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! I know just how you might be feeling… “I worked so hard at getting my mantel the way I like it I just don’t want to touch it”. I know!!!! Or how about, “mantels are so hard to decorate I don’t think I can do it”. I thought that too! So today, I hope to give you tips to use so you can decorate the perfect mantel just right for you!
Do you think it looks eerily like the spring 2016 mantel? Here’s last year’s mantel…
I know it does! Last year’s mantel really exudes StoneGable’s casual, chippy, love of neutrals style. It was then, after hundreds and hundreds of decorated mantels that I found what I call my “mantel default setting”! To me… and let me say it again… TO ME this is the best my mantel has ever looked. It may not look that way to you but it says “StoneGable”! And isn’t it all about finding what works for us and our own unique style?
Here’s the great thing about finding a “mantel default setting”, you can keep many of the elements the same and change out just a few things when you need a season change!
I know mantels can be so difficult to decorate! Just look at how narrow my mantel is! Just a book wide!
And it’s long too! But I’ve come up with some easy tips for finding your perfect “mantel default setting” just like I did! And once you have found it changing it up a little will be a breeze! So let’s get started and find the perfect mantel decor for you!
I must say… 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!
KNOW YOUR STYLE
My best advice is “know thyself”! You really need to know what you love and what you can look at and live with every day. Don’t put one thing on your mantel because it is trendy or so and so loves it. Only put things YOU love on your mantel!
LAYER, LAYER, LAYER
Layering is one key to an interesting mantel. Even though my mantel is very narrow I still can layer decor by hanging things on the wall. The repainted clock was hung in the middle of the mantel wall with two chippy vintage shutter flanking it on each side. This gives the mantel space a great background and fills up the blank wall space between the mantel and the ceiling. The layered items against the wall should be the tallest things you use on your mantel.
The layered items against the wall should be the tallest things you use on your mantel.
Think carefully about what you hang or lean as the background layer of your mantel. I don’t recommend a mirror if your mantel is tall like mine. We had a gorgeous mirror leaning on the mantel for years until it dawned on my that all the mirror was reflecting was the ceiling. Not very pleasing!
Choose something that you love looking at!
Curated items should be layered in front of the taller background items. Againcarefullyarefuly about what you are putting on your mantel. The should look collected and work well together.
The family room at StoneGable is casual and used very hard! So I wanted the mantel to be casual too. The mantel reflects my love for time-worn, one-of-a-kind pieces as well as burlap and books.
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. There are chippy elements all over the mantel. And the shutters, lamps, and books are repeated too.
This is such a subtle way to make a collection of items on a mantel look like they belong together.
DON’T OVER CROWD IT
Don’t stuff your mantel full of tchotchkes from end to end. Leave some empty space. Our eyes need to rest. So the ends of my mantel are empty and there is space between the element of the mantel.
An easy way decorate a mantel without overcrowding it is to break it up into small sections like I did below…
You might want to study what I have in each of the sections. Section 2 and 3 are balanced but not exactly symmetrically. This style is so easy on the eyes! Section 1, in the middle, is different but because of the repeated element of books works with the other two sections.
Varying the height of things on a mantel makes it interesting! Use books and stools and cake pedestals and other objects as risers!
I used the little black stool to elevate the pitcher of tulips. Just think how much less interesting the mantel would be if the pitcher of tulips was sitting directly on the mantel or the stone finial was not topping off a stack of burlap covered books.
The image below 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.
BIGGER IS BETTER
A big decorative item is far more appealing than a gaggle of small things when it comes to decorating a mantel. Mantels are not usually looked at close up! I wonder how many of you saw our house mouse sleeping under the black stool? When we moved into our first home we found him sleeping on a kitchen window sill and he’s been with us ever since. He would literally be lost if you were standing across the room looking at the mantel!
Small items look frumpy and dated and the beauty of a fireplace mantel is squandered when only little things occupy that focal space. Go big and bold.
KEEP IT FRESH
When you find that perfect combination of elements don’t be afraid to keep it fresh by changing a few things up.
I’m going to keep this “default mantel setting” for a whole year and show you how I keep it fresh by adding and editing elements to curating a look and style that is all mine without taking down the entire mantel and starting from scratch… AGAIN!
Why don’t you work on perfecting your mantel decorating skills and come up with a mantel that is all your own and your own style? Then let’s work together and create a year’s worth of amazing mantels. Are you up for the challenge?
I’ll be freshening up this mantel for summer in May! Stay tuned!
If you missed our podcast episode #8 DECORATING MANTELS you might like to listen to it. We have many other tips to help you style that perfect mantel!
You can listen below:
You can listen to any and all of the podcast and get the show notes and any links to post we are talking about HERE.
You might like to follow me on Pinterest and see all the decor I’m finding to pin every day HERE.