Shortly after we gave up our pub & I moved into my fiancée Joanies house the local authority decided in their wisdom to come along & tear out the old central heating system & replace it with a shiny new one.
This we did not mind too much as the existing one was so old I swear the serial number on the boiler was in roman numerals, however having just spent three weeks cramming two homes into one (the pub had a VERY large three bedroom flat & it was full) we were not really happy with any more disruption than absolutely necessary, so when we were told that the guy to fill in the now redundant fireplace would be calling in a week or two we just told them not to bother we would sort it out ourselves.
They sorted out the flue & made it safe for us & that is how it has been now for about four months while we got ourselves sorted out, got rid of all the extra stuff we didn't need such as the extra dishwasher, FOUR TV’s two fridges a freezer & god alone knows how much kitchen equipment thank goodness for recycling networks I am a member of FreeGLE in the uk formerly a part of FreeCycle.org, whichever you have where you live I heartily recommed them.
We have reached the stage where the house is coming together & starting to turn into a home so now it is time to start redecorating from top to bottom, the question of what to do with the fireplace had to be addressed
We are both fond of candlelight & would often have evenings watching TV or reading where apart from one small reading lamp all our lighting was from candles, very soon after the work was carried out we started putting a few church candles into the fireplace (after getting advice & making sure it was safe to do so),
Neither of us really wanted to lose our little candle nook because it is a real feature of our home now, many people have commented on it & on top of that it does a surprisingly good job of warming up not only the lounge but also the adjoining dining room but we both agreed it needed to be smartened up a bit before we start to decorate.
Step 1: The Hole in the Wall & the Frame.
First I guess I had better get the disclaimer out of the way before I get sued for giving someone an idea that burned down their house.
ALWAYS make sure you have taken advice before you put anything flammable into an old fireplace particularly if it previously had a gas fire & or boiler in it.
NEVER use candles on a timber base or anywhere else for that matter without a proper candle holder.
NEVER use candles when under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any medication that may make you drowsy.
ALWAYS extinguish candles before you leave the room.
NEVER leave a naked flame within reach of children or animals.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTACES should this or any other design of candle nook have a timber top, even a high top can get VERY hot & is a fire hazard.
I started by squaring off the hole in the wall removing all the excess plaster & cement around the edges, it only took a few minutes but it made a heck of a mess so I am so glad the better half "reminded" me to put down some newspapers first because I am obviously to dumb to think of it myself ;-)
The next job was to figure out just how we wanted it to look, after some thought we decided to make a frame for the whole space with 3/8" plywood & construct an open topped box with a mirrored back that would slide into the void on the back of it.
There were a couple of small obstacles in the void namely a capped off water pipe which was still connected to the water supply, I could neither cut nor bend it so I decided to go over it instead, this had the advantage of raising the bottom of the nook a further three inches from the floor which improves its look as I felt it was a bit low, there was also about 3/4" of a brick jutting out beyond the others which I could have cut away but we felt that our boxed nook would be wide enough without it so it stayed put.
First job was to cut my frame, I know some people may think this is putting the cart before the horse but I had my reasons & it works for me.
If you have seen my previous ibble about my work shop white board you will know that the workshop is a work in progress, part of the reason for this is that many of my power tools are still "lodging" with my ex wife so I currently have no jigsaw, fretsaw or router so cutting this out as a single piece was a bit of a chore I finally ended up marking out my ply & after drilling a 1/2" hole at each corner cutting the hole with a fine toothed hacksaw turned at 90 degrees to the saw frame not the best way I know but it did the job & left a lovely smooth finish to the edges so I had very little sanding to do afterwards.
Step 2: Fitting the Base.
This was mounted on a batten 3/8" below the bottom of the frame cut out.
I didn't have any small timber for the batten so I used a couple of ply off cuts glued & tacked together rather than waste good timber on a something that will never bear more than the weight of a table lamp.
I also put a couple of temporary blocks under the base to help with my final measurements while I figured out the best way to get around the water pipe I mentioned earlier.
