THE EVOLUTION OF A MANTEL- Finding the perfect elements that make a mantel shine!

When I talk about mantels it’s like speaking my decorating love language. Mantels are the focal point of a room and what goes on the mantel is more than important for a beautifully decorated space. Mantels used to by my nemesis! I hated to decorate them. Until I realized that decorating a mantel was not much different than decorating any other flat surface, except that it is longer and sits higher up on a wall. So I looked for a decorating “formula or recipe” I could use over and over on my mantel changing out the elements here and there and still having it look amazing! I’ve not only been on a long decorating journey with my mantel… it’s been more of a quest. So today let’s see the evolution of my mantel. The good the bad and the very very ugly!


Today on our podcast DECORATING TIPS AND TRICKS you can listen to our latest episode…Decorating Mantels. Just click the little arrow on the left side of the box below.

You can find all DECORATING TIPS AND TRICKS podcasts by clicking on the word PODCAST under the StoneGable header. And get show notes there too! And you can listen to all the episodes on your iphone in itunes and on your android if you are on the go!

Now let’s go on a little decorating journey…

Here’s how my mantel looks today. 

THE EVOLUTION OF A MANTEL- Finding the perfect elements that make a mantel shine!

Let’s take a visual walk down memory lane…

This image was taken the first year of blogging in 2009! I was just learning about photography and lighting and less is more! I loved this mirror on my mantel because it was the best mirror in my home. But the mirror mostly reflected the ceiling. It finally dawned on me that there had to be something better to put on the wall of this focal point. I wanted something nicer to look at than my ceiling!

One smart thing we did when we built StoneGable was to have outlets installed on the mantel. Lighting the mantel with lamps and other lights is so easy!

By 2013 I had replaced the mirror with a big clock, painted the living room a dark tan and replaced the 90’s green marble fireplace surround with a lighter brick. I also painted the tall think lamps and added new lampshades to them. But looking back the colors were way to flat! And I still had lots to learn about photography!!!

By 2014 we repainted the family room Sonnet by Benjamin Moore, the color it remains today! We also found these cute chippy shutters that are a permanent part of my mantel. We had to retrofit them. They were very long but Bobby cut them down and put them back together so they would be just the right height. You can see a tutorial for resizing shutters HERE.

I also found the little black stool that remains a part of almost every mantel I decorate. 2014 was also the year I painted the brass on the fireplace with a fire retardant flat black paint.

In 2014 we also installed hardwood floors in our family room, got a sisal rug, had the leather chairs slipcovered in a white cotton duck and bought a new taupe and white houndstooth chair.


I found a wonderful chippy window and started using it in place of my clock in 2015.  You can hear about it in today’s podcast! The lamps came off the mantel for the fall season. This was also the year I added numbered baskets to my bookshelf to organize my books!

Clock and lamps back on the mantel for winter 2015-16.

The clock was a great centerpiece for the mantel, but I had always thought the brown frame was a bit too heavy. So in March of 2016 I repainted it using Amy Howard paints.  I’m so much happier with it now!

What a journey, right? The evolution of my mantel was slow and had a few detours along the way! But now I think I found my “just right” mantel look!

Let’s take a before and after look!

THE EVOLUTION OF A MANTEL- Finding the perfect elements that make a mantel shine!

You can see how I’ve honed and changed my decorating style, photography, and lighting skills as well as the family room over time. What a difference!!!! I hope this inspires you to keep working on your home and decorating acumen too.




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  1. Just the info I need! My fireplace / mantel is very difficult and something I continually struggle with. Yours is lovely!

  2. Yvonne, I don’t have a mantel at this time but I want to put one in my living room. I have pictured a book shelf on each side of the mantel. My mother had many figurines and I need to display some of them and also have space to store some. We have one large wall in the living room which would be perfect for this.

    Thanks for the pictures and ideas.

  3. I adore your mantel pictures. I have a dilemma…I have a sloping ceiling with a fireplace that goes to the top. Of course there is the problem of the mantel. I have one piece that I adore, a “mantel clock” of my great-grandmother’s that is a must keep on the mantel piece. While the mantel is oak, the clock is cherry and I can never seem to find the right combo of ways to decorate. The only time I feel it is acceptable is during Christmas. My style is country and I have many pieces I could choose from. Can you help me decorate my mantel?

