Our apartment building was built in 1905 and retains most of its original charm. I’ve seen a few of the other units in the building – they all share the same layout, just mirrored – which was enough for me to know that we were missing something. The other apartments boast marble and tile fireplaces in their living rooms while we had a white square surrounding an unsightly firebox, overrun with zealous attempts at a faux finish. It was ugly. Really ugly.
For the first few years, I dealt with this eyesore by putting our TV in front of it and pretending it wasn’t there. I thought that the marble had been removed or plastered over, that the whole thing was basically a lost cause.
Breathe that in. Faux oxidation. Green, red, blue and black strokes of good intentions gone bad. The original grate had been removed and replaced with a piece of wood, also faux oxidized in the spirit of thoroughness.
So, after ignoring the fireplace for years, I took a closer look. I noticed distinct tile shapes and felt cold stone under the paint. Could it be that some crazy person actually painted over perfectly good marble? Could someone really hate beauty? Yes and yes.
Determined to restore the fireplace to its original glory, I started researching marble-safe paint strippers. I decided to go with Smart Strip by Peel Away® One Quart ‘Sample Size’ Paint Remover because it’s biodegradable, water-based and odor-free. You can find it online but I picked mine up at Sherwin Williams. Andy and I applied a thin coat of Smart Strip with cheap paint brushes and waited. In about 15-20 minutes the paint was ready to come off. We used plastic paint scrapers to be sure not to scratch the marble.
When we got to the little tiles, we found that some of them had been painted black and others left white, checkerboard style. Some were even painted red for fun. Maybe the checkerboard was too much for someone, maybe they hated Ska music and maybe that’s why they painted the whole thing white.
After all the white paint was gone, I tackled the faux oxidation. It came off easily and quickly and is now a distant memory. If you’re wondering what happened to the piece of wood, it’s gone! Andy realized that the metal grate that was hanging out in front of our dining room fireplace looked exactly the right size and shape for the living room firebox. And it was! It never fit the dining room fireplace and must have been moved there from the living room. Reunited!
It’s so pretty. Please just pretend that the walls are white and not the color of masking tape. That’s what I do.