About catherine
Catherine is a CPA-turned-creative entrepreneur. She is the founder of Beginning in the Middle. an interior designer, photographer, writer, and business schemer.  She loves being cozy at home, miniature everything, and has a not-so-secret dream of living on an island one day.
SEARCH the blog
Before & After

“I just want BRICK!”

Duplex Progress

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season.  I capped off my vacation yesterday with a little Rehab Addict on Netflix.  I love Nicole Curtis, and every time I hear her say “I just want BRICK!” in her intro, it makes me smile.  Now that we are in the middle of rehabbing a brick duplex, I can relate!  We exposed lots of it on our side of the duplex, including both of our fireplaces.

This is what our dining room fireplace looked like when we bought the house (check out our post here for more details and photos).


Over the past few months, we’ve been going back and forth about whether to leave the arch exposed, or cover it back up with the existing mantle.  Well, we finally decided we loved it too much to cover it up, which meant we needed to come up with a plan for a replacement mantle.  (Before anyone gets worried, I’m saving both the living room and dining room mantles and have big plans for them in other areas of the house!)


We wanted to highlight the arch as much as possible, so we chose to do a basic, chunky floating mantle.  Our shopping list looked something like this:

3 – 1x6s (make sure they are long enough to fit your fireplace)
1 – 2×4 (also long enough to fit your fireplace)
3-4 wedge anchors (ours were 3/8″), nuts and washers
A masonry drill bit (the same size as your wedge anchors – we used 3/8″)
A drill (had it)
Some wood glue (had it)
Finished nails (and a nail gun, if you have it)
Hammer (had it)
Wrench (had it)
Miter saw for wood cuts (had it), or ask your home improvement store to cut your wood if you don’t have one

Here’s how we did it:

After measuring and cutting our wood, we pre-drilled holes in the fireplace and 2×4 with the masonry bit.


Then we hammered our wedge anchors into the pre-drilled holes and tightened the nuts/washers.


After the 2x4s were on tight, we attached the first 1×6 to the top of the 2×4 with wood glue and a nail gun.  (Note – you see two small 2x4s on our fireplace instead of 1 big one because they were scrap from another one of our projects and we didn’t want to waste them!)



We pushed down on it to make sure it was strong enough, and it was, so we moved on and attached the bottom 1×6.


And then the front.


For the sides, we cut two squares to fill in the gaps, but stuck them too far in at first…


The second try was much better.  We secured it with the nail gun from the top and bottom.  Once that was done, we whipped out the palm sander and went over everything with a fine grit sandpaper.


We applied the first layer of stain, after which we realized we didn’t sand well enough!  There were some white patches of wood glue that the stain wouldn’t stick to.


So we improvised.  We scraped around the white areas with a chisel, hammered around a little, and tried to beat it up a bit.   Then we stained again.


Much better!  We stained it a few more times.


To finish off the fireplace, we spray painted the inside of the firebox black (we got the high heat kind), and added some birch logs and a log holder.  We may get gas logs down the line, but it won’t be happening anytime soon so this will tide us over.  We also finished tiling the previously cracked dining room hearth with marble subway tiles.  Such a difference, right?


Here’s what it looked like on Christmas.


The whole thing cost us under $40, and we love how it turned out.  We still need to figure out what we want to put on the mantle, and what we want to hang above it, and fix those broken bricks around the edge of the firebox, but all of that will come once things settle down.

We’re working on finishing up our living room mantle now, and will check in when it’s finished (it’s similar but not the same).  In the meantime, follow our daily progress on Instagram.

Happy New Year, All!

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

Add a comment

  1. Ryan Tietz says:

    What type of wood did you use for the front 1×6?

  2. Todd says:

    LOL! I can’t believe someone had covered that up! I can’t imagine in one time period that would have looked good!
    What you have now is fantastic!

    By the way, I came here for the “I just want brick” comment… was trying to remember the name of the show, and that was the only thing I remembered from it! haha…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Catherine & Bryan Williamson moved from NYC to Columbus, OH in 2013.  Beginning in the Middle is a journal of the couple's design and renovation projects, real estate investment and Airbnb hosting journey, travel, and other life happenings.



Gift Guides





I grew up in New Jersey and always had a dream of living in New York.  There was something about the energy of the city that drew me inOur journey started unexpectedly in 2012, when we decided to make a big move from New York to Columbus. The glamour of climbing the corporate ladder was wearing off, and we knew that renting an expensive small apartment and dealing with crowded subways everyday was not going to work forever. We wanted to start creating something for ourselves, and although we didn’t know exactly what that something was, we knew NYC wasn’t the place for it.

We decided on Columbus because Bryan grew up here, and we were intrigued by all of the development going on in the downtown area at the time. We drove through many of the neighborhoods and admired the boarded up old houses, most of which were built in the early 1900s, and started dreaming about the things we could do here.

I'm Catherine, and I'm the founder of Beginning in the Middle.

read the whole story



join our email list

Let's Stay in Touch

We send out a monthly newsletter and other occasional updates exclusively to our email pals. 

sign up






© Beginning in the Middle | All rights reserved | Legal | TONIC