What to Put on Your Mantle - 100 Ideas

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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!


You can find this digital graphic I created, for free instant download, in my Resource Library.  Click on the image or button below to register or sign in!

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Change How Your Home Feels - 12 Things to do Today

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When it comes to interior design, it doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy to be a good and important thing. 

I’m on a mission to help people love where they live because I think being at peace at home is the foundation for a balanced life.

Sometimes we all get overwhelmed by our home.  There so much to deal with every day, so much to clean or declutter, and it can end up weighing us down.   Often the last thing on your mind is the big picture of design and how your home is making you feel, but it is something meaningful to think about.  If you can break it down and know that making a small improvement will absolutely make a difference, you will feel so much better in your home.

If you’re on the same page but only have a few minutes today, here’s a dozen ideas to get you started!

1. Clear a surface & leave it empty

We all have a spot that tends to accumulate the stuff of life.  Clear one off, deal with what’s there, wipe it down and let it be.  This might be hard for some of us but, trust me, it’s going to feel so good to walk into the room and just see open air where there used to be too much stuff.  Will it stay this way?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Does it need to?  Nope.  You just need a refresh today, don’t overthink it.

2. Make your bed a little extra pretty

Make your bed, smooth the blankets, add a throw and maybe some fresh sheets and pillowcases.  Make it inviting and pretty.  Gather a few things from around the house if you have to.

3. Turn on lamps and light a few candles

Soft, warm, ambient lighting is one of the most important elements for a feel-good room.  If you have some small lamps with warm bulbs, light them up.  Adding in a few candles will really turn up the volume on this effect.  Middle of the day?  Who cares.  Go for it anyway.

4. Fill a small bag with trash

Just walk and toss, you’ll fill a bag before you know it.  Actual garbage?  Goodbye.  Things you’ve been meaning to deal with but aren’t likely to?  Buh-bye to you as well.  Things you’ve been saving with good intentions but are now ruining the peaceful vibe you’re cultivating?  See ya.  Key point:  get it out of the house and off your mind as soon as possible.

5. Set up a coffee or tea station

Adding a little nice touch to your daily drink area will make you feel good every time you use it.  A little tray, a stack of special mugs, a canister of tea, a pretty bowl of sugar.  Whatever you have around that is nice and makes you feel good to look at.  Gather a few things and give that spot some meaning.

6. Put on some great music

In the category of ‘intangible ambiance’, music can set the tone for your home.  Find something you love at a volume that suits your mood and let it transform your home.

7. Wipe down your front door

Seems almost too simple to actually matter, but coming home to a door that is cared for really does something nice for us.  It’s the first drop, causing that ripple effect:  well cared for, tidy, at ease.  Even if you mostly come in through the garage or back door (which could be polished up as well if you’re in the mood), giving the front of your house a little love helps you to feel proud of your home and puts you at ease when people stop by.

8. Organize a few drawers

It’s amazing the feel-good effect of opening a drawer to face knives neatly lined up or a sweet box of pens that all actually work.  Ahhhh!  Instant energy boost and internal sun beams.

9. Hang something on an empty wall

Sometime an empty wall just needs a little something - a small piece of art, a framed photograph, a little tapestry or something sculptural.  We often put off hanging things, but why not make it happen today?  Adding life to an empty space feels good, makes us smile and fills our home with character.

10. Rethink your side table styling

Often bedside tables get neglected and filled with the less than lovely clutter of life:  Kleenex boxes, hair elastics, dusty books, water glasses, medications, lotions.  Take a few minutes today to clear them off, wipe them down and rethink how you can style them in a way that feels lovely to look at when you crawl into bed.  Add some height with a large lamp or vase filled with tall foilage.  Corral those odds and ends in a pretty bowl or rustic basket.  Add a doily or fresh candle.  Maybe today is the day for some grocery store flowers.

11. Overhaul and declutter a closet

Going through a closet and getting rid of the things you don’t need is a beautiful thing.  Give it a dust & vacuum and put everything back in just where it belongs.  Simple and tidy just feels so good!

12. Style your front entry

Step outside or stay inside, whatever you like.  Take everything out of the space, give it a good sweep, polish the windows and wipe down the door.  Now take a good look at what actually needs to be in the space and give everything a home before thinking about adding some color - maybe some new throw pillows on a bench, some potted flowers, a new vibrant umbrella stand.  Even if all you do is hang up all the jackets and put the shoes in the closet, this is space going to feel so much better when you’re done.

