A fireplace mantel poses a familiar design question: what should I put here? Decorating a mantel can be difficult, but if done properly, it can have a dramatic impact on the overall look and feel of a room. A well-executed mantel will express the personality of the homeowner, honor special people or things, integrate with daily life and respond to the environment. From arranging decorative objects to playing with paint colors, here are a few easy and inspired design tips to help you make the most of your mantel.
Make It A Focal Point
Whether electric or wood-burning, the fireplace is a gathering space because it brings warmth into a home. Activities naturally flow outward from it. Our eyes are drawn to the mantel, creating a visual point of focus. Take advantage of this prime display place! Use it to showcase candlesticks, old family photos, flowers or a personal collection of objects. Do not overcrowd the space with every trinket and tchotchke in your home. Instead, enhance visual interest by creating a look that allows the eye to travel and focus on more than one object.
Center the Design
Hang an eye-catching work of art or mirror at the center of the mantel space to draw attention. For a contemporary look, choose a statement piece with bold colors or a graphic pattern, like this vibrant print by Jasper Johns. If you’re going for a more classic vibe, try hanging a landscape, still life or portrait painting in a gilded frame. Pair similar decorative objects on either side to balance the mantel from left to right. These can be bowls, vases, decorative boxes, clocks - really anything you treasure and find worthy of displaying. For a final touch, spruce up the space with stylish lighting.
Display inherited items or antique finds that reflect your interests or show off a collection of items to represent each member of the household. Try to add pieces that tell a story, evoke a strong memory or make bold statements through style or color. Add a variety of shapes and layer items. Similar shapes in a symmetrical arrangement will maintain an ordered look. Organic shapes will lend a casual feel and hard edges will create a more modern look. Add elements that will be totally unique to the mantel.
Play with Colors
A simple change of color can create a new atmosphere and unify the space, so consider painting the wall around your fireplace. Don’t worry if your fireplace is already painted. ImproveNet’s great DIY guide is full of easy-to-follow tips for removing paint from a fireplace mantel. Need some color inspiration? Try out one of these hot home design colors. When selecting decorative objects for the mantel, always remember to try to reflect colors and materials found elsewhere in the room. Coordinating colors will help bring the room together.
Treat the Mantel as A Piece of Furniture
If your mantel has plenty of architectural characteristics, choose just a few well-placed accessories to accentuate the mantelpiece. Keep the accessories small if there isn’t much space. Play with objects of different heights that will draw the eye upwards.
The mantel is the perfect place to display a craft or art project. Find a chalkboard and write a message or line of poetry that holds a special meaning. Modify something plain from around the house to make it really pop. Hang a gallery wall. This is your chance to get creative! Don’t be afraid to take a design risk.
TV or Not TV?
Many people choose to mount a television screen above the fireplace. Surround the screen with neutral objects to prevent the mantel from feeling bare and keep the view free of obstructions. Place sconces or candlesticks on either side to provide symmetrical balance. More of a bookworm? Try adding a stack of antique books to your mantel. Sets, such as these volumes of the "Court Memoirs of Europe," will not only make for beautiful decorative objects, but also add an intriguing sense of history to your mantel.
Rotate Your Display
Seasonal decorations should honor the style of the room, fit with the surroundings, and remain modern and fresh at the same time. No matter if it’s Halloween or Christmas, choose colors and motifs that can last throughout the season. Display holiday greeting cards, a string of painted pine cones or even seasonal floral arrangements. Treat your mantel like a store window. Here’s your chance to get into the holiday spirit!
A well-styled mantel can make for a beautiful focal point in a room. Use your mantel to display family photos, inherited or antique items, or seasonal decorations. Try hanging an eye-catching work of art or a television above the fireplace. Experiment with color and rotate decorative objects often. No matter how you choose to design your mantel, always remember to showcase your personal style.
This article was written by Brett Goodwin of Lofty.