The shelf found over a fireplace is typically called a mantel. This can consist of a sole shelf over the fireplace, or a shelf above the fireplace and vertical supports on either side. Although the two styles are different, the decorating techniques remain the same.
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Hang a large piece of artwork or a decorative mirror above the fireplace shelf, leaving the mantel itself empty. This helps elongate the fireplace, creating a distinct focal point in the room. A flat-screen television would also work in this situation, but the focus would be diminished, as the TV is generally used on a fairly regular basis.
Line the fireplace shelf with a collection. Excellent choices for a formal room include cultured bonsai trees, an arrangement of decorative candles or antique globes. Opt for family photos in decorative frames, trophies or sentimental curiosities for a more relaxed display. The key to displaying a collection on a fireplace shelf is to match the style of the collection to the style of the room. For example, an arrangement of delicate tea china would be very out of place in an overly casual room.
Display a large arrangement of flowers on the fireplace shelf. Placing a large vase in the centre of the shelf gives greater impact, but the effect can be dramatically increased with the addition of a smaller arrangement on either side of the centrepiece. An alternative to the smaller flowers would be a set of decorative votives. This style can work extremely well in country-style rooms, particularly if colours from the room are pulled out for the flowers.
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