Decorating the mantel is probably one of the most daunting decor tasks we do! You would think that it would be so easy to decorate a long piece of board, right? But not when it is the focal point for a room! Today let’s make decorating a mantel easy and get a free printable guide sheet and checklist at the end of the post for creating a beautiful mantel every time!
Make sure to see my most recent video about how to decorate a mantel!
One of the most asked questions I get is about decorating a mantel!
I bet I have styled hundreds of mantels in my lifetime! For every season and lots of holidays too!
But as I get more “expert” at creating what goes on that all-important, horizontal focal point I’ve learned a few tricks that make a mantel so easy to decorate!
For many of us who love to decorate that small elevated board is often the hardest to get right!
Here are my best tips for decorating the perfect mantel! And these tips for any long flat surface like a buffet or dresser too!
CREATE A DEFAULT SETTING FOR YOUR MANTEL
Just like the default setting on your computer, create a mantel that you can fall back on time and time again.
It might take some thinking and adding and editing over and over to get a look you love. But oh, it’s so worth it!
But don’t “set it and forget it”! The beauty of a mantel is that with just a few tweaks you can use your default setting all year long! Keep it fresh!
These tips will help you create an easy and beautiful default mantel…
KNOW YOUR STYLE
Because a mantel is a focal point it sets the tone and mood for the rest of your room. You need it to be the best example of your decorating style!
It is so so important to know your decorating style! It will make every decorating decision you make easier and will save you so many headaches and lots of $$$ because you will know what will work and won’t work in every part of your house!
You learn about the HOW TO KNOW YOUR DECORATING STYLE course HERE! It will really change the way you decorate!
My style has certainly changed over the last 10 years! From farmhouse to New Traditional to Transitional. And what a big change!!!! Just one look at my mantels through the ages gives you a real feeling for my different style!
LESS IS MORE, BIGGER IS BETTER
This seems to be my mantra when it comes to decorating just about everything in our homes!
But this decorating mantra and mindset work every time!
On a mantel, little things get lost and lots of things tend to make for a cluttered look! Too much a good thing is not good at all! Our eyes need a little negative space! A mantel will actually look better if there is a bit o empty space!
Think about using fewer and bigger items to create the perfect look for your mantel
Here comes the “HOWEVER”…
Bigger is better and less of more most of the time! However, if you like me, like an abundant look for a season or holiday then do what you love. Creating what you love always trump any decorating tip I’ll every give you!
THINK “BALANCE” WHEN DECORATING A MANTEL
Balancing decor is one of the most elementary essentials of decorating. And is something we need to think about when we decorate a mantel!
Balance is not always symmetry! Think of a scale! Balanced is when the things placed on one side of the scale is equal or almost equal to the other side. Our eyes love balance. The easiest way to make sure a mantel is attractive is to balance one side of it the other!
Even decor that is asymmetrical is often balanced.
Learning about balance in any decor is a must! Go HERE to learn about BALANCE ONE OF THE IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF DECOR.
One of the most important things you can do when decorating a mantel is to help your eye move from one surface to another across your mantel. Varying the height of things on a mantel makes it interesting!
The image above shows how our eyes flow over the mantel to take it in. Those dips and different heights work in amazing ways to give interest to our designs.
LAYER, LAYER LAYER A MANTEL
Layering is one key to a stunning mantel.
If your mantel looks a bit uninteresting try putting something on the wall behind.
Don’t just think what you can add to the mantel itself. You have a whole wall of prime decorating real estate to work with too!
Even if your mantel is very narrow like mine you can use the wall behind the mantel to add depth and interest!
The layer against the wall should be the tallest decor element on your mantel!
Think carefully about what you hang or lean as the background layer for your mantel. Here are a few ideas…
- big mirror
- large clock
- wide painting
- architectural items
- subway art or saying
- old window
- framed shiplap
Choose something that you love looking at!
Curated items should be layered in front of the taller background items. Again, be very careful about what you are putting on your mantel. The items should look collected and work well together.
The mirror in my default mantel is layered behind the other items on the mantel and the topiary is on top of a layer of books.
The family room at StoneGable is casual and used very hard! So I wanted the mantel to be casual too. Just a few well-chosen items make up my default mantel!
REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT
Another way to make things on a mantel work together is to repeat elements. Don’t go for matchy-matchy but find ways to subtly repeat the same or almost the same things you are using to decorate.
On my mantel, the color palette is tight and is repeated over and over. This is such a subtle way to make items on a mantel look like they belong together.
Also, use things that are similar. For this easy, casual mantel I used white pottery in different heights and styles as well as rough wooden candlesticks.
MANTELS THROUGH THE SEASONS
As I peruse the mantels I’ve created over the years it’s evident how my style has changed! It’s gone from Farmhouse to New Traditional to Transitional. My taste is much more streamline and less layered and chippy!
Here are mantels for different seasons you might enjoy. See if you know what style I was decorating with!
- A LITTLE BIT OF FALL MANTEL
- DECORATE A FALL MANTEL TO GET NOTICED
- NEUTRAL FALL MANTEL
- FALLING LEAVES MANTEL
- CHRISTMAS VILLAGE MANTEL
- TREE INSPIRED CHRISTMAS MANTEL
- FARMHOUSE CHRISTMAS MANTEL
- CHRISTMAS MANTELS THROUGH THE YEARS
- bHOME CHRISTMAS TOUR AND MANTEL
My mantel has changed and evolved over the years! And so it should! Mantels should “evolve” as your style does!
Why don’t you work on perfecting your mantel decorating skills and come up with a mantel that is perfect for your home and reflects your style? Everyone needs a “default mantel” that they know is beautiful!
Grab your copy of this free printable guide HOW TO DECORATE A MANTEL LIKE A PRO. It’s a guide sheet and a checklist so you can create a pretty mantel every single time!
This post was first published on the blog Jan 13, 2018, and was updated with new images and content on April 8, 2020.