Real Estate

Do-It-Yourself: Jazz up the fireplace

Local woodworker gives old windows new life

When Redwood City resident Glenda Fuge isn't using her fireplace, she likes to add personality to an otherwise dull space with a decorative screen. Fuge, a semi-retired occupational therapist, crafts her own fireplace screens out of recycled materials like metal fences, iron headboards, scrap wood and, her favorite, old window frames.

"When you walk into my house, the focal point is the fireplace, and I love to decorate it. I like to stand back and look at it, and I'm never satisfied. I'm always moving things ... so I change my screens probably every month," said Fuge, who is a painter and woodworker.

"This is my spring one," she said, pointing to the current screen sitting in front of her fireplace, made from a weathered white six-pane window sash with hand-painted sunflowers adorning the patina glass.

Fuge started turning old windows into fireplace screens 15 years ago when she and her husband replaced all the windows in their 60-year-old home.

"They were really cool old, double-hung windows, and I couldn't part with them," Fuge said, so she started painting the windows and giving them away to close friends and family members. With the few she had left over, she decided to screw pieces of scrap wood to the sides of the frames so they could stand up -- making them the perfect centerpiece for her fireplace.

Fuge makes the screens in a workshop tucked in the corner of her backyard. A sign that reads, "A great place to be," sits above the entrance, and the interior of the space is packed with power tools, cans of spray paint and heaps of scrap wood. She usually doesn't do anything to the window sashes other than clean the glass, and if she does paint the frame, she uses acrylic paint. The screens are only decorative and not something to use when the fireplace is in operation, said Fuge, who can put together a screen in 20 minutes.

Some of Fuge's window-frame fireplace screens are dressed up with hand-painted images of hawks, chickens and snowmen. Others are decorated with artificial greenery and decals.

If you're not artistic, Fuge suggested taking a picture from a magazine or kids' coloring book and taping it to the back of the window and tracing the image.

When Fuge works with a window frame with glass, she uses a power drill instead of a hammer to secure the legs to the bottom of the frame, so the glass doesn't break. For projects that don't involve glass, use a hammer, Fuge said.

A great place to find cheap old windows is at flea markets, Fuge said. Her favorite flea market is one in the city of Alameda.

She also just scours her own neighborhood for castoffs.

"You can find windows for free all over," Fuge said. "I found one that I used for Christmas just propped up against a tree not far from here. With all the remodeling going on, people are just getting rid of their windows right and left."

The do-it-yourself projects have kept Fuge busy and "out of trouble," she said jokingly, but most importantly it has allowed her to use her innate creativity.

"My whole family are artisans. My grandfather was a sculptor. My father was a commercial artist, and my daughter is a graphic designer," she said. "In my career, I used arts and crafts a lot with the kids I worked with ... so it's just been a part of my life. It's part of the fabric of who I am."

Materials needed:

Old or new wood window frame

Two 2-by-4s

Four wood screws at least 2 1/2 inches long

Hand saw or power saw

Sand paper or sanding block

Power drill with bit

Screwdriver

Measuring tape

Pencil

Acrylic paint and paint brush

Blow dryer (optional)

Instructions:

Step 1 Thoroughly clean both sides of the window with a rag. If you are going to paint the window frame, now is the best time since the window can be placed on the ground for easy painting.

Step 2 Measure and cut 2-by-4s into equal lengths approximately 10 to 12 inches long using hand saw or power saw. Sand the wood lightly with sand paper or sanding block.

Step 3 Find the exact center of both 2-by-4s lengthwise and mark with a pencil. Using a power drill, drill two holes for mounting screws to window frame. Make sure holes are approximately the same size as the screws in circumference.

Step 4 Paint the 2-by-4s to match the window frame using acrylic paint. Let the wood dry for a couple of hours or use a blow dryer to speed up the process.

Step 5 With a screwdriver and wood screws, mount 2-by-4s horizontally to bottom of the window frame. A second pair of helping hands may be useful for this part to hold window stable on a flat surface.

Calling all crafters and do-it-yourselfers: In occasional editions of Home & Garden Design, this Do-It-Yourself section will feature a house or garden project with simple steps to help local residents' homes go from zero to beautiful. If you have a project or skill you would like to share, please email the editor at editor@paweekly.com.

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This article appeared in print in the Spring Home + Garden Design 2016 publication.

Palo Alto Weekly Digital Editor My Nguyen can be reached at mnguyen@paweekly.com.

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