My small yet loyal band of followers may recognise this object, which featured in a previous post. Then again, you may not, as it looks completely different now. So this post is by way of an update. (If only it had originally featured 2 posts later, I could have indulged in another of my music-related puns!)
This is the cast iron mantelpiece and fire surround from the bedroom in which I was born. When it came to me (having been salvaged by Brother 2 from our house before the new owner demolished it), it was covered in thick layers of white gloss paint, applied every decade or so by my DIY Dad. We removed the hardboard with which he had blocked up the fireplace in the 1960s, revealing some old chipped and blackened yellow tiles. They weren’t very attractive and I vaguely thought about replacing them with new ones. I probably wouldn’t have done any more about it but for a visit by my good friend and artist Milton Grubert, who took an interest in the project, and came up with this exquisite new tile design. I own several of Milton’s beautiful paintings and the tiles are designed to complement his Water Meadows triptych which hangs on the opposite wall:
I couldn’t possibly set these lovely tiles in the scruffy old fireplace. So, with a little help from my friends, hours were spent stripping and chipping and scrubbing away at the decades of gloss paint; then at further layers of older, pre-1950s lead paint, until the charcoal grey cast iron began to show through at last. A much finer setting for Milton’s tiles.
There may be further improvements to come – picking out the detail in gold, perhaps, to complement the Regency mirror above? – but for the moment I’m very happy to sit on the sofa and enjoy my new, old fireplace. Maybe one day I’ll even put a fire in it, like there would have been on that November day when I was born.