Our New House Entryway: Adding Old World Character {The Faux Fireplace Mantel Dilemma}

Our New House Entryway: Adding Old World Character {The Faux Fireplace Mantel Dilemma}

Adding Old World Character to a New House

So, most of you might know we moved to this brand new Craftsman style house in Washington three years ago (MY how time flies) from a charming old English Tudor in Portland Oregon. The reason we bought a new house is because we knew we would be too busy and frazzled to deal with things like messy time consuming remodels, pipes rusting out or rodents under our sink. Been there, done that.

We definitely made the right choice for this season in our life. But, we really miss the character of an old house. We don’t miss the rodents, though. So, we are just starting to try and build more old world character or at least some more personality into our home in small, manageable ways. Last year we changed our dining room light fixture, from the builder’s flying saucer light to our more charming lantern.

Our New House Entryway: Adding Old World Character {The Faux Fireplace Mantel Dilemma}

This year we are continuing to replace the basic builder lights, one by one. We changed this entry light to a little coastal lantern recently (we got it at Home Depot, I think) because we wanted something small that would complement the painting and our style, but not dominate the wall. It does the trick!

By the way, we found that gorgeous painting in a CLOSET at our old house before we moved in. We paid the owner $100 for it and when we had it cleaned, appraised and framed, it turned out to be the work a painter (who was a friend of Monet!) in the Impressionist era! SCORE!

But don’t worry, we won’t light the mason jar candles and catch it all on fire.

Our New House Entryway: Adding Old World Character {The Faux Fireplace Mantel Dilemma}

Anyway, so here is what we started out with on this wall just before Thanksgiving. Yeah. I know it is sometimes hard to tell paint colors, but before they were kind of dusty pinkish beige and now they are brownish gray. In case you didn’t know, I call them swine walls, because they just remind me of the color of the under belly of a big.

For those of you who like pink walls, trust me, I’m not judging pink walls anywhere but at my own house. I just don’t like them personally for MY house, but they are certainly fabulous at yours. I like pink just fine.

DISCLAIMER: For the record, I like pigs too, especially Wilbur. I just don’t like my walls to oink at me.

So we had the entry (or foyer, if that is what you fancy folk call it) walls painted (Studio Taupe) the week of Thanksgiving (I didn’t post pictures of that since it was too close to Christmas, so I’m catching you all up now!). We also painted the striped wall, which I also need to post about. It is over to the left of the fireplace wall, under our stairs.

I decided that I wanted to use the mantel on this wall, in spite of the air vent, because I thought it would give the entry a little more old world character. New house entry ways can feel kind of tall and cold so I wanted to really give it a lot of warmth and personality. Most new houses probably don’t have a fireplace in the entry so this seemed like it would really warm the room up visually.

Our New House Entryway: Adding Old World Character {The Faux Fireplace Mantel Dilemma}

But the dilemma is that crazy return air vent.

What should I do about that? I cannot cover it up fully, the air still needs to be able to circulate. I could paint it the same as the wall color, but I think it will still look like a little off and like its missing something. I need to fill the whole area with something, but what could beef it up without blocking the air vent? I can’t set things on the floor in front of it or it will be too crowded.

Ideas? Creative suggestions?

Our New House Entryway: Adding Old World Character {The Faux Fireplace Mantel Dilemma}

I have a fireplace screen, so maybe that would help in some way?

There is a little bit of space behind the opening of the mantel so I could possible attach some sort of wire mesh or screen or something to it, as long as there air can still flow. I was going to put a chalkboard painted board there until we decided on this wall with the air vent, then it was not possible to use it.

I kind of want the fireplace to look classic, maybe not so crafty or tacky, but obviously it is not a real working fireplace so I am not opposed to a little creative license there to give it more creative personality.

Here is what the wall looks like across from this mantel….

And here is how I solved another dilemma, covering a row of light switches!

Thoughts on how to solve my dilemma?


Update: Lessons from A Failed DIY Project (this one, ha!)


  1. What about painting the inside of the fireplace and the vent black?

  2. I like the chalk board idea. what if you found an old chalk board, and just leaned it up against the wall so it filled most of the space, but had a little room for the air to flow around it? Then you could chalk a fake fire on the board (i think it’s fun to do something humorous…and you can just play up the fact that it’s a fake mantle with a fake fire).

    Love that painting too by the way….

    • I was thinking something along these lines also. How about getting a perforated iron mesh/screen and having (or painting) a “fire” on it and hanging it behind the mantel? The perforations would still allow the air to circulate but at the same time would hide the institutional look of the vent.

  3. The first thing that popped into my head was making the mantel look more like a radiator cover. You can do that with wood or with some aluminum sheeting from a home improvement store.

    Different cover ideas: http://www.customfurniturenewyork.com/radiator-cover-ideas/
    Aluminum sheeting: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-100303880/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

  4. Brigid has a similar idea to mine. I have the same dilemma and my thought was to attach a board such as plywood or MDF to the mantle and cut out where the vent would be. Paint it all black. Also, attach a hearth board to give it a more built-in look. If you paint it a flat black it should make it less noticeable. Does this make sense?

  5. I had almost the exact same thought as Brigid – paint the vent and the area inside the fireplace a different color.

    Good luck with however you decide to handle it!

    Are all the air returns in hour home at floor level? Just curious – we have new construction, and all ours are in the ceiling.

  6. I think you should paint the air vent the same color as the wall and then put a decorative fireplace screen in front. (I like the black idea above, but what if you want to move the fireplace? then you have to paint again…) Painting the vent the same color would allow it to blend in more and the screen would help conceal it even more.

  7. Maybe use burlap or some other open weave fabric & create a gathered fabric screen that would fit inside the mantel but still allow the air to flow. Could provide some nice texture but be tone-on-tine with your wall color?

  8. 3 years ago I was following along with you as you moved. Then somehow I slipped away. Decided this morning to look you up – cannot beleive it’s been that long!
    I would definitely paint that cover to match the walls. Then you can decide what else to do. It will blend much better with whatever you do if it matches the wall:)
    And I like the mantel there – great idea!

  9. http://tamicurbalert.blogspot.com/2011/11/return-air-vent-cover.html This has been all over pinterest. (That and the $529 vent cover it mimics.)

  10. How about hinged louvered shutters in the mantel opening?

  11. I agree, I would paint it vent black and remove the baseboard
    on the inside.It also needs some type of hearth.maybe a low
    stone or marble slab.

  12. How about a tri-fold hand painted or decoupaged (old world) wood screen. You could custom make it with a few pieces of wood and hinges and make it so it didn’t stick out too far, but just far enough for the vent to work or even raise it so there is air flow below. Or something with a mirrored screen or background. Or my craziest thought: paint with chalk board paint or magnetic chalkboard paint.

