I like to think of the fireplace as the focus of the home—a place to share stories, laugh with one another and reminisce on old photographs. It’s a space that should be filled and surrounded with memories and happiness and decorated as such. However, it’s oftentimes a large undertaking in preparing your home for the upcoming holidays, and it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out how to pair decorations together in an inspiring manner.
We frequently find that updating the mantel or redoing the hearth at the top of our dreaded to-do list but adding a touch of cheerfulness and that at-home feeling doesn’t have to be such a challenge. We sat down with experts Brittany Meidinger and Shannon Knutson of Twigg + Lu Design Co. to gather their tips on accentuating this focal point and creating that cozy feeling we all adore.
Go for Geometry
Just as you may blend patterns and colors throughout the home, you also want to mix and match different shapes and objects when it comes to mantel décor. Layering artwork, mixing textures and having contrasting shapes, sizes and colors is just the beginning.
“Examples of objects to incorporate into your design could be books, candlesticks, vases, greenery and photo frames,” Meidinger says. “Depending on the look you are trying to achieve, you may want a more collected and asymmetrical design, which will provide a relaxed feel, or something more symmetrical … [like] having a matching set of vases on either end to provide a more formal feel.”
Shapes and textures are your friends, so pair the objects together—a large circle (a basket or clock), rectangle (photo frames or books) and straight lines (taper candles or vases) create a modern, elegant look. Elevate the mantel even further with fresh flowers and plants for an organic element.
To raise the length of the mantel and help accentuate the ceiling height, add in taller pieces, such as a leaning mirror—oftentimes used as an anchor—or branch and greenery arrangements. Balance out the display with pieces that bring your eye down, such as candlesticks, and include horizontal décor at the base.
“Overlap picture frames, put skinny candlesticks in front of larger objects and display a plant on top of a stack of books to help create height and visual interest,” Meidinger says. “[Also] respect the negative space, too much on your mantel will make it feel congested and overwhelming. You can layer objects, but remember to give your pieces a little breathing room.”
Don’t Forget the Greenery
Adding organic materials and plants create life in the space and easily freshens the mantel. “Flowers and greenery can add life and movement to your mantel,” Meidinger says. “We suggest picking out one type of stem and use different styles of vases to put them in. Garlands are a timeless choice … [and] become more popular in the fall and winter months.”
Autumnal hues—think leaves, berries, even gourds and pumpkins—add a colorful and cozy touch. Eucalyptus, ivy, sheaves of wheat or dried allium create more neutral tones and may work well through multiple seasons.
Try highlighting organic elements through silhouettes. Frame colorful red, orange and yellow leaves in floating frames or hang the leaves with ribbon. Meidinger says, “If you have a green thumb, real greenery and plants look great, but there are also many realistic faux options out there too.”
Something Old, Something New
Although shopping for new décor is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, try reusing the pieces that are already around your home. Swap out pieces from another room—such as the bedroom, dining room or living room—to create a fresh feeling. Baskets, candles, books, canvases and frames are all pieces that are easily interchangeable, and an older piece may just be that personal touch for the mantel.
If all else fails, ask your friends or family for décor pieces that they’re no longer using, or swing by the local thrift store. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. “Check out your local vintage shops to mix in old with new pieces,” Meidinger says. “But keep in mind the size of your mantel and the material it’s made out of, [as] those will be the factors that play into the types of objects that you choose to display.”
Contrasting textures create movement around the fireplace and draws the eye around the space, so search for colored glass pieces (different vases, trays and abstract items), metal pieces (mirrors, candlesticks or book ends) or baskets for a vintage touch. Glass creates a dimensional affect, while metal reflects the light and contradicts the masonry or wood of a fireplace. Utilitarian elements, such as baskets, create a useful, yet attractive space around the mantel and hearth.
“You can restyle your mantel each season in order to function as an ever-changing design feature,” Meidinger says. “Don’t be afraid to mix it up with pieces you wouldn’t typically do in order to add interest and be bold.”
Incorporate the Hearth
“We actually love this look,” Meidinger says. “If you have a fireplace with no mantel there are many things you can do around the bottom of the fireplace to cozy it up.” Adding a set of baskets for blankets, pouf ottomans, large lanterns or candle holders, a storage bin for birch logs, plants or a dog bed are just a few of the options that Meidinger recommends.
While decorating the hearth, keep safety in mind. Ensure that the décor pieces aren’t combustible, or there’s nothing that little hands (or paws!) will break.
Install a Faux Mantel
Of course, a home with a fireplace is a score. But not all homes are equipped with the space for one. Installing a faux mantel is one of the easiest ways to create a focal point in the room.
“We would take a more unique approach to this idea and suggest installing a mantel above the headboard in a bedroom,” Meidinger says. “It’s the perfect spot to display layered artwork, greenery and décor.”
Faux mantels may also work well in the living room and even the dining room. Here’s a few installation tips:
- Sizing the mantel: Use painters tape to mark out the length and height of the mantel.
- Securing the mantel: Mantels are oftentimes attached to a backer that supports the material. If purchasing materials form a lumberyard, ask questions about proper installation—or consult a construction company or fireplace installer.
Decor staging by Twigg + Lu Design Co.