When we moved in it was like this. Yellow walls. No mantel whatsoever. I spent quite a while researching what look I wanted to go for. Then I started sketching and measuring and planning. I did a mock-up in illustrator to make sure that I had the proportions and measurements just right (you can see my paper taped on the wall to the left).
I really had no idea what I was doing. I have no experience with woodworking, but I figured I would just start layering wood, building it up and out to make a 3-D look that I was going for. I built out a frame with 2x4's, doubling up the sides to make them come further out.
Then I used MDF board to flatten it out.
I used primed MDF trim to make the rectangles and squares. Just nail gunning away.
For the top mantelpiece attached a common board to the top and boxed it out to make it look thicker and heftier. Then smaller primed MDF trim to add detail.
You can see how imperfect everything is before the lovely lovely caulk. It took forever to caulk everything but it really makes everything come together and look complete and finished. My reliance on caulk and nail guns are probably my biggest giveaway as an amateur. I'm sure a professional would have used real wood, fitted perfectly. But, meh. MDF is cheap and easy. I'm a recovering perfectionist and my new mantra is "Good enough is pretty d*** good". So caulk it up!
Finally a couple layers of white paint and we're in business! Later I painted the stained orange fake concrete stones at the base with gray paint. I always planned on adding some dimension to the stone with a black glaze or something. But that's never happened and turns out I'm good with it. And here's what it looks like this very instant:
Ahh the messy beauty of every day life. Soak it in folks!