    • Rachel McC says

      I like Char’s idea of a simple/slatted wood screen– Maybe paint the wall & air vent flat black & then bring some of the colors from the painting/painting frame down to the screen?
      I think the WHITE air vent is the screaming problem. If you don’t like everyone’s black idea, then maybe at least paint it to match the wall color :)

  13. Erin Buchanan says

    maybe tile the area inside the mantle- white subway?

  14. I think the area should be painted black that way the air vent blends in.

  15. Yes – paint the vent color to match the wall but also you could put a vent cover that extended the entire length of the opening in the mantel. The problem is that it is in the corner. Make it look on purpose!

    • I had the same thought as Stacey. Swap out the vent cover for another (decorative sheet metal or aluminum or something from the home improvement store) that spans the width of the mantel opening to make it look more intentional. Part of the vent cover would be over the open duct work, and the other part would just be over the wall.

  16. You could also replace the vent cover with a piece of radiator metal that is cut to fit the entire opening for the fireplace.

  17. I would definitely paint the vent the same color as the wall no matter what. Even though it you’ll still be able to see it, it will blend a lot easier. Then I’m thinking attach some sort of wire to theiece, like chicken wire or those old radiator wire that they would use to conceal a radiator behind a built in box. I hope you know what I mean, if not email me. And then I’m not sure how much area there is but maybe a big old basket sodding on that side of the mantel with wood in it. Hope some of these ideas sound good to you!

  18. Paint the vent the same color as the wall would make a huge difference.

  19. Wow! I love Bethany and Carlene’s ideas. I’m coming to you girls with my next design dilemma. Of course, the first idea that popped in my head was simple. Paint the vent and put a basket in front of it. I have one of those cool old artillery baskets that are thin and tall. Wouldn’t take up much floor space, would cover the vent, and would still let the air flow.

    You can see a pic of it here: http://sweetchaoshome.blogspot.com/2011/05/side-entry-spruce-up.html

    • I do like that idea, I guess I forgot to mention that I can’t put too much in front of it because of the lack of space available, but maybe if it was tall and narrow and close to the wall…good ideas!!

  20. First, you have GOT to paint that air vent the same color as your wall!

    Next, get some metal scrolls (or decorative wood trim pieces), attach them to your plain screen, paint the whole thing the same color (hammered metal finish spray paint? oil rubbed bronze spray paint?). Add some grenery and a few interesting pieces on the top of the “mantle” and you’re done!

    If you feel like you can still see the vent behind the dressed-up screen, get another vent and hang it on the wall beside the first one to make one long “vent”. No one has to know that half of it doesn’t actually work!

  21. If you have someone in your family that’s pretty handy…you could always have them move the return vent slightly upwards & more center, so it doesn’t look so “off kilter” with the mantel? Then cover it with a screen to finish off the look…

    • Ha, we are not too handy, unfortunately, but maybe just covering more of the space with a new grate will give the same illusion. Thanks for the thought!

  22. I don’t think I’m going to add anything new other than to say that I think you should paint the vent the same colour as the wall. Perhaps you should paint them black to make it look more like a fireplace – but have you thought of doing a mural of a fire? Just forget that you have a vent there and paint the entire thing as a mural hiding the vent altogether. Or perhaps there is a vinyl transfer that you could use to cover the area.

  23. I’d paint the vent to match the wall. If you’re determined to keep it the same shade as the rest of the wall, then paint the vent that. If you’re going to change the color inside the mantle, the paint the vent the same shade. It won’t completely hide it, but it will help to blend it in, especially if you cover it with a screen. But instead of using one of those utilitarian screens, use one of those folding ones. The ones that stand a little away from the wall.

  24. I like Bethany’s idea, with the mat and painting the vent to match the wall. I also think you could get the same look with a more detailed fireplace screen. With more scroll work or details, it’d draw the attention away from the vent if it’s painted out the wall color. It’d also fill that space inside the mantel. Fun idea, though!! Love your blog!!!

  25. Maybe attach decorative sheet metal to your fireplace cover. Sheet metal with small openings in copper color would look good…this will hide the vent and still allow for air to come out. Sheet metal should come in a roll from a local hardware store. Just a quick thought…hope this helps! T

  26. I have built-in window seats that house our t.v. and stereo receiver, dvd player and netflicks box. It also needed venting. I used the screening you see on radiator covers (found at Lowes and Home Depot)and faux finished it and the built-ins to give them an older look. I love the way it turned out and have used the same idea twice now for clients.

  27. I would also paint the entire interior wall within the ‘fireplace’ a flat black to make it all ‘go away’-the vent, the wall and even the baseboard moulding all flat black. Now check out this website I found:
    for decorative mesh to attach to the inside back of the mantle. Choose a brass/antique bronze, etc finish with some dazzle to become more of the focal point. Good luck! Can’t wait to see what you come mup with! Check out that site! I think you’ll find something there!

  28. I think you should paint the fireplace part of the wall a darker shade of what you have on the walls and paint the vent to match. Then with the screen in front of it, it should blend nicely and have no problems blocking air.

  29. If the idea of a trompe l’oeiul (sp?) painting of the interior of a fireplace is a bit much for you how about just painting the vent the color of the wall and placing a basket with cut wood in front of it. Looking forward to seeing whatever decision you make.

  30. So pretty! Love the mason jars! An idea I saw on Pinterest might work. Someone had turned a huge stack of birch logs around so only the ends were showing in the fireplace. It was so different. I have a (non-working) fireplace in the back entry way between the kitchen and family room (open on both sides), and I would like to do this too. I was thinking maybe you could cut the ends off and glue or attach them to the wall somehow.??? Just an idea you might think about working in with some of the other wonderful ideas!

  31. How about putting a sheet of radiator metal across the entire mantle opening? You could paint it to match the wall, the mantle or another color, and it would cover the vent without obstructing it.
    I’ve used the radiator metal/cover a few times, and found it very easy to use.

  32. Remove the white trim along the floor and paint everything “in” the fireplace a dark charcoal color – including the vent. Also, the mantel itself might benefit from a bit of distressing/aging technique. From the photo, it seems too stark white to live happily with your wonderful aged painting and frame. Just a thought…

  33. Wow! I am so impressed with your readers’ suggestions. If you paint the vent back to the wall color and add the Pinterest idea, I think it’ll work beautifully. Clever girl to call in the troops!

  34. I wonder if you could find a fancy looking radiator cover (like Shelley at House of Smiths used http://www.thehouseofsmiths.com/2011/12/diy-magnetic-organizational-board-from.html) and paint it white to fill in the whole mantel space?
    Can’t wait to see how you creatively handle this!

