How to Style your Mantel

Summer is here and heating up fast, so we’re definitely not using our fireplaces for warmth in this season. But fireplaces are still part of our interiors and so they’re part of our decor. Let’s think about how to style your mantel for a fresh look in warmer weather.

Always begin with a mantel grouping. This could be a large painting or mirror, for example. This is the focal point, the center of attraction that draws your eye to the arrangement. You might center it on the mantel, or offset it if you’re going to balance it with other items. 

Let’s think about balance for a moment. Why shouldn’t we use just one vase with the mirror here? Well, you may be going for a spare, unfussy effect, but using a single item next to your larger piece will make your mantel arrangement lopsided. To keep it from looking heavier on one side, place another item or items on the opposite side of your focal piece.

In this grouping, even though there are two items on the right and just one on the left, the arrangement is balanced because the items on either side have similar visual weight. 

If you’re going for a formal styling, you could use the very same item on the right and left of your anchor piece. For a more informal look, you would mix, not match. Go for a variety of shapes--boxy lanterns, round vases, elongated candlesticks. 

A variety in textures will also be pleasing. Here, the eye keeps moving--from the reflective surface of the glass vase to the greenery to the painting to the distressed candlesticks, and back again. And overlap some of them to create depth, interest and a bridge from one item to the next.

If you want to display all the same kind of item--lanterns, for instance--you could add variety by differing the materials (metal, wood, ceramic) and their sizes and heights.

Every arrangement benefits from something natural, whether real plants and flowers or faux, so be sure to add something organic to your mix. You might use flowers, but foliage or branches also add life and texture.

Your fireplace may include a hearth as well as a mantel, so take that into consideration as you create your display. A variety of elements in different sizes, heights and textures will be most effective. Rather than lining up your pieces in a row, mix taller and shorter. If the things you’d like to use are similar in height, you can use risers like stacked books or a decorative box to elevate some of the pieces. 

Keep in mind that odd numbers of items are more interesting than even numbers. Just don’t use too many of anything. There’s a saying: “A good artist knows when to STOP.”

So, gather your pretty things, and with these design principles in mind, set your pieces on your mantel and arrange them. Stand back and look at your work, and adjust as needed. Soon, you’ll have a grouping you’ll be very proud of!