When it's not fireplace weather, and when your fireplace is not a source of heat and comfort, it is still the focal point (more often than not) of the room. And your fireplace mantel is a wonderful opportunity to infuse more interest via art, color, texture, and objects into your home. There are about as many ways to style a fireplace as there are fireplaces, so let these examples inspire you to curate your own collection of blossoms, art, and fun and meaningful objects.
A mantel can be an art gallery...
...or a place to express a favorite narrative. Here we see what must be some sort of homage to vaudeville and comedians! It is quirky, off-kilter, and fascinating! Create your own narrative: mountains?...Italy?...music? Your jumping off point could be anything.
A collection of Russian nesting dolls brings color to a black and white fireplace and mantel. The smoothness of the dolls contrasts well against the spiky antlers behind! Remember Design mantra #1..."Contrast brings interest!"
A ram's head and some ethnic objects--a hammered silver plate from India, a porcelain statue of Quan-Yin--lend a sense of world travel and exotica.
Fireplace breasts are traditional spots for mirrors. But why not go BIG with an enormous convex mirror? It bounces light around and serves to visually expand the room. Groupings of blossoms and branches below bring outside in.
I can't help but think that the following tableau is composed of articles and objects that are personal treasures of whomever created it. To replicate the look, scour antique stores, flea markets, and thrift stores for interesting objects like the metal watch faces, mercury candle stick holders, and old frames we see here. Keeping things in a single or limited color family helps unify your tableau. But be sure to include different textures, and include short, medium, and tall objects for variety and visual interest.
Brass accents on this mantel look wonderful against the black and white painting and photo (of one of David's hands from the Accademia in Florence!). Go ahead and layer your art...lean pieces up against other pieces.
If you have a Mid-Century Modern ranch house, embrace the time period with a mod piece of art, some blown glass bottles in an appropriate color, and a George Nelson wall clock!
This modern art work provides a textural backdrop for an antique framed piece (again, leaning against the larger painting), and lovely turquoise and celedon vases. The look is fresh for either spring or summer.
The ornate fireplace surround here calls for something more simple and sleek. Modern prints and etchings look fantastic next to the Georgian carving of the surround.
For maximum impact, group like objects together. This collection of artisanal vases looks great in a row. A white feathered Juju hat presides over it all. Notice how the height of the vases is arranged in an inverted pyramid. The dip in the center allows the Juju hat some space.
This tableau groups together black and white objects in a pleasing way. Plaster, glass, marble, paper, metal...
This arrangement in the home of interior designer Tommy Smythe uses the pyramid principle: larger anchor objects at either end, a tall piece of art work in the middle to form the peak, and intriguing curio objects fill the spaces in between.
Don't be afraid to try large pieces on your mantel. It might feel at first as if the objects are overwhelming your fireplace, but it's probably that you're simply not used to it. Be bold.
Notice how, in nearly every example above, the arrangement takes advantage of asymmetry. Many of the sculptures, vases, or art works are positioned on one side of the mantel. Play with this idea and see what you can come up with. And remember Design Mantra #5: "Odd numbers work best!" When in doubt, use three or five objects in groupings. It will instantly lend design cred to your tableau!