  4. Have listened to every podcast & look forward to the upcoming ones! Each one has been wonderful! As I listened today since Valentine’s Day is now over, I started taking down winter decor and “playing” around with different areas of my living room to transition into early spring vignettes. I realized I should have gathered up all of the winter items before I pulled out the spring decor because right now my living room is a mess as I pick & choose what’s to stay & what’s to go. Since my home is small I need the storage space as I rotate different seasonal items out they’re replaced with the last season’s decor items. Listening to your podcast gave me the idea to take pictures of the contents of the boxes I store my smaller items & candles in, so I’ll know the contents without having to dig through too much stuff.

  5. It’s a beautiful mantle and I need to learn from your journey. I have a question about use of stars below on the hearth–when does the use of decorative and beautiful objects start competing with the gorgeous mantle above them?

  6. I appreciate the humility you demonstrate while onmyour decorating journey. Certainly, my taste has changed throughout the years.

  7. Love this. Very helpful to me as I start to decorate my console (that will act as a “mantel”, as well.) Thanks, Yvonne. Enjoying the podcasts! AND, I turned a friend onto them, as well!

  8. Love the evolution of your mantel and surrounding area. As always, thanks for your tips and inspiration for decorating.

  9. Even your “befores” are lovely! What did you use to paint your bricks? I can’t wait to show my husband who thinks painting bricks is a never never..

  10. I love decorating mantel.
    I have two, one in living room and other in the family room. Both are very different as the rooms are; one formal the other causal.

    It’s fun to decorate for the seasons.

  11. My goodness, I have the same mirror over my mantle that you had in the “before” pictures! Clearly I need to update things!
    Yvonne, I have been praying for your ankle pain. I know what it’s like to have pain be your constant companion.

  12. Thank you for all the great information! I am redecorating my mantel today. I have a more unique problem though, since my mantel is a 90 degree corner one behind a wood stove with the stove pipe going up to the ceiling.

  13. What fun to see your original mirror – exactly like the one I grew up with. When I inherited it from my parents I kept it around because I loved the size and while I wanted to paint it, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When I passed it on to my daughter, she painted the frame satin black and hung it in her living room. It looks great! I don’t know where my mom got it originally, but it has graced three generations of my family…oh, the stories it could tell.

  14. i’m sure that the “before” mantel was lovely in it’s time , but the after is beautiful and very much a comfy ,cozy farmhouse look for a family room…love it!

  15. I love your mantel in your family room it looks so inviting and cozy.Thanks for all the inspiration Yvonne you are such a sweetheart..

  16. Your mantle is lovely.I had a mantle in my last
    house,we don’t have a mantle in this house and
    I miss it greatly.

  17. This is what I have always loved about decorating.. we just keep evolving and loving our homes! What a Blessing.. and What fun it truly is! I have been decorating “our home” for the last 59 years …and I Love it All! Wishing you complete healing .. and being free of pain very soon! Love, Judy

  18. I love your podcast and your blog. I try to copy what you do but it does not seem to work out as well for me. I am a work in progress and I appreciate all of your guidance. Yvonne I am so sorry you are in so much pain with your ankle problem. I feel as if I know you and therefore I hate to hear you are in such discomfort. I will keep your healing in my prayers.

  19. Your mantel always looks great. I have a collection of original paintings so have one on the mantel. I’d be interested in a discussion of the display of painting as I do not see many displayed in current decorating blogs.

  20. Oh Jeez! I really, really need you to come to my house and help me with my mantle!!! Oh, well. At least you give awesome advice! I will have to take it from there. LOL

  21. It’s so fun to look back at pictures to see how our decorating has changed! Yours always looked beautiful! I have a question about slipcovers since you mentioned that you slipcovered your leather chairs. They look beautiful and look like they fit so well. A lot of pictures of white slipcovered furniture that I see on various blogs or on Pinterest don’t look like they fit and seem baggy. I want to slip cover my leather chairs also, but I don’t know where to buy. Were yours custom made?

