Making an Art Deco Fire Surround

In this project I’m making an art deco fire surround (fireplace) for one of my customers. This is made from MDF and finished with a beautiful Dulux Satinwood paint to match their existing decor. This was a fun project and I’ll show you what was involved.

You can watch the full video here:

How I Make an Art Deco Fireplace / Fire Surround

Making an Art Deco Fire Surround

In this particular job the customer had a good idea of what they wanted in their period art deco living room. They found a picture on Pinterest of a stepped art deco fireplace they liked and I came up with a design using SketchUp to make sure the proportions were all OK. As part of this design I had to cater for the size of the existing granite back mantel. The customer was happy with the design so it was time to get this built.

The project is almost entirely constructed from 12mm MDF. Standard (non-MR) MDF is fine for a project like this unless you live in a particularly humid climate. I used my track saw to cut all the strips to approximately the correct sizes. I then used my table saw to apply the bevels on all the edges. After doing the bevels it’s essential to take the sharp edges off the 45 degree cuts with some sandpaper – you will cut yourself on them otherwise!

All of the strips were glued and brad nailed together at 90 degrees using softwood support blocks to help hold everything together while the glue dries. I had to make 9 of these L-shaped strips in total. Each one was approximately 95mm x 95mm x 1.2m. I cut mitred ends on all of these strips using my chop saw and then cut the bottoms to the same even length.

I made some L-shaped supports out of 18mm plywood to hold all of the L-strips at 90 degrees. This made the 3 U-shaped sections – all of this was left overnight for the glue to dry.

Day 2

Day 2 of the build involved gluing and brad nailing all of the U-shaped sections together to make the stepped design. Again, 18mm softwood ply was used for the internal support and guide rails. I then cut all of the side and top sections, again with a 45 degree bevel on everything. I used my cross-cut sled to put the bevels on the short edges.

Fitting the sides in place was simply a case of carefully aligning all of the bevels on the side edges and gluing / brad nailing everything in place. I then did the same for the top being really careful to get the short bevel alignment as perfect as possible. I added a back support strip to the top for extra strength along with a couple of side supports. All of this was left to dry overnight.

Day 3

The final day of the build involved filling all of the nail holes using 2-part filler and giving everything a good dust down and wipe with a cloth. I then painted the unit with one coat of white acrylic primer undercoat and 2 coats of Dulux Satinwood – all water based for a perfect finish.

Installation of a Fire Surround

I attached two softwood blocks to the wall just below 3/4 way up the height of the fire surround. These were positioned so that the fire surround would slide over them perfectly. I then drilled and countersunk a hole through each side to align with these blocks. A single self-drilling Turbogold wood screw was used on each side to secure the fireplace to the wall – these were covered with screw caps and painted the same colour as the fire surround. Any remaining touch ups to the wall were sorted and that was it all done! A fun job and it perfectly sets off this classic 1930’s property.

Andy Mac
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