One Person’s Junk Becomes a Fireplace Cover In My Living Room

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Today’s DIY decorating project is all about the process of taking old or unwanted materials and turning it into something new and useful. Also called upcycling. It’s a great way to save money, reduce waste, and add a touch of creativity to your home.

One of the best ways to upcycle furniture is to use parts of one piece to make another.

2 wood panels from an old file cabinet leaning against a wall.

This is exactly what I recently did when I took apart a beat up wood file cabinet a neighbor was taking to the dump. I knew the cabinet was too far gone for my DIY skills and passed it up, but then quickly changed my mind when I saw the intact paneled sides of the cabinet.

As you can see from the size of the panels in the above photo, it was a large and very heavy piece. I had Ed take it apart to save the side panels to make something completely unique with them.

At the time I had no idea what to do with them, but knew one day I would. They have been leaning against a wall in my studioffice for over a year just waiting to be made into something.

Living room with white brick fireplace wall and reclaimed wood DIY mantel

I finally came up with an idea. One that works perfectly with the simple rustic mantel I made last fall.(photo above)

hanging basket filled with purple hydrangeas on the wood panels that were made into a way to cover a fireplace.

When the warm months of the year roll around and the fireplace is not in use, I try to find ways to cover the firebox to hide it. In previous years I placed a large basket filled with colorful faux flowers to give the unsightly space something pretty.

Last spring, I made a folding cardboard screen to cover the fireplace and a decorative green screen glazed painted green to cover the wood storage area.

Early this year, I moved the decorative green screen to a guest room where it looks even better. So I needed to come up with something new this year to hide the fireplace box.

I challenged myself to not spend a dime on doing so and to use only what I had on hand, which included using paint, stains and other supplies I have leftover from previous projects.

Two wood panels from the sides of a old wood file cabinet made into a fireplace cover.

The wood panels have become a fireplace cover. I chose to stain the doors to match the mantel to keep the room serene and simple in my quest for it to feel more in-tune with the lake and nature that is outside the sliding glass doors in the room.

It took a bit of trial and error trying to find just the right color of wood stain that would match the unstained, but naturally aged wood color of the mantel.

Stained and sanded recessed panels being used to cover a fireplace in a decorative way.

Until I find the right piece of colorful art work for above the mantel, I hung a wall basket with purple hydrangeas right on the panels to add a pop of color.

How to Invisibly Hang Items Damage-Free

To hang a wreath or wall basket on a door or panels like I did: Push a thumbtack on the top of the door/panels. Don’t press it all the way in.

Cut clear fishing line in the length you need, wrapping one end on wreath/basket and wrapping the other around the thumbtack.

Press thumbtack in all the way. If placing on a door, it will close normally.

jennifer paganelli art
art by Jennifer Paganelli

I like neutrals in decor, but do like to have color in a room and will most likely have to make the art myself for above the mantel because of the custom size I will need. I am thinking of something along the artistic style of Jennifer Paganelli.

How to Use Two Wood Panels to Make a Cover for a Fireplace

The wood panels were in great shape. The only thing I didn’t like about them was the orange tint of the wood stain on them. With a little time and a few DIY products, I was able to transform the panels into a fireplace cover.

supplies needed:

  • Wood panels
  • Electric sander with 80 grit sandpaper
  • Hand sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper
  • Minwax Pre-Stain
  • Varathane Stain in the color Briarwood
  • Staining brush
  • 2 hinges and screws
  • Dremel tool with a sanding and carving bit.

Time needed: 4 hours.

Upcycling Wood Panels to Make a Cover for a Fireplace

  1. Take Apart The Furniture


    Every piece of furniture will require a different method to take it apart. When doing so, make sure you have safety goggles and work gloves on.

  2. Remove Existing Stain


    I didn’t want to use stripper, so I used 80 grit sandpaper to remove the existing stain from the wood.

    Sanding orange hue stain from two wood panels.

  3. Clean and Apply Pre-Stain


    After sanding, clean the wood with a damp cloth to remove the sanding grit. Then apply a pre-staining product to condition the wood. Using this preps the wood and will allow the stain to go on evenly and not blotchy.
    Brushing Minwax Water Based Pre-Stain on recessed panels from the sides of a old file cabinet.

  4. Apply Stain


    Use a brush or lint-free rag to evenly apply stain over the wood. Let dry.

    How to Remove an Orange Wood Tint:

    Even after I sanded these panels, the orange wood tint didn’t go away. I wanted to create a weathered wood color like driftwood. To do this I had to stain the wood a dark brown/grey first. After it dried I used 220 grit sandpaper to remove some of the stain.

    If you want a more natural wood color and sanding doesn’t remove the orange tint in stained wood. You can bleach the wood or an easier method is to apply a white wash of watered-down white paint over the sanded wood. Let it dry and then lightly sand.

    A close up of a stripped raised wood panel and one that is stained in a driftwood shade.

  5. Sand Over Stain


    Once the stain is completely dry, use a hand sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper to remove some of stain until you like the color of the wood.
    two wood panels leaning against a fireplace wall. One is sanded to lighten in, the other is stained in a driftwood shade.

  6. Add Hinges


    So the two panels would become a folding screen, add two hinges between the panels.

    Optional: To notch out sides of panels so that the hinges are inset and flush, use a Dremel tool or router.


    Note: In this photo, the hinged panels are leaning against the mantel. I may add support bracket stands to the back bottom edge of the panels so the panels won’t lean.

    Two wood panels from the sides of a old wood file cabinet made into a fireplace cover.

More Ideas for Upcycling Furniture:

The possibilities are endless!

Upcycling furniture is a great way to give old pieces a new life. It’s also a fun and creative way to add your own personal style to your home.

So the next time you see something in curbside trash, give it a second glance to see what you can come up with and then create!

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11 Comments

  1. You challenge me to think outside the box! I truly love seeing all the ideas you come up with! Thanks for all your sharing and all the information you give. Please keep up the great work you do!!!!

  2. I love your site, I look forward to your visit. How wonderful you live where you do so you can expand on you creative journeys.
    I hope your weather has been good to you and your home. It has been a rough weather year for some. Please keep discovering new ideas for our homes. Take care, Alice

  3. Oh wow, Diane! These look spectacular! They fit so well with the fireplace mantle. I re-read your blog on the green door where you used Annie Sloan’s waxes. I love Annie Sloan and her story.
    I’m not sure how I would make space for the hinges because I’ve never done that. But that would be a good lesson for me.
    Anyway, I love what you did to reuse and recycle! Good job Diane!!

  4. I love the two panels but I think you need to do something with the holes on the cross piece. I think they stand out too much. Can you fill them in? Otherwise a great idea.

  5. That’s perfect!!!!!! I love this idea. Well done, ma’am.

    Bet a boxwood wreath (for summer) would look nice too. : – )

    1. Hi Michele – It took me a long time to come up with an idea. I really like how the color came out. Now my search is on for some colorful art to place on or above the mantel.

    2. Diana, I really think you have outdone yourself this time. I think this looks like a rustic and designer piece. I like this idea for this room so much. It changes the entire feel of the room. Great job!