Because the fireplace often functions as the centrepiece of a room, it provides a focal point visually as well as warmth for the space. As such, people tend to gather around the fireplace, making it an ideal place to consider different lighting options. While you need to think of how you're going to use the space in terms of lighting, you can also select lighting for how it makes the room feel.
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Candle arrangements add soft lighting to any setting, and the fireplace mantel is one place that lends itself well to soft lighting. Additionally, candles present many advantages as a lighting option besides adding soft light. They can be changed according to your mood as well as to the season -- it's a snap to remove those orange and black candles from Halloween and replace them with candles of reds, yellows and browns for Thanksgiving or red and green for Christmas. Candles are often inexpensive, so if the mood for change suddenly strikes you, you need only buy some new candles. They're much less expensive to replace than built-in light fixtures.
Track lighting provides directional light for your mantel from above, so you can position individual lights where you need them. For example, you may have a painting hanging above the mantel that needs some lighting, but you might also have pictures of family members as well. With track lighting, you can point little spotlights where needed. Track lighting is also subtle most of the time, because the light beam tends to be small.
String lights are the type used when decorating your home for the holidays. However, these lights can be used year round provided they're not coloured. The icicle lights work well on mantels painted white, because the cords are delicate and because the cords are often white for these types of lights.
Miniature lamps on the mantel are an old standby, but there's a reason for that. They work well, can be positioned in a number of places on the mantel and are easy to turn on and off. They also offer much in terms of style, whether you're after a small Asian lantern or a small Tiffany-style lamp.
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