Staying in

Cozy night in the living room in front of the fireplace

Our living room is definitely a work in progress. I’ve shared bits and pieces, like our bookshelves, the sideboard turned sofa table with its display of family photos, the TV stand, the bar cart turned side table and of course our fieldstone fireplace.

Even though there are still things on my to-do list (just don’t look up to the stippled ceiling or giant green ceiling fan, okay?) we love our living room. In fact, this is the room we use the most at the farm.

We are home bodies and prefer to stay in most of the time. Over the holidays, the mattress company Leesa reached out to me and asked me to share the elements that make up my perfect night in. Since this topic is such a fit for me, I wanted to participate.

Most evenings, we come home from work, light a fire and then we have dinner in the living room. Since finishing the fireplace two years ago, this room has become the place we spend our winter evenings.

For me, a wood burning fire is essential to a winter night in. Building this fieldstone fireplace was a dream that I had for years, and it added such country character to our home.

While a brown couch is not the most popular decor choice, it’s a very livable piece of furniture. This is the first piece of furniture we bought when we moved into our first house, and it’s almost 10 years old and still comfortable. We sit, watch TV, eat, sleep and work on this couch–and, yes, doggies are welcome too.

Baxter snuggling on the couch

Obviously, the throws (or as I grew up calling them, afghans) are functional and not just decorative, especially on a cold winter night. Leesa has a blanket to go with their mattresses. It looks super cozy and warm–a great option for staying in, whether you’re snuggling on the couch or dozing in bed.

For me, I’m all about incorporating personal and family pieces in my decor and these knitted afghans are completely that. My Grandma, who taught me how to knit, made the one draped over the back of the couch, and I knit the one with the flowers.

Rounding out my perfect night in are my favourite two-legged guy, a few candles, my favourite fizzy drink, a salty snack and some good TV–we love Ken Burns’ documentaries and are making our way through Baseball (not an affiliate link) right now–it’s so good.

Since moving to the farm, we’d rather be here than anywhere else. Having a living room that’s truly for living is the perfect encouragement for staying in on cozy winter nights.

Are you a home body or do you like to go out on the town? What makes a perfect night in for you? Any other documentary fans out there? Do you have any afghans at your house?

Disclosure: I’m not receiving product or financial compensation from Leesa for this post. This is simply a topic that resonated with me, and I liked the idea of being part of this series with Leesa. Learn more about the Leesa mattress

Vintage bar cart end table

Vintage bar cart used as an end table in the living room

I made a change in the living room the other weekend.

I switched out a small end table for my grandmother’s vintage bar cart. I’ve envisioned using this cart as an end table for as long as I’ve had it, and I love how it looks in the living room.

The top tray is the perfect height for a lamp, and the shelves give us more space for the phone, answering machine (we’re still old-school here in the country), some storage and display, and even some room left over for a drink and a snack.

Plus the brass, glass and wood is pretty.

Vintage bar cart used as an end table in the living room

Bar carts have become so popular. I think the reason is in part because they are such versatile furniture.

In my grandmother’s house, this cart lived in a corner of the dining room and held her silver tea set. As much as my grandmother enjoyed an adult beverage now and then, this cart was known as a tea cart.

When it came to our (first) house, it served the same purpose, sitting in our dining room and holding my silver tea set.

It did that for awhile here at the farm too. But I knew it could do more.

Vintage wood and brass tea cart

When we added the third part of our new-to-us china cabinet to the dining room, the tea cart got a chance to try something new and moved in to the living room.

It will be here for at least awhile. But I’m also envisioning it in a bedroom as a night table. So much potential…

Do you have a bar cart at your house? How do you use it? Are you a fan of bar carts? Have you ever heard of a tea cart?

Hardboard and six favourite projects

There’s one material that I go to over and over for DIY projects: hardboard.


Hardboard is an engineered wood product also known as high-density fibreboard. Wikipedia says that it’s “made out of exploded wood fibers that have been highly compressed.” I’m not sure what exploded wood fibres are. By the time hardboard gets to the store, it has little resemblance to wood. It’s more like a super heavy-duty, super smooth cardboard. The main resemblance to typical construction materials is that hardboard comes in 4×8-foot sheets.

It’s less than a quarter inch thick, fairly light-weight, and cuts and bends easily. Sometimes it’s cut to other sizes than 4×8, finished with white on one side, or it’s also the material for pegboards.


Here are some of my favourite projects with hardboard:

Living room bookshelves – Hardboard makes a very sturdy back for shelves and bookcases. But it’s thin and fairly lightweight, so it doesn’t add bulk to furniture.

