Home Sweet Farmhouse Home Episode 5: Fireplace Surround Part 1

Hello, dear readers!

Summers are busy, aren’t they?

Maybe that’s why they never last as long as I want them to.

About the time I feel settled in to the less scheduled, longer days, back-to-school begins to loom on the horizon like a bad summer storm. I don’t know about you, but I’m the sort of mama that loves summer. I love having all my boys home in my nest.

Which might be why I’m always feathering ours…the projects and art I create in summertime are a way to express the joy that overflows when my family is all near. It’s a tangible–albeit annoying to the four precious men who tolerate it–way for me to love on them without getting (too much) in their way. 

This fireplace renovation is a perfect example.

(Friendly reminder: I’m just a girl having fun, so please don’t rely on what I say here as the final word on your own home improvement projects. Be sure to consult with a professional before starting your own.)

I LOVE this project.

It’s not an easy one, though, and so I’m dividing it in to two parts. Part 1 today will show you inspiration and how I’ve done the bottom half of the work. The second episode will talk about the top half and the final REVEAL. 🙂

So here’s what I started with, the “before” picture of our fireplace.

It’s a beautiful fireplace as-is. But since I’m in love with the farmhouse style, it needed some major work.


While the woodwork is beautiful, the tile is boring and over ten years old. And the wall above the mantel has been begging for something more for as many years.


Enter Pinterest.

I’m not an original decorator.

I fully admit I’m a copy-cat-er. I search and search and scroll and scroll Pinterest until I find all the pictures I can that are similar to the dream in my head.

Here’s one of the many that are the inspiration behind the re-do I’m sharing with you:
IMG_1752 (1)

It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I went back and forth and back and forth between doing all stone, all the way to the ceiling, but I decided (because our family room isn’t very big) that would be too much. Besides that, I wanted to incorporate some shiplap.


Who doesn’t need more shiplap in their life?

And their family room?

So I decided to do stone below and shiplap above.

Let the demolition begin.


This is the best, unanticipated part of having three baby boys.

They grow up to be big man-boys who LOVE demolition.

I learned the hard way that removing tile is neither fun nor simple.

And it creates a gigantic mess.

My oldest chipped and hammered for hours until at last we had a nekked fireplace surround.



REALLY nekked.

Like, studs and insulation nekked, which I had not anticipated.

Enter Friendly Mr. Lowe’s Guy.

I love this man. He has helped me so much with this project. If you’re a DIY newb like me, find yourself a Friendly Mr. Lowe’s guy. He’ll show you things like this lovely Hardiebacker cement board that we installed all around the fireplace. We had to do this, because we had to have something on which the tiles could properly adhere.

(By the way, HardieBacker does say on its website that it’s okay to use around a fireplace. Be sure to check for things like this before you attempt it on your own.)

The Hardiebacker is super nice because you can use a box cutter to score along the lines and snap it apart.

Don’t forget to measure twice before you cut! 😉


Once the Hardiebacker was screwed in to the studs, the fun really started.

I’ve always been smitten with the smooth river rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan. If you’ve read my second novel, Then Sings My Soul, then you know a little about my obsession with rocks. And I do enjoy decorating with things and themes I’m passionate about.

Here’s some pictures I took of rocks and boys skipping rocks from a family vacation to South Haven, Michigan, the setting of Then Sings My Soul:






As such, I was absolutely thrilled when I found these beautiful stones available (also at Lowe’s) as a tiling system.

The river rock tile is especially forgiving because…

…no one can tell if it’s crooked because none of them are straight.

Besides that, they have a mesh backing, and I was able to cut smaller and even individual sections of stone for precise placement.


IMG_1736 IMG_1738

I still have to grout, but here it is so far!

The grout is a darker shade of gray, and while everything I’ve studied indicates it will be the easiest part of this project, I’m terrified I’ll mess it up and these beautiful stones along with it. But I think/hope/pray the dark gray will be striking against them in the end.

I’m so excited.

This might be my favorite DIY project to date.

I wish I could’ve done more for you by now, but I have a fourth novel I’m editing, as well as my firstborn son going to college for the first time in less than a month, so I don’t have a ton of extra time for my projects. Thank you for your patience as I piece them together for you! I can’t wait to share the shiplap and grout results with you next time!

What about you?

Have you ever collected river rock?

Have you ever remodeled your fireplace?

What are you working on this summer?





By wisdom a house is built,

And by understanding it is established;

And by knowledge the rooms are filled

With all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4


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