Saturday, March 7, 2020

Recreating The Set Of Sherlock: Building A Screen-Accurate Faux Fireplace & Book Shelves

Two years ago John and I recreated the famous Sherlock wallpaper for our friends Chris and Christie, who are MASSIVE Sherlock fans.

Remember this?

Here's the post if you're curious how we did it. What I wouldn't give to have had a Cricut back then...

Back then we planned to transform their entire living room into a screen-accurate recreation of Sherlock's living room, but due to scheduling and the material cost, the project got shelved.



 As a refresher, the other side of Sherlock's living room - across from that wallpaper - looks like this: 

To pull this off, John will have to build three fake wall sections, two custom bookcases, and a MASSIVELY complex faux fireplace that opens up to reveal hidden storage for electronics. (Ok, the hidden storage part is optional, but we're extra like that.)

The fireplace is by far the hardest part, so that's where John started. Since he's almost done with it, I thought I'd share some build photos so we can sit back and ooh and aaah together.

Cool? Cool.

First, here's a fantastic 3D rendering of just the fireplace by Gabriela Vanova, which John has been using extensively as his reference:

He printed out several different angles of this, which has been invaluable since the set photos are always so dark.

Next here's John original blueprint showing how the three wall sections will fit in Chris & Christie's room:
 They have an open-concept house, so this will be on one end of a larger living space. The areas with the diamond pattern are faux walls John will be building out, so the shelving and fireplace will look recessed/built-in.

Because everything depends on the fireplace, and the fireplace tiles dictate those dimensions, that's where John started. First, he made some fake tiles:

 These are cut Masonite, the edges rounded slightly. The idea of making faux tiles was my one contribution to the project. They weigh less than ceramic, and John could easily make them the exact size he needed.

Once painted and lacquered to a brilliant shine, you'd never know these weren't ceramic tiles:

John ordered this custom trim through Home Depot. It's the closest design we could find to the actual set piece. 

Tiles and trim cut and laid out:

It's looking very Christmassy, and I like it. :D

Now with an Eva for scale.

Next John cut the plywood backer:
 Why the cut section? Because these will be cleverly disguised doors on hinges!

 Gluing the faux tiles in place:

 John grouted the tiles with sanded caulking, which looks and feels just like the real thing.

Look how pretty:

 You'd never know these were two pieces!

 The tiles look too bright here, too cherry red, because they're under bright lights. Once installed in the shadows of the fireplace they seem to match perfectly.

John whipped together the interior shelving of the fireplace so fast that this is the only process photo I have:

Apparently building a big box with adjustable shelving inside is the "easy" part, ha.
John's including a faux hearth on the bottom, which will be painted to look like black marble.


Did I mention Eva really likes this project?

That reminds me, here's how John manages to build such large pieces with only half of a one-car garage for a workspace:

The whole driveway becomes his wood shop. Luckily we've had some nice weather lately, though it crept back up to 90 degrees yesterday. (UG.)


SECRET DOOR! The smaller side panel also opens. It was at this point that I started to catch John's excitement, because this is seriously so cool.
The center section (where the fire would be) will be hidden behind a faux fireplace screen. Since welding is one of the few things John can't do, that will be another challenge. John will use screen - either metal or fabric, not sure yet - so remotes can work through it, just like our own steampunk TV cabinet. (Their TV will hang over the fireplace where Sherlock's mirror is.) 

We're debating between adding a thin metal handle at the very top of the fireplace door  - which should just barely show - or using a magnetic-push clasp, like on a bathroom mirror. The downside with the magnet is you'll have to push on the tile, which could wear down the paint finish over time.

With all the inner parts of the fireplace done, John started framing out the mantle. The inner part slides inside, and is recessed a bit:

These next cuts were the most stressful of the whole thing for John, and while I don't understand ANY of this, I happily took a picture while he was whooping over the fact that he nailed them on the first try:

 Look how perfect this join is:

My man is so stinkin' talented, you guys. I'm just so proud of him.


 Testing the two pieces together:

Now back to adding some top details:

The top of Sherlock's fireplace is somewhat unusual. John spent a long time puzzling out how to recreate it using cheap plywood, since we're trying to keep the material cost as low as possible. Right now we're aiming for a budget of $700 for the whole project: fireplace, walls, and bookshelves.

You can see John stacked pieces of plywood to makes the rounded accent pieces on top. The hard part is getting those end grains super smooth for the paint finish later.

John's been finishing up while I've been writing this post, so I just paused to go take a picture of the completed mantle:


Next comes the faux finishing! I know it seems strange to paint wood to look like wood, but no amount of staining will make that plywood look like this:

So yeah, we'll be dusting off our faux finisher caps soon. (John wants to build the bookcases first, so we can paint them all together.)  I'm looking forward to actually helping at that point, since 'til now my only job has been documentation and the occasional cheering.

