Company Blog

How to Decorate a Mantel

It’s fun to re-style your fireplace mantel with the changing seasons or just to freshen up your room’s décor. Since the fireplace is generally the focal point of the room it makes sense to put some extra time into finding the right items to accentuate it.

Keep in mind that you’re not truly decorating the mantel shelf, you’re decorating the vertical space above it. Decorating a mantel can be challenging because it’s a horizontal surface with narrow depth so size and scale are important.

ANCHOR

mantel sketchThe most important element is the anchor or focal piece. The right scale will be an item that’s one-half to two-thirds as wide as the mantel shelf.  The height of the anchor piece is best determined by your ceiling height; a taller ceiling above the shelf can have a circular shape, a tall oval or tall rectangle while rooms with shorter ceilings, such as a fireplace with a tall raised hearth, should use horizontally shaped rectangles or ovals. The anchor item traditionally is placed in the center.

SYMMETRY

mantel sketch with decorMost people find symmetry the most appealing style. Begin with your largest item in the center, which should inspire the other items you’ll want to add. This could be a mirror, painting, clock, wreath, tv, window frame, etc. This substantial center focal item should be placed roughly 3” to 7” above the mantel shelf, but this is only a general rule; let the height of the mantel and the ceiling height be your guide. Simply setting a painting or other large object on the mantel and leaning it against the wall creates a more relaxed look. Obviously, this is generally not a good idea when using mirrors or other large, heavy items that could fall and break!

mantel with vase and decorThe style above is the simplest, but it looks nicer if there are layers of items to add visual depth. You can flank the center item with a matched pair of items such as vases, lamps or candles. Overlapping the flanking items over the anchor piece adds interest, so try this concept for your mantel.

LAYERING

mantel with decorsSymmetry can also be achieved by simply balancing the height and width of mismatched items on either side as shown below. Layering items in front of each other creates depth and interest. Rather than lining up items in a straight line, stagger them to add dimension and depth.

MORE TIPS

  • In most displays, odd numbers of items create a more pleasing style
  • Play with textures and shapes of your mantel décor items to create interest that makes the eye linger
  • Mantel décor items should complement each other in some way by combining colors or themes
  • Change your mantel decorations seasonally. Spring and summer are a great time to decorate with plants and fresh or dried flowers. Greenery helps soften the look of your fireplace’s hardscape. Do keep in mind that plant material will need to be removed when it’s time for fires again!
  • Mirrors brighten the room by reflecting light and visually enlarging the room
  • It’s become popular to mount the tv above the fireplace, but keep in mind that this causes neck strain in a small room, and the heat from the fireplace can destroy your tv. If you must arrange your room this way, make sure the mantel is deeper than the tv to help divert heat away from it. This doesn’t necessarily provide full heat protection, but it will help.
  • If you’re a collector of smaller items, consider using them to decorate your mantel. Your antique pottery, floral teacups, old milk bottles, tin toys – or whatever your interest – can all be used on your mantel. Vary the heights of the items by stacking on books or boxes to make the display more interesting and to give greater weight to small items. Rotate the items now and then, and mix them with seasonal décor.

Don’t forget! Call Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps | Bless Your Hearth today to have your chimney and fireplace inspected and swept, if needed.   Let us help you keep that beautiful mantle looking it’s best.

HERE’S HOW WOOD BURNERS SAFELY STORE (AND USE) WOOD ASH

For each cord of wood you burn, you’ll create about 50 lbs. (5 gallons) of ash. It is essential that you have a safe and reliable means of storing and disposing of the ashes you’ll create.

ash storage canEmbers can re-ignite for days after a wood fire has long been burned. Ash is one of nature’s greatest insulators; Native Americans used ash inside of animal skin pouches to transport hot embers from one location to another to easily start a new fire.  

Ashes from your fireplace, wood stove or outdoor fire pit should only be emptied and stored in a metal container with a tight fitting lid and an insulated bottom, then placed on a non-combustible surface. If the ashes must be stored for any time, make sure that container is a safe distance – at least 10 feet away – from nearby combustibles including the walls of your home; never store ashes on your deck or in your garage.  If you’re scattering or dumping them outdoors, then make sure it’s not a windy day and that you wet them first.

GREAT USES FOR WOOD ASH

Gardeners and homesteaders actually save their ashes for many practical uses.

  • NATURAL ICE MELT – just sprinkle ashes over your walkway or driveway like you would salt and let the natural minerals in wood ash melt the ice for you.
  • GLASS CLEANER – a chimney sweep’s trick to cleaning the glass on your wood stove door is to dip a wet paper towel in the firewoodashes; they’re mildly abrasive and great at removing that burnt-on gunk. Then use a second wet paper towel to remove the streaks, and throw the paper towels into the stove when you’re done! You’ll also find this trick handy for cleaning cloudy headlights on your car.
  • SILVER POLISH – wood ash on a wet rag is the old timers’ trick for cleaning silver, too.
  • MOISTURE RINGS ON WOOD can be repaired with a wood ash paste. Wipe on, let it sit a few minutes, then wipe off
  • ODOR ABSORBER & DESSICANT- wood ash, like baking soda, can help absorb odors. Put some ashes in an open jar (and this works even better if there are some bits of charcoal in it) then set the jar in your fridge, basement, etc. The ashes will not only fight odors, but mold as well.
  • NATURAL FLEA AND SKIN PARASITE TREATMENT FOR PETS – Back before there were all sorts of chemical treatments for dogs and cats, wood ash was rubbed into their coats, working much like diatomaceous earth is used today. 
  • CHICKENS – Wood ash is still used by many chicken keepers for dust bathing spots and to cut down on odors in chicken coops. Wood ash can be added to chicken feed (1:100 ratio) to increase uptake of calcium and potassium. This helps control internal parasites, increase egg production and reduce chicken manure odors. It also works like grit to aid their digestion.
  • SKUNK ODORS can also be cleaned from your pet by using wood ash rubbed into their coats. Leave the pet outside a few hours then bathe thoroughly.
  • GARDENING is where wood ash is put to best use! 

* Add layers of wood ash in your compost bin to reduce odors and lighten up your compost consistency. It also helps repellayers of wood ash critters that may dig through your compost for a free snack.

* Wood ash is high in potassium (the “K” number in fertilizer). Have a soil test done; if it lacks potassium then add some wood ash. 

* Use in place of lime, but in double the quantity

* Wood ash is also high in calcium, making it an effective amendment for tomatoes, roses, lilacs and clematis. If your tomatoes tend to suffer from blossom end rot, try adding 1/4 cup of wood ash in the hole before planting

* Sprinkle wood ash on the perimeter of your garden to help deter snails and slugs. Reapply after it rains.

* Add 1 tablespoon per 1000 gallons of water to control algae in fish ponds

* Do not use on acid loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, strawberries, apples, basil, carrots, corn and cucumbers

*Always wear gloves when handling wood ash to protect your skin.

Now that you know there are so many uses for your wood ash, just let us know if you want us to save them for you when we clean out your chimney and fireplace so you can put them to good use all around your home!