The story of the tiles:
My hub's mother purchased these beaten up 18th century Dutch tiles at a flea market over 40 years ago. In the late 1980's, we inherited them in a big banana box and somehow they were placed in the back of our large garage in Zoeterwoude.
Over the next 20 years I saw the box of tiles and noticed the chipped edges, so I really did not consider them to be of much interest. Just before we packed up to move to the US, we had to clean out the shelves in the garage. I came across the box of tiles again (now covered with mouse poop and spider webs) and decided to try to clean them up. How else could I decide if they were worth shipping with the rest of our belongings?
So on a hot summers day (yes, they exist in The Netherlands), I soaped and scrubbed and rinsed the old tiles on our back patio. When they dried up nicely, I packed them in newspaper and into a box for transport.
Two years ago when the tile setter came to do our kitchen backsplash, we asked him to set the least chipped manganese and white 18th century tiles around the firebox of our fireplace.
For two years after that we have been trying to find someone locally to build our mantle. One guy came out, took measurements, said a colleague would probably make a drawing and get back to us, and we never heard from him again. In fact, when we contacted him on his Facebook account, he asked "Who are you?" That must be great for business on the World Wide Web!
Before that, we actually took our ideas to another local cabinet maker, and when we called to find out if he would make our mantle, he said he did not know anything about it and did not have our plans. :(
Yesterday our Mennonite cabinet maker came to our house, showed us his computer drawings, tweeked the fluted columns, picked up a deposit, and left with the intent of completing our mantle soon.
Stay tuned for the final project results in May.