The Secret for Scaling Living Room Wall Decor


Hello, this is part I and II about scaling living room wall decor. If you missed part I, please start at the beginning. (duh)

If you’ve read part I, you can scroll until you reach the double asterisks.**



Hi Everyone,

The headline is The secret for scaling living room wall decor.

Frankly, there is no secret. In addition, there is no ONE way. However, there are some things that people frequently get wrong.


Once again, we will use my fireplace wall as an example.


I will also show you my favorite fireplace mantel design with scale measurements.

But first, we need to talk about what not to do. Yes, again. Please keep sending me ugly fireplace mantels, and I’ll keep harping; okay, not really.

Someone just sent me a website with “reasonably priced” (her words) $20,000 fireplace mantels. Sorry if the person is reading this. I have no idea who it was. I can’t find the email. I know she means well.


Oh, wait. No, it just came back to me.


She freaking called me up on the phone. And I read the transcript, which somehow included a link. Guys, you can email me, but if you get my phone number off the internet, please have the decency not to call me unless you want to give me a million dollars. Then, you can call me any hour of the day or night. We can talk even if it’s only $500,000, too!

Anyway, my budget is closer to $2,000.00, plus S/H, installation, stone surround, and hearth!

You can see the abominations here.

I believe someone sent me this source the other day. These are the antithesis of what I want. Okay, I realize most of you get it, so I will stop complaining.


So, what is the secret for scaling living room wall elements?


I recommend doing a scale elevation. Seriously, it’s the only way to know for sure.

For those not in the trade, an elevation is a drawing where elements attached to the wall or within a few feet of the wall are drawn. However, they are not in perspective.

You can also do a perspective elevation that’s more of a rendering. In perspective, items in the distance will appear smaller than the same item closer to the viewer’s sightline.

Guys, I am thinking of creating a little course about creating vignettes, plans, and renderings on Picmonkey. I prefer it because you don’t have to rely on an image library. You can put in anything you like.

But, Laurel, you’re inferring that there aren’t any rules.


Well, there are, and I’ve written them out in the 333 Decorating Rules & Tips You Need to Know guide.

However, I find that living room wall decor that exist for about the first four to five feet don’t change much, no matter how high the ceiling is. I believe these elements are for the humans living in the room. And, like the furniture we sit on, it is not related to the size of the room.


This morning, someone sent me a “fabulous source” in Florida called Fine’s Galleries.



Not fine.

Oh, I’m trying so hard to be a kind, understanding person. Yes, when it comes to people, but not for some of the things people create.

(Note: 18 hours after publishing. Today, while looking at yet more mantels, Google kept sending me mantels from Fines. Only these are fine! They’re lovely. However, the link yesterday took me dozens of their mantels which are not my thing at all… Still, they are out of my price range.)

Yet, when it comes to interior design, I still feel like a perpetual student.

Please look at Gil Schafer’s work.


Gil Shafer stunning dining room library - with warm color scheme

Everything, and I mean everything he does, is beyond perfection. However, if you look at images of his former Greenwich Village NYC residence in an early 19th c. rowhouse, you will see that everything at eye level and below is the same scale if the ceiling was several feet lower.

The rest of this post will focus on my 21-foot-long windowless wall with a center fireplace that juts out 13″. Please check out this post with some ideas for long empty walls.


Also, I’m linking to a page on Pinterest, or rather the images underneath the lead image by John B. Murray Architects.


He’s another one. Perfect. Anyway, you’ll find dozens of gorgeous, beautifully proportioned fireplace mantels here.

Please also check out other architects in this post about some of my favorite American classical architects.


Next, below is my favorite mantel for the living room wall decor vignette.


neo-classical fireplace 40 wainscoting circle motif

This is a 48″ mantel with the 40″ wainscoting. I made the mantel blue so you could see it better. It won’t be blue. Actually, flanking the mantel is new wainscoting to match the existing. Last night, I was working with a mantel at 46″, and the wainscoting looked disproportionately high. It still does a little.

