Solving the Mystery: Decorating Your Mantel

Is it really just trial and error? Or is there a magic formula?

Maybe a little of both.  

Decorating your fireplace mantel isn't as mysterious as you may think!  Here is a basic formula to follow (scroll down for an illustration of "The Formula")

1. Center something large:  Perhaps a large piece of art or a mirror - and either lean it against the wall, or hang it no more than 2 inches above the mantel.  This is your starting point!

Next my friends, we will layer - layer - layer -  and here's how to do it:

2.  Left = Movement.   Several tall things of varying height that cause the eye to move, drawing it from  a lower point to a higher point (which is the large art piece.)  Candlesticks are a good choice.  Remember: layer!  Have this grouping slightly overlap the center large piece. Stacked books can be placed under items to add height.

3. Right  = One substantial piece,  something  "heavy" such as a chubby vase, chunky statue. (Yes remember - layer!  Slightly overlap the center piece!) 

4. Accessories:  Next, layer in smaller pieces - maybe framed photos, little what-nots, choose at least one thing that is unexpected and sort of funky!  Great place to add seasonal decor. Remember LAYER LAYER LAYER, and vary the heights and shapes of these items (stacked books placed under items, are fantastic for varying heights) Think of these layered- in accessories as a whole picture in terms of a "wave" from left to right, the wave should begin low, then high, then low, then high, and end low.

Consider the Triangle Idea: Think of your mantel as a big triangle - the tip is the top of your "large" piece of art (whether art, mirror, etc) and the triangle base (long part) sits on your mantle.  The basic shape of your mantel arrangment should fit in that triangle..

I found this very nifty and helpful sketch online that illustrates the formula pretty well (I would love to give credit where credit is due, but it is one of those things re-used by so many - that I couldn't track down the original source.)


The items in the above illustration are a bit different than the numbered formula I used (I combined #4 and #5 into one).

Q: Do you have to follow "The Formula" to have a great looking mantel?

A:  Of course not, silly.  I am only offering a helpful little tool it you want some help getting started. 

 OK, how about  a few examples from some recent Dress Your Digs jobs?  Remember, we do makeovers using the furniture and accessories that you already have - so we are using what the client had in their home.  And you'll see that the mantel accessorizing  sometimes  fits into The Formula" - and other times, it does not.  That's OK!




Above:  Do you like the mirror, leaning against the wall?  The tray, layered in front, gives some nice depth.


 As I look at the mantel above, I would like to switch the two items on the left (dog on books / vase) around, and on the right - same thing - switch the clock with the smaller accessories.  Attention, owners of this mantel:  Try switching these!



 The mantel above was a bit challenging - the client didn't have a large piece of art, or a large mirror.  So we used the wreath as the large, center piece.


The mantel above happens to belong to Yours Truly.  There is a mix of things that have meaning to me - one of my kids' insect collection, a pitcher that was part of my parent's wedding dishes, a little horse rock picture I did at age 6.  I change my mantel out very, very frequently.  So this photo captures a brief moment-in-time in the life of our mantel..



 The mantel above fits the formula pretty well.  By the way, did you know that decorating with globes is all the rage?  Just thinking of a globe sitting out all the time makes me feel smart.  



Another great example (above) of books being used to vary the height. Also I love how the art is layered against the mirror.

Go ahead - experiment!  What have you got to lose?

 Or contact us - we will come and do it for you!  Did you know that some people have us come over just to accesorize shelves and the mantel?


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