Make the Most of Your Mantel - Design Ideas!

Learn how to decorate the focal point of your living room.

Posted by Linda Merrill | Sep 24, 2009
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As we all know, the focal point of any room with a fireplace is sure to be the mantel. But often, we don't know exactly what to do with that space. Do we line up family photos? Prop up a mirror? Stick a bunch of vases up there like little soldiers lined up like a marching band? So many choices!

Start with a Single Primary Item: Place a Mirror Above the Mantel

A decorative mirror is one of the most common items we'll see gracing the space above the mantel. An excellent decorative accessory, a mirror reflects light and can make a small space feel larger. One important tip: make sure that what is reflected in the mirror is interesting to look at! If it is positioned incorrectly, all you will see is ceiling-not so interesting. Likewise, if the view in the mirror is a bathroom across the room, a blank wall or long dark hallway-then this is probably not your best choice. However, if the view is of windows looking over the back yard, or another lovely room, a mirror is a great choice!

Family Portraits - Another Mantelpiece Option

Another well-used choice for over the mantel is the big family or children's portrait. There is a lot of debate in the decorating community about whether family photos get the thumbs up or thumbs down when it comes to décor. Ultimately, it is truly about personal preference, but most can agree that an out of date photographic portrait is clearly a no-no. Photography is about capturing a real moment and as such, it dates quickly. On the other hand, a painting or drawing, if done well or by a respected artist, doesn't date like a photograph and has a timeless appeal that will always work.

Seasonal Wreaths

Another popular choice for over the mantel is a seasonal wreath. For year round decorating options, try dried flowers or silk for spring and summer, dried leaves and yellow or orange berries for fall, or an evergreen wreath with baby's breath and holly berries during the winter holidays.

Add Lighting Around Your Mantel

So, we now have our focal point-how to accessorize around it? Adding lighting such as hardwired sconces or candles is a time honored touch. Plus, if the fireplace is not working or you never have time to light one, this is a great way to add warmth. Other smaller items such as vases, smaller framed photos or paintings, antique or vintage collections, or even sea shells can work well too.

The Three Basics of Mantel Decoration

Setting the mantel is all about creating a mood or honoring something important in your life. Here are three quick tips to get you started:

  • Choose a large central item
  • Add lighting
  • Keep in mind the power of odd numbers. Never have two or four items. Groups of threes or fives work best-as the eye likes having a focal, or center, point. Therefore, a mirror with two sconces is your group of three. If you add a group of three small vases or ceramics in different sizes to that mix, you still maintain an overall grouping of three: one mirror, one pair of sconces and one grouping of vases. It's a simple theory that will always provide appealing results.
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