Monograms – Letters and words are popular decor trends. Hardboard is easy to cut with a jigsaw, won’t break or crack like solid wood, and is light enough to hang on a wall or sit on a shelf. I’ve found a quick pass of fine sandpaper can be helpful to smooth cut edges.

Ampersand monogram made out of hardboard

Ampersand monogram made out of hardboard

Doors and cabinet makeovers – Faced with boring slab doors in the basement and on the laundry room cabinets, I used strips of hardboard to transform them into barn doors and shaker-style cabinets. I was blown away by how successful the transformation was. I still love these doors. Plus the makeover saved us from spending money on new doors.

Making slab doors into barn doors

Score-keeping chalkboard – Hardboard is super smooth, and with a good primer and a foam roller, it takes paint very well. So I gave a sheet of hardboard a coat of chalkboard paint for a 6-foot tall, but very lightweight and easy to move chalkboard. Much lighter than actual chalkboard.

Cabinet door repair – Our kitchen needs a renovation, but until that day, we’re trying to hold things together however we can. Hardboard to the rescue once again. The cabinet door under the sink was separating from its frame. Backing it with hardboard has seen us through the last three years.

Holding a kitchen cabinet together with hardboard

Nightstand to dresser makeover – This dresser is one of my all-time favourite projects. Combining two nightstands into one dresser worked very well, but the join was very ugly. A panel of hardboard covered the seam and didn’t add much bulk to my narrow dresser.

I continue to find more uses for hardboard. And I’d love to hear if you’ve used it yourself. Any projects to share? What’s your go-to construction material?

The fireplace gets a German accent

It occurs to me that I haven’t shown you our winter mantel yet.

This year is pretty similar to last year. The snowshoes, the candles, the antlers, the lantern.

But there is one new addition.

Courtesy of Matt.

Autographed Heino album on the mantel

I’m not sure why this has to go on the mantel.

Autographed Heino album

Apparently, back in high school when instant messaging was just getting going (oh Lord, I just did the math and that was 20 years ago… holy moly), Heino was Matt’s avatar.

I don’t think Matt was a particular Heino fan. I’m not sure he’s even heard his music. Don’t ask me to decipher the mind of a teenage boy.

Somehow, his oldest brother remembered this, and when he saw this autographed Heino album in a thrift store the other week, he bought it for Matt.

Autographed Heino album

And now it’s on our mantel.

Fortunately, spring is almost here, so I’ll be redecorating soon and the winter mantel (along with Heino) can move on.

In the meantime, I leave you for the weekend with Heino, a Hit Medley. You’re welcome.

Who else’s partner “helps” with decorating around the house? Do you remember IMing with your friends–way back before texting? Better yet, do you remember your avatar? Do you collect vinyl (despite appearances, we do not)? Is anyone a Heino fan?

Fall mantel

Pumpkins, antlers and candles decorating the mantel

There have been some beautiful fall home tours going around the blogosphere recently. I’ve held off on bringing fall inside, trying to hang onto summer just a little bit longer. However, now that it’s October, I can’t deny that fall is here.

This is our first fall having a working fireplace, so that’s where I started my decor. Behold the fall mantel.

Stone fireplace decorated for fall with pumpkins

The black lantern, wooden sphere tealight holders and antlers have become staples on the mantel. For fall, I added two wooden candlesticks that my Dad made and a whole bunch of pumpkins.

Antler, pumpkins and candles decorating a fall mantel

These 10 pumpkins are probably only about half of what the garden has produced this year. From what I’ve read, squash (and pumpkins) need to cure in a warm-ish place before they’re stored for the winter. So this display is about both form and function. (And yes, that’s the Blue Jays game on the TV in the background. Summer continues even into October. Go Jays!)

Pumpkins, antlers and candles decorating the mantelAntler, pumpkins and candles decorating a fall mantel

I love the barn beam mantel so much. The wood against the stone is beautiful. Now with the pops or orange and black it feels right for fall.

The only thing we have yet to do to fully embrace fall is light the fire.

Candles lit on the fall mantel

How are you decorating for fall? Have you had a fire at your house yet? Did anyone else grow your own pumpkins? Any suggestions of what to make with the pumpkins (besides jack o’ lanterns)? How about tips to store the pumpkins? Who else is watching the baseball? Let’s hear it for the Jays!

Not quite a spring mantel

Despite the snow flurries that fell thick enough to coat the ground this weekend, I’m pretty sure it’s spring. Easter was early this year, but not that early, right?

Snow on Easter Sunday

It seemed like it was time to update the mantel for spring. We still light the fire most nights, but the snowshoes on the mantel seemed to be a bit out of season.

For me, styling a mantel is like styling a bookshelf–challenging.

