Every once in a while a project comes along that cannot easily be explained with words. So I am going to let the photographs explain better than any feeble attempt at words to share this amazing reproduction fireplace experience.
Several months ago, Moby Marks of Richard Marks Restorations here in Charleston, South Carolina, invited me to join them on a project to re-carve a 1770’s American Rococo fireplace for a beautiful home in historic downtown Charleston. What an honor!
The home originally had a beautifully carved fireplace and overmantel that had been removed, sold and vanished around 1900. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that showed up somewhere – maybe tucked away in some attic to appear on Antique’s Road Show?
The restoration experts of Richard Marks Restoration delicately removed paint one layer at at time to discover if there was any evidence of glue or a pattern of the original carving. They found a very clear and obvious shadow on the left side of the overmantel.
Here is a photo of the blank fireplace with some ideas of what may have been there originally. Notice the shadow of a long scroll shape on the left side of the overmantel (the white paper with drawings is my interpretation of what will be re-carved). The undermantel itself had no evidence of the original carving, as it was thought to have been rebuilt within the last century.
It took several months of back and forth discussions between myself, the architect, Ralph Harvard, Moby Marks and a variety of others to finalize the design to keep it as historically correct to Charleston as possible. We all concluded that the mantel design needed to be similar to existing fireplaces still in existence in Charleston today. So I enjoyed exploring and discovering many of the older Charleston homes with some amazing original fireplace mantels. We chose to take pieces from various historical homes and brought them into a cohesive historically correct Rococo style fireplace from the style that was common around 1770 to 1780s.
Here are photos of original carved fireplace details around Charleston where we based many of these designs. Notice they are all painted white, so… yes, mine will also be painted.
Here is the start of the carving of a Rococo shell and acanthus design. This is the center panel for the undermantel and is carved in 1-1/8″ thick mahogany. I have a video lesson on how to carve this on my online school. You can see a short introduction video to the lessons here – Acanthus Leaf and Shell.
The following detail is the delicate Rococo design on the frieze to the right and left of the shell and acanthus design in the undermantel. This is also carved in 1-1/8″ thick mahogany.
And I am currently working on one side of the overmantel scroll. This is an amazing challenge and has to go slowly to discover the shape in 1-1/4″ mahogany. It’s so much fun!
I’m slowly working down the overmantel design. Once this is approved by all involved, then I need to carve the designs in reverse (not nearly as fun as the first time around). Here is a scene from a recent reception at the Charleston home.