Let's pause to appreciate this section in particular:
John sanded those end grains smooth as silk. Aw yeah. (The weight is holding it down while the glue cures.)

John took this on purely for fun, and he's having such a blast. He's gone full PROJECT JOHN, out in the garage past dark every night, doesn't want to work on anything else. Which I suppose might annoy some SOs, but honestly I love watching Project John zip around in a haze of happiness. Project John reminds me of myself when I'm taking pictures at a con, so every time he brings me out to show off his latest step I can't help but smile.

  This project lets John stretch his skills with no risk, since it isn't a "real job" for a real client; it's just free work for dear friends. So there's no stress if it isn't perfect, he gets to play with power tools for a couple weeks, and in the end will have something totally badass. That's a win all 'round, right?

I hope this made you smile, and maybe inspired you to do more fandom decorating yourself. Remember, it's your space, so surround yourself with what you love! Whether that means anime posters, Funko Pops, rusty gears, or full-on fake fireplaces from your favorite detective show, seize the space.

And stay tuned for more updates!


P.S. Hey Sherlock fan, you might also like the "I Owe You" apple replica I made for Christie's birthday. It's on display in their room already, plus they've been collecting a bunch of screen-accurate furniture and accessories, like the steer head on the wall wearing headphones. Don't worry, I promise I'll show pics when we're all done.


Oooh, and here's a fun find: This Sherlock print is made up of quotes from the show!

11X17 Art Print by Scott W. Smith

I found "We solve crimes. I blog about it, he forgets his pants," in his coat, so this is definitely a keeper. :D


  1. I cannot believe he nailed that cut on the first try. I would have had to intentionally oversize it a bit and then sand it down to get it right. That's amazing. The whole thing looks fantastic and I love the idea of making an electronics cabinet look like a fireplace. I might have to steal that concept for my DVD/video game shelves (they don't go with anything else in the house but where else am I going to put them?). Great job!

    1. Steal away, and I want to see what you make! Another bonus I didn't mention is mantles are perfect for Christmas decorating, and Christie loves her decorations as much as she loves Sherlock. :D

  2. "Which I suppose might annoy some SOs, but honestly I love watching Project John zip around in a haze of happiness"

    This. This is why you guys are amazing for each other. You get and support each other through what others would deem "annoying" projects. I love all of your posts, but my favorites are the ones where your love for each other shines through. When my marriage dissolved, I used your blog as a mental handle to hold onto for what a successful marriage can look and sound like. You guys are amazing.

    1. Thank you, Lindsay! I never want to brag, but I love sharing about what works for us - maybe help encourage some folks out there that all the hard work they're putting in CAN pay off. Hugs and high fives to you for making it through such a hard battle.

  3. And tonight we roll the clocks ahead, which will give John an extra hour of daylight to "play!" I'd say that's a win-win!

  4. Right away I did a double take when I read the "Two years ago...", how is it possible that blog post was two years ago?! I swear I feel like you only just posted it, man time flies.

    It'd be so fun to theme each room of a house around a fandom... life goals for the future ha ha. That said I feel like I would have such a hard time picking a theme for each room. Labyrinth is a given obviously, Beauty and the Beast for another... it's a fun thing to ponder! Especially because you'd not only have to choose a theme, but which room to apply it too!

  5. Project looks amazing! Make those rounded accent pieces on top into holders for remote controls!! <3

    1. Ha! I'm all for more storage, but if you have to walk all the way to the TV to get the remote, then that kind of defeats the purpose. ;) :p

  6. Painting wood to look like other wood reminded me of this comic
    For all you theater tech types, q2q is great

  7. Oh my God, that looks SO amazing!! John, you're a total badass!

  8. You and John are so talented!

  9. I freaking love this project! Yall are so dang talented! I am in awe of the both of you. You always blow my mind. Seriously. So cool!

    1. Thanks, Alexie! I miss your face, hope we get to see you before you move.

  10. You have completely inspired me! My den is just dark and blah and I want to do something but never have any ideas. Now I want to redo it inspired by Sherlock and my husband agrees. I don't think we'll go so far as the fireplace replica, but my father-in-law does woodwork so who knows.

    1. Yay! Please share pics when you're done, I'd love to see.

  11. So amazing! I can't wait to see the finished project. And now I have a hankering to go watch the whole series again.

  12. Absolutely amazing. The creativity and skills you guys apply always astounds me.

    Question though: for those rounded bits on the mantle, couldn't you apply a veneer on the end grain? That could help with the painting/staining/finishing process, because it would be a smoother surface. But, I don't know the cost involved in veneering.