  35. That was a score on the painting!!! I love the works of that era.

    I too would choose to paint everything inside the mantle flat black, baseboard & grate included. But, then I would bet some facing bricks…is that the right name…and place those on the floor so that it gives it a real fireplace presence. And then I would get some mdf and paint it or tile it or even paper it (a design you print would work) and create an inner level surround. I think you can afford to cover up one line of the grating…it would give you the room you need. I would have it skinny on the sides…covering the one line of grating and then I’d make it deep on the top so that provides visual interest and is more like a fireplace opening. Of course…you can figure out whether that’s 8 inches or 20 inches…but it will give you a nice firebox feeling. I’d then find some andirons…or fake some up (without the wood holder portion) (get some old or new wood turnings and spray paint them a bronze like your picture frame) and place them almost against the wall and then put your fireplace screen in front of that to finish it off. Okay…this is a little bit more work…but…I don’t think it’s a lot of work. What do you say?

    • I like the idea of creating an inner surround, especially if it is easy. I had some andirons that I gave my sister when I moved. Maybe she’d give ’em back :-) Thanks for the ideas!

  36. Patricia McGreevey says

    Pat.decorate suggests that you use metal screening the same they use in radiator covers or decorative chicken wire. I had a faux fireplace built in our library and I absolutely love it. However, I did not have a register to contend with BUT we did have an outlet moved. I also had a faux artist paint a floral scene on the wall so it looked like a firescreen. I might send a picture later on. Love your site.

  37. I was thinking either the perforated sheet metal that you use for radiator covers or the fabric that covers speakers. Either comes in colors and textures that might add some interest to your mantel. I love it so far!

  38. I love the new look and the light! I would paint the vent the same color of the wall for sure. Then I might lean an architectural piece under the mantle like an old gate, or black iron fence part, or even a window with the panes out of it so the air could still get through. You could put brackets on the window so that it would stand up like the firescreen too. Hope that helps!

  39. Patricia McGreevey says

    It’s Pat again…well I forgot to mention that I too painted the wall a flat black and had a marble surround installed around the firebox area and for the hearth. We also had a piece of 2cm granite cut for the top, polished on 3 sides, eased edge, polished underneaath and cut 1 inch larger than the actual top giving us more mantel shelf space.

  40. Hi- I know you have gotten so many great ideas already but I thought I would share an idea I did for a client last year. My client had a non-functioning fireplace and wanted a way to make it look creative and interesting so I painted a faux fire on a board to place in front the opening. You can see it here http://rebeccalukensdesigns.blogspot.com/p/my-projects.html
    Can’t wait to see what you end up doing with all these ideas! Rebecca

  41. Hi Melissa –

    I would attach a radiator cover metal sheet with the open pattern to the back of the mantel with a staple gun. It will fill the whole arched area and mask the vent. Paint it white and then add some decorative molding/trim on the front or hang a medallion in the middle of it. The wall won’t have to be painted at all. I think if you paint it the same color as the mantel the whole thing will look more built-in and add architectural interest while the focus will remain on the art above.

    My best- Diane

  42. Oh, yes! I DOOOO!!! But only for my sweet Melissa ;)

    Personally, I am not too into “faux,” {with exceptions, of course} so this is how I would handle it to really incorporate old world charm:

    1. Paint your vent to match your walls, number one! Regardless of what else you do!

    2. Then, hit architectural salvage stores, etsy, or Craigslist to find antique grills or vents, like this one:

    or an antique gate, like this one:

    Then place the antique item, centered on the wall. I would paint mine black wrought iron, unless it already had a to-die-for patina. But you could always paint it in white, or even a fun color!

    By the way! It is looking SO great. {the wall color is wonderful. AND, you are right! there is a big difference between intentional-designer-pink, and universal-soft-builder’s-pink, a.k.a. SWINE!}

    Love ya!
    – {darlene}
    of Fieldstone Hill Design. com

    • Thanks sweet girl. Would you believe I had a gate like that and it got thrown away in our move? Sadness. Anyway, I agree on the not so in to faux either but this is going to be my exception :-) … I love the idea of adding more antique salvage architectural piece on the wall…Thanks for taking time out to give your input, I appreciate it friend! xo

  43. I love that you added a fireplace mantel to your hallway! Great touch. I wouldn’t do anything to draw the eye away from that picture either. I think I’d paint the vent the same color as your wall and maybe add a sheer linen, muslin or burlap to the fireplace screen. You could “print” the fabric with a stencil or ink transfer if it needs a bit of a pattern.
    Happy New Year!!

  44. If you didn’t mind spending a little money, have an a/c contractor move the return air to the ceiling and free up the space for any look you want. You could put in gas logs. They can run off propane if you do not have natural gas available. We have them and talk about ambience! Whatever you do, do not block the airflow on your return air! (my hubby’s an a/c guy ;-)

  45. What if you stacked some old crate boxes “underneath” the mantle and had the bottom of 1 of the boxes punched out and approximately the same size of the vent, placed in front of it? And as mentioned by others, paint the vent the same color as the wall.

    • I might experimenting with some stacking in front, but it might be a little tricky because of the way the fireplace is set in the room. But I’m going to try everything first to see what works! Thanks for the ideas!

  46. Kathleen Grace says

    The first thing that comes to mind would be to paint the vent the same color as the wall to make it “disappear”, but we all know it would still show. What about getting an old frame that fits that opening and inserting something like chair caneing or decorative screen in it, paint it black or another color that is appropriate. This would still allow air flow but mask the off center grill of the air return. You cn but chair caning in sheets, although I don’t know how big they come, and it would have a nice texture too!

  47. I would “line” the back of the mantle with burlap fabric using heavy staples to secure it. You could use black burlap fabric to mimic the look of the interior of a normal fireplace and then use the screen in front of the fire place. You could use natural colored burlap and then paint a roaring fire. Could be very cute and whimsical. Or just paint andirons and logs.

    I used this method on a cottage chic shelving unit that I wanted to use at a microwave “stand.” The microwave had to have ventilation so I just removed the back of the cabinet, created a cabinet back with burlap and presto- burlap ventilation.

    This way you aren’t messing with that lovely trim work or complicating an area that you may eventually want to change up anyway. I would just stay away from anything that requires major work to restore the area to its original condition.

  48. I was thinking of a decorative grate…like the kind that would hide the pipes in an old house that had the big radiator pipes right in the room….that would look really cool and give ‘old house’ feel to it…

  49. I agree with the above statements of painting the air cover so it blends into the wall. I think one of those lovely black iron decorative screen would look lovely attached to your fireplace and would still allow the air to flow through. I think since you are trying to add older character here, the screen should be older and rustic to match the feel of the mantel and not newer and modern like the one shown in the picture. What a cool idea to add a mantel to your entry way. I think it will look lovely when you are finished.
    Happy decorating.

