fireplace tile - before and after

Back during the crazy period before House & Home magazine came over to shoot our house for it's Fall Makeover issue I replaced the original tile on our two fireplaces. I didn't talk about it at the time because there were so many other things going on and I wanted there to be  bit of surprise. Today, I thought I would take a look back and tell you a little bit about that process.

I approached the re-tiling of our fireplaces with great trepidation. I think anytime you are replacing an original element in an old house you have to be careful of what you are doing. I didn't want somebody looking back on our fireplaces 20 years from now and saying, "Oh, they must have replaced those tiles in the 2010's." My goal was timeless tiles that worked with both the historical fireplaces and our more modern decor. I should mention (since it's not obvious from the photos) that a lot of the tile was in rough shape particularly the tile that lay on the floor. It was in cracked and broken in numerous areas and really pieced together like a poorly arranged jigsaw puzzle.

When it came to material I knew I wanted marble. We've used marble elsewhere in the house and it's a material that would have been used back in the early 20th century. (In fact, some of  the more beautiful mantelpieces from this time were made entirely out of marble.) I looked at primarily Carrara and Calacatta marbles for their warm white, grey, and gold tones that work well with our colour scheme.

More difficult was choosing a pattern. Marble mosaic tiles comes in such a range of patterns: hexagons, ashlar, octagons, penny tiles, bubbles, long skinny matrixes, squares - the choice is staggering. Luckily, for me my choice was narrowed to what was in stock. I brought home a few samples and taped them to our fireplaces to see what worked.

The moment I saw this marble shell pattern I knew I wanted to use it on one of our fireplaces. The shell is a classic design motif that crosses all decades; it's a timeless pattern that will stand the test of time. We decided to use it on our bedroom fireplace. Downstairs the choice was harder. I considered a long octagon shape but worried it was too graphic. When I returned to the supplier to purchase the tile I didn't actually know what mosaic I was going to choose for our living room fireplace. Then I saw this North Star pattern hanging on the wall. It was subtle yet still decorative and had a bit of that Moroccan flair we have elsewhere on the main floor.

I was sold. With only days to spare before the shoot took place the fireplaces were retiled and ready for their close-up. Here's a look at how the two fireplaces looked in their before state.

And the after. You can see how in the living room the tiles really fade into the background making the gold fireplace grate and mirror stand out. It's less of a visual distraction than the original tile which honestly always reminded me of mouldy toast!

In the bedroom, I think the effect is even more dramatic. The green tile, while beautiful in it's own right, really contrasted with the lighter, airier overall look I was going for. The new shell tile still makes a statement but the soft, grey tones are more subtle and aren't clamouring for attention like its predecessor.

What do you think? Has anyone else recently retiled their fireplace surround?