“In the olden days,” as they say, the fireplace was the center of a room because it was the only heat source. The mantel was purely an item of function, holding tools for stoking the fire and cooking over it. While most homes don’t use fireplaces for the main source of heat for the house anymore, the fireplace is still central to room design and, by extension, the mantel is, too.
That means you don’t have to do much to draw attention to your mantel – but since the attention is there, it had better look good! Looking good doesn’t have to be hard, though. Below you’ll find my top 10 ideas for how to decorate your fireplace mantel like a pro.
How to Decorate a Fireplace Mantel
Try a Minimal Approach
Sometimes, less is more. You don’t have to use a lot of items to make an impact on your mantel! If your mantelpiece naturally has architectural details like scrolling or pillars, a minimalist approach to the decor will really let those features shine.
But don’t fool yourself by thinking a great minimalist look is easy. You still have to design with intention. Choose a piece of art that brings cohesion to your room or add a vase that serves as the statement piece with one or two supporting pieces. Cut down on the clutter and use only what you love for a minimalist mantel.
On the other hand, sometimes, more is more! It’s absolutely not a crime to have more than one or two items on your mantel. It is a crime for the look to not be cohesive, however. Have a theme, like a common shape, item type, or color scheme.
If you do decide to go the maximalist route, be sure to keep scale in mind. You don’t want to have too many pieces of one size here. A mixture of big and small pieces creates a nice balance visually and will keep the mantel looking deliberate, not cluttered.
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Hide Your TV
With the advent of the flat screen TV came the trend to put TVs on the mantel in the fireplace. While it can be the focal point of the room, you don’t always want to look at a large, blank screen. Hang a piece of art on a track that allows it to slide up or out, revealing the TV behind. Or if your room has a barnhouse décor, a pair of rustic barn doors over the screen serve to hide the TV and carry the design theme of your home to the mantelpiece.
If you can’t hide the TV, make sure to at least hide the wires! A quick hole in the drywall and you can drop cables and power cords behind the walls to remove some clutter and make the television placement feel like less of an afterthought. If it’s time to buy a new TV, consider one of the new models that display art when not being used. Form and function!
Keep it Symmetrical
Achieve balance in your room by creating a symmetrical mantelscape. Bear in mind, this doesn’t mean buying two of every item and setting them up on opposite sides of the mantel!
You can achieve a balanced look with different items by keeping the scale the same. For example, a 16-inch vase on the left side of your mantel can be balanced by a plant 14-18 inches tall, or perhaps a small grouping of pillar candles that, when put together take up the same relative amount of space as your vase.
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Try an Asymmetrical Approach
If your room has a more playful, relaxed vibe, an asymmetrical design is a great way to go. But it takes work to have a balanced, off-balance approach! One way I love to design an asymmetrical mantel is by layering frames on top of one another.
You can also use the design to your advantage. If you’d like the eye to be drawn to the right side of the room and your fabulous new chair, place the largest item of décor on the right side of the mantel. After the artwork, your gaze will fall to the new furniture.
Go Beyond the Mantel
I know, I know. This is a post about mantel decorating. But I want you to think beyond the mantel here. While paint isn’t necessarily an item of décor, you can make a real statement by painting the wall behind the mantel a contrasting color to the other walls in your room.
If a contrasting paint color isn’t your style, try adding some functional storage around the mantel. Built-ins on either side of your fireplace can help to anchor your fireplace, especially if its placement in your room feels a little awkward.
What happens if you don’t have room for full built-ins? Shelves serve a similar purpose! And if you’re lucky enough to have tall ceilings, take the shelves upward! Add shelves up the wall above the mantel, and decorate with cohesive items all the way up for some interesting structural décor.
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Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
If your room doesn’t get a lot of natural light, make a mirror the centerpiece of your mantel. Whether it’s hung on the wall or resting on the mantel itself, the mirror will reflect any light in the room and brighten the space. This is also a good tip for making a small room appear larger.
Shake things up by choosing a mirror with an intriguing shape, or a decorative frame. Just be sure to check for reflections before you decide on a location!
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Make A Statement
Like I said earlier, the mantel is the natural focal point of your room. Take advantage of that central position by choosing a statement piece of art to display. It can be a painting or a sculptural work…or anything that makes you happy. Just make sure that the scale of the piece matches the scale of the mantel.
Using a bright, bold statement piece is a favorite tip of mine for bringing some color into a neutral room! If you do this, make sure the artwork has some of the neutral tones in the painting to tie it all together.
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Mix and Match Decor
Give your room a more personalized feel by showcasing items you love! They don’t have to be of the same size, scale, or even the same color family. Mixing and matching is all about the mixture that shows off your personality.
You can display your items in a balanced way or take my asymmetrical tips from above. As long as your design is intentional and intentionally you, it’ll work.
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As the focal point of a room, it can feel like a lot of pressure to decorate your mantel. Don’t be intimidated! Choose the tips above that match your decorating style and get to work. You’ll be impressed with how a well-designed mantel can change the mood of your room!