  50. I saw this air vent cover on Pinterest to use in my home but I think it would work perfectly for your fireplace dilemma…
    You would probably need to add one on the blank part of your wall also to keep it balanced.

    Happy New Year and Good Luck!

  51. Im thinking you need to blend that airvent in because it is as bright as the fireplace. How about makin it oink too? lol or you could do a black or dark charcoal color.

    What about covering you screen in a breathable fabric like burlap. keeping it neutral so you dont take away from the painting and you can stencil the family name of something like that on it.

    Can’t wait to see what you do.

    Lucky 7 Design

  52. I think I might try painting the vent cover to match the wall, then paint the screen in a pattern that will distract from the vent cover structure. I might use a two-tone, geometric design on the screen.

  53. I did not read everyones post but maybe if you paint the vent the same color as the wall it might blend in with the decor. Good luck!

  54. Definitely paint the vent and area inside the mantel black.

    • Definitely agree! You’d be amazed at how it will blend in either by painting it the wall color or painting the entire area black or dark charcoal!

  55. What about a gathered(or not)fabric panel BEHIND your fireplace screen? Could you use 2 tension rods (top/bottom) between the inner-sides of the mantel? You could use something really basic (close to the wall color?) — OR, could swap it out for seasonal fabric as the mood struck, or the season changed. I’m just thinking of a light fabric that would allow air circulation… I can’t wait to see what you come up with Melissa!!!

  56. Melissa,

    That looks great. Not sure you need to cover the opening but maybe paint the vent. Your eye will naturally go to the amazing painting and the darling lamp!

  57. Sharon Woo says

    I think you can leave the vent and wall as is, but get this decorative alluminum sheeting and spray paint it black and affix to the inside of your new fireplace frame. The sheeting is made for air to pass through so you wont have any problem and the tightness of the pattern may not show the existing vent through the holes when looking at it so your wall remains pristine under the faux fireplace.:)

    Here is the sheeting at home depot: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-202525465/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

  58. another vote for making it the same as the wall color — while it’s still there it will not stand out so much! I love the black idea and if you paint the “stripes” in the vent all the way across that would make it less noticeable as well…. the fireplace screen is the quick fix! :D

    • What about painting a fire burning in there? If it’s done right it could look so cool!! Then if you decide to remove the mantel at some point it’s a small enough space that it wouldn’t be difficult to cover the scene up with your wall color. That’s what I would do … crazy maybe??? :)

  59. I have a taadaa idea Find an antique iron piece and hang it slightly away from the wall so it looks like a fire screen or grate. If you go on my pinterst you will see what I mean.
    Let me know if you need help finding it. What do you think??

  60. I have an ugly vent on a wall on my third floor and was thinking of how to cover it. I think if you use pallet wood planks that’s spaced a bit apart for circulation and protrudes from the wall an inch or so would be great. Cut the wood pieces to fit inside the mantel and that’s your backdrop for a beautiful urn of flowers in the summer or a bucket of wood in the winter… Can’t wait to see what you do!

  61. Definitely paint the vent the wall color. But what about also adding a short narrow solid screen with paintings on it so it covers the vent and adds some more depth to the wall but doesn’t block the air vent from flowing? If you have trouble finding one (fastest bet would be online) you could easily make one and stencil a scene on it.

  62. Great idea with the mantle! I showed this to my husband since he thinks I am the only one that has “out of the box” ideas! And yes cold air returns are ALWAYS an eye sore and they are ALWAYS in the most front & center locations! Ughhh! When my husband builds a house(he’s a builder) we always paint the cold air vent covers the same color as the wall…. that way they are less visible. I think the fireplace screen is perfect and if you painte the vent cover, you would not even see it through the screen. A fabric drape woudl look nice, but would definately impede on the cold air flow, which would defeat the whole purpose of it being there. I say just paint it!

  63. I had a similar problem with mantels in my house…I painted the background black and it really disguised the entire thing. Good Luck….love your site!

  64. Most definitely paint it the same colour as the wall but then place a metal stand alone fireplace screen in the area.

  65. I would paint the “fireplace” a dark color, possibly black, including the vent. If you use the screen, it would blend in better. Also, do you have any shutters? A trio of shutters you can distress or are distressed I bet would look great.

  66. OK, so it looks like you’ve framed the vent, as in you want it to stand out, which is not your intent…. I like the idea of painting it the same color as the wall but I also think that you could just add a ledge (no legs) to put your candles on & I would also make the ledge (shelf) the same color as the wall… I do think that the contrast of the wall & the vent is just too dramatic.. or maybe even a stainless steel/pewter color rather than white? mb

  67. maria & cameron says

    How about paint the vent the same color as the wall AND then put the screen or better an ornate grated screen (antiquey looking) in front of that!! That would be fabulous, I think!

  68. I recently signed up to follow you and I love your blog! I would spray paint the cover for the air return flat black and cover the rest of the wall under the mantel with chalkboard wallpaper and then add a screen like this or a similar one -http://www.bellacor.com/productdetail/spi-home-33433-scroll-fireplace-screen-615659.htm. Amazon.com also has a few. Maybe a painted screen? Good luck and have a fantastic day.

  69. you might try adding a hanging beaded piece of art, then you are still allowing the air vent to have room to work.

  70. you might try adding a hanging beaded piece of art, then you are still allowing the air vent to have room – also paint the air vent the same color as the wall to hide it – remember, what ever you place there will suck into the air vent, so if you use beads, make sure they are weighted heavy at the bottom (use fishing weights)

  71. Hi Melissa,

    How about a pretty painted screen to cover what appears to be the opening? I know you like Alexandra Stoddard and I think that is what she has covering her fireplaces in her bedroom and living room of her cottage. If they aren’t screens, they are some sort of pictures with flowers on them.


  72. …just paint it all flat black under the mantel…it will not hurt the air flow…possibley add tile around the inside space…i love the idea having this in your entry…it is beautiful…and what a perfect welcome for friends and family!…blessings laney

  73. We had the same problem in one of our hallways. We painted the vent and that really did help mask the “ugliness!” I also added a cute bench in front of ours that does not block the air flow. So… What about adding an old, simple (skinny) table or bench that fits inside the mantle? Of course, not completely pushed up against the wall and leaving a small gap. Once you found the perfect size, you could always do what you need to to the table or bench, if needed :) – such as distress or paint. Just a simple way – and maybe a practical place to lay your keys – to help hide the vent and keep your eyes fixed on that painting. :)

  74. Melissa,

    I think I would attach something lightweight to the back of the fireplace screen so as not to block the vent. You could use a pretty material that would pick up the colors in your painting or you could use a thin piece of fiberboard or foam core and do a faux painting on it to resemble bricks or stone of an actual fireplace. If you are artistic you could paint some candles on it like they are setting in the fireplace or artifical logs or a large fern. I think it might have to be a case of trial and error to see what looks best and most realistic. There are some decorative fireplace screens out there but I know the idea is to use what you have. Sometimes just an on-line search will give me good ideas. I’ll be anxious to what you decide.

