Why do we have such a hard time decorating our mantel? I do, too, and this is what I do for a living! My mantel is the toughest of all. Maybe it's because I'm used to looking at it and I'm sick of my furnishings. LOL! Well, in any case, I have some rules of thumb to make things so much easier for you.
You want to keep 3 things in mind:
1. Your anchor.
What is an anchor? The anchor will be the largest/tallest piece/s that will sit on or above your mantel. It is a piece that has the most visual weight, takes up a considerable amount of space on the wall above the mantel, and will balance the firebox for the upper portion of the wall.
Examples of an anchor: TV, mirror, artwork, clock, or any other large piece of home décor that you love. You can even use two (or more) complementary items that will group together to become your anchor.
You can create some asymmetry by place your anchor piece/s off-center (as shown above), if you'd like. Asymmetry creates some interest, and with other pieces you will see that it works beautifully and as well as if you center it on/above the mantel.
Now that you have placed your anchor piece, you will need to add some "weight" to the left and the right of it. I'm talking visual weight here, not necessarily physical weight. We need to take up some space with items on the left and right of the mantel. These objects do not need to be identical, but should carry the same visual weight and height. They should be shorter than your anchor piece and visually take up roughly the same amount of space. Again, you can group two or three items to achieve this step.
Take note of the scale of the pieces. You want them to be able to hold their "weight" with the anchor piece without looking too big and bulky or too lightweight. As well as the scale, you want to be aware of the shape and color of the items. There should be some contrast with the anchor and whatever else is on the wall. You don't want the pieces to get lost or get too matchy-matchy.
The filler will be the smallest pieces on your mantel. These pieces will add more color, shape and interest. To create a clean, minimal design, you can skip this step altogether. It's totally up to you and your style.
When using filler pieces, use items in varying heights to avoid creating a horizontal line across the mantel. You can always add a book or a short candlestick under a very small piece that would otherwise be too tiny and get lost.
Some other quick tips:
- When looking at the completed mantel design, it should make a triangular shape, beginning with the top of your anchor piece being the highest point, and the pieces and design getting smaller and wider at the bottom, to encompass the entire mantel.
- Using a "themed" design is great if you have a collection of items that lend themselves to a mantel design as described. (See design with cutting boards, above.)
- Leave some white space. Designers (both interior and graphic designers) talk about white space. What is it? It means leaving some empty space for your eyes to rest. It means being uncluttered. You don't want your design to be so busy that your eye doesn't know where to look.
- Layer your items. Don't be afraid to lean items against the wall rather than hang them. Layer a couple of frames or pieces of art. Layer your fillers. Adding items in front of the anchor piece/s is a great look. Just be aware of the size of the fillers so that they don't cover too much of the object. :-)
- These tips work great for any surface. So if you have a buffet, entertainment center, dresser, or any surface for that matter, follow these rules of thumb and create a gorgeous design with items that you love.
Your DIY Decorator
Photo credits to: tidbitsandtwine.com, thehappyhousie.porch.com and home.tvizlehdi.com