How To Decorate a Fireplace Mantel
Having a fireplace in your living room, bedroom, or kitchen is an enviable home feature. It is a natural focal point in the room and the perfect place to start when decorating.
Once you have the fireplace decoration figured out, you can move through the rest of the room, creating a complementary and cohesive design. Gone are the days of having way too many awkward family photos or your entire collection of candles on display.
Learn how to decorate a fireplace mantel and create a professional quality arrangement and display in your home with our top tips.
Start With a Solid Canvas
Before you start decorating your mantel, give it a once over. The mantel itself can be a part of your decoration, so don’t be afraid to renovate or update it before you start placing items on it.
Some mantels simply require a fresh coat of paint. White is the most popular color because it makes the mantel pop against a color painted wall. If you’re ready for more of a statement, then consider stripping the paint or replacing the mantel with a wood one.
A reclaimed beam will create a rustic or farmhouse aesthetic that adds authenticity to your home. A polished piece of marble will elevate the look of your home, creating a luxurious feel. Finally, tiling over your mantel with a mosaic design can give your fireplace a bohemian feel.
Size and Shape
Consider the size and shape of your mantel. It needs to be proportional to the fireplace it’s mounted over. This is your chance to adjust the proportions of your mantel and improve the look of the fireplace and your room. A slightly deeper mantel can give you more decor spacer, making it easier to have a suitable arrangement.
Balance the Display
The key to having a visually appealing fireplace mantel decor is to balance everything. If you have a tall decorative item on the left, there should be something of a similar height on the right.
If there is a visually large or heavy item on one side, then aim for the same type of substantial item on the other side. Pretend an invisible vertical line divides the fireplace down its center. Then aim to mirror the arrangement on the left and right.
Your other option is to have one single large piece in the center of the fireplace. This keeps the weight of the display in the center. You can either leave the left and right ends empty for a minimalist display or use smaller accent items to the left and right for a contemporary feel.
Focus on Visual Weight
Notice how in the decorating tip we said balance weight and height. We did not say to use the same exact decorative items on both sides. While you can take this approach, it is a bit dated and boring. If you appreciate when decorative items match, then you can achieve this look with a pair of tall candlesticks, vases, or picture frames.
For a curated display that looks like a professional designer arranged your mantel shelf, focus on similar physical qualities. These are visual weight, height, and width.
For example, you could have an arrangement of hefty-looking pillar candles. Then on the other side, use a vase that’s about the same height as your taller pillar candle and about as wide as your entire arrangement of candles.
When you stand back and look at the fireplace, the two pieces take up the same amount of visual space on the mantel. You can take this same approach with a mirror and a few layered picture frames.
Stick to a Theme
No matter what you decide to use to decorate your fireplace mantel, stick to a theme. This ensures that everything you use coordinates into a cohesive design. Examples of design themes are rustic, farmhouse, modern, luxury, minimalism, maximalism, French country, bohemian, and mid-century modern.
Each theme has hallmark features and elements that can help guide you in your decor selections. Start with the typical color theme for your chosen design theme. Then choose your main elements that will anchor the design.
Finally, finish with smaller accent items that fill out the display. It helps to commit to your design theme for the entire room, not just the fireplace mantel.
Choose a Color Palette
The color palette you choose for your fireplace mantel doesn’t necessarily have to be the same color palette as the rest of the room.
If the room already has a bold color palette, then it’s best to stick with this, or you risk the fireplace mantel competing and clashing with the rest of the room. However, if the rest of the room is neutral, then you can use your mantel as an opportunity for a pop of color.
When choosing your color palette, look at a piece of decor that you want to use. Try to pull colors from it that you can then look for in other pieces.
Aim for one main color that you use the most. Then there should be a second color that you use about half as much. Finally, you could have a third color that you use sparingly.
Add Natural Elements
Add a few natural elements to keep your fireplace display from looking sterile and cold. If you appreciate minimalist or ultra-modern interior design, then you can skip this tip. It will add too many decorative elements that will be perceived as clutter. However, for any other interior design theme, natural elements are a nice touch.
You could add figurines or decorative items that are made from stone or reclaimed wood. A flower pot made from terra cotta will add a warm and earthy feel. A glass or porcelain vase with fresh or dried blooms can bring the outdoors in, while also adding a touch of color. If you want to use your mantel as a book display, you could have bookends that are made from natural materials like granite or marble.
Shine With Metallics
Unless you are going for an earthy bohemian feel, you need a few metallic accents to balance the natural elements in your fireplace arrangement. The type of metal you choose will depend on your color scheme and overall interior design theme.
For example, black metal or wrought iron is perfect for creating a vintage or antique feel. This makes them ideal in a farmhouse or rustic-inspired design.
The dark color of the metal is also a good accent for rooms with light colors schemes. The dark shade balances all of the lighter colors and keeps them from looking too washed out.
Gold, copper, rose gold, and bronze, are all warm-hued metals. They can make a white room feel less stark and cold. In addition, they can highlight the richness of jewel tones and highly pigmented colors.
Opt for polished or shiny versions of these metals for a retro feel. For a modern feel, stick with a satin or brushed finish.
Silver, platinum, chrome, and nickel create a coolness. They work well with blues, greens, purples, grey, and black. However, they tend to look less appealing with yellow, orange, and red. This is mainly because these colors have a warm base to them, which conflicts with the cool undertones of these metals.
