The Ultimate Guide To Fireplace Mantel Decorating

Hi Everyone,

Before we get into our Ultimate Guide Fireplace Decorating Decor– through the magic of technology, I am 34,000 feet up in the air winging it to Las Vegas for the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. (KBIS) If you are interested in seeing some previous posts about this cool show, click here, here, here, and here.

Like my White Paint Post from last week, I am updating this old post, as well. But, actually, I have consolidated two old posts about fireplace mantel decorating.

And get this. There’s a THIRD POST on the subject. But, that one I’ll leave for you to check out, because combining three posts would kill me.


Speaking of killing me.


Guys. I realize that there’s a lot of information on the blog and sometimes it might be hard to find. OR, you are stuck and paralyzed with fear. While I fully understand that you need help, it is very unlikely that I will be able to help you. Believe me, it’s not because I don’t want to; it’s not humanly possible.

Last week, alone, there were dozens of emails asking for help or for me to do your research for something.

And one more thing. This is mostly for bloggers. So, if this isn’t of interest to you, please skip ahead.


The old posts no longer exist, however, please note that you cannot just delete your posts if you no longer want them published. You will make google vewwwy angwy if you do that. And you’ll also annoy your readers when they get a 404 page not found.

You do something called a 301 redirect. If you are using wordpress which IMO, you should be, and you are using the Yoast SEO plugin which I highly recommend, it is easy as can be.

If you’d like to know more about how to make a blog work for you and how to get your website picked up by google– ORGANICALLY, please consider purchasing my 150 page guide – entitled Six Figure Income Blogger


Before we move on, I need to be a snobbish snotface.

The word is MANTEL

not mantle.


thank you. :] I feel better now.


Fireplace mantel decorating has been happening, it appears, ever since the 18th century and probably earlier. I mean, it’s just too tempting to decorate that shelf.


Let’s looks at two paintings to see how people lived and decorated their fireplace mantels.



Marriage A La Mode by William Hogarth c.1744


Hogarth’s masterpiece depicts a marriage clearly in shambles brought on no doubt by a life of debauchery. Ahhh… the idle rich…

Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with their fireplace mantel decor


Marriage_A-la-Mode_2,_The_Tête_à_Tête_-_William_Hogarth copy

Whoa, dude! Well, it’s certainly symmetrical. But, I think that husband needs to maybe get a leash for his wife? Or, maybe he’s just given up.



Quiringh van Brekelenkam – A Couple Having a Meal before a Fireplace c. 1660


No mantel at all… no decor, or money; barely any fire, a simple meal, yet they seem so content.

food for thought…

Fireplace Mantel Decorating always looks easy— until you try to do it.



Remember the mean professor that I had at the New York School of Interior Design?


Mrs. E? You can read the story here, but if you don’t feel like it, you may recall that she accused me of “improvising” my fireplace mantel decor. My response some 25 years later is…

So what??? Oh, and I had actually put a LAMP on my mantel. She crucified me for that one. I am here to tell you, that I think that lamps on a mantel are way cool (as long as the mantel shelf is deep enough); as are sconces. They are an enduring classic and actually anything that you want to put up there.




Ideally, it should make sense within the decor of the room. Minimal room. minimal mantel. Crazy, quirky room. Crazy, quirky mantel.




 Bible of British Taste


Some may recall that I claimed that this blog by Ruth Guilding should be required reading for all Americans beginning right around the time we begin to eat solid food.


You see, it’s a lot like marmite.


What on earth am I talking about? Marmite. Ya know that stuff that is spread on toast that looks and tastes like congealed motor oil infused with salt and yeast? Well, apparently, you have to be breastfed marmite in order to “enjoy” it. Otherwise, no American should ever go anywhere near it. That is, unless your bike chain needs greasing.


Yes, I’m being completely facetious and I do hope that my Anglo-Saxon readers are having a jolly-good chuckle. I am really poking fun of us unadventurous Yankees.

But, getting back to this fireplace mantel vignette. It is an acquired taste and it’s fine if you don’t, but please let’s be respectful of those who do love this. (dust and all)


In the same vein, but a little more toned down is the beautiful fireplace mantel and living room of Ben Pentreath.


