Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hand-Painted Tile Fireplace Surround

One of the features of our house that I like the best is the kitchen and breakfast area. It's the space where everyone gathers to eat, play games, and just hang out. The breakfast room opens onto the sunroom, which offers great views of our yard and the fields and hills beyond.

The color scheme for this area was built around my collection of antique flow blue plates, picked up at flea markets over the years. The walls are painted a muted grey-blue that contrasts nicely with the blue and white plates, and the white woodwork.

The fireplace in the breakfast area is double sided - the far side opens to the living room. The tiles surrounding the fireplace were designed to coordinate with the blue and white tile backsplash in the kitchen (described in a previous post).

The cool granite hearth is Buckley's favorite place to nap

The botanical theme of the handpainted backsplash tiles was carried over onto the fireplace surround. Instead of using culinary plants and herbs as subject matter, as I did on the kitchen backsplash, these tiles feature the flowers that grow in and around our yard.

I selected 6" x 6" plain white bisque-fired tiles and painted my designs with a cobalt underglaze, just like in the kitchen. They are bordered by commercial rope trim tiles in a matching cobalt blue.

The prominent center tile holds special meaning for our family. Before we built our new Victorian-style home, we lived just three miles away - two ridges over from the hilltop where we were building our new house. I used to walk to the top of the hill across the road from our old house, where I could look over (with binoculars) and see the building going on at the new house. That view, from the home where we had lived for 20 years, to our new dream home, is what I painted on the tile.

I love looking at it even now and remembering the twenty happy years we spent in the old house when the kids were little, and the excitement we felt as we watched the progress of the new house being built.

(detail) Our new house on the hill

The first flowers to the left and right of the center landscape are daisies. They grow wild in the fields and along the roadsides around here, and I also have Shasta daisies planted near the house. They're so cheery and hardy - I like non-fussy plants that take care of themselves.

I love roses, so I had to give them a prominent place on my floral tiles. I have lots of them planted around our yard, and I've refined my selections over the years so that I only have varieties now that are fairly carefree. They don't need a lot of maintenance - just a little pruning now and then. To the left of the roses, I painted carnations. I like their spicy scent, and they remind me of high school corsages and cheap, colorful bouquets from the grocery store.

The carnations blend into the daylilies. Daylilies are a staple in my landscaping, offering lots of midsummer color. It's fun to walk around the yard on a summer morning and see which ones are blooming that day. I can never decide which is my favorite. I love the soft, pale pink ones, and the apricot blush, but then I see the deep, dusky burgundy, with its velvety petals and I think, "That's it! That's the one!"

The small flowers in the corner tile are pincushion mums. They really help to brighten up the fall landscape, when most of the summer flowers are waning.

Sunflowers are great fun to draw. It was a given that they would play a prominent role in my painted garden.  Every spring I'm drawn to those bright packets of sunflower seeds on display - I can't resist planting a row or two in the garden. We also have a crop of them that sprout each summer under the bird feeders from all the seeds that are scattered by rambunctious goldfinches and chickadees throughout the winter.

Below the sunflowers are campanula and asters. When choosing the flowers I wanted to include in my handpainted tiles, I not only picked some of my all-time favorites, but also strove for a variety of forms - big, showy plants like the sunflowers, and petite little things like the pincushion mums - spiky flowers like the asters, and lush, multi-petaled ones like the roses.

Morning glories and foxgloves wind their way up toward the asters, with the curly tendrils of the morning glory vines filling in the spaces.

Gracefully arching below the foxgloves is a single branch of bleeding heart.

Any self-respecting country garden has to have a patch of hollyhocks. Here's 
mine ...

I also gave a nod to houseplants by including a gloxinia plant at the base of each side of the tile surround. Their blossoms are so pretty,  and I like the interesting way the stems bend and droop.

After all the effort I put into designing and painting the tiles, I happily signed my work ...

I love the way the handpainted tiles on our fireplace turned out. Every day, I sit in "my spot" at our breakfast room table so that I can look toward the fireplace and see all those pretty blue and white flowers. My kitchen is the thing I'll miss the most when I leave this place someday. There's so much of me in it.


  1. These are beautiful! Your new home is lovely.

  2. The fireplace tiles are amazing and I'm in awe of the work in creating the backsplash. Your kitchen and dining area are beautiful.

  3. Your work is absolutely beautiful!


  4. Your beautiful tiles brought smiles to my face! Especially your fireplace center tile. Wonderful and magical.

  5. Would love to know the paint color you used on these kitchen walls. Just the shade I've been looking for. Thank you.

  6. Anonymous - I tried to find out what color we used on the kitchen walls, but I'm afraid the old paint cans aren't here any longer, and I didn't keep a record of it. I even got out my paint decks from Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore to try to match it, and I couldn't find an exact match. It's a very greyed blue. I'm sorry I can't be of more help.

  7. Your fireplace looks marvelous, thank you very much for sharing your concept.


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