Be careful when using chrome; it tends to be the go-to metal for builder-grade fixtures. It can cheapen the look of your home if done poorly.
Traditional design rules state that you should only use one type of metal in a room. This is outdated advice and no longer a requirement. Don’t be afraid to use brushed gold candlesticks on your fireplace, even if you have a black metal light fixture or brushed nickel coffee table. Mixing metals can elevate the look of your design.
Keep Things Odd
While even numbers are nice, they don’t work well for interior design. When using collections, stick with odd numbers. Use one, three, or five candle holders on the mantel shelf.
Arrange the same odd grouping of candle lanterns on the hearth in front of the fireplace. This adds additional decorative lighting to your living room.
When you use even numbers of items, the human brain automatically looks for symmetry. If your display is just slightly off, it will be glaringly obvious.
Using an odd number of items keeps things purposefully off-balance and allows the brain to admire the beauty without being distracted by the symmetry.
Stack the Display
Don’t let yourself get stuck with a train of thought that everything has to sit in its own space in a perfect line. Doing this creates a one-dimensional display that’s a bit boring.
Instead, you can layer items on the mantel and around the hearth. Placing some items in front of others creates depth and gives your fireplace a curated feel.
You could have one, two, or even three pictures layered, depending on the size of your mantel. Don’t try too hard to perfectly match your frames. They can be complementary but with different accent details. Let some of them be vertical orientation and others horizontal.
Your fireplace is the natural focal point in the room. This makes it the perfect spot for displaying your collection. It could be your prized collection of vintage books that you line up on the mantel with bookends holding them up.
Or you could have delicate handmade glass figurines that you carefully arrange. Or perhaps you’re well-traveled and have trinkets from all over the world.
When arranging your collection, think about depth and height. Place some of them more forward, and others pushed back. Create height by placing a few items on top of something else.
A stack of books or a small box works nicely for this. Do not overcrowd your fireplace with an extensive collection. Choose your most prized or favorite pieces for a showcase. You could even rotate them out seasonally for an ever-changing display.
Don’t just place small items on your mantel. Add height to your arrangement and create a bit of drama.
You can easily do this with a tall vase. The vase itself will add height, and the greenery you arrange in it will create even more height. The CYS Excel Clear Cylinder Vase is a perfect example of a tall yet narrow vase that you can place on your mantel.
If you like potted plants, you can create an arrangement of plants at varying heights. This works well for succulents and air plants that will thrive in your fireplace mantel.
Another common solution for creating height is to use lanterns. They come in varying heights and widths, making it easy to find the perfect arrangement for the size of your mantel. Place candles in each of the lanterns that vary in height. Doing this creates layers within layers.
A third way of creating height is to place a mirror or framed picture or artwork with a vertical orientation. You can then choose a piece that’s as tall as you need to balance your display.
Use a Mirror
Using a mirror as interior decor brightens up a room by reflecting the already present light. It also can trick the eye into believing that the room is larger than it really is.
Placing a mirror over the fireplace is a natural place for it while also enjoying both of these benefits. The traditional method is to hang the mirror directly on the wall over the fireplace. A modern alternative is to place the mirror on the mantel.
Try using the Abie Modern & Contemporary Beveled Accent Mirror that you then layer pictures and decorative items in front of. The large size of the mirror adds height and ties the left and right sides of your mantel together.
When using this decorating idea, choose a mirror that matches the shape of your fireplace. A long and low fireplace looks best with a mirror that is also long and low. A narrow and tall mirror should have a mirror that is also narrow and tall. A square-shaped fireplace can look beautiful with a round or half-circle-shaped mirror.
Avoid the Clutter
It can be tempting to put everything on your mantel. There are so many beautiful fireplace mantel ideas that you’ll want to do them all. Unfortunately, this will lead to a terrible outcome. Trying to do too many things will end with a cluttered and confusing-looking design.
Instead, take all of your favorite decor ideas and narrow down the ones you will do to a select few. Then work in phases as you apply them to your mantel.
Leave breathing room for your decor to shine. If you try to put too much on your mantel, then everything will compete with each other, and you lose the overall effect.
Do you love art and have a prized piece? Place it on your fireplace mantel and feature it as the focal point of your interior design. It should be a large piece that’s scaled to the size of the fireplace and the wall.
Invest in a frame that complements the art. Because it is the room’s focal point, you should invest in a high-quality mat and frame for the piece.
Choose a frame that complements the rest of the room’s style. If all of your home decor and furniture are contemporary, then a baroque-inspired gilded frame with tons of detail will look out of place. Similarly, a sleek black frame with simple straight lines may look a bit plain and boring in a maximalist room.
Make it Seasonal
Because the fireplace is the natural focal point in the room, it’s the perfect place for adding a touch of the season and having it make a big impact. The holidays are an easy time of year to start with seasonal decor.
You can drape a snowy pine garland with berries across the mantle for Christmas. Pair it with a wreath hung on the wall above it, and you have a simple yet elegant display. You can add mini metallic pumpkins and birch logs for a beautiful balance of nature and metallics for fall and Thanksgiving.
Now you have decoration that fits the season while also following the design tips we mentioned earlier.
During spring and Easter, you can fill the vase on your mantel with fresh spring blooms. If flowers drive your allergies crazy, you can skip the flowers entirely and instead opt for fresh greenery. Move your indoor vine plant to the fireplace mantel and let it romantically drape down and across.
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