Design Stories | Boneyard Fireplace


For this edition of Design Stories, we are taking a step outside of the box and heading into the Boneyard. The Boneyard at Motawi Tileworks isn't a place where old tile goes to die, it's where we house our field tile overruns and our perfectly imperfect art tile and offer them at deep discounts. Jim O'Brien and his wife knew they wanted to tile their old and unappealing fireplace in their 1939 Georgian Colonial home in the Old Rosedale Gardens neighborhood of Livonia. Knowing that they wanted to keep to a strict budget, they took a DIY approach and paid a visit to the Boneyard. When he shared the pictures of the finish product with us, we knew we had to share his story with you!

Left: The Motawi Boneyard; Top Right: Fireplace before; Bottom Right: Installation in process with tape-faced polychrome tiles

We grabbed every size, shape, anything in that glaze

About eight years ago, Jim and his wife stumbled upon our semi-annual Mega Sale ( the way is June 6th this year). They looked in the Boneyard and throughout the Tileworks that day and came away with a few tiles but they knew they had to come back. Fast forward to this year and Jim was itching to tile his fireplace. They came back to the Boneyard and noticed the stunning fireplace. They fell in love with the glaze (5202 Granite). "We were going through all of the boxes and we saw it and thought...this is it! We grabbed every size, shape, anything in that glaze." They bought all of the tiles and brought them home with no plan. Then came the hard part...

Jim admits he's never designed a tile fireplace before, but he has a technical/mechanical background which made piecing the different size tiles together a fun challenge for him. He went online, looked for a template but couldn't find exactly what he wanted, so he cleared out his living room, laid a sheet down and began piecing his design together. All in all Jim says it took him three or four nights in a row of laying out tile and moving it around until he was satisfied.

Floor design using multiple sized field tile all in 5202 Granite

The sizes and shapes were so different and the pillowed top was great to work with

To install his project, Jim followed the installation recommendations Motawi includes in each and every shipment. He's worked with tile before, but he says nothing like the quality of Motawi. "The sizes and the shapes were so different and the pillowed top was great to work with." Once the tile was installed, he wanted to install a custom wood surround...something he'd been planning for a long time. See, it was Jim's step-father who got him hooked on the Arts and Crafts woodworking style years ago. The two enjoyed the craft together and often attended shows. The fireplace project in Jim's home was something the two were looking forward to completing together. Sadly, Jim's step-father died in December. When Jim began the fireplace project, he finished it with the wood surround in his memory.

"The thing I'm most proud of is that I took tiles that I didn't know how they'd work and I made it into a project that turned out pretty good." Pretty good, Jim? We heartily agree. Nice work!

Finished Boneyard Fireplace using field tiles in 5202 Granite; 6x6 Pine Landscape Mountain and 6x6 Pine Landscape Valley

How Can I Get My Own Motawi Tile Design?

Our designers are happy to help! Send us an e-mail to to set up your consultation today!

Got a Story to Share?

If you've got a Motawi tile project you'd like to see featured in an upcoming edition of Design Stories, contact us at, or call us at 734.213.0017.