I replaced the snowshoes with some green glass bottles. I separated the pair of antlers and spread out the trio of spherical tealight holders. But I’m not sure it’s working for me.

Fireplace mantel decorated for spring

I’ve learned I really like the pop of black from the lantern–and the glow of the candle at night–but I’m wondering if maybe I should do without it for the spring.

The glass bottles seem a little small to me. And I think their watery blue-green tone says summer more than spring.

I’d love your input and advice on what you’d do. Here are your constraints:

  1. The stone needs to be the main feature of the fireplace. That means no covering it up with a huge painting or mirror, although something smaller might be acceptable.
  2. I want balance, but I don’t want symmetry. Matching topiaries at either end of the mantel with a perfectly centred hurricane are not me.
  3. Bigger is better when it comes to tchotchkes. The fireplace is 8 feet wide and 9 1/2 feet tall and close to 4 feet deep. It’s a monolith. From the mantel to the lowest point of the ceiling is 40 inches. The accessories need to be equally large scale so they don’t get lost.
  4. I’m cheap, so there’s no way I’m spending much money on decor, especially if it’s going to change seasonally.

This post from Kim at Tidbits and Twine has an easy formula for styling a mantel. I particularly like her layers of anchor, weight and filler. However, I’d have to put my anchor off centre. 🙂

Here are some of the things I’m thinking of:

  • Something living (or more likely, given my luck with plants, a decent replica of a living thing)
  • Large crocks or bottles (or urns or tarnished trophies?)
  • Candles or lanterns of some kind (maybe an oil lamp or a candelabra could be fun)
  • Some appropriately “farmy” accessories (wagon wheel hub, grindstone, antlers)
  • Something appropriately seasonal (is there something that says spring besides the obvious tulips and hyacinths?)
  • Art (even though I don’t want a central painting, a smaller scale painting or sculpture or mirror might be nice)

This picture speaks to me. Even though the fireplace is a completely different style from ours, are there some lessons I can apply?

Help me bring spring inside, even if it hasn’t arrived outside yet. What are your styling secrets for mantels? What accessories would you use?


I’ve had a post sitting in my draft folder since December. Back when we were deep in the fireplace redo, I wanted to think about something prettier. So I wrote about styling the mantel. In that post, I listed some of the things I was thinking of for decor.

At the top of the list was something living (or more likely, given my luck with plants, a decent replica of a living thing).

Well, it turns out that I may not be able to keep plants alive when I want to, but the mantel is taking care of the something living all on its own.

In the joint between the two barn beams, a little plant has sprouted. I thought it was just a cobweb, so I “picked” it before I realized what it was.

Plant growing out of a mantel

The barn beams had been laying outside for who knows how long. There are some worm holes, some soft spots and, obviously, some seeds. The indoor climate is apparently just what this little sprout was looking for.

Not quite what I had in mind when it came to mantel decor, though.

Farmhouse fieldstone fireplace

There’s lots of discussion these days about adding character to our houses. I believe a home should reflect both the people that live there and its setting. For me, this is one of the misses with our house. Our ranch-style bungalow looks like it could be in any neighbourhood from the 1970s. Inside and out, it doesn’t reflect its farm setting. So my mission since moving here has been to inject a little more country into the house.

Just before Christmas, the living room got a huge (literally) injection of country character with our new stone fireplace.

Fieldstone fireplace with barn beam mantel

Whew. That’s a lot of philosophy for a fireplace. More pictures.

Old wagon wheel hub on a stone fireplace hearth

The fireplace is beautiful, safe and, best of all, it works.

In a time when people are painting and white-washing over brick, tiling and drywalling over surrounds, a huge stone monolith like this is not necessarily in style. However, for me, this is one of those timeless designs that is about the farm, not the trend.

Fieldstone fireplace with barn beam mantel

The stone is Bluewater by Natural Stone Veneers. It’s real stone that’s been sliced to form “tiles” about 1 inch thick. You can order both corner pieces and flats. It’s a way to get the look of a stone fireplace for much less cost and much less labour. In fact, as my mason was doing the stone, he commented how close the Bluewater was to the fieldstone that’s found naturally in this area. Exactly what I was going for.

Just like real stone, the veneers are irregularly shaped. Our mason had great attention to detail in putting this stone together. Take a look at the upper half of the fireplace near the centre. See the diamond-shaped stone? He saw the special shape of this stone and worked to feature it in the middle. He chose the stone directly below the diamond specifically because of how its notch fit the bottom of the diamond.

Fieldstone fireplace with barn beam mantel

The mantel is barn beams from our own farm that we had milled at a local sawmill. We used two beams sandwiched together to get the depth we wanted. They’re finished with three coats of clear polyurethane.

