A Fall Mantel Makeover

I’ve showed off my new Fall mantel makeover already, but I wanted to share more about how that came to be, so today’s post is all about where I got the mantel, the type wood it is, and how I stained it and got it ready to install.  I’ll share a whole separate post about the installation process. That was quite interesting!  My dad and I know our limitations and some projects are best left to the pros and installing my mantel was one of those jobs.

First things first.

raw wood for mantel from Southern Accents

My mantel is made from Douglas fir and came from a textile mill in Chicago, circa 1890’s.  Garlan from Southern Accents told me that some have paint on them and some don’t. They denailed the planks, cut them to specified length and make these mantels custom for individuals.  It runs $35 a linear foot and milling is extra.  I love having a bit of history hanging above my fireplace!  Southern Accents is in Cullman, AL and is a true treasure trove for old and vintage reclaimed wood and building supplies.  I first went there in 2010 and wrote a post about it, link above. If you are in the area, GO!

raw wood mantel

This gorgeous hunk of wood came to me like this. It weighs quite a bit but I managed to angle it up on the sawhorses to sand and stain it.

Douglas fir mantel

I began by sanding it all over with a belt sander (that I borrowed from my brother-in-law).  I just gave it a good going over with medium grit sandpaper to knock off the roughness.


Then I used Mixwas Pre-Stain conditioner to open up the wood for staining.  I’ve heard this is a good idea when staining to insure that the stain penetrates more evenly.  I used Dark Walnut stain and already had this in my stash.

pre conditioner

Wipe on the Pre-Stain and let it dry, then you need to start staining within about 2 hours after that.

dark walnut stain

I used an old t-shirt rag to stain and just dipped and rubbed in the stain on the front, back and sides to cover it completely.

stained mantel

And it looked like this.  It looks much more blotchy in this pic than it does in real life.  I then gave it another sanding with the belt sander to smooth it out a bit more.  I touched up with Dark Walnut in just a few areas, but it didn’t need much.

stained mantel finished

The wood has lots of variations in color and it will take the stain a bit different.  It looks really red here, but in reality it’s a dark brown color.  The very last step I did was add a coat of Satin Poly by Minwax just to give it a little protection.  Not that it really needs it hanging above my fireplace, but it can’t hurt. Oh, and I did stain the ends, it just doesn’t look like it in this pic. Hard to take decent pics in the garage.

mantel installed

And here’s the mantel right after installation.  I couldn’t wait to play around with it.  So I’ve been doing just that.  Judging from a few comments, some of you weren’t big fans of my Fall mantel last week using all those blues and greens and yes, it didn’t look completely like Fall, but I had a little fun.  More busy than usual, it had lots going on so I left it for a few days, but because I needed to do another post for Lowes, I decided to change it up again and create another Fall mantel, again using what I have around the house.

Fall mantel

How about  a Fall mantel, round 2? That’s allowed, right?  You’ll see this mantel changing up many times going forward and it’s fun to use what I have to pull it together.

Fall mantel naturals

Classic and pretty, this time I used my white pottery pieces and they look really nice against the rock.  It’s a lot less busy too and this one is more my style for sure.

Fall mantel 2

The white pottery stands out against all that rock and this pretty landscape painting that I found at Woodstock Market will definitely be a fave of mine.  I knew when I spotted it that I would love it and I do.

moss and bird

A sweet natural bird is at home with the moss ribbon.

Fall mantel 3

Bringing in a pretty lichen covered branch adds a nice Fall touch, along with pinecones.

pinecones in bowl

A little dish of small pinecones says Fall.

Fall mantel 4

My urn with sticks and feathers is a great way to add texture for the season and the pierced dish holds a few dried hydrangeas.  I love the preserved boxwood wreath that came from Lowes.

Fall mantel 3

So, as much as I like a little glitz and glimmer on things brought in from nature, I like to use some of them in their natural state as well.  There’s room for both in decorating for the Holidays.

urn with pinecones
Dried hydrangeas are always beautiful to use with their soft colored petals.

Fall mantel 7

Sticks, feathers, pinecones, dried hydrangeas and grapevine balls, great combo for Fall.

I will admit, I like this one better too and I’m especially grateful to finally have a mantel to decorate!  It will be fun to change it for the seasons and I really think putting up a planked white wall above the mantel will be even more versatile for me.

Fall Badge Rectangle

Check out Lowes Creative Ideas Magazine app, visit Lowes on Facebook, and Lowes on Pinterest.

LCI App Promo Image

Are you on Instagram? If you want to see what I’m doing in real time, follow me on Instagram. You can see Lowes on Instagram as well. It’s a fun little snapshot of what is going on every day.

Disclosure: As a Lowes Creative blogger, I am sent gift cards to spend on projects and to blog about them. This post is sponsored by Lowes, but all ideas and projects are my own.

- Rhoda


  1. No way am I the first to comment! Ha ha! Looks wonderful! I am contemplating painting my ugly brick fireplace or doing it in stone like yours! Either way I want to do my mantel like this too! Love it!

  2. Love your mantel! I also love the ways you have decorated it both times.

  3. It looks great, Rhoda. I know you are loving it now that you have the mantel, and I think the wood planking will be the perfect enhancement.

  4. Love them both. Mine looks light your second version, but honestly, I like the blues and greens of the first one better. But nice to have enough stuff to change it around as you like.

