Mantelpieces come in all shapes and sizes, whether they are part of a surround or a shelf above a wood burner. You’ll need to tie in your mantelpiece ideas with your fireplace ideas before you get started for a cohesive look, whether you’re after modern fireplace ideas or fireplace ideas for small living rooms. It’s also important to take into account whether you have a functioning fire, taking care not to include anything flammable in your fireplace mantel ideas.
So how do you go about styling your mantel? ‘Whether you’re a maximalist or minimalist, mantelscaping is all about curating a collection of things that bring colour, texture and showcase your favourite things,’ says Daisy Coombes, Interior Design Manager at Sass and Belle. ‘From books, artwork, and vases, to planters, candles and trinkets, your mantelpiece should be a place to express yourself and breathe a new lease of life into your scheme from season to season, or even week to week!’
Stylish mantelpiece ideas
Whether your mantelpiece ideas are understated or seriously show-stopping, here’s our top tips, as well as some advice from the experts, to help you create a magnificent mantel…
1. Maximise your mantel
If maximalism is your style then you might enjoy giving your mantel some extravagant jungle vibes. A mantel painted in a deep forest green to complement a tropical print wallpaper can be accessorised perfectly with some glossy bluey green vases and objects. Add in a few glints of gold to introduce opulence as well as depth. And of course no tropical collection would be complete without a little animal print.
2. Add a simple shelf
If you don’t have a surround you can create a mantel with a shelf. Here the shelf has been painted in the same soft grey as the cladded wall for a simple shaker style and adorned with meaningful items such as photos and postcards.
Groups of 3 or 5 items usually work better than even numbers, but do use your eye to see what configuration works best. Choose items that tie together, either in theme or colour, and have varying heights. A scattered arrangement that creates layers to add depth will look more interesting than straight lines.
‘When you’re finished take a step back to assess the balance and ensure you’re happy with it. The great thing about mantelscaping is that you can tweak it daily and swap in fresh flowers or accessories for a fresh new look,’ suggests Daisy Coombes.
3. Use textured neutrals
Mantelpiece ideas don’t have to be vibrant to be eye-catching. Fill a mantel with a collection of neutral coloured, textured items for a neutral living room idea.
‘When planning your mantelscape, opt for accessories with a common colour thread or pattern to create a cohesive look, whether that’s tonal or one colour. But make sure you mix up height, shape and texture to add interest,’ advises Daisy Coombes.
Choose tactile materials, such as earthenware with an unfinished quality, or an alternative art piece made with feathers. Natural elements such as seed heads will cast unusual shapes, while lightly-toned foliage will add an element of freshness and movement.
4. Layer artwork to add depth
Layers add depth to a space, which is why layering artwork on a mantelpiece works so well, creating a dimensional look. The key is to create a collection of items that while seemingly random, are actually cleverly arranged to create balance.
Here the items of artwork, at either end of the mantel are of a similar height, while the middle piece is at the same height as the vase of foliage, creating a good balance of weight. Framed typography prints are ideal for a modern fireplace idea, as they bring a contemporary look.
5. Use paint to create an illusion
Paint is a quick and effective way to add colour to an otherwise plain mantelpiece. Here this clever paint effect brings the mantel and chimney together as one, making the mantel itself become part of the living room feature wall idea and focal part of the room.
‘Paint is the quickest and easiest way for creating a feature wall, it is a versatile material that can produce very effective results,’ says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown. ‘When choosing colours for an existing space, you need to consider the colour themes that are already there, so the feature wall will accentuate that and not clash with it.’
6. Choose tonal colours
For a relaxed, homely feel try creating a display with an analogous palette. Here the navy of the mantel blends beautifully with the deep plum on the chimney breast, working in conjunction with each other as they share the same base colours. The accessories on the mantel work harmoniously as they echo the two tones with the artwork and bouquet of flowers, which also mirror the painting above the mantel.
To prevent dark fireplace mantelpiece ideas becoming flat add a boost of freshness with foliage and flashes of green in artwork and candles.
