Monday, October 22, 2007

Professional Decorating Tips for Fireplace Mantels

Although fireplace mantels were originally used for cooking and heating, contemporary mantels have become the key focal point for setting the decorative style and atmosphere of a room. You can utilize simple accessories to enhance the room, or go all out with themed holiday decorations to transform the entire space for any special occasion.

Paying attention to basic design elements such as color, texture, balance, and size will help pull your decorations together into a beautiful display.

Getting Started

Professional designers often start decorating projects by jotting down ideas for the mood they’d like to create, and then collect an assortment of items to emphasize that style. They might not use everything they’ve found, but having things on hand means they can play with different combinations until hitting on the best design.

Spend some time considering how you’d like the type of event you’ll be hosting. Are you having a flashy black tie cocktail party, or a relaxing springtime brunch? Maybe you’d just like to find new ways to freshen up the everyday look of a room? Either way, remember that different combinations of colors as well as the style (Victorian, modern, retro, country) of items you use will affect the overall mood of your room.

Choosing a Backdrop

To begin, you’ll want to select an item to be the focal point of the display. Often this will be a painting or wall hanging that is placed on the wall just above the mantel, or even resting on the mantel. You can even change the focal point to match the occasion or season.

If you’d rather group several paintings together you’ll want to only use a few items on the mantel itself to keep things from being overwhelming. The larger the item or grouping the more attention it will draw. A mirror is always a good choice to use as a large backdrop. It not only helps make the room feel larger, but reflects and draws attention to the other pieces you’ve placed on your mantel.

Don’t forget to light your backdrop. Whether you use candles or install spot lighting, you’ll want to make sure that the focal point isn’t lost in the shadows.

Placement & Shape

The next step is to create a ‘path’ for the eye to follow, moving from the main focal point down and across the mantel. By using a variety of heights and sizes, and even texture, you can develop an interesting landscape that commands attention.

You can create a symmetrical design by centering one item on or above the mantel, and surround it with a series of identical items on either side. Each half of the mantel is a mirror image of the other. You can also layer items by height, with shorter items overlapping larger pieces. This style is often used to create a sense of formality.

Asymmetrical designs are usually the most popular, as they create a sense of motion by having different items on each side of the mantle. The key to this form is to keep the weight of items balanced visually. For instance you might have two larger objects on one end of the mantel, with a grouping of five small objects on the other end.

A radial design is created by placing objects around a central. The center item, regardless of shape, acts as an anchor. This kind of arrangement is best done similar to a symmetrical format; otherwise it can become too busy.

A layered look with lots of pieces and filler (such as greenery or garlands) works well for fall and winter, but is often too heavy for other seasons. One exception might be if your mantel is located in a large banquet or great room with high ceilings, otherwise keep things minimal by leaving breathing space between items.

Wrapping It Up

Whatever design style you select always be sure to follow safety precautions when using the fireplace. Do not place any items too close to the hearth itself, and use a protective screen to prevent ignition from sparks.

If you don’t actually use your fireplace that often try placing decorations below in addition to on the mantel. You certainly wouldn’t want a black void to detract from your display. A layered arrangement of white candles and greenery can be stunning for any occasion, but you could also do something as simple as a stack birch logs. Another alternative is to cover the hearth with a painted fireplace screen.

There are hundreds of options to choose from when decorating your mantel, but the same basic principles always apply. Using these designer techniques can help turn a ho-hum room into a memorable space that can easily be changed for any type of occasion.

About The Author
Kristene Markert is a writer and consultant for; a manufacturer of custom cast stone fireplace mantels that have been featured on numerous home remodeling tv shows.

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