Building Our $20 Mantel

Last weekend, I put up our Christmas tree. I was a little early, but it's our first Christmas here and I couldn't wait anymore! The decorations were looking great, and I loved every single thing about it except for one thing– we didn't have a mantel for the stockings.

Just like a good set of bangs can frame a woman's face, I thought a mantel would frame the fireplace (and give me a place to put our beloved stockings). My parents had given us the wrought iron brackets from their old fireplace so we went to Lowe's to get some new wood for a mantel shelf. The brackets were 10x10", so we got two 2x6 cedar planks that we planned to put side by side to get a 12" deep shelf.

I was a little worried about how we would execute the mantel. I had a feeling this project was going to be a big pain. Hubby was still on a high from building the fence and thought the mantel would be a piece of cake, but I was still prepping myself for DIY disasters and punctured fireplace flues and crumbling brick.

I busied myself with another household task while hubs bought in the wood. He put one piece on the mantel to see how the length was right when I walked in. I was amazed- just that little plank of wood made the fireplace look ten times better!

Me: "Hey, it looks good just like that! What if we forgoe the brackets and just leave it like that? It's simple and nice."
Hubby: "Whaaat? Just like this?" (Shakes head in disbelief, goes to garage to get the other piece of wood.)

Then we tried this:

I liked that option a lot, too! I wasn't sure what to do so I texted these photos to my mom and asked her opinion. Her thoughts: "Well, the first one is too thin and the second one is too thick. It's almost like you just need to go get another board and put one on top of the other."

Hmm... Like this?

Mom: "Ya! You could cut the lower board a little shorter so it looks beveled, or you could leave it just like it is. I think it looks good like that."

I sent the hubby to take three inches off the bottom piece, and this is what we ended up with:

I loved it! I thought to myself, "Forget the brackets! We don't need them and that's one less headache during the installation. Awesome!" All the hubby had to do was screw the boards in from the top, which took about 30 seconds. Here I was expecting some terrible project, and it turned out to be one of the easiest things we have done yet. I love it when that happens! 

Of course I had to decorate the mantel right away...

Up went our monogrammed stockings, and I added a wrought iron candelabra (our unity candle at our wedding) to the top of the mantel. We added a fireplace screen from Lowe's and some new fireplace tools. Now our little Christmas set up is perfect!

I was prepared to spend up to $200 on this mantel, and it turned out we only needed $20 worth of cedar. I wish every home improvement project ended up like that!

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