Fireplace Mantel Decor: 5 Simple Tips for Styling Your Mantel

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Your home’s living room is where you gather. It’s where your guests are entertained, and where your family reconnects. While not all living rooms contain an architectural feature such as a fireplace, for those that do, it becomes a natural focal point for the space. What is a focal point, exactly? A focal point is the room’s most prominent feature, around which all other elements are positioned. When it comes to living rooms that are endowed with a fireplace, it’s here that a few small, simple changes to your fireplace mantel decor can completely transform your space. Read on for simple, easy-to-implement ideas that can make a big impact.

The Art of Layering

Wall mirror as anchor.
Artwork as anchor.

When styling our clients’ spaces — built-in shelves, coffee tables, end tables and other key spaces — our guiding principle is to layer in your elements. By adding in a few key accessories, then playing with height, scale, and color, you can create a well-balanced vignette that feels cohesive and personal. Some of the best styling elements for fireplace mantel decor include:

  1. Vases and Candlesticks
    These are some of our favorite elements for grounding the ends of your layered mantel. The key is to group elements in odd numbers (groups of three, five, etc.) for balance, and then play with a variety of heights. To ensure a sense of depth and dimension, try to avoid placing your elements in a straight line across your mantel. Instead, try positioning a shorter item in front, overlapping with a taller element.
  2. Greenery
    Your greens can either be fresh or faux stems, but even a touch of greenery adds instant life to your room, and is a great way to create height exactly to your specifications. If you opt for faux stems, just be sure to seek out greens that are as life-like as possible.
  3. Books 
    Books are perfect for adding in personal touches that make your space feel unique to your interests. When stacked, they can provide height, color and even texture, and are perfect tools to lean on when striking the right balance for your styled vignette. (More on selecting books here.)
  1. Decorative Accents
    This category of elements really runs the gamut, and varies depending on your room’s core interior design style, or even theme. Take a coastal space, for example. You might draw elements from a coastal palette, like sandy taupe, natural woven elements like seagrass, or ocean blue ceramic vessels. Some timeless pieces we love folding in as decorative accents include interesting antique tabletop pieces (and antique-inspired) or a strand of beads to rest atop a stylish stack of books.  

How to Style a Mantel

Fireplace mantel decor

1. Choose an anchor for your focal point. 

This is the piece that does the heavy lifting. For this placement, we love sourcing a fabulous work of art (more on how to choose a work with the right proportions) featuring colors that complement the larger color palette for your living room.

Wall Mirror
Another favorite idea for fireplace mantel decor is to hang a statement wall mirror above your mantel. Perhaps it’s a natural woven round mirror or an eye-catching wave mirror for a coastal space. Or, you might consider an ornate arched brass wall mirror for a more traditional space, or a more pared-down arched mirror for a transitional living room). Mirrors tend to enhance your perception of space by bouncing light around the room, creating the illusion of greater depth — so they can be a great solution, especially for smaller spaces.

Layering Art
Layering a smaller work of art, such as a print or delicate drawing, on top of your primary focal point is also a popular styling option. We love botanical prints and minimalist drawings for this purpose like this or this.

Art TV
Alternatively, we’ve seen clients find great success with an art TV over the mantel. These are particularly good choices for family rooms that skew on the more casual side. When the television is not in use, beautiful imagery of your choice displays instead. 

2. Ground your corners with height.

After you’ve selected your focal point, the next step is to balance your composition by grounding your corners with layers that add height. This can come in the form of a lovely vase with greenery stems, or a grouping of candleholders in varying heights. We love working with greenery as it tends to add a hint of life to your space (even a good faux stem can trick the eye). When opting for candleholders, the key is to group in odd numbers (threes are favorites) and a variety of heights.

3. Use a stack of books as your base.

If you’re in need of just a few more inches to achieve the perfect balance of height, folding in a base of two or three books is a perfect way to add the levels you need to set your vignette. When styling client homes, we always try to select titles that reflect your personal interests. If you’re short on time, however, many major retailers sell collections of books that are already grouped by color family for a perfectly styled stack.

4. Fold in decorative accents to fill in any gaps.

Bud vases, small, shallow jewelry dishes, decorative beads and other decorative objects work beautifully to round out small groupings of decorative elements.

5. Simple symmetry is sometimes the key. 

That old adage “less is more” is popular for a reason. Sometimes, knowing when to edit, and not to add, is the key to success. Depending on your fireplace surround and the structural elements that flank the fireplace (such as built-ins or bookshelves) sometimes the best solution for your mantel decor is relying on one key focal point — perhaps a mirror or work of art (see step #1 above) — and flanking it with a fabulous pair of wall sconces for a clean, spare, and balanced look. 

Fireplace mantel decor with simple symmetry
A simple, symmetrical styling option featuring a single work of art as a focal point, flanked by a pair of sconces.

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round woven wall mirror
abstract landscape painting
Samsung Art TV
Candlestick holders
coastal candlestick holders
Brass candlestick holders
white vase
Blue vase
Faux greenery stems
Bamboo picture frame
Rattan picture frame
Decorative beads
Stack of styled books
Decorative coral
Antique-style mantel clock