Mantel Mania: Part One

Okay folks- I hope you’re ready for a TON of photos!
First, I’m going to show you a bunch of photos of well-decorated mantels I found while surfing the web. Then, I’m going to show you some photos of some mantels I’ve had the pleasure of working on over the past couple of years.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

These first few photos are for those of you that have very shallow mantels…

My suggestion is to think about all the “skinny” things you can prop up against the wall on your mantel. Starfish, sand dollars, slender vases, unframed prints (just mat them in a variety of different-sized/colored mats and they’ll be good to go!), pieces of driftwood, smooth stones, old sheet music (adhered to thin pieces of cardboard for strength), plates, trays, etc. If you’re still having trouble, just hang something spectacular on the wall above the mantel to divert most of the attention up there instead. Here are some examples…

If you have enough room for framed prints, you will probably want to get some museum putty to ensure they don’t slide off.

Or you could skip decorating the mantel altogether and go crazy on the wall above…


For those who are working with a whole lotta mantel, you might want to check out what Emily did…

So pretty!

Here’s some more extra-long mantel inspiration…

One of my clients had an extra-long mantel dilemma, and although she wanted to, she wasn’t allowed to paint the original wood paneled walls above it either…

She really loved the look of painted paneling though, and hoped to create an easier, breezier, coastal feel throughout the room.

So I suggested attaching some strips of wood to the existing paneling, so that they could attach a new sheet of “paintable” paneling (or beadboard) in front of the old paneling.

(Move your mouse back and forth over the photo below to see my inspiration drawing)

Since the mantel was soooo long, I thought it might be best to keep it clear in this instance, so that they didn’t feel like they had to display a million things both on the mantel and above the mantel. But now that I think of it, a long row of small shells would be pretty too. (Ashley- do you have an “after” pic for us?)


If your mantel is somewhere in between extra-wide and extra-shallow, you might be inspired by one of the following photos.

I love the idea of a big painting, a couple of wall sconces and just a couple of things on the mantel.

So elegant!

Odd numbers are always good too. One print, one bird, one vase = three great accessories for this particular mantel…

For an old world look, an interesting wall treatment, candles and colorful pottery pieces are the perfect way to accent a chunky, dark-stained, wood mantel…

Here, framed prints are displayed in a zig-zag pattern to create interest above the mantel. It works great while the fresh flowers are alive- but what happens when they die? Something to think about if you like this arrangement of accessories…

Maybe you could use some great-looking “fauxliage”?

Propped prints, and other interesting items reflect the homeowners personality and vinyl wall decals create balance in what would otherwise be an very asymmetrical arrangement…

I’m a big fan of using a round mirror above the rectangular opening of a fireplace…

And unlike a lot of folks, I don’t care if a mirror doesn’t reflect anything except the ceiling above, or the wall across from it. Mirrors bounce light and create the illusion of depth, so I’m all for using them wherever those things are lacking.

Here’s a display that would be fairly easy to replicate if you like the way it looks…

A few matching vases, a small box, and six large, framed prints on the wall above create a nice sense of balance between the visual weight of the fireplace below and the visual weight of the area above.


For those of you who have a flat screen TV above your mantel, I think keeping the decor to a minimum is best. Sometimes a couple of topiaries are all you need…



Photos: (My Sweet Savannah)

Or, if you don’t use your fireplace, you could always move your TV down below…


Now on to some of my own mantel motivation!

I’ve consulted a lot of great gals over the past couple of years, and below are some examples of some of the things I’ve suggested regarding their fireplaces…

A big wood-framed mirror, some lanterns, old books and an array of textural accessories pop in front of paneling painted the same color as their existing paneled walls.

(Move your cursor back and forth over the photo below.)

And adding a chunky, white-painted mantel brings this fireplace down to a more manageable size.

This next mantel was a bit tricky, but because I re-designed cabinet to the left of the fireplace to mimic the shape of the windows on the right side of the fireplace, all it needed was a couple of topiaries, some more candles and a long, low box right above the firebox. By lowering the homeowners beautiful piece of ironwork, the whole display feels more tied together…

(Move your cursor back and forth over the photo below.)

