The fireplace is a cozy spot in the house. Whenever you light a fire, everyone naturally gravitates toward it, either to spend the evening with a good book, to sit for a time of quiet reflection or to gather around for a visit with guests and family members.
So of course you want to decorate your fireplace to show off your style and taste. And yet you don’t want to disturb the cozy feeling a fireplace radiates with its heat. Finding the right fireplace mantel décor can become a dilemma. What can you do with the space above the fireplace that pleases the eye and warms the heart at the same time?
Setting the Stage
Your fireplace mantel décor has to fit the style of the room it sits in. You can’t throw an Egyptian relief above the fireplace if the rest of the room is modern chic. It would stick out like a worn tunic. On the other hand, the fireplace takes up a central spot in the room and deserves a spotlight. Getting the fireplace mantel décor just right can make or break the room’s interior decoration.
In addition, you have to find something you love. It’s your house, after all. You want to enjoy your fireplace mantel décor every time you pass by. The decoration should light up the room the same way it lights up your imagination.
This may seem like a tall order to fill, but you’ll be heartened to learn that there are common sense ideas that can help you narrow your search for that perfect something. Here are 10 top suggestions for fireplace mantel décor:
1. Complement the Space
If your mantel is painted off-white, choose art that’s a bolder color. If your fireplace is exposed brick, something with curved lines creates a nice accent. Again, your fireplace mantel décor has to fit your room to maintain the style and comfort level you’ve established with your furniture and other decorations.
Framed paintings are common above the fireplace. Find something you like in colors that complement the mantel and fireplace. Don’t forget to match the frame, too. Sculptures definitely make a statement. But don’t get one so large that it won’t fit or so small that it’s dwarfed by the space.
2. Decide Between Balanced and Asymmetrical
Balanced designs are relatively easy to complete, and they add a sense of stability to your room. A balanced look might have a centered painting surrounded by traditional candleholders on either side. If the painting is calming — a landscape, for instance — it creates a calming effect just to look at it.
On the other hand, asymmetrical designs add life and interest to your room. If you want your fireplace mantel décor to command attention, an asymmetrical look can accomplish that. An asymmetrical design might include an unusual sculpture or an arrangement of woven baskets.
3. Keep It Local
Local artwork establishes a connection to the land and the community around you, according to Southern Living magazine. If your home is in Florida, for example, a seascape watercolor painting could work, given the right color palette. If you live in the mountains, a wooden or stone sculpture might be appropriate.
But don’t make the most obvious choice; find something that fits you and your home. If you’re located near Asheville, North Carolina, basket artist Matt Tommey offers a unique service: he’ll collect material from your own property and fashion it into fireplace mantel décor that’s specifically for you. You can’t get more local than that!
4. Reflect Your Home’s Beauty
A classic standard of fireplace mantel décor that works in nearly any room is a large mirror. You can have it hung above the mantel, tilted slightly downward so that it reflects the room’s furnishings. Alternatively, you can place it directly on the mantel so that it tilts up, reflecting the room’s light.
No matter how you position the mirror, spend a little time and expense on the best frame you can find. A wooden frame can look great against exposed brick, while a sculpted metal frame can draw the eye. Make sure that the frame matches your room’s interior decorating style.
5. Share the Love
While an elegant mansion might display the oil painting of the family patriarch or matriarch above the fireplace mantel, your house can use your fireplace mantel to show off the best of your family photos. A tastefully arranged selection of framed photographs can reflect the love you feel toward your family. And it gives everyone an excuse to cozy up to the fire.
If you opt for this fireplace mantel décor, you should vary the frames and picture sizes to add visual interest. You may want to insert other objects among the photos, like a family heirloom pitcher or vase. Using photos this way makes it simple to change the mantel for each season.
6. Go Back in Time
Antiques can add charm to your home, as long as your tastes and interior decorating support your choice. The best advice regarding using antiques as fireplace mantel décor include paying particular attention to the first three items in this list.
Find an antique that not only fits your home, but also fits the space above your fireplace. If it’s too big, it will look awkward, no matter how much you love it. If it’s too small, it won’t be strong enough to maintain the attention that your fireplace mantel needs.
7. Welcome the New Century
As we move deeper into the 21st Century, it’s becoming more and more acceptable to integrate technology into your home. While traditionalists may scream and shout about this choice, modernists merely shake their heads in acceptance. So if your room’s décor supports your choice, place a large-screen television set above your mantel.
Even a TV set can work well as fireplace mantel décor if you attend to the details. A proper frame adds to the stylistic choice and can accent the room. Also, consider turning your TV into a digital picture frame while it’s not in use.
8. Try Modern Rustic Décor
A style that straddles the line between the past and the present is modern rustic décor. If the style of your room allows it, try a modern rustic décor idea. It can warm the room almost as much as the fireplace itself.
Examples of modern rustic décor include stylistically woven baskets and abstract wooden sculptures. If your locale fosters art, you likely can find artists who create works of art that qualify as modern rustic. Find something you like, something that fits your home’s style.
9. Create Some Elegance
Elegance doesn’t always mean expensive, but if you want your fireplace mantel décor to stand out and attract deserved attention, you can’t skimp on quality. If your room has an Asian influence, a set of Raku vases of varying sizes will look striking. If you opt for a painting, only an authentic oil painting or original watercolor will do.
Everyone defines elegance in a slightly different way. Here, it’s meant as a work of art that commands respect and draws compliments. Your fireplace mantel is a focal point of the room; take advantage of it by adding a touch of class.
10. Combine the Best
If none of these ideas inspire you, experiment with combinations until you find something that speaks to you. There are many decorating ideas that complement each other.
Try a woven basket sculpture with a vertical brass candleholder on each end -- or just on one end. Place small family photos beneath the large-screen TV. Surround a mirror with natural art. The options are as endless as your imagination.
And if you get stuck, contact Matt Tommey. As one of his satisfied clients wrote: “We wanted some art to adorn the mantle of our stone fireplace. Matt created a personalized sculpture that is sophisticated, warm and perfectly finishes our room.”
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.