But, is it worth changing it?

neo-classical fireplace 36" high wainscoting floral centerAbove, this mantel is still 48″, and with wainscoting, that’s 36″h. I also lowered the current 10″ baseboard. The thing I need to remember is that this is an elevation.

If you check out this post about coffee table styling wink, you can see the fireplace. The bottom section is right at 48″. So, that is how high my mantel will be.

In perspective, the mantel will seem larger. Thus the wainscoting will look a little lower. I’m having a meeting with my contractor on Thursday. I’ll discuss it with him, then.

The trick I mentioned the other day regarding the 12″ black granite is putting a band of white marble.


Optically, the white beef’s up the wooden part, and the black opens up the hole.

Okay, I’m still not quite there, but from a dollar standpoint alone, I think I need a wooden mantel. I think it’ll be a lot less money and less hassle. I’d rather put the dough (no pun intended) into my marble kitchen counters.

Incidentally, the mouldings came from Pearl Works mouldings.

This is the only place I could find the circle motif I love.

While the floral center is lovely, I think it would be better in a small room.

Next time, I’ll have a couple of complete wall elevations for you to see. One is very simple, and the other is a little more complex. I’ll also do some detail drawings of the mantel with specific measurements and mouldings. I’m 100% fine if you copy me.


However, I’ve long known about Decorator’s Supply. However, I’ve only seen a fraction of what they have until tonight.

When they say they have over 100,000 mouldings, they aren’t joking. But, I’ve never looked through their largest catalog of well over 300 pages with dozens of mouldings on each page. (Enjoy yourselves!)

Decorators Supply mantel catalog #31

They even have a mantel catalog for $6.60, except there’s minimum $200 order. I’ll see if I can get it somewhere else. Or, maybe I can get more catalogs. What’s online is sometimes difficult to see.

There are hundreds of shells. I’ll have to look again, but so far, they all seem to be too small. It would be helpful to have a mold for at least part of the backplate for the new sconces.

I’ve even found some beautiful mouldings that could work for Furlow’s fronds.


So, hang on, please, because I’ll put it all together on Thursday evening!





**It’s Thursday evening. :]


First of all, thank you so much for your kind words about the untimely death of a special person in our lives. What makes it especially hard is how it happened. If you’d like to read more, there is a link further down.

I have spent hours working on this fireplace mantel. It’s funny. Usually, the fireplace is the focal point of a living room. However, no matter what is there, it is upstaged by the massive windows in the back of the room. Still, it’s an important element.

Thank you all, for your kind suggestions. I’ve decided to do a modified version of the cool Jamb mantel, from Sunday’s post, and have my contractor make it. I think this will be the most economical way of doing things.

I love that mantel, and it’s relatively easy to replicate and build. I said, relatively. I think it’ll look lovely in wood. I’m going to add a small side panel and also a different shelf and moulding under the shelf.

Oh, greater Bostonians may know this source for mouldings, but I’d like to share it with the rest of you. Anderson McQuaid in Cambridge.

I have never seen so many milled moulding options ever!


They have something called a belly casing, 100s of versions, but some that would make wonderful and interesting flutes.

I promise to share a scale drawing of the mantel when it’s finished, but it’s not quite ready yet.

In the meantime, I’ve created a new vignette as promised for the fireplace wall. And, here it is!

my fireplace wood mantel 48 h x 56 w - mirror 50 rendering July 2023


As usual, it’s not perfect, however, this is a fantastic way to check out colors, as well as proportions for living room wall decor.


This one is in perspective. I think the 48″ high mantel looks fine with the 40″ wainscoting, now.

After looking at the beautiful French mantels for months, I’ve decided to go with something simple and elegant. More on that one later.

Do you notice something else?

The chinoiserie panels are left over from my bedroom! What I did is do a virtual glaze over the paper to make it slightly greener. Of course, I will experiment first.

What’s that chandelier, Laurel?


Oh yes. My architect wants me to wire for a chandelier as there is a plaster plate on the ceiling. He’s right. It would look lovely if it’s the right piece. Well, I have always loved these Egyptian-style chandeliers. After Sara Jessica Parker’s home with one of these was featured on the cover of Elle Decor, at least two decades ago, these became highly sought after.

