I have always liked the mantelpiece in our house, especially as it was made of somewhat rare chestnut. The problem is that the fireplace is a somewhat big feature, and the mantelpiece is both too large and the grain on the chestnut is quite conspicuous.
The mantelpiece is of quite simple construction: the bottom plate is joined at the ends using a 45° miter. The top plate uses a mitred-butt joint at the ends. The entire mantelpiece is held together with 2″ nails, no glue anywhere, with a series of 2″×4″ blocks in behind for support. It is not exactly well constructed, but then again these were not high-end houses during the period they were built in Toronto (mid-1920s).
With the pale, orange bricks, we chose to rebuild the mantlepiece using cherry. The new mantle will be 1″ shorter on either side and the front, to reduce its footprint. The inset has also been reduced from 1″ to ½”, and the four pyramids have been removed. The joints at either end of the top and bottom plates will both be mitred-butt joints, to maintain some of the aesthetic appeal of the original.