    I love reading your blog on a daily basis. Keep up the good work.
    Bradenton, Fl

  75. Why can’t builders/hvac’s come up with better aesthetic options?! Come on people, get with the program!

    Personally, I would masquerade/faux the whole area.
    First paint in the vent and baseboard with matching wall paint.
    Then faux paint over that a glowing fire in that ‘fireplace’, including a faux ‘hearth’ at the bottom.
    Finally, purchase some maille (heavy hanging fireplace screen) and attach that to the back of the surround. Being sure to get enough width so that it looks a little pleated across the opening – not flat/pulled tight – as this will provide texture and depth to that ‘working fire’.

  76. Definitely need to paint that vent the same color as the wall. Check into Scrim – its a kind of fabric that is used in the theater. Very lightweight and allows air flow. You could paint the scrim, stretch it around a 1×2 frame, then use velcro to attach to the wall just inside the fireplace. Or I do love the idea of a metal grating or fireplace screen. Paint your wall and vent darker (charcoal would be great) then put a wonderful white painted decorative metal piece in front… it could be part of a wrought iron railing or fence… check local flea markets or architectural salvage… or a metal grating – try McNichols (www.mcnichols.com) for a more modern selection.

  77. I think a decorative metal grate painted flat black would do the trick. Maybe paint the register and the wall flat black too, so that everything blends together. That would still allow air flow but give you the look of a blocked off fireplace. BTW, I’m with you…no walls oinking at me in my house. lol

  78. As much as I love the mantel I personally think an entry table would be a better option because if it was wide enough (if you had room) it would hide the vent when you entered the house. I can’t imagine someone is going to hang around in the entry long so it is really about hiding the vent from the first entry. I would definitely paint the vent though. Now I think the mantel makes it stick out more because it is high. Love the painting…wow, what a find! And the light is perfect! Can’t wait to see what you do. Love all your ideas. :)

    • It is too crowded to put a table there, unfortunately! This is not really about hiding the vent (although I want to do that)…it is about adding character and personality with the mantel so I just have to figure out what to do to fill in the space so it looks right! Fortunately I have lots of great ideas coming in!

  79. Hi Melissa—-I happened to run across this screen insert today at the Brown Button Blogspot. I really like it and it looks to have plenty of ventilation for your vent. In fact, it may be covering up a vent in that picture. What do you think?……Patti


    • That is really neat, Patti! I really like how substantial that looks, like it all really goes together. You are getting my wheels turning! And, interestingly, that inspiration pic is just like my wall, angled exactly the same way! Hmmm…great inspiration pic! Thank you!!

  80. I had this same problem in my upstairs hallway. We added a table and a vase full of tall flowers to make the eye look up. We just left the air vent but I like your idea of using a fireplace cover to hide it…

  81. I think I would paint the whole thing inside a matte black and then paint a cool fire scene. Could be quite neat.

  82. I’d paint the vent the same as the wall and then maybe hang some type of scroll-y iron work… or maybe put expanded metal in there like what is used for radiator covers.

    but first I’d camouflage with paint…
    that’s all I got for you.

    I’m going to read some of the others and see what they say. You have some pretty Savvy readers…I bet you get some good ideas!


  83. Probably someone has already said this but the simplest solution would be to paint the grate the same color as as the wall. I also wonder if you could find a grate that was actually larger then this one- one that would encompasses the space between mantel area.

  84. Perhaps you could do a feature which includes the air vent. Or maybe you could put a piece of really nice wallpaper on the area. It will serve as a kind of picture or feature. The air vent would be able to ‘breathe’ from behind the paper.

  85. i think you could stack logs in there…..and do it in such a way that the air could still flow through….or get a big basket to set on the floor and fill it with logs.

    my “fake” fireplace mantel is in my family room, and i absolutely adore it. we have a chair in front of it right now, but when it moves to its forever home, it is going to get built up on a little platform with a fake hearth and get paper books stacked in it top to bottom with the pages facing out. (won’t work for you, unless you somehow rig spaces between them).

    i love it and think it is way cool!

  86. Have you considered a cute little tub, basket or old crate for umbrellas or even foliage to sit at the base of the mantel. I have a fake mantel which I love and I add baskets, crates or topiary’s depending on the season to balance out that big empty space in the middle where logs would normally sit.

  87. Didn’t read all of the comments, but I seem to be going in the opposite direction. I would paint the inside of the fireplace area white so it doesn’t look like you just stuck the frame of a fireplace against the wall.

  88. I’d use a combination of black, charcoal colors – to achieve a tone-on-tone and paint in in a way to fool the eye that there is more depth. For example in a masonry fireplace box you would have bricks along the sides in an angle towards the back — you are painting in perspective — and then bricks horizontal across the back. slightly lighter color in the areas where the mortar would be…and not just one flat black for the bricks, blend a few close colors together.

    Then I would get a scrap of dark granite and put it under the mantle to create a hearth – not much depth since is in a traffic area.

    Then place a fireplace screen in front of your beautiful faux bricks to help create the illusion that it is a working FP.

    You could even hang small sconces above your mantle that are hardwired in — that would really look like it was all original to the home.

  89. Would you be willing to cut the “legs” off of the mantel and attach just the top to the wall to use as ledge for pretty things? I agree that the air vent makes the mantel awkward. The far off-center placement of the vent, which is magnified by the rectangular shape of the mantel, makes it worse. :(

    • Well I don’t think it is going to be necessary to cut the sides off, although that would be an option. That is why this post is called the dilemma, it isn’t perfect the way it is but fortunately the readers have come up with some awesome ideas to solve the vent issue and fill in the space that is awkward. I’m looking forward to making it work!

  90. Jan Jessup says

    Hi, Melissa–
    Haven’t time to read all the comments, so I’m weighing in with just this opinion:
    Frankly, the fireplace mantle is not believable. It seems more appropriate for a retail store prop than a home. The mantle also lacks depth, so that there is very little that you can put on top of it.

