The first step is to select décor that will convey the kind of feeling you want the room to have – formal, casual, clean lines/minimalist or eclectic/busy. You will need to work with the fireplace’s existing architecture and decide if you’d like to enhance it or subdue it. Another important consideration when decorating a fireplace mantel is to keep the design balanced and proportional.
Symmetrical design is the most popular way to decorate a fireplace mantel. Formal rooms typically follow symmetry when arranging mantel décor, but it works in a more casual setting as well. In this master bedroom above, the fireplace mantel by Norman Davenport Askins is symmetrically decorated with British 19th century botanical prints centered on the wall and antique Chinese vases on either side.
Symmetry is easy on the eye and conveys a sense of calm throughout this formal living room designed by Dana Lyon. The fireplace mantel is also symmetrically designed with original artwork flanked by candlesticks.
Another option is to create an eclectic mantel by displaying décor of varying size. If this is the look you are trying to achieve, it is still important to arrange the objects to ensure it has balance and flow.
In this contemporary sitting room designed by Eric Cohler, the mantel decor is busy, but inviting. It showcases an eclectic mix of art and photography in various sizes and frames. The small sculpture centered on the mantle is a critical element that balances out the frames. This busy style works here because the room already has lots of visual activity throughout, like the Han dynasty figurines atop the gilded bookshelves. Cohler also brings some old world charm by adding an antique English fireplace grate. I must say, the macassar ebony klismos-style chair by Hinson & Company is fabulous!