Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The World's Ugliest Fireplace

My house is 90 years old. It is older than your grandma. Unless your grandma is older than 90. In which case, I'm sorry I lied. And disrespected your grandma.

Over the course of those 90 years, people have made a few very disappointing decisions regarding this house. Namely,

Guys. This is the UGLIEST fireplace stone that has ever fireplaced in the history of fireplacing. AND I DON'T EVEN SAY Y'ALL.

And I know what you're thinking: "What stone, Eli Whittlebottom? I only see plywood around that fireplace? I wish it was shiny stone so I could see that mane of yours. Bow chicka bow wow! I THINK I MIGHT FAINT!"

First of all, I wish it was shiny stone, too, so I could see YOUR mane.

And second, it is totally reasonable of you to think that that is actually plywood. Because it looks like plywood. Like horrid, disgusting, the ugliest material of all time, plywood.

But it's not plywood. That is granite. That is actual stone. Stone that someone, at some point, decided would be the perfect addition to this quaint, cute room in my 1925 house.

I can only assume that this person was color blind and hated beautiful things AND AMERICA. I don't know how else this choice could have been made.

For the year-plus since I bought this home, this fireplace has been an abominable eyesore for me. Thank heavens it isn't a focal point in the house!

That was sarcasm. You guys. I was being sarcastic. This is literally the most focal point of the home. It is the first thing people see when the walk in. Not my hair. Not my incredibly awesome coffee table that Adam made with his bare hands. Not Matt scavenging for food in the kitchen with his seductive green eyes.


I have procrastinated doing anything about it. Because lazy. And TV. And eating. And a general fear of manual labor.

Matt has repeatedly advised me on stone and tile options we could look into that would be a much better choice for this fireplace. He has tried to get me to go stone shopping with him. But I've procrastinated. For all of the reasons listed above.

Finally, last week, the Pantses and the Scrapses were all at my house for Survivor night when Adam finally told me that we were going to tear that plywood stone down that weekend and figure out what to do once and for all.

Matt and Adam showed up Friday evening, Mr. Pants and Mr. Scraps in tow, and carried enough tools into my living room to literally build Rome in one day.

Then we started working. And when I say "we" I mean "Matt and Adam." I was too busy telling them my hands were "full" and then holding up both puppies to show them that I wasn't lying whenever they asked me to hand them something.

They worked for a while. And almost instantly we realized that we were uncovering something beautiful.

Before we turn to the brick, I want to point out a number of things about this picture.

First, yes, we are using my Virgin Mary blanket to protect the floor. I don't know whether God is mad about this, but I really think he should just be proud of me for having a Virgin Mary blanket in the first place.

Second, this is the only picture I took that did not show Matt's plumber crack. NOT THAT WE KNOW WHAT CRACK IS, CATHIE.

Third, I appreciate that Matt takes every opportunity possible to remind us that he is from Mississississississippi (his shirt).

Fourth, OMG I love Teddy Scraps with every fiber of my being.

But most importantly, we realized that there was actually some pretty amazingly beautiful red brick under that horrid plywood stone, which evoked two very dramatic competing emotions:

1. Oh my gosh this is wonderful, I love it like the Queen of Colors loves evil, and


You guys. WHY would someone cover this brick? This beautiful beautiful brick. And with that stone! That plywood stone! I don't understand the world! I don't understand humanity! I DON'T EVEN KNOW IF THIS IS AMERICA ANYMORE!

Whoever did this to my home should be tried and executed for their crimes against humanity! Or at least be given a disapproving look by Cathie. I don't really care which it is. Just as long as there is some accountability.

We spent a long time trying to chip away the liquid nails that this wretched person plastered all over the face of the brick to secure that monstrosity. And by "we" . . . well, you know.

Although to be fair, I did the cleaning. Adam took this picture as proof that I was involved:

Eventually we called it a day after we got the fireplace to this point:

I noticed as we chipped away at the liquid nails that we were doing some inadvertent damage to the brick. And so I decided it might be a good idea to call a brick restoration company to see if I could get some professional help.

I explained my need.

Man: Sounds like quite the problem.

Eli: Yes. So could you come help me?

Man: I don't know what you want us to do about it.

Eli: Well, you're a brick restoration company. I just want you to come help me restore this. Because that's what you do.

Man: I suggest you just do it yourself.

Eli: You can't help me?

Man: Nah.

Ok, admittedly, I don't know how business works. This is exactly why I don't make any money from Stranger. Because business is like black magic and I truly don't understand how the human race has not starved to death by now.

BUT. My limited understanding of the world compels me to believe that turning down a customer without explanation is likely not the most effective business model.

And so, my fireplace currently sits in the state pictured above. A vast improvement on the plywood stone, but constantly beckoning me to perform manual labor without destroying history.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. The internet knows how you can remove it "yourself" without damaging the brick:

  2. I'm still seriously so FLOORED that someone would choose to cover the brick, and choose to cover the brick with THAT GRANITE. Maybe they were trolling the soon-to-be owners? Maybe it was the 70's, when all the wrong colors that should never ever be popular were all the rage? Maybe they had an irrational fear of brick fireplaces stemming from an unfortunate childhood incident with a pizza oven and a panini press?

