Decorating Your Mantel to Warm Your Hearth

As a homeowner or decorator, you understand the importance of the mantel. If a home is fortunate enough to have a fireplace, it means the mantel and the surrounding area must receive adequate attention too. Rather than working as an asset in the room, a fireplace without an appealing surrounding area can become an eyesore or an overlooked element in the overall design.


New and rescued mantels are readily available. Whether a design features an elaborately-carved piece or one that is more basic and significant for its materials, such as a beautiful stained wooden mantel, it should be decorated well. Luckily for you, we've compiled design solutions that can turn any mantel from mundane to magnificent.


1. Decorate Your Mantel as Part of the Room

A common mistake is to decorate the mantel as if it is a separate entity. Instead, perceive the area as a fixture within the room's overall design. If there are larger pieces and prints in your decor, stick with that as your idea for the mantel. For example, sofas with solid colors, but accented with bold prints and an area rug with larger elements, should be paired with a mantel that also uses grandiose pieces. Items like a framed mirror, tall vases, and candlesticks, or even larger figures or decorative items would pair well.


Close Up of Christmas Mantel


2. Consider Balance and Framing

A mantel should balance the room's style and also frame the fireplace. Consider, a classic stone fireplace. It needs a mantel to balance it, perhaps with hefty wooden ledge and brackets. A wood framed mirror would continue to balance the heaviness of the stone. It's important to also consider the area adjacent to the mantel and fireplace. Can you fit some wooden shelves or bookcases that lighten it up? Is there anywhere for natural materials like potted plants? Consider their visual "weight," and balance the mantel against the rest of the space.


Christmas red stocking hanging from a mantel


3. Use Different Materials

Variety is the spice of life, and the same goes for your mantel design. A wooden mantel with brick surroundings is a good start, but boost the textures even more by adding elements that are crafted from ceramic, glass, coral, or metal. For example, a wooden mantel with some mercury glass ornaments, or even a mirror, pairs nicely with some ceramics. Work within the palette and use the décor to add bursts of color or to coordinate with the dominant theme. The mantel itself should be the 30% color found in the standard 60/30/10 ratio used in good color designs.


Close up of black coal fire with red floral surround and wooden mantel


4. Keep it Simple

Simplicity is the surest way to success with mantel design. Whether your space is contemporary or eclectic, a cluttered mantel is going to look clunky and unappealing. Instead of overwhelming the area, keep it as simple as possible. Opt for one or two pieces of art, potted plants, or sculptural items rather than a small series of them. Even if you are personalizing with items like trophies or collectibles, try to limit this to ensure the best balance.


Large ornate fireplace warms this finely decorated bedroom suite


5. Opt for Treasures or Media

If you are truly stumped about making your mantel more appealing, choose a few of your most treasured items and arrange them in a balanced way. A set of tiny book volumes framed with decorative bookends, an antique mirror, and a tall vase works well with mixed heights and values. If you're not a collector, then use the mantel as an area for media, such as a flatscreen TV and entertainment system. Framed out professionally, this has the same feel as a classic library, especially when done in a single palette that's framed by book or media cases.


Fire place with shelving in a modern home


You can design your mantel in no time using these simple guidelines. If you are a designer, speak with your clients about their view on this area. Go over the options for displaying personal items and balancing the décor through simplistic designs.

Images used with permission, courtesy of and

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