  22. I have a similar clock above my mantel and love it! I really like the little black stool too. I may need to make a trip to Hobby Lobby and get one of their little stools. I also had the green marble on my fireplace too! Lol! We changed it to a neutral colored stone and it looks so much better. I also painted my (very formal) white mantel to a wood stained look to go with the stone we put up the wall behind the fireplace. My hubby is very handy thank goodness!

  23. Isn’t it interesting how garlands have changed from a few years ago? Things are more restful on the eyes now. With your help my own Mantel has simplified. Thank you

  24. I have 5 mantles in my farmhouse. I love the ideas for figuring out how to go about decorating them and hopefully I can do something with 2/3 of them soon! thanks for all the tips and sharing your life with all of us!

  25. Yvonne, I adore your Classic Style… it is always solid when it is finished. I love a lil bit of black as our New downsizing home has Black Granite on Counters, Island, and the Built in Buffet Hutch, you just taught me how you use black only has the Pop here and there. I wanted to go red with chairs and sofa, but i choose a nice Grey Taupe…so glad I did. I Hope you have a wonderful day ahead! ~ Margo C.

  26. Love the transformation! I think it looked great all along the journey and love how you incorporate things to make the changes all work together.

  27. My mantel is always evolving, sometimes good and sometimes not so. I am always afraid of overdoing. I just can not find a “perfect” solution. Thanks for your help.

  28. I enjoyed looking at the ongoing changes displayed with your mantel decor. As I look at your creative ideas, I can see various things I can adapt into my decorating schemes. Thank you.

  29. Decorating is definitely a never-ending creative journey. The mantle is usually the focal point in a room which makes it so important for us to “get it right.”

  30. Wow! So inspiring and motivating! I’m ready to tackle my mantle right now! Thank you, Yvonne! PS I love the podcasts!

  31. I love your mantle ideas. I change my mantle and trays with the seasons. I constantly need new fresh ideas. You are so inspiring. Thank you for sharing little details.

  32. I do love your ideas! My project was tu try to salvage the face of the fireplace itself. My fireplace had a thick coat of blood red paint and then a thick coat of white paint over beautiful flagstone. The paint had been discolored by smoke from the fireplace and it looked really horrible. I tried paint stripper to try to get rid of the layers of paint, but it was so embedded into every nook and cranny, I decided it wasn’t practical. Sandblasting companies turned me down because of the hazards of blasting in a house that is inhabited. I really wanted the look of granite or stone. My style is more earthy and nature-oriented than yours, though I certainly respect your taste! I finally decided to try using a Giani paint kit designed to create granite-look countertops. It took me almost 2 solid weeks and many, many layers of paint, but I finally got the look I wanted. Having spent a lot of time backpacking in the High Sierra, I knew very well what granite looks like and I had to keep working on it to get it to look natural. Nobody ever guesses now that my mantel isn’t granite. I added a woodstove fireplace insert, a large photograph by my professional photographer Father of Yosemite, and I am really pleased with the outcome. I need to work a bit more on what goes ON the mantel, but it was quite an adventure in transforming this ugly duckling into something that works for me and didn’t leave me flat broke!

  33. We painted our fireplace bricks white shortly before Christmas, and what a difference it made! I love your tips and tricks and thank you once again for the inspiration. I think anything you do that pertains to home decor is fantastic, Yvonne!

    I’m also praying for your healing. Keep the faith.


  34. I too, painted my brass on my fireplace black in 2014. What a difference it made! I like a little black in my rooms too.

  35. Your transformation is lovely. It was great before, but I really love the clock. I’ve always been concerned that having a mirror would just leave you with a reflection of the ceiling. Perfection!!!

  36. I really love your ideas and decorating!? You are really an inspiration to me and so many others!! Thank you everyday Yvonne!!

  37. I, too, am in the midst of transforming my mantel. While it looks good, I know it can look better. I purchased some shutters from Wayfair and plan to make them “chippy” and use them on the mantel. I love how your mantel has evolved, and love your blog as well as the Pod Casts. Good work Yvonne! Hope you are healing and in good spirits!