    I suggest replacing the mantle with a distinctive sofa table or decorative entry table, which would at least be large enough for keys, gloves and mail. The table could even be in a strong color, picked up from the painting–take a look at the Gump’s catalog or website for some with slight Asian inspiration.

    I would also paint the cold air return the same color as the wall–and then add a green plant or a pretty basket in front of it below the table. It would not block the air function, but would disguise the appearance of the register. Happy decorating!

    • A store prop? Sorry you don’t like my mantel, but I don’t need another table. I would have put one there if I needed one. I have plenty of tables in the room already, including a Chinoisserie one directly across from this angled wall. :-)

      I’m working with what I have, which is this mantel, and actually the depth of it works perfectly for the amount of space I have. Anything deeper than this and it would be in the way. I think it going to be great thanks to all the inspiration I’ve received today from creative people!

  91. I didn’t go through all the other comments, but I bet if you painted that area and the vent black and then put a screen of some kind there it would fade it enough to not be noticeable.
    By the way – I follow you through bloglovin!

  92. I would paint the interior wall and the air grid flat black so that it recedes and you would not notice the grid at all. They caution not to put anything in front of your grids since it draws air up into your units and that could mess up your heat/air/ heat pump which you dont’ want to do.
    Good luck!

  93. Cat Colwell says

    I like the idea of painting it over and then covering with a screen, but failing that – I have seen some rather lovely Victorian style vent covers that might be less of an eyesore.

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Victorian-Air-Vent-/150729339401?pt=AU_Building_Materials&hash=item23182b3209#ht_500wt_1287 For example, though clearly the wrong size.

  94. We have a fake fireplace in our vintage Chicago apartment … and we use it all the time. (a red light and a white light behind “logs.”

    Sorry, no ideas for your dilemma.


  95. Hi I live in Colorado where we do use the fireplace in the winter. I have always had a spring, summer and fall cover for the black hole. We just call them fire place covers. My two are: One is picket fence posts that are hinged twice and slightly folded to stand. They are white washed. The other one – three wood planels hinged painted white and a watercolor flower look at them. Sometimes I put a large basket filled with dried flowers in front. I guess I would paint the inside black and the cover would stand in front allowing air circulation.

  96. This reminded me of what Chez Larson made on her blog. I would make a cover like her and paint that cover very dark and then put some candles at the base so it still looks like a fire place.



  97. Our home was built in 1960, so we have suffered from lack of outlets and oddly placed everythings. In our main bath, the vent was at the bottom of the wall, and when the door was open, it blocked it getting any return air. If the door was closed because the room was “in use” and the air conditioner came on, everyone in the house knew what was happening since it pulled any “odors” and distributed them through the house. Nice! Anyhoo… my husband moved the vent to the top of the wall and drywalled over the old spot. I am not exactly sure of all of the details involved, but at least the vent is no longer near the floor. Didn’t really solve the smell-dispersal problem, but hey- nothing’s perfect! I like the mantel and the light. I’m kind of yenning for a mantel for my bedroom, but that ranks somewhere way down the list. Like after getting a new bathroom! One or two projects at a time, you know!

  98. I know this has already come up in the comments, but I have to agree with the idea of building in some sort of decorative screening like that used on a radiator. Marian’s radiator cover in her newly revealed office: http://missmustardseed.com/2012/01/home-office-reveal/ is a perfect jumping off point for you, I think. I’d add a bit of decorative molding and make it symmetrical–as long as the air can flow trough the screen, there is no reason that you have to have the screen completely over your vent, I think. So you could bulk it up with some wood and molding around the screen.

  99. I’d go with the suggestions to paint the cold air return vent the same as the wall – or at least paint the whole area inside the mantle a single color. The screen to me, looks like a tripping hazard(?) I would use a rough linen or something else breathable tacked to the backside of the mantle to cover the entire area. It would have to be neutral not to fight with the colors from your painting…

  100. Hi Melissa, I love the idea of a faux fireplace to bring some old fashion warmth into an entry way. A few years ago I lived in a mobile home that had zero character. I wanted a fireplace so badly that I built one. Lucky for me I had an antique gas stove from my childhood bedroom. I built the fireplace out of scrap wood and scrap ceramic tile, then put the gas stove in front of it with candles on it. I love it, so much that it sits in the breakfast room in my house that DOES have a real fireplace. Something like this would work for you to hide the vent, if you could find the right piece. Good luck with whatever you do, it’s going to look great!

    Here is a link to a pic of my faux fireplace so you can see what I’m talking about.

  101. I would first paint the back of the firebox and vent a flat black, then I would screen it with a panel made by stretching black stereo speaker fabric over canvas stretcher bars. Then tuck it in behind the moldings so it can just be popped out to access the vent or to vacumn.

  102. I’m sure whatever you do will be classic and fabulous….I think paint would be easy- but do the work nicely. some-kind of screen like “buttonbrown” suggestion….would be great too.
    I know….I’m of no help.
    =) I come here for help =)

    • Ha :-) well, sometimes I too like to get a little input before I take off on a project. The ideas have been really helpful so I’m glad I asked! :-) Thanks for popping over!

  103. Have you considered removing the vent cover and doing caning underneath. You could do stripes of caning across the wall or fill in the whole bottom area. Paint it the same color as the wall for subtle texture or another color for graphic pop.

    Since it is hard to describe what I mean I did a quick search and found a blog post from someone else http://dustyburrito.blogspot.com/2009/08/caning-pattern-not-torture.html that gives caning a modern twist.

    Anyway, it would allow the airflow and you wouldn’t need the vent cover. If someone already mentioned this sorry! I skimmed a bunch of posts (some really great ideas!) and didn’t see it listed yet.

    • I think I’ve seen a couple mentions of different ideas for caning but I love the inspiration pics and I think removing the vent and doing something like you described with caning is a great idea! Thanks so much for the suggestion and sharing the inspiration pics too!

  104. Okay, I got this one! First of all, if you are going to use a faux mantel, you also need a faux hearth. I’ve even seen fireplaces like this set on carpet. No sir! Three 12 x 12 slate tiles (with little velcro bottoms to protect the floor) will really help the illusion you are working towards. Second, find a planter that is rectangular planter like this: http://www.crateandbarrel.com/decorating-and-accessories/garden-patio/grey-fiberstone-large-planter/s233610 or this: http://www.target.com/p/Belmont-Window-Box-Planter-with-Metal-Liner/-/A-13143839 and place it on the tiles. Put a nice shaggy plant in there and you are great! Well, okay, you were already great, but now your foyer is too!

  105. I had an ugly return to hide as well. I ended up painting it the color of the wall and it all but disappears. I have also done this with the exhaust fan covers in the bathrooms. Miracles for little effort!

