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How to Decorate Fireplace Mantels

Posted by Jeffrey Swerdan on Aug 24th 2023

How to Decorate Fireplace Mantels

How to Guide on Decorating Fireplace Mantels

Fireplace mantels are one of the easiest ways to add character, function and design to your fireplace wall. This space in your home is a blank canvas waiting for your creative touch to give it life. However with so many options to choose from it can easily become an overwhelming process when trying to decide on the overall design and decoration of the mantel and accessories.

Before choosing your design and d├ęcor ideas, the first step is to look at the fireplace unit that you have

The type of fireplace you have installed in your home will determine what types of mantels that you can choose. With fireplaces, there are several types include wood burning units that can either be traditional masonry fireplaces or can be factory built fireplaces with a metal firebox. There are also gas log set ups, wood stove inserts, gas inserts, and electric fireplaces.

The reason this is important is because each type of fireplace produces varying amounts of heat. Your gas and wood fireplaces will have specific clearance requirements for how close to the firebox mantels made with combustible materials can be installed. Electric Fireplaces do not generate the same amount of heat and thus can usually have combustible mantels installed very close to the firebox.

The next step is to find your inspiration and determine what styles you want to decorate the living room or area around the fireplace

Are you completely redesigning the entire room or home around the fireplace and mantel, or are you wanting to keep your style but add the mantel as an accent piece?

I'm sure you have heard all of the phrases: from sleek and modern, to traditional and cozy, to warm and inviting, to rustic modern, to beach house, art deco, retro, minimalistic and so on. If you know what style you like then great. If not, don't worry about what name it is. Just look through sample pictures and determine the colors and patterns that you resonate with.

There are a number of websites that can help spark inspiration by showing you already designed fireplace rooms including: Pinterest, Houzz, The Spruce just to name a few. Use these websites to let your imagination run wild. A piece of advice when looking through these images is to focus more on the colors, patterns and items in the pictures that you like, instead of trying to find a room that looks like yours. Find what styles and colors you like and let that guide you through the process.

The fireplace and mantles are just the beginning of the design process. The fireplace screen, cover, accessories and the chimney should all be planned out to maximize the aesthetic of the space

Along with your firebox, and mantle there are a variety of other things you can add to the area to help give it an all new look and feel.

Depending on the type of fireplace you have, a fireplace screen is a great accent piece. It usually attaches to the firebox of sits in front of it on the hearth.

The colors you choose to accent your fireplace mantle will have a large impact on how you feel in the space.

The colors you choose to decorate with has a huge impact not only on the look of a space but also on how the space makes you feel. A simple color change can take the room from warm and inviting, to rich and elegant. Here are some notes on color and their impact on feelings:

  • Blue comes in a variety of shades and hues. Blue is one of the most popular colors in the world. It has a connection to water and as such Blue can make you feel calm. Blue also expresses a feeling of intelligence and loyalty.
  • Green gives you the feeling of nature and has a way of making us feel safe. Green can make a room feel rejuvenated and alive.
  • Red is the color of fire and as such can give us feelings of power, sensuality and passion. Because of its rich color depth, red is often used as an accent color. Red can also make a room feel smaller and more intimate.
  • Yellow makes us think of the sun and it gives us a feeling of happiness and energy. Yellow is bright and fun and when used to accent a space it fills the space with vibrancy and optimism. However you have to be careful using the wrong shades of yellow. If it is too bright it will be unpleasant and if it is too muted it can give us the feeling of being sick.
  • Orange is the color of creativity. It has the ability to make us feel warm and full of excitement and wonder.
  • Purple gives off the feeling of royalty and can make a room feel lively. It is an interesting combination of warm and cool colors. Purple can also inspire sensitivity.
  • Black is one of the most popular colors because it has the versatility to match with anything and is a good go to color if you are ever in doubt. Black gives off a feeling of mystery, power and depth. Be careful though, because too much black in a space will shrink the space and make it feel small.
  • White is the color of purity, cleanliness and clarity. It is the color of choice for minimalists and works wonderfully when paired with colorful accent pieces.

