…living well: how to decorate your mantel

A reader wrote to me over the summer asking for some tips as to how to accessorize a mantel. It can be daunting. It can also be a disaster if you don’t know what you are doing. There are 3 main areas to focus on: weight, anchor and filler. You need to plan it out and work it like a puzzle.

Start by taking off everything from your mantel. Dust and clean it. Take a look at all the stuff you took off and put what you hate and/or just don’t love in a pile. Then make a separate pile of the items that you are in love with. (These may not be going back on the mantel, but you can find another special place or maybe storage for a while.)

Now, here are the 3 areas that you will focus on:

The Weight 

I love to start with symmetry. Pick two items that you can put on either side of your mantel. Candlesticks, pillars, urns, sconces. Want to buy something for your mantel? For this spot, buy two of the EXACT SAME THING to weigh down the two sides.




Okay, now put said thing/s on either side of your mantel. Make sure they have some height and are not too tiny. That would just look silly. Candlesticks from Pottery Barn are always a simple solution. Or some decorative lanterns. If you want to get a little adventurous you can buy a few of the SAME object in 2 different sizes for each side of mantel. So, you would need 4 objects – 2 larger, 2 smaller. Yes?



The Anchor

Now you need something for the middle of your fireplace as the focal point. Some of us have a TV and that is fine. For those that have a wall or brick, then choose something like a mirror that you can literally lean against the wall. This will also add some light and airiness to your space. A special, framed or canvas painting is also lovely. Make sure it is pretty.



Fillers are optional. This is where you don’t want to revert to a cluttered look so go slowly. Fillers can be a few books, a few little votives or a special paper weight, a tiny clock, vintage binoculars, mason jars, etc. Little and interesting.




Fillers can be interchanged depending on the season.

Now, back to your little piles of things that you took off. Find a new home for all the items that you really don’t like. For the pile of items that you do treasure, find a new place in your home for them – a bookshelf, a coffee table, the kitchen. If you still have too many items, then put them in a box for storage. It doesn’t mean you don’t love these objects, you are just trying to create a cleaner space and they can hibernate for a bit.

I want to see before & after pictures of your mantels! Email me or post them! cbensten@blueeggbrownnest.com

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  1. valerie walker says:

    Great advice!!

  2. Love the mantel look but I need help with a brick wall with only 8ft ceilings.

  3. i HATE my fireplace – windows on each side that go to the floor, builder-installed molding on the wall above fireplace, and that transom window above the fireplace – so difficult to work with my mantel! Any thoughts on my fireplace dilemma? I have a picture but can’t attach it.

  4. Thanks Christen,
    Perfect timing! Working on my mantel right now and can not get it right. Everything looks out of proportion. Mirror bigger than fireplace or smaller?? Color according to furniture?? Ha! What a dilemma!

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