7. Snuggle up with a rustic look
Unfinished wood always adds a rustic quality to a room, so a chunky wooden shelf used as a mantel will instantly give your fireplace a warm feel. Add groups of woodland-inspired accessories for a cosy look – owls, squirrels and birds will all be at home here. It also makes the perfect place to show off all of your nature finds such as conkers and fir cones.
An alternative to wood that will still create that rustic feel are stone fireplace ideas, which bring a farmhouse vibe to a space.
8. Double up on frames
Can’t choose between a mirror or artwork? Why not go for both? This look works as both frames are of a similar height, and displayed side by side they almost create the feeling of one piece. The multi-coloured pom poms hanging below not only reflect the colours from the artwork but also continue that sense of balance.
9. Curate a eclectic collection
Mantels are the ideal place to show off any collections you have or a place to display all of those trinkets that make you smile and enjoy seeing every day. It looks even better with a fireplace tile idea so you can add extra pattern.
‘Our top tip when displaying your treasure trove of favourite things is to group things in odd numbers to create an arrangement that is visually more aesthetic,’ says Daisy Coombes. ‘Consider height when curating your mantelscape, stack books to elevate smaller trinkets, so they don’t get lost amongst taller accessories. Try propping mirrors or prints behind trinkets and plants to add depth?’
10. Pick clean lines for mid-century style
You don’t have to go all out with your mantel if that’s not your style. Mid-century modern is a simple and understated look that still makes an impact, especially for small living room fireplace ideas.
‘Think clean lines, natural materials, and organic shapes, in a range of muted tones - olive green is my go-to hue at the moment,’ says Sam Baldry, Head of Design at Swoon. ‘To style your mantel, consider a vintage clock, scented candles with crackling wicks, and blooming foliage to create a shelf space full of nostalgia. Above the mantle, you could even frame your favourite old vinyl records for a personalised, authentic display.’
11. Style up a wooden mantel
For a rustic display, choose wooden candlesticks and natural themed wall art to continue the theme. Keep the display informal and relaxed with different sized objects, and a few vintage style postcards or old photographs casually propped up. An arrangement of country flowers in a simple glass jar will also keep it feeling laid back.
12. Show off books
A mantelpiece can be useful as a book shelf. Decorative books ends will keep the books neat and tidy and will also add interest. Choose books that are a similar size and colour for a balanced effect.
13. Surround it with framed prints
Casually lean a group of framed prints one behind the other for an interesting feel. Mix different sized frames with black and white and coloured prints to emphasise the eclectic blend of styles, and add a few objects, like a vase or floral display, to break up the linear feel.
How do you arrange things on your mantelpiece?
Your style is your own, but if you don’t know where to start with your mantelpiece ideas then there are a few guidelines you could use to get started. Symmetrical fireplace mantel ideas have identical items at either end of the mantel, perhaps candlesticks or vases, with a large piece of artwork or a mirror at the centre.
Alternatively an asymmetrical look still creates a sense of balance at either end, but is more flexible – at one end you could have a lantern, and at the other end a cluster of three smaller items. Or create clusters of items, creating interest with differing scales and layers, placing them in a haphazard display, rather than in a line. Odd numbers always look more aesthetically pleasing than even numbers, so create groups of three or five items.
What should I put on my mantelpiece?
Artwork creates a real talking point when anyone enters the room. Mirrors work just as well, and will help create a spacious, airy illusion by bouncing back the light. Vases and pots create pretty displays, while candles and votives will add a glow in the evening.
‘On the mantelpiece, opt for elegant candlesticks to add height and variety to the display, whilst for the hearth, lower, thicker candles are the best option,’ says Sam Hood, co-founder and chief creative officer at AMARA Living.
Fresh or faux foliage always looks at home on a mantel, adding colour, depth and movement.
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Laura Higgins is a freelance journalist who has had a career within the magazine industry for twenty years. Laura worked for over a decade on Your Home magazine where she was Lifestyle Editor, writing about everything from interiors and decorating to household advice, kitchen appliances and recipes. Since launching her freelance career in 2020 she has written for a variety of titles and brands, including Future titles Style at Home and Ideal Home. As well as writing about homes, Laura also works as a food stylist and has styled photoshoots for several well-known brands.
- Tamara KellyContributor
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