Art of the Mantel

Dancing flames and crackling wood in your fireplace may take center stage during the chilly months, but it’s the mantel that’s the year-round star of your hearth. This one—while not your mother’s mantel—is a show-stopping example of just how creative you can be while following some basic guidelines for decorating this all-important space. Here’s why it works:

There’s a theme: Whether you’re matching the decor of your home or just have a neat theme in mind, the mantel is the place to show it off. The theme here is simple—ABCs and 123s (on the metal objects)—and complements the room’s folksy Early American flavor.

It experiments with color and texture: Vines draped over the length and down the sides of the hearth mingle with wrought-iron votives and candle holders to create a rustic and woodsy texture. We also love how the gleaming metal number plates and an alphabet wheel shimmer against the aged brick.

It relies on a focal point: Don’t feel tied to hanging a mirror or painting above the hearth to create a focal point—though this is a safe and easy technique. On this modest brick surface, the eye catcher is the metal alphabet wheel set off to the right. (Keep in mind, the focal point isn’t always central.)

It plays with scale and symmetry: Balance large objects with clusters of small accessories, and add visual punch with unexpected placement. The tiered row of candlesticks backed up by the metal number plates on the left balances the weight of the metal wheel on the right. The continuous trail of vines unites the entire display.

Read the full story in the October/November 2005 issue of Timber Home Living.

Photo by Judith Churchill