No chimney? No problem! You can add some coziness and architectural interest to any space by creating a faux fireplace with salvaged materials. A member of the Community Forklift team built this one in his own living room using materials from our reuse warehouse. The salvaged items in this project include:

  • a vintage salvaged fireplace mantel: The reuse warehouse has a great variety of salvaged vintage and modern fireplace mantels. From incredible antique tiger oak mantels with carvings and columns to streamlined and stately painted pieces with rosettes and brackets, there are many styles to choose from. This particular mantel was chosen because the relatively simple design and scale felt comparable to the style and size of the rest of the living room.
  • a dresser vanity mirror: This vanity mirror was donated to the warehouse without its accompanying dresser and its flat base was the perfect width for the mantel. A salvaged wall mirror or framed artwork would also work great in this space!
  • modern surplus tile for both the hearth and surround: This project is a great opportunity to incorporate the texture and style of tile into your space. Plus, the relatively small surface area of the fireplace surround and hearth mean you don’t need a large amount of a single kind of tile for the project.
  • an antique vent grate: There are some awesome antique vent grates available in the Community Forklift eBay store. The one used in this project was installed to provide access to the electrical outlet behind the fireplace. It was cleaned and then spray painted an antique gold to contrast with the darker mantel and green walls.
  • artwork upcycled from a vintage room dividing screen: The artwork on either side of the faux fireplace is upcycled from a vintage room divider. The screen was in rough shape, so it was easy to separate the panels and hang them on the walls. The components of a third panel will be used to repair some areas on these two.

In addition to the materials that were used in creating the faux fireplace, the rest of the living room includes many other pieces from Community Forklift: Hollywood Regency pendant lighting, a mid-century coffee table, a standing floor lamp, and a refinished waterfall end table. Also, the two chairs, corner record player, table lamp, sofa artwork, and most of the décor came second hand or from area thrift stores. You can see the rest of the room in a short video tour on YouTube!

A few tips to consider when incorporating salvaged materials into your renovation project:

1) Have an open mind. Instead of going into your project with a set-in-stone vision of how you want it to look, check reuse stores for what is available and let that inform and guide the direction of your design.

2) Be flexible and creative. When looking at salvaged materials, consider all of your options and be creative when figuring out how you might use them in your room. Could a room divider become wall art? Would a vanity mirror work over a fireplace?

3) Don’t be afraid to mix new and salvaged materials. As Anne-Marie Bonneau says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”


Every time you donate or shop at Community Forklift, you’re helping us lift up local communities through reuse.  We turn the construction waste stream into a resource stream for communities in the DC region – by keeping perfectly good items out of the landfill, preserving historical materials, providing low-cost building supplies, and creating local green jobs.