  106. What about filling that open space with the sheets of punched tin they used to make radiator overs? You still have ventilation and its pretty and simple.Home Depot carries it in the back of the lumber section.

  107. Hi Melissa –
    Maybe somebody already shared this, but there’s some metal grating that you can find at Home Depot. It comes in two different patterns. My husband bought a sheet for a project (keeping birds out of a couple of hidey holes under our eaves), and I was amazed at how pretty it was. It’s made by MD Building Products. It comes in 2 different patterns, and a few different colors, but you can always spray paint it or antique it if you want something different. I would either fit it into the space behind the mantle (depending on the size of the “fireplace” opening – the sheets are 3×3), or match it to the size of your fireplace screen and frame it with a thin strip of moulding and adhere it to the screen. If you’re just using the screen, I’d suggest painting the vent and the baseboard inside the opening the wall color, or even a darker color. This will help the fireplace “feel” more like a fireplace. I’ll try to insert links to where you can find the sheets online at Home Depot, or I know that they carry the aluminum (silver) ones in our local store. Links: http://www.homedepot.com/Tools-Hardware-Hardware-Fasteners-Metal-Stock/h_d1/N-5yc1vZar1m/R-202525469/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053


    Good luck with your solution!

  108. The painting is stunning- it caught my eye right away! What comes to my mind- because we just went to the ballet- are the cloths they use in the theater and paint as backgrops….something you could hang behind your mantel and would still let air through…perhaps they are better from a greater distance though?

  109. Have you considered painting the inside wall of the fireplace and grate black? Most fireplaces are and then you can accentuate the area the way you like? Maybe it wouldn’t look like a mantel against a wall with a grate inside.

  110. I think you need to make it look like a genuine functional fireplace. Put down a shallow marble or tile hearth. then add a permanent screen….one that has a chain to open and close it. If there is space add a grate with wood logs. It would be nice to build it up a bit…..i.e put a wood boxing behind the entire white mantel and vertical side pieces to make it more substantial. You could also add fireplace tools. I think you could find most of what you need at a REstore or thrift shop. Of course, new is easier.

  111. Hi Melissa, I was looking on your site for a way to contact you, but I suppose you have so many people trying to do that, you’ve removed it :-)

    I was wondering if you accept guest posts as I would love to do one for you.

    You can have a look at my site to see what kinds of things I write about. (And of course, the quality of my writing). Thank you.

  112. I had an issue like this but my fake mantle was in the living room and I did not have an air vent to deal with. I tiled the inside of the mantle and then put mt TV there. I figure you might not want to add your TV here but maybe you could tile a frame and then add some of that metal mesh others have been suggesting to the middle area. It might look more convincing. You can see what I did here:


  113. Antique metal grates can be found at architectural salvage stores. Similar to what previous people have mentioned that can be found at home depot, only way cooler designs and already have the “old world” look. I have a pic of an example but it won’t let me paste it on here.

  114. I was going to suggest the same thing as Deena … the decorative metal grates that you can get at Home Depot. The air will still flow, but you’ll cover up that pesky vent! And she’s a genius suggesting you adhere it to the fireplace screen! Love that idea!

  115. Hi–

    My suggestion is cheap and easy; paint the wall and the return air vent black and then cover the entire area that would be the fireplace with a decorative metal screen; could be chicken wire or something more upscale in black, nickel or brass color. The black will cause the vent to disappear against the black wall.

    The other option would be more labor intensive, but also work with the vent and wall inside the mantle first being painted black as well. Then you would build an insert which I would envision as potentially say narrow strips of mirror mounted on a frame. The frame would be painted black as well. The space between the strips will be enough to let the air in and the mirror strips will create some of the same feeling as a fire.


  116. I think paint the vent to match the wall for sure. It would be fun to find an antique wooden fireplace screen or something that has a picture painted on it. I have seen those types of things around the east coast. Also ~ is there room for a cute small bench? I always like a little fabric pulled in. And, maybe it could blockade the vent as well….

    Best wishes ~ Chris Ann

  117. I would put an old wooden rustic white paint chipping shutter over the entire inside. That way your a/c return can still draw air in.

  118. You could put a more solid screen in front of it, and if you like paint a mural of a fire on the wall as if the grate isn’t there. With the grate you won’t actually see much of the mural. They have all types of screens even Tiffany glass type that would cover completely if you don’t want to paint the grate. search google images for examples.

  119. Brooke Crosby says

    I have not read through all the posts to see if it’s been suggested, but the first thing that came ot my mind is to insert in/staple in to the mantle a large piece of burlap fabric….it could go with the old world charm of the picture…and you could even spray it black…that way the air will still be able to “breathe” through it! =) I made some adorable xmas decorations/frames with burlap and buttons…it’s my new favorite fabric.

  120. I would paint the wall, remove the cover and place a piece of radiator cover metal in the opening. The air would still flow and the radiator cover metal can be painted the color you would like

  121. Paint the wall and vent a flat black or dark bronze…if you’re sure the fireplace is staying there. Then place an iron screen in front of it. It will fool the eye…and not interfere with the vent system.

    Love your blog! Julia

  122. Most of my extended family have older charming Victorian homes with radiators as their only source of heat and they still use them. But, each radiator has been covered up with some type of decorative box, bench or cabinet or mantel. The whole front is left open (but covered) for circulating air—much the space your mantle and sides give you at the front. Over the years, they have covered the fronts with metal heat grates that they have found at somewhere like Rejuvenations, Hippo Hardware (Portland area) or from architectural salvage shops.

    One other point that jumps out at me is the depth of this mantle fireplace. It seems a bit skinny or “skimpy….sorry :-(( I don’t know what your floor space in the hall or entry way is like….but a mantle and sides with a bit more depth (I think) would look more “realistic” or perhaps is just my preference. You wouldn’t have to add a lot and could do this from the back side and them frame out with some sort of moulding. Just an idea………

    Again, I would definitely paint the vent cover the same color as the walls. It you used the above idea of making it look like an old radiator cover…..I have seen the grating painted or left looking old and scratched and in the original “brassy” finish. Could even maybe be spray painted black to look more like a firebox IF you make your sides and mantle a big deeper. This grating comes in sheets and you would mount inside the fireplace.

    Or…just popped into my mind….forget the fireplace look and lower the mantle to cabinet height….deep enough to place a framed picture sitting on it……

    Thanks for reading all of this…..I love to dream of “what” could be done….:-))

    • Thanks for your thoughts and I appreciate your suggestions.

      And this is the risk of showing a project before it is done, there will be some ideas that won’t work (making it deeper or putting a table there instead) as well as getting comments from people who don’t like it as it is now (this is of course, the BEFORE, not the after so I don’t like it yet either). It is definitely out of balance and needs a makeover, but I love a good challenge. That is what this is about.