(Notice how creating symmetry on either side of the interesting-shaped fireplace makes it more of a focal point. Before, it was battling with the arch for attention.)

Using a chunkier-framed mirror, instead of the skinny-framed art print helped balance things out and created a bit more depth on this clients fireplace wall…

(Move your cursor back and forth over the photo below.)

This next fireplace had a bunch of possibilities. I suggested cladding it in wood because my client expressed an interest in using it, but they could’ve just as easily coated the stone in plaster for an equally charming look. A chunky, dark-stained mantel, decked out with three pieces of art and a few candleholders would be the perfect finishing touches…

(Move your cursor back and forth over the photo below.)

In this next photo, you’ll see how simply switching the color of the candle holders completely changes the “calm” look of the monochromatic palette to a more “energetic” one…

(Move your cursor back and forth over the photos below.)

It’s little things like that that can dictate the mood of your mantel, so think about the vibe you’re trying to create and shop for accessories accordingly. For instance, if you want to stick to a monochromatic palette, but are interested in injecting some color, look to the color of your furniture or accent pillows and find a couple of small bowls or vases that coordinate with them…

And if you mantel needs a “boost”, maybe you could add corbels underneath…

My next client did exactly what I just described above and covered their brick with white-painted wood…

(Move your mouse back and forth over the photo below)

They added a chunkier mantel, and painted the hearth and the area around the firebox.
She sent me this painting to use as inspiration…

…so I used it, and a couple of topiaries, on the mantel. In the end, she decided to use a few different things, and I was so excited when she emailed me her after photos…

(Great job Holly!)

Another one of my clients, Courtney Baker, requested my help with her fireplace too. So among other things, I suggested using some molding on the wall above it to give the wall above the mantel a little more visual impact…

(Move your mouse back and forth over the photo below.)

The chunky candleholders, books and starfish look fantastic on the mantel…

(Click on the photo above to read all about the project over at Courtney’s blog!)

I suggested something similar when I worked on this living room…

(Move your mouse back and forth over the photo below.)

I surrounded the big, flat screen TV with a variety of accessories to make the most of that whole wall, and so that when the large TV is off, there are still enough bits of pretty to look at.

In this next clients room, I also thought some extra molding would help the accessories on the mantel feel more “at home”…

(Move your mouse back and forth over the photo below.)

Finally, this clients angled ceiling created a very difficult decorating dilemma on their mantel. So I suggested creating a completely different surround with lumber and plaster- and then showed what using a darker mantel would look like too…

(Move your cursor back and forth over the photo below.)

I used framed photography on the mantel, instead of on the walls around it, to draw the eye towards the fireplace. By decreasing the amount of “distractions” around your mantel, the things you use on it will make more of a statement.

I hope you enjoyed part one of “Mantel Mania”!
I’ll be back again with inspiration for those who have corner fireplaces and those with niches above their mantels.

(Yeah, I saved the hardest stuff for last.)

Happy Wednesday,



The winner of the $100 Lisa Leonard gift certificate is
Janna of A Steadfast Life

Congratulations Janna!
You can contact Lisa at [email protected] to claim your fabulous prize.


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  1. Dawn Cubriel says

    Loved your ideas. However I am building a new home with a white stone fireplace. I have a modern theme but I am going blank on the fireplace and what to do with it. I like the idea of several pictures on it but not sure . Have any modern or contempory ideas up your sleeve?

  2. Silvia says

    How’s 24 feet for an extra-long mantel dilemma? Other than loads of garland and lights during the holidays, I’ve never figured out what to do with it.

  3. Ann Sinkhorn says

    I have been looking for ideas for my long and ugly fireplace/mantel and haven’t been able to find one quite like mine. However looking at your website about mantels I finally saw one very similar. It is the one that you said Emily did. I was just wondering if there are more pictures on the web. I really need help on what to do with it and I think that picture is what I need. Help me if you can PLEASE!!!!!

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