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.
The 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.
Most 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!
The 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.
Symmetry 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.
- 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.