I left this clamped for a couple of hours with a sash cord holding the base to a right angle just in case someone disturbed it, you know how it is you leave something to set for a few hours & when you go back to it the glue gremlins have moved it & you have to start again but NOBODY has ever touched it or even been in the same town when it happened?!?!?!
Following some further measurements I fitted a batten to each side of the base made from some timber left over from an old garden bench (after all it will never be seen & it saves the good stuff.
Step 3: The Sides of Our Box Go On.
I first fitted them fixed only to the base knowing that the sides of our fireplace are not exactly a perfect example of the bricklayers art & are far from square, I wanted to allow myself a margin for error & an opportunity to move the sides around a little if necessary, this turned out to be a good idea as I had to make a couple of small adjustments, this being done I then glued & tacked the sides into place on the frame.
I wanted to leave the front as clean as I could so I tacked it with 1mm nails with the heads cut off, I have used this method many times before & the results are all but invisible as the nail can be punched slightly below the surface & the wood fibers close around the hole.
This being done it was time for a test fitting then out to the garden for sanding.
Before anyone starts getting overheated about the sorry state of the workmate in the garden in my defense it was already in this condition when I got here.
Most of the time we were running the pub Joanie’s son had the run of her house & not only does a workmate make a handy barbeque table but evidently it is designed for all weathers & can be left out all winter!!!
Hence the condition it is in now, I am planning to replace the worktop but have not yet found anything suitable, in the meantime it holds stuff in place so it will do :-)
Step 4: Final Adjustments.
This was when I noticed the cable which used to feed power to the old boiler....... For some reason I had not really noticed it before, I knew it was not live as the isolator switch had been taken out but to be on the safe side I tested it anyway.
I then traced it back & as I had thought it went straight back to where the isolator switch used to be which just by coincidence is about a foot from a power outlet in the wall.
Well it seemed to me that it would be a shame to waste a good opportunity so after a bit of time spent with a screwdriver & an extension lead our little candle nook now also has power, the extension socket is tucked away neatly behind the right side of the box well away from sight & candle flames when not in use & can be left up in the flue out of sight or taken down & will even reach a few feet out of the nook when needed.
For the time being I have just run the cable out through the existing conduit & to a wall socket but I will get it properly chased into the wall with proper cable & an isolator before we decorate in a few weeks.
Step 5: Fitted & Lit Up.
Once the power cable had been sorted & a couple of little protrusions from the wall knocked away the nook was given its final fit to the wall.
I fixed the mirror to the back of the void as it was far easier than fixing it to a timber box & also made the box more managble.
Currently the nook is held in place with tacks & liquid nails as I want to be able to remove it for a short period when we decorate but to all intents & purposes it is finished.
We tried it out this evening first with candles then a lamp both of which give a very comfortable feel to the room, the lamp of choice is a 10lb chunk of crystal salt in a sort of peachy orange colour & it really sets off the shades in the timber beautifully.
The original plan was to fit mirror tiles to the sides to reflect both the light & the heat of the candles but now I have seen how the lamp looks I may just line it with removable mirrors for those times we use candles & leave the plain timber the rest of the time.
I will upload some more pictures when we have decorated so you can see the final effect.
I noticed while I was taking the final photos this evening that the back mirror had slipped down & the tape on the cut edge is visible when anyone is sitting down so I will have to fix that when we decorate but aside from that we are very pleased with the finished candle nook.
I know there a lot of council properties in the uk that will be having similar work to ours done over the next couple of years & I like to think that my little ibble may inspire some of you to do something with your hole in the wall other than let them fill it in with a board.
I had intended to include some more pictures such as as the hole in the wall before I started & cutting the parts but I seem to have a faulty card in the camera & several of the files were unusable, I am now going to have a look through the technolongy section as I am sure some clever ibbler out there has come up with a way of making memory cards out of old gum wrapper & a couple of paper clips.
I would welcome any ideas or suggestions & don't forget If you liked my little ibble please leave a comment & rate it.
All the best.