The woodbox was a mid-project addition. This is why it’s important to be present during renovations like this. As he was building the fireplace, my mason said, “You have a lot of space here now that we’ve removed the chimneys for the decommissioned furnaces. Do you want a woodbox?”

Woodbox in the side of a fieldstone fireplace

I hadn’t even considered that possibility, and now I can’t imagine the fireplace without it. It’s really handy to have a place to store extra wood, but it also makes really nice visual. This is the side of the fireplace that faces the kitchen. As much as I love the stone, the woodbox breaks up the monolith and makes the view much more interesting.

The wood bucket is an old washtub that Matt and I bought at an antique store several years ago. I take the whole bucket outside, fill it with wood and bring it back inside–really heavy, but a really easy way to bring a big load of wood inside in only one trip.

Initially, I had a very, very plain rectangular fireplace screen in mind. However, since having this one, I find I like the contrast of the arched top with all of the other straight lines we have going on. It’s simple to move the screen to the side when I need to tend the fire. Surprisingly, the handles never get hot.

Fireplace screen

The grate is from my grandmother’s house. It sat outside at my parents’ house for years until my Dad brought it up to the farm one day last month. It fits as though it was made for the fireplace–just another example of how things work out the way they’re meant to.

We’ve had the fireplace for less than a month and already it’s been well-used. I’ve split wood, cleaned out the ashes and had lots and lots of fires. Last week temperatures were in the -20s. It was so nice to come home from work, light a fire and have dinner in front of the warm glow.

Deer antlers and Ikea Borrby lantern on a barn beam mantel

For me, nothing beats a real wood fire. In its function, as well as its fieldstone facade, it’s a perfect fit for our country farmhouse.

And just to remember how far we’ve come, here’s the full 14-day project:

Fireplace renovation animated gif

Soooooo much better.

Fieldstone fireplace with barn beam mantel

Merry Christmas

Christmas stockings hung by the fireplace

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be here.

And yes, we actually have a working chimney and a way for St. Nick to enter for the very first time.

A full fireplace post will come in the new year.

For now, I want to say thank you all for reading. Have a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the holidays.

Fireplace update – Week 2

Work on the fireplace continues. Our mason originally expected this to be a one-week project, maybe a day or two over. But it turns out our fireplace is large. After two weeks of 9+ hour days, the fireplace is not yet done. But we’ve come a long way.

Last week, the fireplace looked like this.

Masonry fireplace in progress

Now, it looks like this.

Fireplace two weeks in to construction

You heard a little bit about the hearth stone on Friday. Before I get into the other activities from the week, Baxter has a video to share with you about carrying in the slab.

A few other things happened before we were ready for the hearth. First, the chimney went up both inside and out. As you may recall, the old chimney was pretty much the whole reason for this redo. It’s surprisingly thrilling to have a big, solid, proper chimney. My Dad and I still have a bit of flashing to do, hence all of the wrapping.

Chimney wrapped in plastic

The cinder block rough-in was completed, and then the firebox was constructed. That’s what our mason was working on in this photo that you saw on Friday where he’s sitting inside the fireplace.

Mason building a fireplace

The second most exciting part of the week was installing the mantel. When he was building the structure of the fireplace, our mason installed four pieces of rebar. The bars went back into the block about 2 feet and were securely cemented in place. They stuck out on the face of the fireplace by about 1 foot.

My Dad and I drilled carefully placed holes on barn beams that matched up with the pieces of rebar, and then Matt and I slid the beams onto the bars. Voilà, mantel. Or half a mantel. This photo shows the first beam in place. The second beam goes on in front of this one and hides the ends of the rods.

Installing a barn beam mantel

This weekend, I gave the mantel a few coats of clear varathane to protect it and bring out the quality of the wood a little bit more. I’m giddy over this mantel. The rough barn wood is just so beautiful.

Barn wood mantel

If the mantel was the second most exciting, what was the first, you ask? Absolutely the most exciting development of this whole project was seeing the face stone going on. I picked the stone fairly quickly, but then I doubted myself for the past three weeks. Had I picked the right stone? Would it look good in our house? Would I like it once it was installed? Should I have made more effort to source other options?

Well, I love the stone. It’s exactly what I was envisioning. Rough field stone that looks like it could have come from our own farm.

Fieldstone veneer on a fireplace

Here’s another montage of how the fireplace has progressed from the start up to now.

Two weeks of progress on fireplace demo and rebuilding

We have at least a few days yet to go. By the end of the week, everything should be done (although I can’t promise the post-reno clean-up will be complete).