At the time, Canopy Designs began manufacturing them. I believe my net price was about $900, and then it went up to $1,100 the last time I ordered in 2012, with a retail price of about $2,400.

But then, Canopy Designs went out of business.

However, they sell them on 1stDibs for somewhere between $9,000 and $10,000!



Well, there’s no way I’m spending that much!

There are two white ones because they are different prices.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this information about living room wall decor!

Thank you again for your kindness!

Below is my note, plus important links!


I’m struggling right now. It has nothing to do with the renovation, fireplace mantel proportions, or even this website. None of those are important. In the end, people and animals (except for mosquitoes) are all that matter.

But fair warning and trigger alert. If you do not want to read about anything unpleasant, please just go to the HOT SALES page. See? That’s me. My heart is hurting, and I’m still being silly.

For those curious about what’s going on, I have put the news about a recent tragedy that has left thousands of people in my old northern Westchester County community quite bereft on a separate page. I needed to get it out and feel better for doing so.



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Your support of my work and website means the world to me! (note. You can also find this message on the home page.)

Please also visit the HOT SALES pages. These are the best deals on home furnishings, and I like to link to Nordy’s because so many of you shop there, and they have wonderful sales like their anniversary sale going on right now.

35 Responses

  1. What a journey you’re on, thank you for letting us follow along! For readers without a sublime contractor on hand, I want to recommend The Mantel Shoppe (, which custom built my mantel in 2021. I ordered the Chatom style from the Garden collection – it’s almost an exact match to a fireplace mantel in the indispensable book “Get Your House Right”. You pick the type of wood and finish. While standard measurements are listed, they’ll customize the overall height, shelf width, breast height, and opening height and width. You gotta get those proportions right 😉 I used your blog to make sure mine was perfect but didn’t think to check local fire code…so far, so good (knocks on the wood mantel)

  2. It was so heartbreaking to learn of the passing of Cale’s beloved music teacher, and especially of how it happened. Teachers get such bad press these days that we forget how they can affect a young person’s life in the most positive way. I was a high school art teacher for 34 years, so I understand the passion that goes into teaching a subject you love. Please accept my deepest sympathy for this awful loss.

  3. My deepest condolences on the tragic death of your and Cale’s beloved music teacher, Richie. There is no more precious person to a mother than someone who loves and supports and helps her child. This must be a terrible heartache for you both. Big virtual hugs to Cale, as well.

  4. Beautiful proportions! Another case where careful and thoughtful renderings help you make an informed decision.

  5. Laurel, I think Cale said it best.

    Amazing rendering of the showpiece of your future living room. Gorgeous beyond words. You painted your coffee table?! Highly approve of the color. Was unsure at first if that gilded frame above the mantel was an abstract painting, has Laurel gone Wm. McLure?, but I think it holds a monumental mirror. Stunning homage to Neo-Classicism, with a fresh Contemporary feel, IMHO.

  6. Laurel,
    I have just read your post about the crime that cost your friend, Cale’s teacher, his life. Indeed, it is fuckedup. If only there were a witness to come forward, traffic cameras or outdoor shop cameras, though I doubt there were. In such weather conditions a forensic analysis of photos would be difficult but not impossible. Surely someone with the right moral compass will contact the authorities. But that’s the lawyer in me talking. I am so sorry. My best memories of high school are playing in the orchestra and concert and jazz band and I had a great high school experience. Yet music was the best, the constant, the tight-knit world away from adolescent noise and folderol. I felt bereft when our director, elderly and long retired, died. I can’t imagine current and former students, his family, losing him in the prime of his life.

  7. Laurel, I love everything Gil Schafer does, and Tom Scheerer, and David Netto . . . I ripped photos of their work out of magazines long before I realized it was the same handful of designers, just different work. I’ll never be able to hire them, but they’ve taught me a lot. But not in the granular detail I’m learning from you, especially during your renovation. Thanks very much.

