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Styling Basics: Fireplace Mantel

If you tuned into the latest #greatdesigndebate over on my Instagram stories, then you already know that I'm not super keen on a TV over the fireplace (neck cricks anyone?). Sometimes there is no other solution, but if your TV finds another home, leaving your mantel free, then I have some tips for you on the best way to make this coveted architectural statement sing.

When talking about true styling basics, it comes come down to two simple things: proportions and balance. Since a fireplace is most often symmetrical, you'll want to think about the overall mantel styling as a triangle, meaning you have the tallest point in the center and shorter items toward the outside.

There is, as with anything in home design, some nuance to this that may need further clarification. Read on for my four styling options that work beautifully every time!

Balance is key but balance doesn't always mean symmetry. As a matter of fact, taking an asymmetrical approach to balance is much more interesting and pleasing to the eye. A set of three vases feels balanced when you use the large one on one side and the two smaller ones on the other side. The two small ones have the same visual weight as the single large vase.

I see this All. The. Time. Small items are spaced out along the mantel and the vignette lacks a focal point and the balance we're after. Instead try grouping pieces on either end; larger pieces on the outside and smaller pieces toward the middle. Mix up the shapes with a curvy vase, a picture frame, potted plant or floral arrangement, and a decorative box.

There's more to a fireplace than just the mantel! Using the floor space below can help balance out a minimalist approach to mantel decor. In this case we're leaving the two vases and adding a larger one on the opposite side on the floor. Voila! Balance that isn't boring!

No centerpiece? No problem! You don't need a mirror or piece of art hung above the mantel to make it work. Instead try leaning a series of smaller mirrors or framed art pieces for a casual yet elegant look. A few organic elements are a welcome addition to break up all the hard lines of the frames. Just remember, we want to maintain that triangle, so keep larger pieces toward the center and smaller ones toward the outside. This is a great solution for you renters out there who want to avoid extra holes in the walls!

There is so much more we could chat about here, but these basic styling tips are an awesome guide as you design your own mantel vignette. Do remember that design rules can, and sometimes should, be broken. If you find that one of my "no's" is a "yes" for you, then go for it! What's important is that you love your space. Need more fireplace mantel inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board!


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Hi there! My name is Erin and I'm the owner of Erin Davis Design, a virtual interior design firm founded in 2017. Here on my blog I serve up tips for creating a home that's functional, beautiful, and right on budget. I hope you'll cozy up on your sofa and stay awhile! 

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