Décor is what makes a house a home. And nothing says "home" quite like a well decorated fireplace mantel. Displaying artwork, knick-knacks, photos, and memorabilia around and above your fireplace is a great way to set your space apart. The combination of art work or a mirror hanging a few inches above the mantel, an odd number of candles, vases, and photos strategically placed, and other design accents offers an eye catching focal point as you enter the room.
Fireplace mantel decorating can elevate your space from "cookie-cutter" to "stylized". Follow these simple fireplace mantels decorating ideas, to watch your fireplace mantel come to life.
If your house did not already come equipped with a fireplace, or it is time for an upgrade, there are a few factors to consider in this process, the most important being material. Fireplace mantels come in a wide variety of materials and finishes. Each of these conveys a different message and creates a specific ambiance in your room. If you are looking for a wood fireplace mantel, you might be creating a more cozy and comforting room. If you choose a mantel constructed of stone, you might create a more modern and contemporary space.
Wood Fireplace Mantels
Wooden fireplace mantels allow for a variety of different finishes. These range from paint to stain, to clear coated wood. One you have selected the finish that matches your space, it is time to get decorating. For mantels that are painted, white is a common and popular choice. A clean, white finish creates a modern, but cozy aesthetic in your living room.
To accentuate this feature, hang a large-scale framed photograph or piece of art work, ten to twelve inches above the top of the fireplace mantel. This piece of fireplace mantel décor will bring the eye upward, and make your room appear taller. Choosing a mirror for this space, is also a good way to add depth to a small room.
Placing items in odd numbered arrangements creates visual interest. Choose three items that vary in height and color. A personal favorite is a combination of flower vases, candles and personal photos. The human eye likes to look at symmetrical images. Therefore, try to pick items that you can duplicate the same or similar stylized decorations on both sides of your mantel.
Fireplace mantels constructed of painted wood, display colored items well. Pick flowers and candles that match your curtains, carpet, or throw pillows, to bring continuity to your room. If your room features a large amount of white — walls, fireplace mantel, flooring, etc. — use this as a perfect opportunity to bring a pop of your favorite color into your space.
Stained or wood-finished mantels can be used to create a rustic look and feel to your home. To enhance this warm feeling select items that feature texture and deep colors. By using decorations that contrast the hard lines and solid nature of the exposed wood of your fireplace mantel, you can create an intimate space for your family to gather.
Textured items that display deep colors, can be tricky to find. Start by looking for photo frames constructed using materials from nature or feature a layered design. A favorite is metal finished frames, featuring details such as nail finishes, painted colors or filigrees. Try shopping at your local thrift store or estate sales to find vintage pieces that feature brass or metal construction. When you combine the cold metal with the warmth of the wood, and the glow of the fire, your room will the spot for all of your family and friends to meet.
A wood fireplace mantel that sits on top of a stone fireplace hearth, will give you the best of both worlds. By featuring two natural elements in your space, you are given more freedom to play with your decorating. This is a perfect place to display your collectibles. If you collect tea cups, thimbles, figurines or antiques, place similarly colored items together in groups, to create a color story and show off your favorite treasures. By grouping like-colored items together, you create visual interest, as well as bring a personal element to your space.
Stone and Brick Fireplace Mantels and Surrounds
Stone fireplace mantels are another great option that can help set the stage for a more modern and contemporary space. Much like wood mantels, stone can either be painted or unpainted, in dark or light colors. With a wide variety of options, you can choose how your stone fireplace mantel sets the stage for the way your room will feel.
Unpainted stone comes in a variety of different colors and textures. If you choose to leave the stone unpainted, your décor options should reflect and balance the natural look of your type of stone. Some popular choices of unpainted stone are, natural brick, white marble, or granite.
Natural brick fireplace surrounds are popular because they can be easily painted, as a quick weekend project, or unpainted, and left to display its own natural beauty. If you choose to paint your brick fireplace surround, ensure a high heat tolerance paint is used to avoid potential discoloration. White is a popular choice to paint over the classic look of brick, but it can darken with time. With the addition of white paint, your surround can become bright and lively, allowing you to place bright colored vases, flowers, and artwork above and around the mantel.
If you choose to display the brick in its natural state, look for items that are predominantly white and grey. This contrasting color will make your decorations pop, as well as, bring out the red and orange tones of the brick.
White marble is a modern and contemporary choice. It creates a clean and a simple look. Using a minimal amount of decorations and allowing the tiny nuances of the marble to take center stage. Small and simple dark colored objects play off the brightness of the marble.
Granite is also a very popular fireplace surround material. The wide range of colors and textures create a variety of different feelings in your space. Like brick, granite can also be painted to match and update your living space. If you select a piece of granite with a lot of movement, colors, and variations, allow the beauty of the stone to shine, by displaying a minimal amount of décor. If your fireplace surround is less flashy, select items that contrast the granite.