  8. Laurel, what happened to your friend is so terrible. It’s hard enough when someone passes, but to lose them in this manner is too much! I pray they find the person that ended his life.
    It’s great that you found an affordable solution to your fireplace mantel dilemma. It will be so lovely in the end.
    My ex- husband built our mantel in my previous home. He should have read your articles about scale first. He made it way too tall. 🤦‍♀️

  9. Dear Laurel and Cale,
    So very sorry for the loss of your wonderful teacher and friend. That is a horrific tragedy. My heart and prayers are with both of you and Richie’s family. Peace.

  10. Unrelated to the blog post, but I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately and wanted to deeply thank you. We bought a house in September for $225k, had it majorly renovated (with all of those associated decisions), and have recently moved in and are doing more of the “DIY friendly” stuff. It’s not going to be perfect, I’ve already buggered up at multiple points, but MUCH LESS SO than I would have without you (both blog posts and guides, they are my design Bibles). With my first house, I casually followed your blog post advice when I felt like it, and even so I feel like we had excellent results. The house sold very fast, partly because it was lovely and cozy inside. On this house, I’m a devoted follower, and I think it will show in the results. My husband is often hesitant when I fanatically insist on certain design choices, but he has always been shocked and pleased at how good it looks when it is done.

    I dunno, I know I might be a bit much, but I am just so freakin’ grateful to you. Nobody else has such good taste and is so good at making it accessible to “normal” people. Nobody else explains interior design in a way that makes as much sense to my brain. I feel like you’ve helped shape my eye so well, and I’m starting to “take off” and be able to think critically about design choices even if it isn’t spoon-fed to me by experts such as yourself. (And there is nobody else I trust enough to “allow” them to shape my eye like you). Thank you for devoting so much time to making beauty within reach to people.

    Also, I’m very, very, very sorry for your loss. That’s heart-wrenching and terrible. It sounds like he lived an amazing life.

  11. I think what you’ve done so far is absolutely gorgeous. I love the white with touches of teal and the Chinoiserie panels have always been my dream. This is going to be the most incredible home.

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss and your community’s loss. May his memory be a blessing and may they find the person that did this. So upsetting.

  13. Laurel, I’m so sorry to hear about Richie. Your tribute to him was beautiful; he sounds like an amazing man! My condolences to you, Cade, and all the many people whose lives were touched by Richie, and especially to his family. Please update us if you hear any news. Sending much love.

  14. I think your problem with the proportions is that the wainscoting is much too high. Alexa Hampton recommends a chair rail height of 28″-30″. I think it could be a little higher than that, but not much. With all the lovely renovations you are doing, not correcting this would bother me visually forever.

  15. I haven’t even finished the read, barely started in fact. But thank you so much for all the pictures, links, of how to do mantles correctly. I am in process of large remodel which includes 2 fireplaces. My interior designer is great with upholstery, fabrics, etc. But the fireplace drawings are not doing it for me. You have given me hope. Most of my inspiration pictures sent to her were from Gil Schaffer.

  16. My deepest condolences to you and the many others who loved Richie. Such a tragic loss of life, made even more tragic by the cowardice of the driver. I get it–I lost someone very dear to me as a result of a collision with a drunk driver. So sad….

  17. I’m so sorry about the tragic loss of Richie.

    Concerning the fireplace mantels, I don’t understand what’s wrong with some of the mantels in the link that the lady sent you. If they fit the scale and style of the room, what’s the issue? The price?

  18. Dear Laurel, It’s good to share your grief with your online readers. We empathize with the tragic loss you and Cale, his many students, and especially the family are experiencing. A life well lived such as Richie’s will be a loss to so many. You can see the joy he brought to his students just through those smiling faces. What a wonderful man he must have been. Sending love and prayers

  19. I like the shorter wainscoting…the shorter baseboard is better also. I normally like extremely tall baseboard but in this drawing it is almost as if the volume of baseboard overpowers the more delicate fireplace . Everything is pushing in on fireplace. The lower wainscoting allows the fireplace to breathe

  20. Laurel, I am so sorry for the loss of Richie. Losing someone special unexpectedly when they are in the prime of their life is so hard to process. And the way in which it happened is horrible. I hope justice prevails.

