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  • This floating concrete hearth and mantle are integrally colored to complement the dark wood floors in this Asian-inspired home addition. The floors were stained with a special ink created by the homeowners.
  • Cast in one piece, the concrete hearth is over 13 feet long and weighs 640 pounds. GFRC was used to minimize the weight.
  • Another view of the fireplace surround.

This stunning floor-to-ceiling fireplace surround, featuring a floating concrete hearth and mantle, doubles as an art display to showcase the award-winning porcelain work of homeowner Cliff Lee, whose collections are on display in the White House, National Museum of Art, the Renwick Gallery, and other renowned art museums. The fireplace was built when Lee and his wife Holly, also an artist, added a modern Asian-inspired addition to their farm in Hopeland, Pa., so they could transform the barn into an artists' studio. As it turns out, their artistic talents are also on display in the design of the fireplace itself.

“They were already aware of the potential of concrete, but they didn't have anyone in mind to make the pieces. It was happenstance that Holly and I started a conversation at a local community event, and from that point our relationship began,” says Barbara Sunderlin of SunWorks etc., which specializes in precast concrete countertops, furniture, water features, outdoor kitchens, wall panels, fire features, and other architectural elements. “Being the artists they are, Holly and Cliff had a very keen sense of what they were looking for in design. Holly was able to communicate their vision very clearly using pictures and hand sketches."

As part of that vision, SunWorks created a floating concrete hearth and mantle integrally colored with a dark gray pigment from Davis Colors and given a subtle exposed-aggregate finish. The concrete color echoes the room’s dark wood floors, which were stained with a special ink created by the homeowners. The hearth is13 feet 4 inches long, 30 inches wide and 5 inches thick, and the mantle is 7 ½ feet long and 18 inches with a 3-inch drop-edge façade. Both pieces were cast using glass-fiber-reinforced concrete to reduce the weight.

“Almost all of our work is done using GFRC. The size of this project pretty much dictated it as well. We were able to eliminate about two-thirds of the weight had we cast it with a traditional wet-cast mix,” says Sunderlin.

Fabricating the hearth was the easy part. Installation was the challenge, since the piece weighed a hefty 640 pounds, despite its GFRC composition. “We made a special crate with wheels to roll it wherever we could. We also had two sets of lift bars to carry it up four steps. It was manageable, but a workout,” says Sunderlin.

ContractorBarbara Sunderlin and David Leas
SunWorks etc., Annville, Pa.

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