You can find this digital graphic I created, for free instant download, in my Resource Library.  Click on the image or button below to register or sign in!

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Learning to Take Risks - Lessons from Iris Apfel

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Make a powerful statement.


In life, and in design, it’s so easy to get complacent.  To get bored.  To settle and let things just get so bland that we kind of forget to try something new.  To put some effort in.  To live a little.


I know what that’s like because I do it, too.  There are those parts of our home that get ignored, put on the backburner for years.  Or rooms that we were inspired to get just right, to adjust and perfect until we fell in love with them… only to let the years slide by while things got stale again. 


Sometimes it just feels like a lot of work to rethink things, to choose and rearrange and make it fresh when things are ‘good enough’ but after watching a documentary on Iris Apfel again recently, I got thinking about inspiration and passion and how that translates to our homes.  A happy, rich, interesting life should translate into a home that looks and feels the same.  It is worth it to feel good in our places and spaces, isn’t it?

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Iris and I, we also agree on another aspect of style:  there are far more important things in life.  Education, charitable work, doing a good job at whatever your craft is.  Being happy.  One of my least favorite type of question from clients centers around what is ‘in style’… because, well, who cares?  What an industry deems on-trend has very little to do with good, meaningful interior design that is going to feel good and look good to *you*.


So, what can we learn from fashion icon, and general profound badass, Iris Apfel about interior design? 



Be bold.


Don’t be a sheep.


Choose what you love.


Break the rules.


Put things together that make you happy.


Don’t seek trends to follow.


Choose classic and traditional.


Mix up color and pattern and texture.


Use the items in your home to compose the story of who you are.


Have some excitement about what you are doing.


Develop a signature style.


Curate your life.


Have some common sense.


Take risks.



Iris Apfel, in her mid-nineties, is wise and bold and an absolute inspiration when it comes to the business of getting clear on your style and just going for it.  Lessons we all should soak up.

Want to learn more about Iris Apfel?  Check out the links below!

Starring Iris Apfel, Carl Apfel

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You can find all of these digital graphics I created, for free instant download, in my Resource Library.  Click on the image or button below to register or sign in!

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What I Hate About Interior Design & How I Got Over It

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Yes, design is about style and fashion and sophistication.

To me, though, that is some surface level stuff.  The entire foundation of good design is technical and it’s about simple intuition.  Maybe it’s the intuitive application of technical principles.

Interior design is a learnable skill.  It’s grass roots and basic, salt-of the-earth stuff.  It’s absolutely concepts that can be applied to any space with what’s available.


Are you curious what this interior designer hates about interior design? 

Here’s the truth: I hate the superficial snobbery. The brands. The overpriced nonsense. The frivolous stuff and the materialistic showing off. And often all of this is happening while basic design principles, like good, simple scale or balance, are being ignored.

How did I get past that? I got down to business. I refused to buy in. I never once rolled my eyes at what clients had to work with. I rolled up my sleeves, got creative and put my knowledge of the basics to work. And you can do that, too.

Don’t for one second think that you, person who just wants to have a nice, stylish home and make the best of what you have, is the only person who has felt that eye-rolling, half-smirking look cast on them by someone who deems themselves ‘tres chic’ in the design world.  Nope, sister, it’s happened to me, too.  And I’m a decent* professional interior designer.  I’m just also down to earth and put my focus on making a well-designed space however my clients want to get there.

*Maybe I’m decent, maybe I’m damn good, maybe I’m a solid 8/10, it’s really difficult to objectively rate yourself, am I right?

It's possible that by sticking to good, well-thought out design principles, by making the best use of what my clients own and love, that I'm missing out.  Maybe I’m not making as much commission on overpriced furniture as I could be.  It’s possible I’m not handing out invoices for styling purchases that make people faint.  The bottom line is that I really don’t care what anyone other than my clients think about that, I’m going to keep being me because I think it's being true to what I believe in.  And if that’s you, too, then hold your head up and keep on being yourself, too.

I know the principles of design:  scale, harmony, rhythm, balance, focus.  And I think you can know them, too.  I can transform a room with that knowledge.  Anyone can.

I sometimes say that I am an advocate for ‘design for the people’.  I’m partly being cheeky but there is truth there. 

Interior design is about loving where you live or work or wherever you ‘be’ and that has nothing to do with style or fashion or sophistication.  It’s your home and you deserve better than that superficial nonsense, don’t you think?

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