  21. Dear Laurel,
    I am so sorry for your and Cale’s loss of a dear and precious friend. I just wrote a sympathy card to family friends where I really have no words to say. I understand Cales’ sentiment. I feel the same pain. A life well lived is never forgotten. My comfort is in 2 Corinthians 1:3&4. May you find comfort there as well.

  22. I’m sorry for your loss, for Cale’s loss, for the loss to our world. Thank you for sharing your tribute.

  23. Oh, Laurel,

    Grieving with you, Cale, Melissa & all those impacted by Richie’s passing. Just lost a dear mentor & friend who married my husband and I eighteen years ago this month, and I can’t decide which was harder…waiting and praying with the family for a peaceful passing from pancreatic cancer, or the unexpected news of my dad’s death. I decided it’s just HARD. No words. Just sharing the grief. I’ll be keeping you all in my prayers, and that the cowardly person who hurt Richie comes forward or is found quickly. Please do keep us posted…we had our own silly “drama” in AL over a faked-kidnapping, which unfortunately took precedent over real tragedies elsewhere.

  24. Such sad news-my deep condolences to you and Cale, his family, and all who knew this wonderful man. I’m sorry that Cale has had the loss of two people that are so important to him.

  25. Such sad news for all who new Richie. Hopefully there will be justice.

    Your ceiling height is not changing which drives everything. My designer eye prefers the first elevation with the taller wainscoting and I like the circle better than the scrolling filigree in the center of the mantel. I think your furniture will look just fine with this elevation. The addition of your sconces, mirror, wall color, and artwork will fill the space and bring it all tougher.

    Put the money you would spend on changing the wainscoting into the French doors.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Great point. With the ten-foot tall windows, the wainscoting is okay. The apartment has its inherent quirks I can’t do anything about. One thing is the door that’s shoved into the wall on the way to the bathroom. Alas, there’s a staircase in the way, no matter what. Also, in a line drawing, the wainscoting stands out much more than in real life.

  26. So sorry for your loss. It’s amazing that the human race can produce such wonderful beings like Mr. Richardson, and such low-life evil beings like his killer. I will pray for this murderer to be caught and brought to justice.

  27. So sorry about the horrible tragedy. I’m sure you have thought of this, but I know there are several architectural salvage places in and around Boston. I have seen lovely fireplace mantels at such places for reasonable prices.

  28. Good Morning Laurel. I am so sorry for this tragic killing of Richie and condolences to his family and all the many students he inspired to go forth with knowing Richie had their back.
    Losing good people is a loss never forgotten.
    My prayer is the person who did this will not be able to sleep and if attempts to, will have horrible nightmares. No peace until the person comes forward with truth.

  29. Your posts are such delights to read, but today’s tragic news about a beloved teacher is crushing. My deep condolences to his family and yours. His spirit lives on in every student he taught!

  30. Dear Laurel – that’s just the most awful news. Please send condolences from your online community to Cale.

  31. Your tragic news makes one feel sick with horror, Laurel, all my sympathy to you and to Cale and to everyone else connected with Richie. I hope justice will be done.
    Re proportions. Although I prefer to see images of rooms without people in them, it would often be useful to see them photographed with a human figure to help with an estimate of proportions. There is also the position of the camera lens to take into account: in the Gil Schafer photo, it seems to be below where a human eye would be, presumably in order to include the wall right up to the ceiling. The result is that in this photo, the table and chairs seem undersized — do other people agree?
    We often forget this (and other deceptive bits) when looking at photos of interiors, or indeed of gardens. I’ve seen a photo of a noble lord’s magnificent compost heap, with a wheelbarrow in front. If the wheelbarrow is normal size, the compost heap is at least 15 feet tall — you wouldn’t need a wheelbarrow, you’d need a forklift truck, and a hefty one at that.
    I don’t think you should change your wainscotting. It’s there, work with it. Your first elevation looks fine — the wainscotting comes to just below the top section of the mantel, and it looks fine. Agree about the circle rather than the floral bit, which isn’t gutsy enough for the scale of the piece.
    Finally, Laurel, I can’t help your finances by using the Amazon link since I’m in France; one of your readers suggested setting up a Patreon page, and I second that — I would be happy to contribute.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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