Somehow, styling the mantle feels like a big deal. A showcase of your style and decorating on display. Yes, we want to get it right and when you nail it, it’s perfection and just makes the room sing, but don’t let that slow you down.
It’s a fluid space, you can try something and rearrange and try again. You can add and take away and edit it endlessly, really. It stays fresh this way, too!
Some tips for getting started on decorating your mantle:
Use what you love and what makes you happy – collected rocks, stacks of books, art, small collections.
Match the style of the room – formal, casual, earthy & flowing, modern & minimal.
Find a focal point – a large mirror, a great canvas painting, an interesting clock.
Maintain balance – this does not necessarily mean symmetry, just balance the sides, both in scale of the details and overall size (height & width) of each grouping.
Layer – it can add interest and warmth to layer things, slightly overlapping in front of one another.
When in doubt, edit it down – too much can look messy and unstyled. The goal is style, even casual style, not chaos that creeps towards looking like your junk pile.
Consider keeping family portraits elsewhere – the exception here is one or two very styled, artful images in frames that enhance the style of the room. I’m thinking more of a row of yearly school photos or portrait studio baby photos that might better be kept in a bookcase or other less-prominent place.
As a side note, it can be hard to move things like this because, well, we love the people in the photos and looking at them makes us happy. If this is a road block for you, consider the purpose of styling the mantle – if it’s to enhance the design of the room and make everything flow a bit better, then maybe a few photos and frames that are more in line with that purpose can be chosen. Same people, different photos. Even editing a few special photos to black and white sometimes does the trick. There is a place for everything we love in our homes, you just need to find that ‘just right’ place.
About the TV – yes, it can work. No, it isn’t ideal. From a style and viewing perspective, it’s not the best position for the TV. Some will also argue that the heat from a fireplace makes the mantle an unsuitable place for the TV. But, hey, if that’s where it needs to be, or that’s where you like it, you can make it work. I’ve done it plenty of times.
The keys to decorating around the tv:
Minimize the other components - DVD player, receiver, etc, should go on a cabinet, shelf or table near the fireplace, not on the mantle.
Balance the visual weight of the tv with other heavy décor on each side – tall vases with tall sticks or greenery on each side, a collage of framed art surrounding the TV, a pair of canvas paintings flanking each side.
Soften the bottom edge – add something long, low and visually soft below the TV on the mantle (assuming it is wall mounted and there is at least a few inches of room). A row of small rocks, a long low candle holder, a row of small vessels with greenery, a long box filled with flowers, a sign with something meaningful painted or a wood cut word or family name.
Bring in the edges – add some varying height to bring the edges of your display in at the bottom corners, to slightly overlap the lower corners of the tv frame. This will soften the mantle and make the tv look like a cohesive part of the display. Candle holders, greenery in vases, plants, anything that has some height and movement to it will work.
Overall, the mantle is a unique space – it’s sole purpose is decorative. There are so many other places in our homes that need to function well first and foremost, but the mantle is a place just to showcase our style, to create a feeling for the room. Have fun with it!
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Hi, I'm Tara. I'm a professional interior designer living in rural Canada where I help the practical & down-to-earth to love where they live. I offer professional interior design services in person and online and am the author of a design & style guide to Living With Oak.
I believe you can become a happier person in a more beautiful home and I’m here to guide you in creating a practical plan to pull it all together. I’m here to offer interior design advice and inspiration to help you make that happen.