associate with French design because of its curvy shapes.
So, today I asked them if they recommend the source; yes, they do. I have to say that the mantel is very nice. My friends sent a photo to the company in China, and they manufactured it in one month for $1,500 and then shipped it. Ahhh… that could easily be double the price of the mantel! But still, $4,500 for a great quality custom marble mantel and the design I want is a great deal.
Laurel, can we see the mantel?
Yes, of course! I do have permission to share it.
However, you’ll have to wait until Wednesday. I’ve spent hours working on the neoclassical fireplace mantel of my dreams. There are at least two variations on a theme. I love them so much!
But, in so doing, I discovered something else, I might need to change.
And, it’s original to the house. There are several compelling reasons to change it, in any case. Okay, I’ll tell you that one. It’s the wainscoting. It’s too high, too irregular and the boxes are too small. However, even with a 48″ mantel, the 40″ wainscoting looks even more odd. My furniture is not that tall!
So, the next two posts will be devoted to the final fireplace mantel design and then the entire fireplace wall elevation. That one, too, has yielded some interesting surprises. I’ve been working on it, and I can’t wait for you to see it.
If you’re interested, this link will take you to every time I’ve said neo-classical or neoclassical.
These are some of my favorite posts, and where I share my love of beautiful, timeless interiors.
Part 3 Begins Here
Super quick post.
Today, I went to look at marble for my kitchen counters, so I was gone the entire afternoon. No, I didn’t find what I’m looking for, but there’s more to see.
In the meantime, I’m still mulling around the fireplace mantel.
We left it with this image from about five weeks ago.
This is supposed to be the wood version of the marble mantel by Jamb which I’m sure is way out of reach for me.
This mantel. I adore this style. It’s English Regency, another neoclassical style, which is very close to Louis XVI because it’s the period following it from 1800-1830.
Above is a scale drawing I did for my contractor.
I even found this gorgeous plinth block from Pearlworks.
Recently, I found another mantel almost identical to the antique Marc Maison lovely piece, below.
It’s doable, although expensive. However, it’s not nearly as much as most of the antique mantels I’ve seen. It’s about 123 years old.
My third option is to do what my neighbor did and have a repro made in China of the J*mb mantel. I love them both, but if pressed, I’d go with the Jamb. However, it’s possible that the Louis XVI mantel above, is better suited for my place. And then, there are the Laurel leaves.
So, here are the three choicesa for the ultimate neoclassical fireplace mantel.
1. My contractor builds a wooden version of the J*mb mantel. (Shhhh…)
2.I get the most expensive option, but it’s authentic, old and marble.
3. get a repro made of marble of the J*mb. (Shhhh…) I’m not spelling out J*mb because I don’t want it picked up.
A friend’s mantel is very well-done by a Chinese Company. It’s Louis XV which is too ornate for me. But, they did an excellent job of recreating the photo they sent them. However, the marble is verrrry white. It does not look old.
Above is their mantel, which they kindly gave me permission to put on my blog.
A detail shot.
Above is a detail of the original.
This is the order I find these options appealing.
The only drawback for #2 is the price. However, it is the central focal point of the living room. Still, my contractor, I’m sure could make an excellent version of the J*mb mantel out of wood with the plinth block above.
Please tell me what you think. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts!
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