  5. Very, very pretty, I like this one much better than the first mantle display, your going to have lots of fun decorating this mantle, it’s a beauty.

  6. Rhoda, I love the changes to your mantle! Your landscape painting is lovely! I, too, love the way the white china stands out against the natural elements on your mantel.


  8. This one is beautiful, but I liked the first one best! It’s because my home is blue, rose, and green and it is usually very hard to decorate for fall, but seeing your mantle, the first time, I realized, it could be lovely done with blue. Thanks!

  9. did not see the last one so can’t compare but i really like this. love love the painting and sweet little birdie didn’t hurt either.

  10. Love the history that comes with an old timber like that – looks awesome!

    The story of that one element of your home is the kind of thing that will stick with people when they visit. I still remember years ago visiting the home of one of my teachers. According to her the stone from her fireplace was from what was removed when they sculpted the relief on Stone Mountain. Could be one of those “Washington Slept Here” stories but I’ve never forgotten it anyway.

  11. Hello Rhoda!

    I love the way you have styled your mantle and thanks for sharing the story of its “creation”. Mantles really are the most fun to play around with, aren’t they?!

    Mimi @ A House Romance

  12. How wonderful that your mantel has such great history…you have decorated it so beautifully for Fall….I love how the white pops against the stone….beautiful fireplace Rhoda!

  13. I love the mantel and its ‘story’ also really like this mantel decoration.

    I am on the hunt for a mantel for my fireplace!

  14. Rhoda, I noticed in the posts that you had not stained the end of the mantel. Did you end up doing that at some point or did you leave the ends without stain? Just curious as I wasn’t sure what is typical. Love the mantel and the decorations!

  15. I like this mantel b/c it’s less busy and natural, but I personally like the other one just as well. I actually thought it was being really clever to use the greens & blues (which are my favorite colors, too) combined w/ the leaves that were in orange, reds, etc. The only thing I thought that looked a little out of place was the little word sign, but it has special meaning to you, and that’s what it’s all about…I don’t see anything wrong w/ that. That painting is to die for! And, that bead board combined w/ that peacock wreath is just delicious! I have rock fireplace envy, too. Man, that house might have been in bad shape, but that fireplace is an all-star!

  16. I like most everything you do.
    Regarding the first mantel you said got some
    second guessing – I loved the fall branch of leaves
    in the demi-john! Contrasting colors.

    Mantels of any season should reflect the personality of the owner. Just like Christmas trees.

    Difference has its beauty – part of what makes the world go round.

    • I agree with Patti. In fact, I like the first one better! You can’t go wrong with blues and greens, plus I tend to be a more “busy” decorator 🙂

  17. I think your mantel looks great! It’s more my taste this version, but I think if you loved the blues and greens, that you should have it the way you want it. It’s your home after all! May I ask where you found your boxwood wreath? I’m on the hunt for one at a reasonable price.

  18. I loved your first mantel! I’ve seen it pinned again and again ALREADY on pinterest. It was beautiful and I loved that you stepped out of the box of the normal fall colors. You’re a trend setter Rhoda! Stick with your instincts. This one is prety as well but I loved number one. Nothing like we see around blog land. It was original.

  19. I LOVE that you didn’t use “traditional” autumn colors. Since I’m not a fan of orange, this mantel is exactly what I’d choose to do. Beautiful!

  20. Mary Anne Taylor says:

    *pretty 🙂

  21. Becky in 'Bama says:

    Rhoda: looking at my own home, I am hardly in a position to criticize anyone’s decorating ideas, but I do like this mantle scape moreso than the other. I might tweak one thing: put the small white bowl with the pinecones on top of the black and white box, and put your beautiful glass cloche on the mantle with the bird under it. That way the picture would not be obscured and its weight would balance the right side to the left (as far as large scale objects) – that is unless the glass cloche is too wide at the base to fit the mantle. Just my opinion!! 🙂

  22. Hi Rhoda,
    I love the way you explain and show your projects, step-by-step. It helps me with planning my own updates. I love the updated fall look of your mantel too. It really shows off the rocks and your new wood mantel of your fireplace.

  23. I have decided you a mantel genius. Maybe even a mantel savant. When I saw last week’s mantel, my thought was, “Wow, I wish I could create a mantel like that.” When I saw this one, I had the same thought again. I’m out of the country right now, (France), but when I get home, I can’t wait to tackle my mantel. Thanks for the inspiration.

  24. Looks fabulous, Rhoda! I often tweak mine over a week or two after a major change… sometimes the first go-round just doesn’t feel quite right for whatever reason. Happy Wednesday!
    xo Heidi

  25. I love both of your fall mantle designs !
    This one, is rather stunning when my eyes go to the feather arrangement. All that tall natural loveliness ! And, I like the blue/greens the painting brings into the mix.

  26. I have to say, I LOVED the first mantle, it was so unique and vivid. And either way, that wood is beautiful!

  27. I appreciate both the mantles! I found the first one Autumnal in a different way and this one feels very classic with the light dishes popping against the stone. I really like the stone all the way up, but I’m sure the planking would look good so long as the colour isn’t too white and clashy with the stone. I find fireplaces to be very bossy! Your choices are always classic so I look forward to what you decide. I guess I just really like the way the stone sets off light coloured things.
    The mantel itself is amazing…just sent this post to a friend who’s making his own to show him the end result. Beautiful.

  28. PERFECT! we still have to do ours, but i love that it has a bit of history with it as well. and you made it your own!

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