    Either way, good work. Thumbs up, gold star, and all that jazz and a bag of chips.

  3. I was feeling all outraged by the fireplace and then I saw that picture of you in that green shirt with those arms and chest (and that hair!) and now I don't remember what I was mad about. Was it Glee?

  4. Much better. Even with all the crap on it.

  5. A couple things....
    1. My grandma is 97.
    2. The red brick is awesome!

    Carry on.

  6. I don't know who would use plywood for anything other than framing a house and then IMMEDIATELY covering it up with something prettier. Like BRICK. Somehow the previous owners of your house got this process backward. I'm glad you corrected their error. It looks beautiful, even with the liquid nail splotches.

  7. The fireplace is "literally the focal point" of your house.

    Yes it is. "Focus" means hearth. Always did.

  8. As my very southern family says: "Some people's taste is all in their mouth." Maybe there's a special "Decorating Crimes" level of Hell?

    1. I grew up in NC and never heard this saying...but I LOVE it and am going to work it into as many conversations as possible from now on.

    2. Yes! We say that here in Missississississippi all the time! Some people have no taste other than those in their mouth! Sadley, it's very true!

      Love the brick!

  9. The disorderly state of the shelves on either side of the fireplace is a bigger crime than the plywood/stone. Matt need to address that problem next.

    1. I forgot to mention this. They are normally very orderly (thanks Matt!) but we had shoved things to the side right before I took the picture because we didn't know how messy the demolition would be. I have put things back in order since taking the before, during, and after pictures for this project.

    2. I can't believe I didn't notice the shelves! I must have been too entranced by Eli's hair and the mention of Matt's plumber's crack . . .


  11. Oh my gosh, that brick and hearth are beautiful!! 1,000 times better than that stone, which never came through in your photos as anything but...odd and out of place. I'm glad your friends did this for you!!!

  12. I felt exactly the same when I was 13 and my parents decided to replace the carpet in the kids' bedrooms. I had the pleasure of tearing up the carpet in my room myself only to reveal this BEAUTIFUL parquet floor!!! I was ADAMANT that I didn't want carpet in my room and indignant at the idea that ANYONE would cover those floors up! I had a feeling that the same flooring was underneath all of the carpet in that part of the house and felt totally vindicated a few years ago when they tore up the rest of the carpet and found out that I was right!

  13. At least the previous owners didn't staple ugly floral fabric to the walls and then put white lattice over it....and at least the carpets weren't all shag....and at least there wasn't a giant mural of that 'hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle' nursery rhyme painted in one of the bedrooms

  14. My brother and sister-in-law's fireplace was painted GREEN. We have pictures to prove it. My SIL ended up sandblasting the paint off because they couldn't get anything else to work. The previous owners of their house had some... interesting... choices in decorating.

  15. You should see the horrific scene that is my fireplace. It was originally done with cultured marble in a yellowish beige, and then someone went and glued subway tiles to it. It's bad.

  16. First, my dear old dad is 3 years older than your house, please do not try to cover up his aging facade by using liquid nails to affix ugly stone in an attempt to dress him up. Second, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought your fireplace surround was pressboard every time you showed a photo of it. I kept thinking "That seems like a TERRIBLE material to use near a fire". Third, crack kills, not that we know what crack is.

  17. Ninety gets younger every year.

  18. My favorite part or this whole post is when you said that you don't even say y'all after not actually saying it. I actually laughed out loud.

  19. Oh gosh, I've been offline for ages, and I come back to THIS.

    Thanks for making me laugh again after a long winter, and omg so much yes, on the brick. Because BRICK. Although real-wood plywood might have actually been an improvement on that stone...what the actual heck.

  20. December 18th, 2014: Eli -- "Then when we showed up, the stone looked really pretty in person"

    March 16, 2016 It looks like plywood. Like horrid, disgusting, the ugliest material of all time, plywood.

    You sir, are EXAGGERATING!

    1. Ahahahaha! I love that you caught this Leslie!

    2. you are allowed a little flip-flop when excited about buying a new house!

  21. How has no one asked why you have a Virgin Mary blanket??!

    WHY do you have a Virgin Mary Blanket??
    Just curious...

  22. The house I grew up in (Miami, in those horrid design years, the 1970's) had carpeting throughout and had been owned by just about everyone in my father's family. Mommy got sick of the carpeting at some point, and discovered Hard. Wood. Floors. underneath. Not plywood; not parquet; Hard. Wood.

    Congrats on your brick discovery, Eli!

  23. I'm hoping you are using that granite to make some yard art East Jesus style. and if it you makes you feel better, someone wallpapers with brown paper bags at my sister's house.