How to Decorate a Fireplace Mantel
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It's not a bad thing to leave your fireplace mantel bare and untouched, but a little bit of decoration can bring many advantages. A well-decorated mantelpiece can render a stunning focal point, add personality to an otherwise lackluster fireplace, strengthen the theme of the room as well as make the entire space look more stylish. As inspiring as that may sound, decorating a fireplace mantel is not always an easy task. It's not just about putting up whatever knickknacks you find alluring. To execute this home-decor project like a pro, you've got to consider the overall mood and other elements of the room as well. Once you get a solid idea on how to fit it into the big picture, the rest will be a walk in the park!
Theme and Mood
Think of your mantelpiece as the fireplace's headwear, then imagine the rest of room to be its outfit. You wouldn't wear a baseball cap with a Givenchy cocktail dress, would you? And a diamond tiara wouldn't look so classy with gym clothing, would it? Always make sure your mantel decorations complement the theme of the room. For example, if you have a shabby-chic living room, framed black-and-white photos, vases of fresh flowers and decoupage art pieces would be great items to put on your fireplace mantel. For an Asian-inspired space, you could go with a Buddha statue, mini tea set, collection of Japanese wooden dolls, pair of incense jars, or bonsais. Also, ask yourself what kind of mood or atmosphere you would like to build? Relaxing, elegant, festive, luxurious, quirky or romantic? Allow the mood of the room to dictate your mantel decoration. Don't always follow the norm of what's "pretty" or what most people do. I wouldn't consider a crossbow and arrows to be flattering mantel ornaments for my own living room, yet in this picture of a gothic "man cave", they not only make sense but also lend the space a unique charm.
If you're not drawn to any décor theme in particular, you might want to decorate your fireplace mantel in consonance with the mood of each season instead. It would be quite refreshing to redecorate your mantelpiece every few months anyway, wouldn't it? However, keep in mind that your seasonal decoration should also work in harmony with the look of the entire room.
Fireplace Mantel Decorating Ideas for Each Season
Fall & Winter
decorative gourds and pumpkins
maple leaf garland
jars of colorful sand and pebbles
orange and white candles
small potted shrubs
vases of fresh flowers
Fireplace Mantel and Functionality
Before decorating your fireplace mantel, you should also consider whether this little space can serve any functional purposes. In a previous article, Fireplace Makeover Ideas, I discuss how we may turn an unused fireplace into something more functional, such as an entertainment center and a mini wine cellar. It's the same thing with a fireplace mantel; it doesn't have to be exclusively decorative but can also be very useful. For example, if you have more books than bookcases, you may use your mantel as an extra bookshelf. Or if the room is suffering from inadequate light, your mantel may be a good spot to place a mirror or a couple lamps. And if you have a nice collection of wines, you could conveniently store and display part of your collection right above your fireplace. Cute wine bottles would be pretty simple yet recommendable mantel ornaments.
Mantelpiece Decor Arrangement
Once you pick the décor items for your fireplace mantel, the big question that readily follows is how to arrange them all together. If you favor orderliness, a symmetrical arrangement is the way to go. The picture on the right shows how this style of arrangement can render such a lovely visual interest and elegant touch to the room. Conversely, in the picture above, knickknacks and candles of random sizes are grouped together in an asymmetrical fashion. Such an arrangement, although lacks a sense of order, does offer a charm of casualness. Another good question to ask yourself is: how much decoration does your fireplace mantel actually need? If you have a small living room, try to resist the temptation of overdecorating. It could appear overwhelming rather than artsy. One large mirror or framed picture along with a few small items should do the trick. For a spacious living room with a grand fireplace, on the other hand, you can go all the way with the decoration, especially if you want to make it the biggest focal point of the room. The design of your fireplace also matters. While a nondescript fireplace may be in need of stylish ornaments, a striking-looking one as in the picture below hardly requires any extra decoration. If you have a gorgeous fireplace like this, it's better to keep the mantel decoration minimal and allow the fireplace to simply show itself off!