A Picture Perfect Fireplace Mantel Styling Recipe: Part 2

A Picture Perfect Fireplace Mantel Styling Recipe: Part 2

Fireplace Mantel

A Picture Perfect Fireplace Mantel Styling Recipe: Part 2

In the first part of our styling recipe, we went over the essentials needed to build your fireplace mantel, but it can be confusing to implement and you may not know where to begin which is why in this part, we lay out the steps to take your styling recipe from undercooked to well done. 

Anchor and Balance
Start off with an anchor of a  substantial size like a mirror, sculpture, art, or even an art tv. The anchor is the base and everything else follows. If using a large frame, lean it against the wall to easily swap items whenever.

The anchor
should not fight
with the fireplace
but complement
it instead.

Historically, mantels focus on symmetry to create visual balance. If you want a modern mantel, create visual balance by using asymmetry. The best way to do this is to not clutter, in this instance, less is more. 

That said, if symmetry makes sense to you, go ahead—there is no right or wrong way. Hang large art in the middle and frame it with wall sconces on both sides. Depending on what you use, your mantel may look modern while using traditional styling methods. For asymmetrical balance, place your anchor slightly off center, this may sound wrong but this is where the rest of the ABCs come into play.

Clusters, Contrast, Depth and Dimension
Create clusters by grouping the essentials in rules of threes or use uneven numbers. When creating clusters, group items together that are cohesive and tell a story without being “matchy-matchy.” This creates a visual contrast, Mix and match and use unexpected elements to further enhance the contrast. 

Do not group items into a single line. The quickest way to add depth and dimension is to stagger your clusters in front and around each other. Depth and dimension can also be achieved by height when grouping your clusters. Stacked books provide an opportunity to introduce a decorative object on top like a paperweight. 

Emphasis and Form
 In interior design, emphasis means creating a focal point within a space. Emphasis is achieved by adding dominant elements that stand out like colours, shapes, sizes, and the placement itself.


Select essentials that are multifaceted and have an interesting form. 
These are the pieces that stand out the most, especially from afar. If all the forms are the same shape or size, they will blend together forming a blob. 

Emphasis and
focal points go
hand in hand. 

Harmony and Hierarchy 
 Create harmony by styling items together that feel incomplete without each other. Similar to clusters and groupings, it is important that each piece chosen was not randomly selected. These essentials work together and you will know if you are on the wrong path when you add (or take away) something and it feels off.

Utilize hierarchy in conjunction with emphasis to take your mantel to the next level. Hierarchy signifies importance, and this matters because things can compete with each other especially when there are so many elements. Hierarchy is achieved by adding contrast through colour, negative space, proximity, and placement.

Lines, Movement and Negative Space
Analyze your mantel and see which linear elements stick out to you most. Through the use of lines and direction, we can create movement and negative space. Linear elements draw your eye up, down, and around. 

Break things up by using less. Take advantage of the empty spaces between elements that are not being used. Breaking things up is important because it keeps your mantle from looking too cluttered and allows you to highlight certain features subtly. 

Proportion, Proximity and Perspective
Play around with the proportions and proximity. Getting the correct proportions is crucial as proximity is what allows things to be read together. We tend to subconsciously clump things into groups, it is what allows us to communicate and understand intentions; If one of the objects feels too small or too large, it probably is.

Take a step back and look at your mantel with fresh eyes. When working closely on a project, it is easy to lose sight of your vision which is why it is important to gain some perspective by stepping back and looking at the whole picture. This allows you to refine your fireplace mantel until you are happy with it since you will notice things you may have missed before.

less is more.

Scale, Texture and Unity
Accentuate the scale of the fireplace by playing with its width or height. If your fireplace is tall, place items of similar shape and size here like a tall frame, tall vase, or tall candleholders. That said, If your fireplace is wide, mix and match frame sizes so you can balance the width and height of it. 

Select items with different textures to break up surfaces and create visual interest. Similar to form, look for items that have different finishes like shiny, matte, smooth, bumpy, soft, and hard. Texture livens up spaces by bringing interest instead of something bland and sterile.

Tie the essentials together with unity. Unity refers to all the elements within your space/design working together. Unity and Harmony are similar yet different. Think of unity as the physical element (something you can see) whereas harmony is a feeling you get when you walk into a space and it feels right. 

Final Thoughts


Who knew there was so much to consider? Note that these are guidelines and suggestions and your mantel may not accommodate everything mentioned. 

That said, styling your fireplace mantel can be done yearly as the seasons and times change—You do not have to wait until Fall and Winter to make use of your fireplace. 

Now that the essentials and ABCs are down, let’s move on to the final step: seasonal changes. 

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