before & after: mantel bookshelf

Sometime in my adult life, I would love to live in a home with a working fireplace, but in lieu of that, I will settle for a great mantel. I love that you can find loose mantels because they are truly versatile objects — just the other day, I saw that Shauna & Stephen had turned one into a TV unit! Chenin Boutwell has also made great use of an old mantle by converting it into a bookshelf. I love the tan and yellow color combo in this vignette, and the bright color really allows the items on display to stand out. Great job, Chenin! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

{Note: The framed artwork above mantel is a photograph by Sharon Montrose}

Read how Chenin transformed this gorgeous mantel after the jump!

Time: 7 hours (including drying time)

Cost: $155 (including supplies)

Basic Steps: After carefully measuring the interior dimensions of the mantle, we built a basic MDF box with shelves to mount behind it. We attached that box to the back of the mantle using wood screws, and then used carpentry nails to attach a piece of masonite to make the back of the shelf. We then used pre-fabricated trim pieces from our local hardware store to trim out the form of the shelves and the bottom of the mantle. The mantle was then sanded, primed and painted.

My advice is to measure and measure again. Also, don’t cut corners with sanding or priming, or you won’t get a clean, smooth finish.Chenin


Hmm. I like the using reusing fireplace mantels…I’m not just wild about this redo…the yellow takes away from the architectural elements of the frame, which is just beautiful. I like even like the fireplace before it was painted. It had more of an antique appearance, now it looks new.


Oh dear, i love this transformation!! I have just the right space for something like this in my new home. I will now look for a mantle! Thanks for sharing. :D


i love the before but i’m a lover of anything with antique/vintage chippy paint. great idea of turning the mantle into a bookshelf.


Sooo beautiful!! This one is hitting Pinterest!


Where did the art of the little deer come from? That is so beautiful. I would love to purchase one.


Love this mantle bookcase…I might have even left it distressed! And dying to own a Sharon Montrose print!


I recognized the giraffe photo immediately! I too would love to own a Sharon Montrose print.


And Im dumb. I can recognize photographers but clearly not animals. It’s a deer.


I’m I the only one who likes the BEFORE better?? Don’t get me wrong- I love the white lacquer look, have plenty of it in my house… but this seems like a waste of good patina which you can never get back!

lisa g

where oh where is that fawn photo from? i love it!! and i want one of my very own….


That little deer print is pretty much the cutest thing i’ve ever seen… Thanks for posting the artist’s name, Bea! Off to google her..


Also, to the folks who liked the original paint better. To be honest, so do I. But I have two babies and goodness only knows how much lead is in the chipping paint. In had to go! Safety over style :(


Ahem, just wanted to (respectfully and kindly) know that it’s not “mantle”, it’s “mantel”.


Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous. I love the solid primary yellow and the staging within the shelf is giving me ideas for staging my antique store booth.

I’m trash hunting for shelf inspiration, now!

Maia McDonald

This is a great idea for a mantle, I was also wondering who the print above the mantle is by? I love it.


I love this! I’m glad the old mantel in my garage has not sold on Craigslist yet! Sorry for my ignorance but what is an MDF box??

Ruth Singer

Definitely ‘mantle’ in England! I like the original wood too but the paint style is personal preference… (and makes total sense to paint it with kids around ) but the *idea* is excellent.

The brick house

What a gorgeous photo by Sharon Montrose! The art takes things up a notch, for sure. Thats the power of styling and some great art.

Kate Pruitt


MDF stands for medium-density fiberboard. It a material for building that is made of compressed wood fibers (lots of inexpensive furniture and Ikea-like pieces are made from it, because it’s cheaper than wood). You can buy it in sheets and boards at most hardware stores and it can be cut, painted, and assembled just like wood. Hope this helps!


I would give my left arm for an old mantel. I love that you turned it into a shelf.


What a great idea! I usually like antique distressed too but not in cream so I love the after.


I’ve been trying to decide between an antique mantle or a practical bookcase for the last wall in my living room and this is PERFECT! I would’ve never thought of this! You just made my weekend a bit more DIY:) Love it!


Love It! Can you tell me what color the paint on the walls is? We’ve been wanting to paint our dining for months now but haven’t found the right color. This is perfect!
Thanks in advance!

Bridget from Refined Vintage

I really like the before Patina as well as the glossy white, but what I most like about this project is the Idea! I love the mantel as a focal point for a room without a fireplace (like a rental apt) but instead of adding candles to make it seem like a Fireplace (which we have all seen before) using the shelves is an unexpected brilliant use of space! Use your choice of background color behind the shelves; Fabric, wallpaper, even change it seasonally! I love this idea!


Hi, I love what you did with it.and I also Love the complimenting picture above it. where did you get it?


Brilliant! I have no original features in my Victorian flat conversion & this is the perfect way to add some character to my living room…I might even break up my monochrome scheme with a shot of colour, which I never do… What a fantastic & truly inspirational idea!

Ashley Wycoff

OMG — I LOVED LOVED LOVED the original fireplace!!!!! it has the weathered/vintage/wholesome look. I can’t believe you found it for $155!! IF you find another one, LET ME KNOW!!!

Paula D

Hi Chenin,

Would LOVE it is you could post the paint colors used-especially the yellow. Thanks!