    1. You could, yes, and we considered veneer! These sections are slightly rounded on the edges too, though, which would make veneer an extra challenge - along with the added expense and finding a wood finish to match what we're going to faux finish. But as far as giving a bunch of endgrains a perfectly smooth surface, veneer is absolutley a good call.

  13. I don't imagine John could somehow rig up some kind of latch for the doors that could be activated by a switch-type mechanism on the top of the mantel. You could make the switch look like a knife embedded in the top of the mantle. Although for true "Screen Accuracy" the knife would have to be driven through a small stack of letters.

  14. If you are in need of a local welder we'd be more than happy to help!

  15. This is SO AWESOME! I'm in the midst of just getting things where they need to be from moving to a new house with a toddler at the end of last July. Doesn't help that we closed the day after her birthday and we hosted her birthday party a few weeks later so it was "move in enough to live but let it look nice" and then it's been piecemeal ever since with me and husbot working opposite shifts. So I can see that "Project John" mode in myself when I empty laundry out of baskets and into drawers/closets. And once we get the basics done, I'm looking forward to cool things - maybe not on this scale, but cool things anyway!

    For latches or pulls.. They have some that are fairly minimalistic - They come out and stay flat, I think. Maybe finding one in a matching color or painting it and putting it at the top it wouldn't be visible and you'd need to know to reach there to pull it open??? Or a flush thing mounted in top if you'll be able to get fingers on top of the door without being squished in the surround...

    A fairly flat pull

    A flush mount thing

  16. Watching someone happily in the zone is such a great thing, and that pure feeling of joy totally came through in this post. Can't wait to see how this comes out!

  17. John could have a side business making set pieces for theater - just saying. Congrats on the complicated cut being right the 1st time (does not happen often).

  18. What if instead of a push magnet latch, you installed one of those secret magnetic lock doors that I've only seen in escape rooms, where you touch a magnet (or some object with an embedded magnet) to a specific spot to unlock it? Something that could live on top of the "mantle" perhaps?

  19. Super competent guy is happy when being being competent. So sweet!

  20. This is all well and good (love the surround!) but my brain needs someone to stencil that plant shelf. ;)

    1. Ha! We discussed it, but since they filled that shelf with framed art, you don't really see the back wall anyway. It looks stark when it's empty like this, but I promise it doesn't look that bad now.

  21. As Amy suggested, you can get magnetic locks, where you just brush a magnet over it and it unlocks. They're commonly used as child-locks. Just look up "child-lock" on Amazon and you might get some ideas. 😊

    It looks amazing!

  22. Jen, I don't know if you'll see this, but I have an offer for you. Mr. Blue Skull is the name of the painting in the background of Sherlock. There are actually a couple different skull pictures they use, but Mr BS is pretty striking

    But I'm pretty good at recreating it, and would love to send you one. If you don't like skulls maybe we could alter it somehow...with MM ears? or a different color scheme. Or exact...whatever you'd like.

    Just let me know if you're interested and I can send you a link to my recent painting. Cheers!

    1. Oooooh, really?? Yes, I'd love a link! John and I were planning to just print something out, but I'd love to see your version! This would go in the full Sherlock room at Chris & Christie's, of course, so I know they want it as screen-accurate as possible. Thank you so much for offering!

  23. sweet! Here is an imgur link to my go at it . This version is a bit more detailed and rough around the edges because I like it with more texture and contrast, and I added an orange undercoat. But I certainly can do one that is pretty close to the original that is baby blue, white and grey. It's 26x30, acrylic.

    just let me know!

    1. Oooh, that's so cool! I like the extra texture, too. After talking to Chris & Christie, though, turns out they want to stick with a printed version we can mount under acrylic. I really appreciate you thinking of us, though, so thanks again!

  24. I am also recreating the Sherlock living room and kitchen. This is a great post. I was just googling the fireplace and trying to come up with ways of recreating it. How are you doing the damask wallpaper (red/green/gold) from the fireplace wall? I purchased the famous smiley damask wallpaper from the other side of the room but have not been able to find the red and green fireplace version . I just ordered a *similar* pattern from overstock but it is me settling. I tried to make a stencil and since the only available pics of the pattern are so far away, I couldn’t do it very well. Thanks! And great job.

    1. Oh yay! I hope you share pics online when you're done, I'd love to see!

      As for the damask wallpaper, we left it up to Chris & Christie to find a "close enough" version - and I bet they ordered the same one you did! It was back-ordered until the end of April at the time, but now that's not quite as big of a deal, haha.

  25. This is making me want to build a fake mantle for Xmas. In spite of the fact I live in an apartment. Nothing this spectacular, of course, but maybe a box with a snazzy fake top. And candles. Ohh ... wonder if I could reuse the scrap wood for the Thanksgiving table top I made ...


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