Creative Ideas for Your Mantel

Turn your fireplace mantel into a wow-worthy focal point with a decorating makeover.


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Start with a Color
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Start with a Color

    Use your fireplace mantel as a place to showcase your favorite color. Here, a collection of turquoise vases pop against gray artwork and walls. Be bold with layering and position a small piece of art over a large piece.

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Contrasting Color

    To turn an ordinary fireplace into a focal point, paint the mantel and the wall above it a color that contrasts the room?s main wall color. Base the color on another element within the room for a cohesive look. Here, the mantel?s blue hue was matched to the stone on the fireplace surround.

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Stick To It

    For an affordable mantel artwork update, try a decal to add visual interest without the cost of a gallery piece. Consider the size of the wall above your mantel and the width of the fireplace when picking out a decal to choose a design that isn?t too small or too large.

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Simple & Symmetrical

    In a traditionally decorated space, keep your mantel decor simple and uniform. Here, a mirror and matching sconces flow with the rest of the living room?s formal flair. Balance and proportion come into high prominence in classic decor. The mirror takes up half the wall above the mantel and is perfectly centered, while the sconces flanking the mirror are hung so the tops of the shades align with the top of the mirror.

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Contemporary Country

    Country style leans casual but can be given a sophisticated vibe with a few contemporary elements. This stone fireplace is decidedly country, but the abstract artwork above the mantel lends a modern edge. Although stylistically different, the artwork blends with the room, thanks to its color palette. The blues, greens, and yellows in the painting pick up on the hues on the sofa, throw pillows, and accessories.

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Crisp with Contrast

    In a room filled with contrasting colors and supple textures, this crisp white fireplace earns the designation of focal point, thanks to its handsome details and beautiful styling. A neutral fireplace contributes balance to a room filled with sculptural furniture and detailed accessories. Decorate the mantel according to the fireplace?s style for additional eye appeal. Here, black-and-white artwork in white frames melds beautifully with the carved white mantel and gray-veined marble surround.

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Go Eclectic

    Be confident in an eclectic style by incorporating a few repeating elements, which will create a chic, not disorganized, look. In this living room, the fireplace is the pinnacle of crisp eclecticism. Photos above the fireplace, although arranged asymmetrically, come off as unified because their frames are similar. They also match other pieces of artwork within the space, tying the mantel to the rest of the room. The blue, gray, and white pottery pieces fall in line with the rest of the space?s accessories. The intricate mirror keeps the charming collected look going and stands in contrast to the mantel?s other modern elements.

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A Twist on Symmetry

    The dictionary defines symmetry as "beauty of form arising from harmonious proportions." We call it a can't-miss mantel strategy. Start with a large object in the center (here, driftwood), then place pairs of objects on either side. They don't have to be identical, just related. For example, two different terra-cotta pots still look like they belong together. Symmetry doesn't have to mean stiff -- the organic shapes of branches and seedpods keep this arrangement casual.

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Asymmetrical Twist

    An asymmetrical arrangement harmonizes objects of different shapes and sizes. Balance a tall, large object with several smaller ones, but not too small -- mantels swallow up dinky accessories. Nestle the assemblage tightly together to increase its visual weight, and overlap shapes to create layers. A concise color palette gives seemingly unrelated objects a unified theme. Shop your house or discount stores for items in the same color family. You can't miss with pitchers, plates, books, and pottery.

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Repetition Works

    Multiples always have more impact than a single item. Fill three or four frames with a series of similar images, and lean (don't hang) them on the mantelshelf. Because they won't overpower the art or each other, simple white frames with white mats are a good choice. The only potential pitfall is using too-small frames, so make sure yours are at least one-third the height of the chimney breast (ours are 18x24 inches).

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Layer it Up

    Layering is more than displaying everything you own. The technique allows you to show off a variety of objects without straying into a cluttered look. Begin by considering how to create a sense of continuity in what you collect. Here, a grouping of the family?s monogram, N, works as the foundation element. The variety of shapes and sizes in the rest of the objects allows for an interesting pattern within a consistent overall look. Incorporate other striking objects that add height and contrast to your core collection.

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Burst of Color

    To warm up a stark mantel, add colorful artwork. This abstract piece, awash in white, yellow, and orange, gives a friendly feeling to the clean-lined fireplace and hearth. Incorporate one or two other accessories in a similar color to draw the hue around the room.

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Make Layering Work

    As you arrange your mantel, place taller objects in the back. Vary the heights of objects by using stands or holders; the highs and lows give visual energy. Leave some gaps for breathing room between displays. Think of the objects in small groupings that relate to one another as a large grouping. Touches from nature, such as driftwood and branches, bring a well-composed grouping to life. Consider seasonal changes, such as spring flowers or fall gourds.

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Show Off Collections

    Collections are made to be displayed, and even relatively small objects, such as books, can work on a mantel if you mass enough of them. Treat groups of four or five same-size books as building blocks and fill the mantel end to end, alternating a horizontal stack with a vertical column. Use the stacks as pedestals to show off framed photos and other objects you like. For the books, hardbacks work best. Remove the dust jackets to downplay the typography of the titles, and pay attention to balancing the colors of the spines.

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Single Statement

    Use your mantel to showcase a single, showstopping piece. Here, an oversize metal sunburst creates a striking focal point in this elegant dining room. If you think your mantel looks a little bare with just one piece, add a pair of understated candlesticks to give it a little more presence.

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