Tips for Styling Your Mantel
Nov 05, 2021
A beautiful architectural staple of the holiday season, fireplace mantels have a multitude of uses. Not only are they great for gathering around the fire when the weather is cold, but they also make for stunning decor focal points!
Sitting by the fire with a 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 with a simple mantel.
One of the best parts of incorporating a mantelpiece into your home design is that you can restyle it based on the season. Trade winter wreaths and candles for fresh flowers and books in the summer, or place a gourd alongside some dried pampas grass in the fall. Styling your mantel is easier than you think, especially once you’ve figured out how to balance your larger pieces with natural elements to create a blend of visual interest. Follow these seven simple steps, and before you know it, you’ll have the coveted mantel of your dreams.
1. Find an Anchor Piece
Valley Drive Plus by Hearth & Home in Wood Ash
Showcase a large figurine, wreath, or mirror as a focal point to draw eyes toward your mantel. Finding an anchor piece isn’t always a simple task because this sets the tone for the rest of your mantelpiece. 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 creating a more traditional holiday-themed mantel. Whichever style you end up choosing, make sure that the other decor items match the focal point in color, texture, or shape.
When looking for an anchor, keep in mind the size of your mantel. You don’t want to overwhelm the space with only one item. 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, so that you have a visually balanced mantel scene.
2. Add Height
L’Amour White Cut Polished Tile by Emser
Use taller items, like a gold pedestal stand or candlesticks, to add height and give your mantel visual interest. These design details add exciting shapes and textures with their varying levels to create a space that has depth and fluid movement.
Start with width and play with height based on your ceilings. If you have taller ceilings, opt for taller figurines, candles, and statement pieces, but be sure to balance these objects out with wider pieces. With lower ceilings, keep decor items long and horizontal.
Elevate smaller decor items by placing them on top of a stack of books or a box so that the small object layers nicely in front of the larger statement pieces like mirrors, paintings, and art.
3. Use Natural Materials
Add a living element to your space. This could be pinecones, dried flowers, tree branches, or whatever you might find outside your door that you admire. Adding living elements reduces the risk of your mantel feeling too static or stiff. These items also break up the structure of the solid pieces on your fireplace by making it look more personal and breathable. With just a touch of greenery or a dried floral arrangement, your mantel can come to life.
Take the natural details one step further and install a hardwood floor or a stone tile inlay near your mantel. The natural warmth of hardwood exudes coziness with its 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 basket weave to Chantilly, there are endless options to get creative with your wood inlay.
4. Layer in Warm Textures
Nourison Essentials Navy Blue Area Rug
Give your space more dimension by clustering objects together to create a layered effect. There are several easy ways to do this: greenery, staggered figurines, and varying height levels of items. Place your most significant piece as the background portrait for your mantel, and let smaller items shine at the forefront. Don’t forget to use the base of the fireplace by adding in items like a basket of pillows or a box of stacked wood.
Place an area rug in front of the mantel to give the room a snug 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 a simple area rug can substitute as a decor (and safety) element. Wool area rugs are perfect when it comes to durability and style because these can protect your hardwood floors and carpeted areas from scratches and debris, as well as dust in the case of a functioning wood stove. Dress up your mantel with a beautiful area rug in a pattern and pile height that suits your design needs.
5. Don’t Overcrowd the Space
Design by MICHELLE BERWICK Photography by LARRY ARNAL
Keep it simple. Depending on the size of your mantel, 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 pare down your most treasured seasonal items, but this is necessary to create a beautiful display. A good rule of thumb is to place large decorative pieces toward the middle of the mantel with smaller items flanking them on either side.
6. Find Balanced Asymmetry
Design by LOUIS DUNCAN-HE DESIGNS
You don’t need everything to be “just so”—in this instance, perfection isn’t always better! Unmatching your mantel is key to creating a dynamic focal point that adds to the texture and style of the overall room.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t position objects on either side of your mantelpiece. 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 few larger pieces on the other.
7. Top it Off with a Personal Touch
Throw in a statement piece that means something to you. Displaying sentimental pieces adds warmth to your space. Your mantel doesn’t just have to be the traditional garland, stocking, and twinkle lights you find in the holiday season.
Take time to consider which objects are most meaningful to you—perhaps you have an old piece of art you bought while traveling or an heirloom ceramic vase from your grandmother that you’ve never found a proper place to display. Use this space 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.
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