The fireplace has always been a beacon of warmth and comfort. It can often be associated with the safety you get from being part of a strong, loving family. While it seems to get the most attention during the colder months of the year, many people ignore it the remainder of the time. Since your fireplace isn’t going anywhere and most guests will be spending time in the living room, it is important that your fireplace looks good year-round.
This guide is here to show you how to decorate a fireplace mantle. Whether you are installing a new fireplace or giving your existing fireplace a makeover like something off of HGTV, we will cover several types of mantel decorating strategies and decorating ideas. For many people, the fireplace mantel is the most impressive part of their living room, so it deserves the same interior design attention that you give to the rest of the house.
In this post, you will learn:
- Your preferences – We will help you figure out exactly what styling you prefer for your fireplace mantel so that you can focus on what is most important to you as the homeowner.
- Design Features – We will give you several ideas on how to decorate your fireplace mantel. This will give you a foundation to build upon so you can come up with more fireplace mantle decorating ideas on your own.
- Common Mistakes – We will cover common DIY mistakes that you can avoid to save you time when coming up with design ideas.
- Design Principles – We will help explain how to decorate a fireplace mantle in a way that compliments the current aesthetic of your home decor.
Now that you know what kind of things this guide will cover, let’s cover some important, preliminary questions before we jump into fireplace mantle decorating.
What Kind Of Fireplace?
What kind of fireplace do you currently have? If you are installing a fireplace, what kind are you planning to install?
Do you have a traditional brick fireplace or one with a wood mantel? This would look good with a modern farmhouse aesthetic. The farmhouse style goes especially well with shiplap walls.
Are you installing an electric fireplace like MagikFlame? This kind of fireplace would look great with many styles including mid-century modern or something with a very minimalist color scheme.
By first taking note of what kind of fireplace you currently have or are planning to install, it will make it easier to choose a style of fireplace mantel decor that is right for you.
Should You Consider A MagikFlame?
Not all places are ideal for a traditional fireplace. If you lived in a large city like New York, you likely just have an apartment with no fireplace. However, you can still install a MagikFlame electric fireplace that has a great realistic look without all of the extra hassle.
Not only do MagikFlame electric fireplaces have more than 30 variations of authentic flames, they also include realistic crackling log sounds and have a 5,200 BTU heater built right into it. You can learn more and figure out if they are right for you by checking out the MagikFlame electric fireplace buying guide.
What Kind Of Style Do You Prefer?
When coming up with mantel decor ideas, you need to consider the living space around the fireplace. The living room design plays a big part in the way you decorate a fireplace mantle. You want to match the style of your fireplace to that of the room it is in. For example, a rich wood mantle goes well with a nice wooden coffee table or bookcase, especially if you match the wood type and stain.
If your fireplace is quite flat against the wall, consider installing a fireplace surround kit. While the cost can vary quite a bit, even the most expensive kits can be picked up for a good deal during Black Friday or another sale.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to make some mistakes when you decorate a fireplace mantle for the first time. For example, if you have a real fireplace, it’s not a good idea to install a TV above the fireplace. Heat and smoke particles can do permanent damage to your expensive TV.
Another common mistake with fireplace mantle decorating is adding entirely too many things. While you want your mantle to look full and lively, you also don’t want to crowd it with too many items. Often, less is more.
You want to avoid clashing styles within your fireplace design, and also avoid clashing it with the style of the room where it is located. Choose a style that is consistent throughout the space.
Choosing A Strong Focal Point
When you decorate a fireplace mantle, it’s good to have a focal point. This can be a large piece in the center that directs your eye to it. Your centerpiece should be the largest item placed on your mantle. It is also great if the centerpiece is the most ornate. The small details of a piece of art can work well here. However, you should choose one main art piece instead of several different pieces of art.
That being said, you can also choose a large family portrait, a large mirror, or a nice clock. You can also choose to forego a focal point altogether to achieve a more minimal, modern look.
Decorating With Mirrors
A large mirror over the fireplace as your main mantel display is a great way to make the room feel larger than it actually is. This is especially useful if the room is smaller in size.
You can also use a few smaller mirrors in an interesting design placed on the wall. If you go this route, place the mirrors in an offset pattern. Some slightly higher or lower than others. Maybe a little more on the left side than the right. You can also place a medium mirror on one side and then two smaller mirrors on the other side. This is a form of design principle known as asymmetric balance. Instead of being perfectly even on both sides, you keep it more interesting by balancing many small mirrors with fewer large mirrors.
Choose mirrors with interesting frames that match the aesthetic style you are going with. If you are doing more of a rural country style, use mirrors with a beautiful wood. If you are going for a modern style, you can try thin black or white frames. For a luxurious style, you can try some metal frames. While it can be tempting for the frames to be clean and glossy, you can get an interesting antique look with brass or similar metal that has a patina treatment done to it.
No matter what kind of mirrors you decide to go with, make sure to clean them regularly to keep them free from dust and smudges. There is no point in going to all of the trouble-making your fireplace mantle look nice if it just looks messy all of the time.
Decorating With Plants
When learning how to decorate a fireplace mantle, don’t overlook plants like fresh flowers and other greenery. Whether you are going for a rustic country look or a modern look, it is always fun to bring some of the outdoors to your indoor spaces.
