June 22, 2024

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This Mid-Century Modern-Inspired Fireplace Has a Secret

There’s so much to love about a mid-century modern house: cozily sunken living rooms, towering windows that let the outside in, sleek ceiling beams, and beyond. Even though many people have a deep appreciation for this era now, for a while there, structures created in this style were seen as outdated, and furnishings with a touch of mid-century influence definitely took a backseat during the 90s and early 2000s.

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Dylan and Jess Odbert are all too familiar with the way in which mid-century style fell out of favor. The couple’s San Clemente house was built in 1957 and designed by architect Chris Abel as a post-and-beam home. Unfortunately, according to the Odberts, the previous owners went all in on a Spanish villa look. “We bought our home in late 2019, and there was plastering over the original brick fireplace, Saltillo tiles throughout the entire home, and many of the apex windows were closed off,” says Dylan. A lot of the original charm had been chipped a way, but that didn’t deter the couple from purchasing the place and working to bring it back to a more period-inspired appearance. Case in point? The living room fireplace.

If the couple mourned the loss of the original fireplace, they certainly ended up creating something that fits right into the authentic mid-century bones of the house. From afar, the fireplace looks like it’s made with large, gray bricks and grouted with brown grout, but once you get up close, you’ll realize that it’s made from concrete, and the “grout” is actually pieces of mahogany wood.

Dylan counts the fireplace as his favorite element of the house, as he certainly put a lot of thoughtful work into it. “It was originally stuccoed with a painted wood mantel and Saltillo hearth,” Dylan says. “I padded out the wall with metal studs and hardy board, then faced it with concrete cap blocks and used mahogany in place of grout. I formed and lightly polished a concrete hearth, then wrapped the bottom of the hearth with acid and beeswaxed copper, then framed the fireplace opening in the same. I feel like it is the heart of the house.”

The final touch of a sunburst clock — a mid-century staple — brings the whole fireplace surround together, and firmly cements it (ha!) in the original design of the home. But at the same time, it’s also a piece the owners can look at with pride, knowing how much effort was put into it.