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How to Style a Mantel

The fireplace is the anchor of the room, which means all eyes will be on how you style the mantel. How you decorate will depend on your personal style and the size, height and shape of your mantel, but here are some ideas to try.

Fireplace Mantel

Bigger Is Better

Make a statement with one large wall art piece hung above the mantel or leaned against the wall. How big is big? Aim for a piece that is at least ⅔ the size of the mantel. This could be a piece of artwork, a wall sculpture, clock or mirror. A mirror works better if the mantel is on the low side. Too tall, and you won’t get the full effect of the reflected items—plus, you’ll be “cut off” at the head when looking into it.

Create a Gallery Wall

The open space above the mantel is prime real estate for creating a gallery wall. Keep things interesting by staggering the placements, hanging items both horizontally and vertically, and even mixing framed art and sculptural wall pieces.

A gallery wall works best if you aren’t placing items on the mantel shelf itself, and the surrounding wall space is clear. Otherwise, you risk the area looking overly cluttered. This look is especially striking in a minimalist space.

Dare to Be Different

When you think of mantel decorations, items like vases and candles probably come to mind. Those are great, but for some extra punch, try mixing things up. Nearly anything that is visually interesting will work: sculptures, natural elements, bottles, finials, etc. Small items (paperweight size) such as figurines tend to get lost on a large mantel, so choose items that can stand up to the space.

Your mantel groupings can be as eclectic as you like, but in order for them to appear harmonious instead of cluttered, the items should have some unifying element: theme, texture, color palette, etc.

When choosing items for your mantel, always keep safety in mind. Items can be knocked off a tall or shallow mantel and break. Don’t use flammable items if they are near or could come in contact with the heat.

Love Those Layers

Overlapping frames look amazing on a mantel, especially if you vary the sizes and orientations (horizontal, vertical). Complete the look with decorative items layered in front, such as vases, stacks of vintage books, or candlesticks.

Create Balanced Contrast

A classic arrangement for a mantel is an art piece in the center, flanked by matching candlesticks and/or vases on either end. However, you don’t always have to match, or even have the same number of items on either side—just so long as they are evenly balanced in “visual weight.” For a striking arrangement, try starting with taller objects on the ends, then sloping down to shorter ones near the center.

Want More Decorating Ideas?

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