My inspiration for the new mantel came from a chunk of an old piano I found at my favorite salvage yard in Berkeley called Urban Ore. I paid $35 for it. The Piano piece was originally stained very dark. To cover the stain and MDF board I used a very high quality primer/sealer, which was applied in 6 coats.
The stone on top was salvaged from someones kitchen counter installation. You can't really see it in the pictures, but it is a dark granite with green and blue flecks. It cost me $0
I purchased the tile at my local big box store for literally pinnies on the dollar. It was originally priced 98 cents a piece, I paid 2 cents a piece for it. I think it had been returned in such a small quantity that it was easier to liquidate rather then re-stock it.
I also pulled power from a near by outlet, and installed a fresh plug set on the top right side of the mantel. Having hidden power on top is awesome for Christmas and Halloween.