By putting fresh-cut flowers into a small vase on your mantel, you can give a great splash of color while adding a nice refreshing scent to the room. This idea is especially good for people who love gardening. You can plant flowers outdoors and bring them inside for your mantle from time to time. What’s great about this is that you can have new beautiful flowers each season to keep things festive. Just make sure to take proper care of the flowers and change them frequently. Nobody wants to see dry, dying flowers wilting on the mantle.
A topiary or two is a great addition to a fireplace if you want to use plants to decorate. These are bushy plants that have been cut into specific shapes. Sphere topiaries are always a safe bet and go well with most styles. You can place small topiaries on top of the mantle. If you have space you can place a large one on either side. If you do this, choose topiaries that are slender and mostly vertical so that they don’t take up too much space.
Ivy or conifer branches make great decorations when lining the edge of the mantle. Conifer branches look especially great during the holiday season of the fall and winter months. If you use conifer branches, make sure to incorporate some pinecones and other natural objects. You can also place a wreath on the wall that fits the season.
Similar to having large, vertical topiary plants on either side of the fireplace at ground level, you can try small trees like an indoor ficus. Not only do they look great, but they also help clean the air by removing toxins. This leaves the room feeling fresh as if you were in the outdoors.
Regardless of which plants you go with, keep in mind that traditional fireplaces or electric fireplaces with heaters can dry your plants out. Make sure to leave them far enough away from the heat source. If you choose to go with fake plants, try to get something high quality that looks real and is made to be used around fireplaces.
Photos are a great way to decorate a fireplace mantle and probably one of the most common. You can do a large portrait of your family in a picture frame hanging on the wall. Or you can do several smaller family photos along the mantle.
If you are doing a large portrait of your family, it is worth investing in a session with a professional photographer. It is a good idea to wear matching color tones in the family photo, especially if you want it to match the color style you already have with the fireplace area. Don’t be afraid to include the family pets in the photo for some extra cuteness. While it can seem like a lot of work, taking time with a professional photographer is an excellent way to capture the warmth of your family to be displayed for years to come.
If you have any specific hobbies or interests, you can try placing photos along those lines. If you like to travel, you can put some pictures from some of your favorite destinations. If you like jazz, you can try some photos of famous jazz musicians or close up artistic shots of instruments. Think about what sorts of things interest you and be creative with your ideas.
While the fireplace is already a great source of light when it is on, there are additional lighting decorations that you can include to illuminate the space in an interesting way.
Large candlesticks in ornate candlestick holders can add a touch of elegance as well as provide a wonderful smell if you choose scented candles. Another option that involves candles is to place votives or prayer candles. These are great if religion and spirituality are a big part of your life.
Placing wall sconces high on either side of the mantle is a great way to bring some additional lighting elements. With both of these lights on and the fireplace going, it forms an interesting upside-down triangle with its three points of light. If you use a wall sconce or other electric light decorations, make sure to choose bulbs with a warm color temperature so that it is not distracting from the warm glow of the fireplace. A harsh white light can be an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful mantle design.
Additional Decorating Items
It’s easy to use plenty of other items with your mantle. You might have a beautiful family heirloom that deserves to be displayed. Ornate figurines or other similar pieces could also work.
You can always take a trip to an antique shop or somewhere else to find things that will fit your style. When looking, be sure to take the time to really see what speaks to you. Sometimes, creativity comes from just looking around at interesting stores until the right piece jumps out at you.
When you find a new piece that you think will work well with your mantle, look for other pieces that will match with it.
You can also do a search on websites like Pinterest to find thousands of great fireplace mantles to inspire you along the way.
Mixing It All Together
While this guide has offered a lot of fun suggestions, the real trick is when you mix all of the pieces and design elements together. It’s important to have a variety of elements to keep things from looking too plain. On the other hand, you don’t want to add in too much of a variety that you lose all sense of your theme.
When mixing your design elements together, keep in mind the fundamentals that we have laid out. Start with the type of fireplace you currently have or are planning to install. Next, choose a style that fits your aesthetic preferences and complements the style of the room that your fireplace is in. Finally, find pieces that match your fireplace and the style that you’ve chosen.
Make sure that your central design element is of a different type than the design elements of the items accenting it. One large painting in the center and two small paintings next to it might be too much. Instead, you can choose a large painting, a wall lighting element on either side, and some greenery on the mantle top. Or if you had a large mirror, you can add some candles. The light from the candles will be doubled in the reflection from the mirror, adding further depth.
If you have an abundance of items, try different variations. Leave it up for a week and see how it feels. Don’t be afraid to rearrange things once in awhile if things begin to seem stale. The changing of the seasons is a great time to reorganize your fireplace mantle.
The Importance Of Negative Space
There is one final thought that is important that we haven’t yet covered. It’s important to leave negative space within your design. Leave space between items. Give them room to breathe. There is no need to crowd every inch of the mantle top or fill the wall behind the mantle with 20 different hanging items.
Negative space is just as important part of the design as the actual items that you focus on. Both rustic styles and modern styles alike benefit from letting the few pieces you have do most of the visual work.