How to Properly Hang Artwork
If hanging one piece of artwork, centered, is not your style try placing numerous small, but similar stylized items in clusters. By hanging framed pieces, all two-inches from one another, you can create a strong visual interest, expanding the space of your fireplace, and creating a unique look for your space.
Does the thought of hanging multiple items make you feel panicked? Here is smart plan to ensure that you place all of your pieces exactly where you want them, the first time. You will need to gather butcher paper, painters' tape, a T-Square, items to be hung, pencil, hammer & nails, level, and a tape measure.
To begin, measure your piece of butcher paper the length of your fireplace mantel. Next, find all the items you are interested in hanging in this space. Again, look for continuity in your selections. They should all feature a similar color or similar theme. This is incredibly important, as you want to ensure that your fireplace mantel has a cohesive feel and a united motif.
Place your pre-measured butcher paper on a clean flat surface. Next, place your items on the butcher paper, as you would want them displayed on the wall. Here are few key tricks of the trade, to remember when creating groupings of hanging photos.
- Create balance by mirroring large and small items.
- If you are struggling to find large pieces, when framing small items, place them in a frame with a large mat to create a larger image.
- Ensure all your images are framed the same, feature the same colored mat, and display consistency in their images.
Place two larger framed items along the right and left border and mix your smaller items in between. You can also flip this idea, by placing larger framed items in the center, and smaller items along the exterior border. If all of your images are the same size, create clean lines that form a pattern. If you do not have enough items to hang, try installing a floating shelf, and placing decorative items in this extra space. This is a great time to take advantage of high ceilings wide walls and display a contrasting color to the paint on your walls.
Once you have come up with an arrangement that you like, use your tape measure and T-Square to ensure that everything is aligned, and your spaces are even. This is the time to make all the necessary adjustments, before putting holes in your wall. Now that you are happy with the placement of your decorations on the butcher paper, trace an outline of each item with a pencil. Make a notation where the nail should be placed, on the butcher paper. This is your template or stencil, you will use when hanging the décor.
Using painters' tape, as to not damage your walls, tape your butcher paper template to the wall. Use your tape measure and level to ensure that you are attaching it to the wall straight, level, and centered. Once this is in position, place the correct nail through the hanger notation you previously made. Always measure twice, and nail once. Double check the centering of the nails, before placing them into your wall. Once you have all your nails in place remove your butcher paper and hang your artwork. Now you have a beautifully comprised arrangement of photos and art displayed above your fireplace. Your friends will think you hired a professional to accomplish this incredibly detailed task.
Corner fireplaces require a different set of standards to create a seamless display of artwork and accessories. Usually, a corner fireplace has a larger, deeper mantel. One that is often large enough to house a television. Do not place your TV upon your mantel without checking to ensure that proper clearances and structural integrity is maintained. This space can also be used to house indoor house plants, display collectibles, share family photos or place additional lighting for your room. Vary the height of your objects placed on this corner mantel, to ensure that everything is visible from the front. It is easy to lose small or short photographs, behind larger candles and flowers.
If you would like to create visual interest in this cornered space, place a large mirror as far back as possible, to cover the angle of the corner. By placing a mirror here, you open the space, loose the harsh lines of the wall, and create a strong visual. Hang sconces on the wall, on either side of the mirror or cornered fireplace mantel, to create visual interest, but not lose the ability to view your artwork. It is not recommended to hang portraits or small family photos on the wall, above a corner fireplace, as they can be difficult to view straight on.
Although the mantel is the highlight of your room, don't forget that this piece can help set the stage for decorating the rest of your fireplace. Use the themes, colors and textures, featured on top of the mantel, to carry down to the sides and hearth. If you placed items that feature a large amount of metal or brass, purchase fireplace tools that mirror these materials. This will create a cohesive consistency in your room.
But wait . . . There's More!
To complete the look of your fireplace mantel, you may want to decorate the sides and bottom of the fireplace. You can place large planters with greenery or tall candles, to bring the eye out and down, to view the entire fireplace as a whole. Make sure the pieces you place alongside the fireplace extend the eye, and don't counteract all the detailed work you put into the placement of items on the top of the mantel. The décor on the floor, should only enhance the space, and create a larger focal point. It should not detract from or make the visual appear cluttered.
Fireplace mantels are a focal point of any living space. They welcome you, convey warmth, and display the items you love. Take your time creating a landscape that shows off who you and your family truly are, by placing carefully selected items in a strategic manner. Your time an effort will not go to waste, as this important piece of your home furnishings is sure to create a beautiful living space for years to come.