Make Your Fireplace Mantel Fit for a Magazine

There's nothing as cozy and satisfying as relaxing in front of your fireplace on a long winter's night. But even when it's not lit, that fireplace takes up a lot of real estate in your living space. So it's important to incorporate it into your decorating scheme, no matter the season. Try these ideas for making your fireplace work harder in your room, transforming this occasional source of warmth into a constant source of style.

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  1. Styling Tips


    One of the real pleasures—and challenges—of having a fireplace is decorating it. You may feel like a painter standing in front of a blank canvas, eager to begin but anxious about getting it right. In Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas, the editors of Better Homes & Gardens offer simple strategies for arranging a mantel so that your fireplace can glow as a focal point all year long.

  2. Play with Placement


    To create the most intriguing effect, introduce a variety of shapes, heights, and textures. Gather several decorative items with a range of silhouettes—a tall frame, a slim vase, a chunky monogram—and try them in different arrangements until you're happy with the look. Step back to see what you've done. Add or subtract objects to establish an interesting focal point.

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  3. A Nod to the Past


    For antiques lovers, mantels are the ideal spot to display cherished possessions. Blue-and-white pottery, gilded frames, and silver candlesticks combine in a classic combination that will coordinate with homes of many different periods. The addition of a single sculptural piece, such as the bird shown here perched on the mantel, adds a note of personal style.

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  4. Simple Symmetry


    One of the most basic arrangements for a mantel is to place a single tall item in the center and then position pairs of objects on either side. Here, lamps and bud vases flank a stately mirror. Placing matching armchairs in front of the fireplace underscores the symmetry of the scene.

    Related:  9 Lampshades You Can Make Before Lights Out

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  5. Illuminating Artwork


    Installing sconces on either side of a mantel can brighten a room and help frame and illuminate a favorite work of art. In this scheme, to keep the attention on the painting, accessories were used sparingly—the potted plant and two glass orbs complement the blue-green hues of the artwork above.

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  6. Dynamic Duo


    There's no need to feel pressured to find a single large-scale work of art to place above a mantel—two or more pieces can be equally pleasing to the eye, as this duo of black-and-white photographs stylishly demonstrates. A small sculptural horse and two tiny blue vases add dimension to the arrangement while keeping the focus squarely on the artwork.

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  7. A Layered Effect


    Grouping framed pieces is another effective way to decorate a mantel. The trick is to limit the selection so that each piece can be seen and appreciated on its own. Take a detour from the family photo route, and instead use swatches of decorative fabrics or wallpapers. Colorful accents like these are as acceptable as any painting, print, or photograph.

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    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  8. The Art of Balance


    In this nautical-inspired living room, artful arrangements of decorative objects sit on either side of a convex mirror. Although the height, shapes, and number of items differ from right to left, the visual impact of each side is well balanced. The seashell effectively ties the mantel into the overall theme of the room.

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  9. Creating Calm


    In bedrooms with fireplaces, adorn the mantel with accents that you'll enjoy gazing at from bed: a favorite painting, a pottery collection, or beautifully framed photos of family and friends. A trio of objects in serene blues was chosen for this inviting room.

    Related: 10 Accessories for the Fashionable Fireplace

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  10. Incorporate Technology


    In this family room, a floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplace accommodates a flat-screen—perfect for a family of movie lovers. Redware pottery displayed on either side of the mantel complements the room's country decor and leaves the view of the screen unobstructed.

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  11. Showstopper


    If you find a single ornamental piece that fits the proportion of the mantel and the style of the room, there's no need to incorporate anything else.

    Fireplace Design & Decorating Ideas; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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