Ideas for Mantel Shelf

Updated April 17, 2017

The fireplace mantel is a reflection of your home's personality and is often the first thing a person will see when entering a home or living room. It can be a place to display cherished photos, art or pottery, or left clean in a minimalist environment. The mantel should be consistent with the home decor yet carry its own identity, decorated with unique pieces collected over the years or a simply a collection of items that all carry the same colour. Design ideas are varied and it just requires a little direction, some style sense and flexibility to create a mantel you can be proud of.

A Common Denominator

The mantel should be a balance of items that do not overload the mantel or look lost in the space. Because it is the focal point of a room, a mix of large and small pieces works well. Begin with a collection of ceramic vases in the same colour but not necessarily the same style. The common denominator will be the colour but the mix of sizes and textures adds interest. Place these on the mantel, balancing the sizes. Most decorators prefer to work in odd numbers, so consider five vases or seven vases or even more if your mantel is especially long. Even numbers tend to divide a space while odd numbers bring items together.

Vintage Collections

For a very personalised mantel, take favourite family photos or old postcards from family and friends and frame each in vintage style frames. Choose metals that are similar in colour such as a collection of brushed silver or nickel; do not mix up gold and silver as that will create confusion in your collection. Once these are framed, place them on the mantle in a balanced order. Take one of the photos and place it on a stack of small old books for an interesting dimensional perspective. Use books that are you are particularly fond of that reflect a literary style and personal favourites. If you have a favourite painting from an old master, find a postcard of it from a museum shop and frame that too -- this gives the whole mantle a visual story for your guests and is a true reflection of the people who live here.

Travel Theme

Display a love of travel by having shadow boxes made by your local custom framer. Take postcards, sea shells, pieces of driftwood and even a little sand and have a shadow box made that includes all these elements. A memorable vacation can be shared by placing photos, postcards, a napkin, matchbook or menu from a favourite restaurant and built into a shadowbox or even into a collage style art piece that is then framed and displayed on the mantel. Be sure not to make these items too large, and then feel free to place a favourite object in front of the framed piece such as another small photo or unusual rock found on your travels.

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About the Author

Jan Weiss is a freelance writer living in Northern California. She regularly writes reviews on local restaurants and businesses as well as for and numerous contributions to eHow. With more than 15 years in the art business, Weiss has become well known in this arena and is collaborating on a guide to the art publishing business, which will be published as an e-Book.