How to Decorate a Mantel
Decorating a mantel is very simple if you stick to some general tips.
While these rules/tips are not hard and fast, I have found that they make the decorating of my mantel easier and more methodical when I think about them as I decorate.
These tips are especially appropriate for a mantel with a TV like mine. If you don’t have to work around a TV then you can exercise a bit more creativity with your mantel. However, I’d recommend sticking to some of these general tips/rules.
1- Add height on both sides of the mantel. Varying heights on a mantel is eye-pleasing. Adding height on both sides brings balance.
The spider legs are very tall in this Halloween spider-themed mantel.
To ‘add height’, the items don’t have to be this tall.
For example, in this simple classic Christmas mantel, I used some shorter candles to add height and balance.
In this Thanksgiving mantel, I just used pumpkins and candles to add height and the pumpkins on both sides add balance.
So, while some height is needed and it can be tall (ghosts in this ghost mantel) it doesn’t have to be super tall.
2- Stick to a color scheme and theme but vary widely when it comes to texture.
An interesting mantel should have a general theme and color scheme but have a lot of items that vary in texture.
For example, this Witch mantel has a theme of witches, a color scheme of black, orange, silver, and pops of yellow. For variety, the material differs greatly as burlap and polyester are very different in addition, it has a variety of objects that add texture to the mantel as well.
This Valentine mantel has a lot of wooden items but it also has pampas wreaths, fluffy pom pom garlands, and leather to balance the wood texture out.
Multiple objects that support the theme and match the color scheme and that vary in texture make for a cohesive and eye-catching mantel.
This Thanksgiving Candle mantel has a fall theme and a pretty tight color scheme,
yet the objects on it vary in texture, size, and purpose.
The variety gives it beauty, and the theme and color scheme give it continuity.
3- Cluster items together on both ends of the mantel to add interest and balance.
Try to match the items in your clusters on both ends in either size or in number of items.
For example, if you are doing just a few items on each end, like this minimal Easter mantel, you’d want both ends to have just a few items vs. one end having a lot of items and the other end just having a few.
The exception to this would be if you have a huge object on one end you could balance it with a lot of small objects on the other.
The items on both ends can match and I often do match them but I found having a few items that match and multiple that do not match make the most interesting-looking mantels. The fall flower arrangements match on both sides of this sisal Thanksgiving mantel, however, the objects in between mostly differ.
The trees on both ends of my vintage Christmas truck mantel match.
Some trees on either end of my nativity mantel match and some do not.
The sheet ghosts and skeletons do match on either side of the mantel but the other items on both sides do not match.
Both sides of the mantel have a witch hat, however, they are both different and so are the objects around them. This adds contrast and interest but keeps the mantel cohesive.
3- Make a focal point that is center or slightly off-center in the middle of the mantel.
I have a TV that makes forming an off-center focal point a little harder, however, if you do not have a TV, making a focal point that is slightly off-center will add interest as well.
For my mantel, I’m a bit boxed in so I just keep my focal point central.
The focal point can be striking like this spider…
or obvious like this Home sign.
The focal point can be stand-alone like this vase on a Valentine’s mantel…
Or it can be woven into the other decor like this skeleton/pumpkin/ghost focal point in this ghost mantel.
The focal point can also be somewhat hard to see, like the acorn squash and butternut squash in this mantel
Or this pink envelope on the letter bunting.
So, a focal point can vary widely in size and obviousness but it should be there to ground out the scene.
4- Fill in the rest of the mantel (optional):
You can opt for this step which is to tie the mantel together by adding objects in between the center/focal point and the side clusters like I’ve done in most of my mantels like this Easter mantel:
Or you can leave a blank mantel like this Valentine mantel:
Both options work great and it’s up to what you prefer and which look you are going for on this step.
5- Bring the eye below the mantel with a bunting, banner, stockings, greenery, garland, or anything that can hang down.
The mantel was made to sit things on and hang things from. That’s its purpose. I find adding items that hang from a mantel adds interest and is pleasing to the eye.
6- Use an odd number of groupings when putting items together.
If you are only working with a few items then you will want to group those items together in 3’s, 5’s, 7’s like these wooden hearts…
and these pine cones and candles.
However, grouping items in odd numbers is not a rule if you have a mantel packed with items like this Halloween mantel.
Another exception is when you get even numbers by grouping odd numbers together.
For example, on this Santa mantel, it worked out I had an even number of objects by pairing two groups of 3 together.
It was more important for me visually to have three threes and three Santas and stick to the odd rule that way than to remove one to get 5. Both would’ve worked, I just preferred the former option.
Tie in surrounding items with the mantel.
Since I have young kids I rarely put decorations on the floor or near the floor but this year I wanted my Santa Tree to tie in more with my Santa-themed mantel, so I placed some Santa figurines underneath and I liked the way it looked.
Adding items below your mantel can bring the look together in a more cohesive way however, this is often based on how your fireplace looks.
If you have a step by your fireplace I would recommend you always accent the step with something to tie your mantel decor into it.
Like this mantel…
Things to NOT do when styling a mantel…
I don’t love saying what not to do because it is your home and it’s often a holiday which should be fun, special and it’s temporary. I think that anything you love should be a go.
However, I’ll share a few things I personally do not like when it comes to mantels.
I don’t love it when things are shoved into the fireplace spot unless it’s wood or a few nice candles. For example, I don’t love the look of piles of pumpkins or piles of pine cones, flowers, etc. in a fireplace slot.
Another thing I don’t love is a large blank space above the center of the mantel.
Finally, I don’t love it when there is so much packed in around the fireplace that it looks like you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fire.
But if you like those things, do not let my dislike of them deter you.
Have fun with decorating and if these tips help you, great!
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