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Expert Tips for Decorating a Mantel With Intention


Gone are the days when stately fireplaces served a sole purpose: keeping your home and family warm during the cold winter months.

And while you may still have a functional fireplace in your living room, these days most hearths typically offer more of a design appeal than anything else. Mantels, in particular, can be an amazing focal point in your living room, providing the perfect perch to place charming relics and objects for stylish flair that draws the wandering eye.

It doesn’t take a black belt in design to master the art of mantel decorating, but a little extra guidance can go a long way.

If you need some inspiration for decorating your mantel with year-round ornamentation, consider these design ideas to help bring it to life, no matter the time of year.

Choosing a Focal Point

Firstly, it’s important to determine the focal point of your room. If the space in question doesn’t have an architectural feature that adopts the role of ‘focal point’ by default (like a fireplace), it’s up to you and your designer to create one using striking art, deliberate furniture choices or even painting an accent wall.

Thankfully, since we’re talking about fireplaces and mantels specifically, that is most likely the focal point of your room. They’re large, eye-catching and often the first thing people notice when they enter the room.

But how do you dress it up with intention in a way that works while also suiting the rest of your space?

5 Fireplace Mantel Decor Ideas, Decorating Tricks and Tips

A rule book is a thief of creativity. While there are steadfast design rules that, when followed, can help balance your space and bring out its best, we encourage you to take some creative liberties when it comes to mantel decor. Decorating Den Interiors is here to offer guidance and, when you need it, professional design expertise to ensure your space turns out exactly how you imagine.

Here are five mantel decorating ideas to inspire:

1. Apply a Fresh Coat of Paint to Your Mantel

If you’re a purist or mid-century modern enthusiast, avert your eyes. While we and many others appreciate a Scandinavian or mid-century-inspired natural wood aesthetic, it can leave a lot to be desired if you opt for a bold, colorful style in your space. In its most natural state, wood is generally brown or different shades thereof — which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

For this decor idea, look to brighten things up by applying a fresh coat of paint to your fireplace and mantel. Like an accent wall, adding a pop of color to the mantel can do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of the design of your room, and accentuate the piece in a truly beautiful way.

For a fun twist, consider painting just the mantel, leaving the rest of the space in its original glory, whether that be natural wood, marble or a stone fireplace.

2. Hang a Mirror

Using mirrors to give the illusion of a brighter, larger space is an age-old but timeless design hack. If you’re yet to incorporate a mirror into your room, what better place than atop the mantel?

Whether you opt for a big gold mirror or a chic black one, reflective decor is a no-brainer in most spaces. Not only does it make your room appear bigger by reflecting light, but it also provides an extra place for you and your company to check out your hair.

Hang your mirror carefully above the mantel to instantly add more appeal to your focal-point fireplace.

3. Display Artwork

A room without artwork can feel liminal. Hanging pieces of art that you enjoy is an easy way to imbue your personality into your space — and the fireplace mantel makes the perfect display.

There are a few options here in terms of how you prefer to hang artwork. Try placing one large piece above the fireplace or choose several smaller pieces, gallery wall style, to set up and layer on the mantelpiece. Use other decorative objects like candles, a vase or small ornaments to add more visual interest to the area that compliments the artwork.

Get creative and play around with different bright colors, frames and shapes, or keep it simple with a monochromatic look.

4. Create a Mantel-Top Library

Bookworms often have lots of books and, at a certain point, may be running out of places to keep them. Bookshelves are a practical solution; however, literature can live in other places, too!

If you’re a big reader, try using your mantel as extra storage for your most beautiful or cherished books with this mantel-top library decor idea. Go classic library and line them up with the spines facing outward for easy viewing and a pop of color, stack them on top of each other horizontally to play with varying heights and volumes, or flip the script and have the pages facing outward. There is no wrong way to display books (unless, of course, it starts to cause damage), so don’t be afraid to try new techniques or combine options for a truly unique mantel-top display.

5. Plants, Plants, Plants

Mantels make the perfect pedestal for plants of all kinds, whether you select bright-green vines like Pothos or hearty succulents that can survive with little sunlight. As a bonus, you’ll get to choose planters and other pottery that work well with your space while providing a vessel for the plant to thrive. Mix in some fresh flowers to add extra visual interest, and switch them out with the seasons to create the perfect spring or summer mantel.

Just be careful: If you’re a pet owner, it’s important to do research before bringing potentially harmful plants into your household. While safe for humans, animals like cats may be inclined to nibble on greenery, which may make them sick. If you do have a furry friend at home, ensure that they can’t reach the potted plants on your mantel, and decorate away!

Bonus Mantel Decorating Tip: Working Around a Television

If you’re using the room that your fireplace is in as more of a family-style area, you may have a TV mounted above it. While convenient, having just a big black rectangle leaves a lot to be desired in terms of design.

Firstly, don’t place tall objects in the middle of the mantel — they’ll obstruct the view! Candles and small lights, for example, can be placed on either side and should ideally be in pairs to keep symmetry.

Low-profile objects that won’t obtrude the screen, like books lying flat or vine-style plants, can be placed in the middle to balance out the rest of the look.

What It’s Like To Partner With an Interior Decorator

If you love these mantel decor ideas but feel like a professional touch could help take your design to the next level, it may be time to work with an interior designer.

Decorating Den Interiors’ staff have seen their fair share of fireplace mantels — and have transformed just as many into beautiful focal points that suit the aesthetic of the homeowner and work well with the rest of the space.

Our designers will work collaboratively with you to achieve a result that’s sure to satisfy. Say goodbye to dusty, unused or lackluster mantels and say hello to a fun, functional fireplace that will ignite conversation and leave your guests in awe.

When you’re ready to get started, find a Decorating Den Interiors designer near you.

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