DIY: Antiquing an otherwise plain mantelpiece

Often we make the fireplace a focal point of the room.  We hang a painting above and sometimes (I regret) a television.  A lifeless mantle can really defeat that ‘focal’ goal so consider punching up the fireplace surround with color and some custom attention.  In this case we took a green color we liked in the room’s rug – and then looked at several green sample cards taped to the mantle to further consider fabrics in the room and the artwork to be placed above.  We intended to give this mantle an aged look – antiquing the paint finish to appear distressed by time and fires gone by.  Knowing that,we picked a green color one shade lighter than our first choice (our original choice from the sample cards). After applying our base coat in an oil-based satin finish (I recommend Ben Moore’s Satin Impervo base) we took a gold leaf marker and traced along the raised moldings on the face of the mantle. Inside curves, like the fluted legs and the cove molding just under the top received generous swipes of gold marker – perfect application is not your goal as you’re going to partially remove that gold later. Our top coat was Briwax’s Dark Brown wax and it is applied with a cheap brush ---slather it on generously--turning the surface almost solid brown. This product is going to ‘eat’ into the gold marker paint as well as the colored ‘base’ coat. You have 10-15 minutes before the wax starts to dry and get tacky. You want to have a good number of cloth rags ready – you will begin to wipe the wax off firmly and are best to keep your wiping direction oriented with the grain – so go up and down on the sides/legs and work side to side across the width of the mantle’s face. Wax will collect in the crevices and I like a good bit there. Firm wiping and turning your rags reveals more and more color – you will start to see grain pattern revealed in the wax finish – continue until you are pleased (and retouch with wax if you feel you removed too much). I usually take quad-zero steel wool and finish up by scouring scar marks into edges of the trim – further distressing the gold banded areas, etc. A day later you can polish the finished product like a new pair of shoes - buffing until the wax has an almost glass like smoothness and nice luster. I completely cheat -- attach a car buffing disk to a cordless drill and polish until your heart’s content!!