A beautiful architectural staple of the winter holidays, fireplace mantels have a multitude of uses. Mantels are typically the focal point in every room they are found in. Not only are they great for gathering around the fireplace when the weather is cold, but they also make for a stunning focal point in your home.
Sitting by the fire with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a good book is a favorite chilly weather pastime for many. Most people assume that to relax and unwind, you need a large fireplace or a wood-burning stove to congregate around, but modern-day mantelpieces make this unnecessary. With the right tools, you can easily recreate this traditional holiday scene by simply decorating your mantel.
One of the best parts of incorporating a mantelpiece into your home design is that you can restyle it based on every new season. Trade winter wreaths and pillar candles for seashells and books in the summer, or place a gourd alongside some dried flowers in the fall. Mantel styling is easier than you think, especially once you’ve figured out how to create balance your larger decorative pieces with natural elements to create a blend of visual interest. Whether you’re looking for a minimalist mantel or farmhouse style, there are plenty of decorating ideas that you can gather inspiration from. Follow these simple styling tips, and before your know it, you’ll have the coveted mantel decor of your dreams!
Find an Anchor Piece
Showcase a large figurine, wreath, or mirror as a focal point that draws everyone’s eyes toward your mantel space. Finding an anchor piece isn’t always a simple task because this sets the tone for the rest of your mantel. For instance, if you choose a simple blue vase as your focal point, you’re setting the tone for a minimal and elevated style, whereas if you choose a large garland, you’re utilizing holiday decorating in a traditional style. Whichever style you end up choosing, make sure that the other decorative objects match the focal point in the same color scheme, texture, or shape.
When looking for an anchor, keep in mind the size of your mantel. You don’t want to overwhelm the mantel with only one item if it has a small space. It is better to err on the side of caution and keep things simple by sticking to the rule of two-thirds: your main piece shouldn’t take up more than two-thirds of the mantel space so that you have a visually balanced mantel. This can simply be done by decorating with small objects and smaller pieces to accent your anchor piece.
Add Decorations With Varying Heights
Decorating with objects of varying heights can help create visual interest. Use taller items, like a gold pedestal, candlesticks, or a tall vase, to add height and give your mantel visual interest. These design details add exciting shapes and textures with their varying heights to create a space that has depth and fluid movement.
Start with width and play with height based on your ceiling heights. If you have taller ceilings, opt for taller figurines, candles, and major statement pieces. Be sure to balance these objects with wider pieces, though! With lower ceilings, keep your decorative objects long and horizontal.
Elevate smaller objects by placing them on top of a stack of books or decorative boxes so that the smaller pieces layer nicely in front of the larger statement pieces like a mirror, painting, or art piece.
Use Natural Materials
Add a living element to your space. This could be pinecones, dried flowers, birch logs, or whatever you might find outside your door that you admire. Adding natural and living elements reduces the risk of your mantel shelf feeling too static or stiff. These items also break up the structure of the solid pieces of your fireplace mantel by making it look more personal and breathable. For example, flowers or tree branches can break up the industrial look of an exposed brick fireplace surround. With just a touch of greenery or dried floral arrangement, your mantel can come to life!
Take the greenery and natural details one step further and install a hardwood floor or stone tile inlay near your mantel. The natural warmth of hardwood flooring exudes coziness with its classic and timeless style and will lend a bit of tradition to your mantel. If you’re looking to personalize the area around your fireplace, wood inlays and mosaic tiles are a great way to do this. Who doesn’t love a unique tile mosaic? And with parquet flooring on the rise, now’s a great time to install hardwood floors with a border of stack bonds or herringbone patterns in your living space. From basketweave to Chantilly, there are endless options to get creative with your wood inlay.
Layer in Warm Textures
Give your mantel decor more dimension by clustering objects together to add visual interest and create a layered effect. There are several easy ways to style a mantel by doing this: greenery, staggered figurines, and varying height levels of items. Place your most significant decorative object or art pieces as the background portrait for your mantel, and let the smaller objects shine at the forefront. Don’t forget to use the base of the fireplace and the fireplace surround by adding items like a basket of pillows and blankets or a box with stacked firewood.
Place an area rug on the floor space in front of the mantel to give the room a snug and cozy feel. Many older wood-burning fireplaces have granite or brick hearths extending in front of the stove; however, most modern fireplaces do not. This is where decorating with a simple area rug can substitute as a decor (and safety) element. Wool area rugs are perfect for when it comes to durability and style because these can protect your hardwood floors and carpet areas from scratches and debris. In the case of a functioning wood stove, these area rugs can also protect from dust. Dress up your mantel with a beautiful area rug in a pattern and pile height that suits your design needs.
Don’t Overcrowd Your Mantel Decor
Keep it simple and give your display room to breathe. Depending on the size of your mantel shelf, you typically only need three to five items to rest directly on the mantel. One of the biggest mistakes people make when decorating their mantel is overcrowding. Sometimes, it’s hard to narrow down your most treasured seasonal items, but this is necessary to create a beautifully decorated mantel. A good rule of thumb is to place large decorative pieces such as artwork, a mirror, or other oversized pieces, toward the middle of the mantel with smaller decorative objects flanking them on either side.
Find Balanced Asymmetry
You don’t need everything to be “just so” when decorating - in this instance, perfection isn’t always better! Unmatching your mantel is key to creating a dynamic focal point that can add visual interest and make the texture and style of the overall room more noticeable.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t position objects on either side of your mantel. In fact, we encourage you to utilize the space by flanking either side of the mantel with a lantern or a small basket for blankets or kindling. Asymmetry provides a sense of comfort and gives your home a lived-in feel.
Consider balanced visual weight because you don’t want one side of the mantel to appear heavier than the other. Do this by grouping objects in odd numbers with smaller items on one side and a large piece on the other.
Top It Off With A Personal Touch
Throw in a statement piece that means something to you. Displaying sentimental pieces adds warmth to your room. Your mantel doesn’t just have to be the traditional garland, stocking, and twinkle lights you find during the holiday season.
Take time to consider which objects are most meaningful to you - perhaps you have an old piece of artwork you bought whale traveling or an heirloom ceramic vase from your grandmother that you’ve never found a proper place to display. Use your mantel as a tribute to the items that bring you joy and comfort. You’d be surprised at how well things can come together with the right arrangement and some added greenery.