      The real fun for me (as it is for you dreaming of what could be done!) will be in transforming this mantel to something I love and that works for me, and if other people like the result, great! I’m sure not everyone will love it AFTER it is done either, but only I have to live with it. Thanks for your thoughts and ideas, I REALLY miss Hippo Hardware and Rejuvenation!

  123. I had to same problem and this is what i did…I put a tension rod under the opening where it cannot be seen and knoted long lenghts of ribbon all the way to the floor. this will not block air flow, and looks great.

  124. Hi Melissa, Your mantel is a great idea. My suggestion would be to use some old shutters, or new ones made to look old. The openings between the shutter slats would allow for your air return and they would cover things up very nicely.

    Good luck, i’m sure whatever you decide will be lovely!


  125. How about you do something like what Candice Olson does – use a return air cover to make it look like a big decorative box. I googled for images, but found this one…she’s done it a few times.


  126. You’ve gotten loads of wonderful ideas for your fireplace, so let me just say, “That painting is AMAZING!!” You are so blessed to have discovered it! That’s where my eyes go.


  127. Heck..maybe it’s been said already. But I’d just find an old mirror and lean it against the wall. Done! Maybe a heavy one..old frame..kind of dented up already..so if it crashes,
    no worries..or..an old painting..

  128. I have so many of these issues in my house, that dealing with them is second nature to me. All of our fireplaces, which at one time, heated the house, have been closed up, dry walled over etc etc.
    A few possible solutions come to mind with your dilemma. 1. Would a painted canvas, which is 1 1/5 deep permit the air to return…if say you took a 30″ x 40″ canvas…did some kind of a painting…and then you could even…OVER the part where the airvent is, punch holes with a hole puncher? yes, I know, tricky, but I can kind of picture it, and I like the look…here is one of mine with a painting over it (I did this post just for you!) http://myoldcountryhousediy.blogspot.com/2012/01/creative-solutionscover-your-non.html

  129. Of course, you could also change up the return vent size and install a really gorgeous vent cover – VanDykes has amazing ones:

  130. I agree with many about painting the “fire box” however, to me I think the black would be too much. I think I would try a darker grey. My fireplace box is a medium grey. I have had the black firebox in the past and always felt it looked like a “black hole”…Then add the fireplace screen of your choice and you will have a great look.

    Great job in creating your faux fireplace!

  131. We have two of these eyesores that we painted the the same color as our wall and it really helped to make them disappear.

  132. How about paint the whole inside black, like in a real fireplace, and then hang some kind of shiny or sparkly or even a fire color of beads down from the top of the inside of the mantel….

  133. I agree with the ideas before my comment, paint the vent
    the same color as the wall (and ignore it). You
    alreday have a nice painting on that wall. I made a wall that is an eyesore in my house a photo wall and I never notice the eyesore anymore as I love the photos! Less is more, in my opinion, I did not bring attention to my problem
    I ignored the obvious!
    No one sees my vent either!

  134. You don’t need the grille on there, you really just need a hole in the wall. So you can take the grille off and fill the entire fireplace area with something airy – punched metal, mesh, caning, etc. You do want the cover to be as open as possible to maximize the airflow. And you will probably want to paint the wall behind so there is not an obvious difference between hole and wall. Having the cover slightly above the wall surface will also help.

    My more extreme idea – cut an actual hole there. Assuming the return air duct is running below the floor, relocate the grille to be horizontal at the bottom of the firebox. If it runs up, the grille would be the top of the firebox, more like a flue. Of course, there are lots of other problems with this – what is on the other side, you need a header across the top to carry the upper wall, etc. But it’s the first thing that popped into my mind.

  135. I agree with some of the others, I would paint the vent and the wall inside the mantel the same color!

  136. I don’t have time to read all your replies, but I must say, please be very careful about blocking the intake vent or inviting things to be leaned up against it. I have heard of families succumbing to C0 poisoning, just because furniture was pushed up against the intake vent. It’s terrible and deadly. At the most, just paint it to match the wall and dangle something off the mantle.

  137. How about an antique wall grate or furnace grate? You could get one that is size of mantle opening and it would not block the airflow. I bought a couple on ebay to replace in our house. I had them sandblasted and repainted. There are several salvage websites that have them also from plain to very ornate.

  138. There is a website call Vandykes.com that has beautiful paintable air vents. You would update the look and continue the stipe pattern.

  139. *ugh* the cold air return dilemma! Mine is under the stairwell right smack dab in the living room. so BIG, so UGLY. Anyhow, I feel your pain. My thought right away was to paint the inside of the “fireplace” flat black, including the vent. I would think it would disappear into the background. And maybe, this is out there a little, but add some chicken wire that you could “decorate”. Good luck! Be sure to let us know what you come up with. I could use some ideas for mine too:) Have a great day. PS. Im a Kitsap County gal too.

  140. I am sure this has already been stated since I am late to the party (as always!) but I would paint the whole ‘insert’ area black, vent cover and all…with the screen in front it would give the illusion of a real fireplace, at least, I THINK it would…:)

  141. Hi! Great idea, and I like your painting. I disguised mine with a low credenza that is about 16 inches deep, and took the flimsy back off to ensure that air circulates. It is also painted to match the wall. I would recommend what Deborah suggested based on that– build it out a bit since you can’t go into the wall. Not too much, though, just enough to make the woodwork more noticeable than the grate. It really works at my house.
    I would also add some wood base to the space between the grate and the top of the mantel, in addition to coming out from the wall. Add that beautiful trim back, and paint the grate to match the wall.
    Someone suggested a hearth- that would be pretty! Since it is not a fire-fireplace, I am sure you could get creative with tiles or even wood to get that feeling.
    I am sure whatever you do will be gorgeous!

  142. psst…I hope you simply moved the air return vent.

  143. I would remove the traditional “new house” vent cover and frame then paint the entire inside of the fireplace a darker color not necessarily black maybe a charcoal or dark chocolate brown, something complementary to your wall color then cover the entire space with radiator screen ( you should be able to find option at Lowes or Home depot). if you Google radiator screens you can see the cool designs and patterns available. it’s pliable, paintable, lightweight and can be cut with tin snips! best of luck!

  144. Daniel Williams says

    I know I’m three years late to the game, but what about adhering several cross cut 1 in slices of logs to a rigid screen, so that the space appears to be filled with lumber (I’ve seen this pulled off to great effect in other homes). Paint the screen black first and as long as it’s a couple of inches in front of the filter, and can be easily moved to allow the filter to be replaced, I don’t think it should cause any problems.

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