Many people associate decorating a fireplace mantel with the arrival of the holiday season, but truthfully, mantels deserve a little love all year long. "The mantel is often the center and anchor of the room, and it's the perfect place to make a statement," notes Jason Saft, stylist and founder of Staged to Sell Home.
While you may drape garland and candlesticks atop your mantel in December, there are actually plenty of ways to get creative with accessories all year long. However, there are a few important principles you'll want to keep in mind to ensure that your mantel appears sophisticated, grand, and not overfilled. To help you get started on the right foot, we consulted Saft and other experts, who weigh in below with useful tips and tricks to keep in mind during the styling process.
Select a "Grounding Piece" First
This may consist of either artwork or a mirror, Saft notes. "If centered on the wall, leave anywhere from eight to 10 inches from the base of the frame to the mantel, or lean the frame on the mantel for a more casual look," he suggests. Molly Acorn, founder of Mantel House DC, is partial to mirrors. "Mirrors will create the illusion of depth and reflect any light, making the space feel bigger," she explains.
Place Accessories on One Side of the Main Piece
Saft follows a key formula when it comes to incorporating accessories on the mantel. "I group two to three objects on one side of the mantel, varying heights with some sort of unifying theme: color, texture, or shape will help maintain a compelling visual identity," he explains." I tend to bring in earthy elements as my accent pieces: Crystals, stones, candles, matches, branches, weathered antiques, et. cetera." Not as into small trinkets? "You can even rest a smaller piece of art on the larger focal point piece for a layered look," Saft offers.
Be Mindful of Scale
No matter the accessories you choose to display, be sure to keep scale in mind, states designer Jen Dallas. "If all of the accessories are too short then the display won’t be very interesting from afar," she comments. "Most people view a mantel from far away, not up close." Hayley English, of Hayley English Interiors, agrees. "Have fun with tall greenery and pieces on a grand-sized mantel," she says. "Or, complement a petite mantel with appropriately sized items that don't overpower the space." You'll want to play with a mix of heights regardless, states designer Hema Persad. "Make sure you have some taller items and some shorter items," she notes. "Too much of one height gets visually boring."
Then Tackle the Other Side
Don't forget about jazzing up the opposite side of your mirror or art piece. "You can choose a symmetrical display or an asymmetrical display," Dallas states. "I like to usually go asymmetrical and chose one larger piece such as a piece of art or a tall candle. Then, I will balance the rest of the accessories from there."
Saft takes a similar approach and prefers to keep thing simple by setting out one singular object. His decor of choosing? "Often something with height, such as an antique candlestick or a simple vase with a dramatic branch," he says. "The possibilities are endless."
Keep in mind that there is no reason that you must purchase all of your accessories brand new. "Check your local thrift stores for items with character that you can add to give your mantel a really unique look rather than buying everything from a big box store," Persad says. "This way it's highly unlikely that your mantel will look like anyone else's."
Address the Hearth
Last but not least, you'll want to tackle the hearth or mantel opening. Even if your fireplace is decorative and non-functioning, you can still be thoughtful with your finishing touches. As Acorn suggests, "Get creative with logs, either in a basket sitting on the hearth or stacked next to the mantel." You can even zhush up this area with books, sculptures, or plants, as Acorn did in the space pictured below.