Rookie Mistake: Fireplace Mantel Decorating

Rookie Mistakes: a series of common decor mistakes made by rookies… aka US. And no we are not judging because we have made (and continue to make) these mistakes too!

Rookie Mistake: Fireplace Mantel Decorations

We chose this month’s rookie mistake after seeing far too many mantels that were in need of some styling TLC. Bridget is new to the fireplace mantel game (she has one in her new house), and I do have a fireplace mantel…but with our built-ins directly across from it, I don’t style mine as the focal point in the space.

So the truth is, neither of us has that much practice with styling mantels over fireplaces. But we have learned what NOT to do and we’re hoping to share our thoughts so your mantel can be gorgeously accessorized and effortlessly styled in no time.

The truth is there isn’t 1 specific problem that we see over and over again. Instead, there are multiple rookie mistakes being made when it comes to mantel decorating.

Over Decorated

We’ve seen far too many fireplace mantels that are jampacked with decorative items. Picture frames, vases, flowers, small accessories….just too much stuff going on. You don’t want to fill up each and every space on the mantel. Instead remember, less is more.

Under Decorated

In contrast to over decorating, some people under decorate and barely put anything on their fireplace mantels. There is an opportunity to make this the focal point of a space and really draw the eye to the architecture of the fireplace and corresponding mantel. So one measly candlestick or a few very short items isn’t going to cover it. Instead, you’ll need to intentionally choose some items to display to really make an impact.

Incorrect Proportions

A fireplace mantel presents a great opportunity to really draw the eye up in a space. Hanging a mirror or leaning tall pieces of art are great ways to really add some height. However, we see lots of fireplaces with small frames cluttering the top leaving lots of valuable wall space above free (like in the MLS photos of Casey’s home, above, when she purchased the condo)

So now that we know a few of the fireplace faux pas, let’s showcase a few inspiration pictures of gorgeously decorated fireplaces.

Fireplace Mantel Inspiration

Photo via The Inspired Room

Yes, yes, yes! Love this fireplace from The Inspired Room. The leaning art makes a statement, while the tall vase adds height to the right side of the mantel. Gorgeous and simple.

Photo via Emily Henderson

This mantel, from our favorite designer Emily Henderson, showcases so many beautiful pieces. The art in the center really grounds the space, and the accessories bring life to the mantel. It looks effortlessly thrown together, but every item was chosen very intentionally.

Photo via Room for Tuesday

Finally, this striking fireplace from Room for Tuesday. We are all about this neutral color palette and love how the framed art draws the eye up to the ceiling.

Step-by-Step: How to Decorate a Fireplace Mantel

Now let’s break it down step-by-step, so you too can spruce up this important space in your home.

Start with a Blank Slate

Whenever we start styling an area in our homes, we always remove absolutely everything off of the surface. This gives us a good excuse to dust too! So remove everything, dust the surface, and step back and take a look at what you’re working with.

Collect Objects with a Similar Color Palette

Now, time to gather all of the pretty items you may display. We suggest keeping a similar color palette so everything goes together. If you’re displaying a piece of art, take a look at the colors in the piece and pull from that to figure out what color accessories you should find. Here are some of the things you should gather…

  • Art or Mirror to act as the focal point (more on this in the next section)
  • Vases or Containers (great for flowers or plants)
  • Books or Boxes (really just items to create height and layers)
  • Pretty Objects (candlesticks, special items, etc.)

Add Something to Ground the Space

Now time to add something up onto your mantel. We love the idea of adding a big round mirror (this gold mirror is a favorite!), or a large piece of art. This is the time to add some major height to the space, so make sure it’s big enough. You can hang your piece, or feel free to just lean them. If you go with the leaning look, we always like putting command strips on the top of the frame where it touches the wall. That way it won’t move or come crashing down. Also go a bit off-center, to the left or right.

Layer in a Frame

If you go with the leaning frame, then add another smaller frame layered in front to fit. Make sure it’s proportioned correctly…not too small and not too big.

Create Different Heights

Just like when you’re decorating any other surface, you don’t want everything to be at the exact same height. This is where boxes and books come into play. Add a few hardcover books to the surface and place a box on top. Or add a tall vase to one side of the mantel to bring some height onto the end of the fireplace mantel.

Incorporate Life

You can never go wrong with flowers or plants. A vase with fresh flowers or dried eucalyptus could be pretty! This faux eucalyptus branch looks like the real thing and could add some height to your mantel in a geometric vase. Or go with an indoor plant (here’s a list of our favorites) to add some greenery up there. We also love the idea of adding a plant that is a bit “drapey” so the stems hang a bit over the fireplace. So pretty!

Favorite Decorative Pieces for your Mantel

We hope this post gives you the inspiration to see your fireplace mantel in a whole new light! Use our steps to highlight this gorgeous spot in your home and make it the focal point it deserves to be.

Bridget&Casey

  • Wow, this timely post makes me think you are mind readers! I woke up at 4am this morning and then started thinking about my living room mantle…why? Because I am cray. But I have been struggling to get this mantle right for years, and the challenge for me is the honkin tv we have mounted above it. In our renno, it was my husbands only request…that and the built in speakers on either side…sigh. So ever since I have been struggling to find the proper items to put on either side. I love your suggestions and I think a tall vase with a faux green stem is a step in the right direction. But that leaves the other side….candlesticks might be the solution. Will keep at it and let you know what I come up with!

    • That is hilarious, Kerri! Hopefully this gives you the motivation you need to spruce things up. The TV over the fireplace does make it hard (Bridget will soon have that problem), so hopefully we figure out a good solution! Good luck with yours.