Customizing Antique Fireplaces

Dear Diva Readers,

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rchitectural salvage is one of the most sought after items on our clients’ lists as of late. People are transforming antique zinc window frames into mirrors, taking gorgeously carved doors and creating headboards, and using decorative architectural fragments and making them into lamps. While all these ideas are wonderful (and put antiques to good use), some architectural salvage pieces are being used for their original purposes.We recently helped a client source antique European mantels and fireplaces for their new home in the USA. And you may not know it, but our favorite vendors have the ability to take a centuries old fireplace and customize it to fit into a brand new home, thus giving a new space old world charm!

Chimney S819

While visiting one of our sources in the Belgian countryside, our clients were struck with the vast array of fireplace styles he offered. The lovely antique dealer had laid out a beautifully simple spread of sandwiches and wine in his garden for us when we first arrived. While sitting in the sunshine, our clients were able to discuss with the vendor what type of pieces they were looking for, and they even came prepared with photos of their new home along with measurements. Upon finishing our delicious meal, we entered the nearby warehouse which was filled with gorgeous architectural salvage!

After perusing several buildings of fireplace mantels, the clients eventually came back to one in the first row we’d looked at. Isn’t that always how it is? There was only one problem with this fireplace…it was too big for their space! But the vendor took out a sketch pad and assured us that it is common for him to customize mantels to fit into new construction. Relieved, we began the customization plans right there in the warehouse. See below the sketches of the original state of the mantel piece and the adjusted drawing.

Present State
Original State of Mantel
Adjusted State of Mantel

Once the clients were back in the USA, they were able to work with their stone mason to determine exact measurements and requested that the antique dealer in Belgium source additional stone for the hearth floor surrounding the fireplace as well as for the back of the fireplace.


After modifying sketches and measurements, the fireplace is ready to go! The lesson here is that when you’re working with the right people—skilled artisans and knowledgable antique dealers— dreams really CAN become a reality. Many of our sources have excellent workshops on sight where they are able to restore, modify or adjust pieces of all kinds. Just because you spot something that isn’t exactly how you’d like it doesn’t mean that it can’t be transformed into the perfect piece for you!

The Antiques Diva®