How should I decorate my fireplace mantel/mantle? What items should I put on the mantel?

On top of the mantle you can place things like pictures, family photos, mirrors, art pieces, candles, vases, clocks, decorative plates, books and more.

A couple things to keep in mind when decorating:

  • Start with a centerpiece and design around that. What do you want to be the focal point of the design?
  • Use items on the mantle that accent other items in the room. For example, if you have blue throws on your couch, maybe add touches of blue to the items on the mantle.
  • Add variation by selecting items with different shapes
  • Keep taller items in the back and shorter items to the front
  • Layering is a good technique but don't overcrowd the area. It is alright to place items in front of each other, because everyone will be looking at your fireplace and mantel from different angles in your room. Just don't make the mantel so busy that no one can see all of the great items you selected to place there
  • The addition of mirrors help make the room look larger and feel more grand
  • An odd numbers of items look more interesting than an even number of items. Think 3 candle - candelabras, or three vases.
  • Think seasonal - You can always change out the decorations to match the season. This keeps the space always looking new and interesting, plus gives you a chance to play with different styles.

Are there any items that I shouldn't put or hang from the fireplace mantel?

This goes back to determining what type of fireplace that you have. If you have a fireplace that produces a considerable amount of heat, then here are some items you should NOT put on your mantel:

  • Plants - The added heat from the fireplace will cause plants to dry out and perish more quickly. Once a plant dries out, it becomes flammable and thus has the potential to start a house fire
  • Books & Papers - These can also heat up and catch fire, even if they are not close to the actual flames.
  • Hanging items such as garland, tinsel or stockings - It is never a good idea to have something that dangles or hangs from the mantel closer to the fireplace. More often than not these items will fall into the clearance area that the fireplace has restrictions against. These items can melt and catch fire.
  • Wax Candles - Candles are one of the go to items for decorating fireplace mantels, just be careful, because prolonged exposure to heat will cause the wax in the candles to melt.
  • Be Pet smart - It's a good idea not to place anything on the mantle that your cat would want to play with.

Can I install a Television or Stereo System on the mantle or the area above my fireplace?

This is a common trend seen on many design websites and is something that some homeowners choose to do. However, while many people love the aesthetics of placing a TV above a fireplace, it is not recommended to do so. In most cases even with a mantle the fireplace manufacturer will warn against placing any type of television or electronic devices on the wall directly above the fireplace. The reason for this is that electronics and heat do not work well together. Most televisions have vents on the unit that allow for the television to cool down after prolonged use and in most cases these vents are near the bottom of the television unit and when you install the television above the fireplace, heat will travel up the wall and into these vents. Thus pushing a lot of residual heat into the television. Over time this heat will shorten the life span of the electronics.

Television manufactures usually state in their manual that they will void all warranties if the television is mounted above a fireplace. It is true that a noncombustible fireplace mantel may block a good amount of heat from traveling up the wall, it is recommended to reach out to your television manufacturer to inquire about their warranty and policies before moving forward with your installation.

How to decorate around fireplace?

Fireplace screens, fireplace doors, fireplace tool sets, hearth rugs, log racks, ash pans, woven baskets and buckets are just some of the accessories you could choose to use as decorations around the fireplace hearth area in your living room or space. Just be mindful of clearance requirements. The use of mirrors, family framed photos, paintings or artwork are also a great way to decorate the walls or areas to the side of the fireplace.

Where can I learn more about Fireplace Mantels and Surrounds?

Check out our Resource Center for helpful articles about Mantels, Surrounds and other Fireplace topics.

Where can I purchase a Fireplace Mantel or Surround?

Northline Express offers a variety of Fireplace Mantel & Surround options to choose from.

decorating a fireplace mantel

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