  38. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of your mantle. It has looked great all through the years. I particularly like the way you updated the fireplace. I have been meaning to get some heat resistant paint and paint the brass on my fireplace doors. I can’t believe I have lived with it as long as I have! I also want my husband to build a new mantle for our fireplace as ours is just a plain block of oak and I have never liked it.

  39. What lovely transformation and evolution of your mantel. Keep up the great ideas in this website and on your podcasts. I enjoy listening.

  40. Thank you Yvonne. I love your blog So many great ideas. Your kitchen is my favourite. I love that u use all differ not white plates

  41. My fireplace is getting a facelift and I can’t wait to decorate the new mantle, you’ve given me lots of ideas, thanks!

  42. Before and After are beautiful but love the looks at the transitions from then and nw. As always, thanks for sharing. xx-hb

  43. Love the mantel, you really had good taste. We bought a house recently with a beautiful brick fireplace. Unfortunately it has no mantle. I love your white mantle but we can’t seem to find anyplace to purchase a white mantle. We’ve tried various fireplace stores, websites, even etsy. Can’t seem to find a nice bright, white mantle. We find reclaimed barn wood types. Or poorly distressed pieces of what looks like plywood. Any suggestions from anyone would be appreciated, we actually just want the straight piece and no sides. I’ve looked at dozens of sites on etsy and they are all distressed looking. Thank you in advance.

  44. Thank you for all your lovely mantel decorating ideas. I have a very long mantel (it’s a full-wall fire place) and I have a very hard time decorating it. I primarily have pictures of my family on it and a few nice decorative boxes. It works ,but I really love your ideas. I’m going to try to incorporate some of your suggestions for my mantel!

  45. Thank you for the good ideas and I heard the new podcast and love how all of you support and encourage each other.

  46. i love all your mantel ideas. I’m constantly changing my mantel decor. I’ll be taking down the Valentine decor and replacing it with Easter before long. Did I say Easter? Wow, how time flies.

  47. Your post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am in the process of redoing my mantle and was relying to decide if I wanted to move from a framed picture to a large clock over the mantle. Yours looks fabulous.

  48. I love your mantels, especially the corbel, the black shutters and little black stool. I have an 8 foot mantel paneled up to a cathedral ceiling, and when I first started decorating it, everything I put on it seemed minuscule in proportion. I’m learning to use taller, and heftier looking pieces, but it’s still a challenge.

  49. Thank you, you are so sweet to remind us! All the looks are lovely, the newest mantle design is really great! Pushing Spring…..

  50. Yvonne, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog and now listening to your podcast. Hearing your voice brings your blog to life!! It sounds like the 3 of you have so much fun discussing your passion of decorating. Can’t wait to hear more!

  51. Your fireplace is beautiful! Where did you find those stars? I am swooning very the stars and an invasion them on my fireplace.

  52. I change my mantle at least four times a year. It can be seen from several areas so I like to change things up. Your mantle is lovely but I would be itching to change things around. You always share such great ideas no wonder I’m always fluffing.

  53. It’s funny how decorating a mantel can be such a challenge! You make it look easy, I love your large clock and the big stars! They’re my favorite.

  54. Hi Yvonne,
    I continue to love your blog and your podcasts. They are both a little “treat” for me in my busy day. I take a little time for myself when I read and listen. What a pleasure, and I am learning so much!
    Your mantle is beautiful and it was so interesting to watch the progression as it evolved over the years.
    I have a small fireplace with mantle as my house is also smaller, but the tips you gave are very useful, and I can adjust them to my situation.
    As always, thank you for sharing your wonderful knowledge! Thanks also to Kelly and Anita!

  55. I absolutely love the shutters and have been looking for some myself since I first saw your mantle in a post. I finally found some, only to realize that my fireplace is next to windows that are about 7′ tall with plantation shutters (all along the back of my house). The shutters next to shutters don’t work in my house–on to finding what will! Love your look though!!!

