I made a fireplace mantle out of kitchen cabinet doors — and it turned out so great I wanted to show you — so you could do the same one day.

I am not a carpenter. I am an actor (mostly Phillip Chancellor III on The Young & The Restless), author, portrait artist — so if I can do this project — YOU can, too!

For 8 years I never liked the brick fireplace look here in this gorgeous mountain home in Lake Arrowhead, California— looked lacking, crooked brick, that wall was weak (whereas all my other walls are amazing with forest views!!)….

Several weeks ago I thought, hey — I’ll BUILD a mantle —how hard can it be, even though I am not a carpenter? — and the day before I was driving down the mountain to Home Depot to buy simple 2x6" lumber, my cabinet-maker neighbor had a FREE sign on beautiful cabinet doors he was throwing out!

Feeling like I won the lottery, I pulled my dogs to his door, “These are free? They’re so beautiful! I can have these?”

He smiled, said, “Sure. Take them all.”

After I walked my dogs home I drove back and piled his 30 gorgeous carved cabinet doors (almost all different sizes and colors) into my SUV, then hauled them up my stairs, and quickly designed how I could use about 14 of the symmetrical ones for this mantle project.

To get them to be a consistent color, I had to varnish them 3 or 4 times, and they turned out VERY dark brown, a little darker than I wanted, but matched my old rugged mountain couch and almost the ceiling beams. Still, it looked boxy and kitchen-cabinety in this stage, not as good as I thought — something was not right — so I posted these pics on Facebook to ask opinions if I should paint it white, or what…

Even though many Facebook friends thought this was obnoxiously big, others encouraged extending it to the beams, and after much thought I decided to do just that… and finally found use for six corbels I had discovered at an antique shop four years prior (paid only $5 each)…

It marries well to the ceiling beams now and looks organic to the 50 year-old structure. It is masculine and rugged and now changes a weak wall into a powerful focal point (with storage on both sides) reminiscent of the over-sized carved wood mantles I have admired in old mansions over the years. The imposing mantle balances a large boxy couch and my huge desk and oddly-placed twin bed which are all in this open floor plan on this top floor of this two-story two-bedroom lodge-like house.

Total cost — corbels, plywood, knotty pine 1x2’s, stain, hinges, nails, screws, sandpaper—about $100. (Plus I will give a $40 thank you and printed images of the mantle to the cabinet-maker when I see him next!)

I was hoping the stain would allow wood grain to be seen, but used so many coats it appears painted. Oh well, now that it is “painted” with stain, and the wood grain is lost, I am more likely to experiment with colors in the future. I may paint it a bit lighter brown to perfectly match the ceiling beams, or white to match the doors, or even red like a designer suggested.



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Thom Bierdz

Thom Bierdz


One of Medium’s TOP ART CONTRIBUTORS, award-winning author, actor, film-maker, painter. 12 books (6 volumes of art). President of American Art Awards