How to Decorate Your Mantel

Create a Beautiful Focal Point

If you are lucky and have a fireplace in your home, you know they offer a warm, relaxed ambiance and make a natural focal point for the room. They also make a great showcase for decorative items that reflect your personal style and make a space more cozy and inviting.

Decorating a fireplace mantel, however, can be challenging. If you feel that your mantel is lacking something, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle with finding the right balance of accessories that make a mantel look effortlessly styled.

There are three main ways mantel decoration can go wrong and spoil the appearance of the room. All of these are common mistakes we make over and over again when it comes to accessorizing this architectural element in our homes.

Hang your favorite mirror to add height and attract attention.

Hang your favorite mirror to add height and attract attention.

Avoid These Common Mistakes

Over decorating

A frequent problem seen in many homes is overuse of home accents and decorative accessories on a mantel. In fact, many are simply jam packed with items from family photos, flowers, candle holders, vases, and small items. Such collections of items filling up the space just makes it look busy and cluttered with too much stuff. You don’t need to fill up every available space on the mantel or display every object you own. Less is more.

Under decorating

On the other hand, under decorating a mantel can be just as much a home fashion faux pas. Yes, putting less on the mantel will draw attention more to its architectural features, such as beautiful masonry work or gorgeous trim molding on a traditional fireplace surround. However, skimping on items or tossing a few candlesticks or picture frames up without planning or thought is not going to cut it. Intentionally choosing which items and how many to display will make more of an impact.

Unbalanced or incorrect proportions

Since it is a focal point, a fireplace will draw the eye in from the minute you enter the room. Depending on the size, shape, and placement in the room, a decorated mantel offers a great opportunity to attract attention to a space. Take into consideration other elements of the room such as a high ceiling, built-in cabinets or shelves adjacent to the mantel, size of the room, windows, doors, etc. You want to emphasize some elements and draw attention away from others. Keeping decorations in proportion with the overall look of the room will help you create a gorgeous space. Add visual height with vertical items or widen a narrow space by adding items that make you focus on the horizontal plane.

Use decorative accents to emphasize some elements while drawing attention away from others to create a stylish mantel.

Use decorative accents to emphasize some elements while drawing attention away from others to create a stylish mantel.

Steps to Decorate a Fireplace Mantel

Start with a blank slate

The best way to decorate a fireplace mantel is to first start with a blank slate. Remove any and all existing items from the surface so you can better see what you have to work with. This also gives you the perfect opportunity to dust off the space and clean any items you plan to use.

Gather items together

Collect all the items together that you may want to display. To ensure everything coordinates, we recommend sticking to a similar color palette that pulls from one or more colors used elsewhere in the room. Pull from the colors used in window treatments, furniture upholstery, wall and rug colors, or colors found in prominent art work on the walls about the room. You can use colors on the mantel that are similar to the main room colors to keep the look monochromatic or add complementary accent colors to add more energy and interest.

Items can include vases, pretty objects or other special items, candle holders, clocks, bottles, books and bookends, decorative boxes, framed photos, mirrors, antiques, or mementos from travels or family heirlooms. Remember to display what you love, but don’t overcrowd it.

We recommend sticking to a similar color palette that pulls from one or more colors used elsewhere in the room.

We recommend sticking to a similar color palette that pulls from one or more colors used elsewhere in the room.

Ground the space with a favorite item

Once you have gathered a collection of items, you can add the first item as the focal piece to ground your fireplace display. You want to make this piece something major that adds height and attracts your attention. You can use a large piece of art, a mirror, or a large vase or container. You can hang it directly on the wall above the mantel or place it on the mantel and lean it against the wall. You can also position it a little off center, either to the left or right.

The rule of three

One good rule to follow is to think in terms of threes. In other words, make items part of a trio. It could be sticking to three colors, three materials, three types of accent pieces, or three similar elements. This helps to keep the accessories in connection to each other and the room in general.

Add layers

Start layering items to add depth and make your tableau more interesting. You can place a smaller frame in front of a large one. Group similar items to give it a sense of balance without making it too symmetrical. You want to mix textures and materials without going overboard. Otherwise, your display will lose focus and appear too disjointed or haphazard. You want items to complement each other not compete.

Create varied heights

When adding items to your mantel, you don’t want everything to be the same height. Layering items creates depth, creating different heights keeps it interesting by encouraging the eye to focus on various areas. If you don’t have any taller vases, candlesticks, or other vertically orientated items, you can also stack certain pieces such as placing a few hardcover books on their sides with an attractive box or small lidded jar on top of them.

Give it some life

Incorporate a natural element to you display. Flowers and plants are always a great way to bring some life to your mantel. You can place a vase of fresh cut flowers or a potted plant to add some greenery and a touch of the outdoors to your home’s interior. If you don’t have a green thumb, you can substitute dried or preserved botanicals and branches, or faux plants that look like the real thing.

Illuminate it

Don’t forget to shine some light on your mantel top display. Wall sconces mounted on each side of the mantel provide a stylish light source and give the mantel definition. If your walls are not wired for electricity near the mantel, you can also add wall-mounted candle sconces to get the same decorative effect. Or, add a mirror over or leaning on the mantel to reflect and bounce the light from windows or lighting fixtures about the room and increase the overall illumination.

If you are looking for just the right items to make your fireplace mantel complete, check out the Riverbend Home website. We carry a wide range of decorative accents, lighting, and even accessories for your fireplace and hearth including gas inserts, mantels, and fireplace screens.