  56. What a transformation! I like your mantel much better now, but I have to say that I do like when the clock was brown, I think it tied into the baskets so I don’t feel it was too heavy. Having said this, I like it white also!

    I don’t have a mantel anymore since we moved so all I can do is admire yours.

  57. Love, love, love your podcasts and blog. My special treat for myself each day. I need to change my mantle today. Thank you for all your inspiration.

  58. I have enjoyed your podcast, and I really enjoy the blog. I appreciate the links to how to do things you mention. I appreciate your “realness,” especially. :-).

    I would like to say, however, that each time I come to the blog, I have the thought, “I am going to unsubscribe,” due to the many and obnoxious pop-ups! As I scroll down the page, all this “stuff” pops up and my scrolling interrupted. I understand the need for ads and such, and that this is a business, but please reconsider this kind of advertising. I will probably stay a little longer, but there are so many blogs and I have limited time, that I might discontinue yours (which I love) in favor of a similar one which is not so annoying to navigate.

  59. Thanks for sharing all of your great ideas for decorating and transforming a mantel. I love decorating our mantel for different seasons, as well as incorporate my decorating style into it. Love the “after” picture and how far your mantel has come! Blessings….

  60. Had to smile when I read you had outlets installed in your mantle. Daddy had the same brilliant idea 70 years ago when he too installed outlets in the mantles of the four rentals he built! Especially love revolving decor styles and changes you’ve made to your beautiful home without the trendy overkill so popular today. Hope recovery is going well.

  61. I am surprised to find that my wall color and color scheme is so similar to what you used to have. I have to hand it to you for the courage to start all over. I love the warmth of my family room, especially during the winter and at Christmas when it’s so darn cold outside, yet every time I see your beautiful rooms I want to Run out and start buying paint but because its so expensive to change all Ethan Allen furniture On top of buying paint I become stagnant. This post, by far, has been very helpful by showing your home in the before and after pictures. Would love to see more of those types of posts. Helps me get the courage to move from doing nothing because I’m so afraid that I my not like the end result. Enjoy looking at your home and great ideas and now your new Podcasts. Thank you.

  62. Well, it looks like I need a new mantle update! Mine unfortunately looks like your before picture! You are always inspiring me!!

  63. Love your mantle! Love the podcasts! Love everything about Stonegable!
    Just a few questions – are the leather chairs from previous years the same as the ones that are slipcovered? Did you make the slipcovers? What great style you have.
    I’ve been studying the clock (which I also love) and finally figured out what was different. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the roman numeral IIII for 4; isn’t it usually IV?

  64. I just listened to your blog about decorating your fireplace and enjoyed the pictures. I don’t have a fireplace but I love what you have done with yours. I agree with your comment that “less is more”. My home is decorated in “country” things, so I love your chippy window and shutters, along with the pitchers and organic things.

    I love your website!

  65. I agree, I love decorating my mantel,I also add battery lights for all holiday mantels, Target has cute one.

  66. I love it all but especially NOW. I’m so enjoying the podcasts and I heard you mention how your mirror just showed the ceiling. Years ago when I used to watch Christopher Lowell, remember him? Well, anyway, he used to talk about hanging your large mirrors from nearly the middle or mount a 1″ x 20″ piece of wood to the top of the mirror and put your hanger on that piece of wood so that your mirror leaned forward. That way you are able to see the room and not the ceiling. It works every time. Love the show. Gayle

  67. I have never been disappointed in reading ANY of your posts! You ALWAYS have great ideas, great color choices, and great writing skills!
    I wish I were YOU!! maybe…some day!

  68. Thank you for sharing mantle information. My mantle is my source of frustration as I have cove ceilings and the height issue is my constant battle. Currently my mantle looks as sad as the cold grey rain soaked area that I live in. BUT……thanks to you, I have renewed energy and hope for my mantle. I will try again and again.

  69. love this segment. Have you thought about adding a special segment for those of us toying with the idea of creating a diy mantle or finding an antique mantle and adding it our walls as a standalone wall decor element….without a fireplace insert. I’d like to see how others decorate their walls with mantles but no fireplaces.