Last Saturday was a gorgeous, crisp fall day, full of unknown possibilities. I made a snap decision to ride over to the Chartreuse barn sale all by myself to wander. My goal: find a giant letter L for our daughter. You guessed it. No letter L. However, I spied a long architectural salvage piece thinking it was a unique crusty mantel, and that it would blend nicely with our rustic furniture and Moroccan rug.

So, of course it had to go home with me. I loved that it is 6 1/2 feet long and beautifully rustic. Chartreuse owner Steve got it into my little Jeep Wranger (with no back seat), but barely.

Upon arrival home, my contractor hubby educated me on what it really is: a 1920s-ish window head, complete with metal flashing. In other words, it would have been an exterior decorative piece over a window.

We have had a shorter mantel over our long white slipcovered sofa, but I’ve always craved a longer, wider one to replace it. This piece was perfect, but I knew it would take some work to get it in place. There was lots of peeling lead paint, the metal had to come off, and we needed a way to stabilize it on the wall.

I know you may never have a piece exactly like ours, but if you find something fabulous, you will likely follow some of the same steps to repair it.

Here’s what we did:


Small putty knife, screw driver, gloves, protective glasses, N-95 mask, nail gun, crowbar, wood glue, clamps, rags, water bottle, Minwax sanding sealer, paint brush, drill, screws


Wear protection due to the lead paint: eye protection, gloves, and a mask. Keep pets and children out.

Scrape off the loose paint. Dispose of the chips and vacuum the room.


Remove the metal flashing.


Stabilize the piece. Use wood glue and clamps, and nail loose pieces in place.


Spray water on the piece and wipe off the dirt.


Brush on a coat of sealer to cover the old paint and freshen up the old, dry wood. Let dry according to directions.


Measure the inside of the piece and make a cleat that the mantel will sit on top of securely. Place the mantel on top, and screw it into the top of the cleat.

Now the fun part. Decorate! I added some large mercury glass bottles, white coral, silver stars, and an old gold mirror featuring our initial H inside. And, magnolia with giant pinecones. After the holidays the styling won’t even change that much.

Merry Christmas and stay tuned for more projects!

For a peek into our entire living room click here.

4 thoughts on “Upcycle Architectural Salvage Into A Unique Crusty Mantel

  1. I couldn’t wait to see what you would do with this and I’m not the least bit disappointed. Now I’ll be forced to find something I can use over my fireplace. You so inspire my non-decorator gene.

  2. What a great find and fabulous addition to your living room. You are quite the magician (and Steve is the perfect ‘assistant”!)
    It is really a very cool piece. It not only contributes a focal point but also adds yet another layer of texture.

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