This Homeowner Had A Vision

Tired of her old boring brick fireplace, Diane D. was inspired by a board and batten design she had seen on a Web site.  

She had used James C. Schell previously to work on another project—gutting and renovating the master bath. That job turned out very well and the homeowner told us she had other plans for “freshening up” her house.


Next on her list was the family room, in  particular the boring brick fireplace. “I showed Jim a couple of different pictures of designs that I liked,” said the homeowner. “We kept tweaking it and tweaking it—ultimately it was my idea and  his design—and it came out very nicely.”


Our “inspiration” photo had been found online and for today’s homeowners, the internet is a great place to get ideas. Diane’s winning idea came from the Web site, where you can search by room then fine tune your search by price and décor style, for example.  In the inspiration photo the board and batten surround was only part of the wall. But we decided that in Diane’s home, the board and batten surrounding the fireplace would cover the whole wall, and become a handsome focal point.


We started by tearing out some of the brick surround, the cement mantle and the brick corbels (or brackets) that supported the heavy mantle.  Some of the brick surround was retained for the firebox. From there we built out the wall to create a solid, smooth and uniform base; that base became the “board” in our board and batten design. In a true board and batten panel or wall, the battens hide the seams between the boards. In Diane’s case we created the same effect but used just a few large pieces of board.  Sometimes this technique is called “picture-framing” because you’re framing the individual boards with battens.


As you can imagine, the design required precision and symmetry and I used a computer program to help with the layout and measurements. Some of the moldings and trim came from specialty suppliers but some had to be custom-fabricated in our shop. All of the moldings were cut and fitted on-site to be sure the pieces came together snugly. We also wired the mantle and installed a low-profile white outlet so Diane can plug in a clock or a lamp or Christmas decorations.


One not-so-small hiccup in the job was when we discovered that a section of the ceiling was bowed. But that was remedied and the ceiling was given a new coat of paint. The finished board and batten wall, and the entire room, was then painted and the job was done. Diane is thrilled—it looks just like the fireplace design she found online. By changing one wall—albeit, a rather complicated change—Diane has given her suburban tract home a custom look.


Do you have any ideas for a home improvement?  If so give me a call and let’s see if we can make it work, 


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James C Schell, 510 East Barnard Street Unit 50, West Chester, PA 19382
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