Ben Pentreath - Charlie McCormick - old parsonage-staffordshire dogs fireplace living room - fireplace mantel decorating
That’s how it looked in the fall of 2017 when I quickly snapped this image before the rest of the gang arrived. For more of this charming home, click here.

and here.


I adore that mirror and haven’t found another like it.

Time to dive in for real. So, let’s begin with the fireplace mantel decorating ideas that I don’t think are working in these images and we’ll discuss what are good rules of thumb, too.

  • Display what you love!
  • but do not over-crowd!


some layering is good, but this is over-kill! No?


too much going on here and too much stuff. (although, a lot of it, I love!) The clock doesn’t work either, IMO

  • do not make overly symmetrical


  • do not over-mix materials, such as glass, with pewter, with gold, with driftwood, with porcelain
  • one fabulous mirror or painting might be all you need
  • or one fabulous TV :]
  • OR maybe the mouldings will be so incredible, that you won’t need anything else! (except lighting, of course!)
  • The mantel should be an integral part of the over-all style of the room
  • Is the mantel the primary focal point? Or, is there competition from an adjacent bookcase, window or something like that? Rooms are about balance. Therefore it’s always important to think of each element as it fits into the entire scheme.

90% of the time, a good motto for fireplace mantel decor is less is more


  • the fireplace mantel decor should complement the other furnishings and colors and vice versa
  • consideration should be given to the entire fireplace mantel wall. What’s going on either side and how does that fit in?
  • Thinking in threes. This is a little difficult to explain because there are a multitude of ways that something can be a part of a trio. Like three gold frames but one is a mirror and then something silvery like the mirror. Or three basic colors used. Or different pieces but in only one or two colors. What’s not good is having elements like gold, wood, glass, art, mirrors, ceramics, a piece of drift wood and your son’s hockey trophy all on one mantel. There’s no connection.
  • a little layering is usually good, but over-crowding is a no-no. And it is EASY to overcrowd. Mantels aren’t usually that big!

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 5.57.26 PM

  • breathing room at the end of the mantel. Just like with a piece of art, I would not place anything right on the edge. If it’s right at the edge, it’s too big or it needs to move over. How much over? I think it should not go past the overhang of the shelf, for the most part
  • avoid lots of ditzy small things.
  • balanced symmetry is always the most pleasing. This does not mean identical twins necessarily left and right of center, but visually balanced.
  • Careful editing. When in doubt. Leave it out!

I did not credit those images  (above) because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I would prefer you not pin the ones that I used as things to avoid. These are only my opinions and if you like the way they look, that is fine. (If other photos below are uncredited it is because I could not find the original source.)

Alright… here are my do’s  and some wonderful fireplace mantel designs!


fireplace mantel decorating ideas

I thought this was by Sarah Richardson, but it’s not. However, I forgot who did this lovely space, so if someone knows, please let me know and I’ll add it in. I just realized that those are the same sconces we did in this lovely home near me. (it’s the one with the greenish bench)



Gorgeous room by McGill Design Group



Detail and room above by one of the best there is, the  McGill Design Group


Loi Thai Fireplace mantel decorating

Very simple and elegant mantel vignette by Loi Thai of Tone on Tone



source unknown. But I love this for a country cottage-style home.



***Lamps on the Mantel***


fireplace mantel Jessica Goranson in Lonny mag

Jessica Goranson via Lonny

photo: Patrick Cline

Are we all in agreement that this exquisitely styled fireplace mantel by Jessika Goranson is perfect times three!



And here is why. She used the rule of THIRDS. Please notice the number of threes. This is subliminally pleasing to the eye. And this rule goes for ALL styling and design in general. It’s a wonderful rule of thumb to adhere to!

In addition, the rest of the room echos the design elements of the fireplace mantel. Or maybe it’s the other way around! Spectacular room!


Gorgeous murals and I adore the simplicity of the mantel design by  Phoebe Howard



Lonny Magazine

I love the mirror built into the mouldings and the entire feel of this sophisticated space.

This is from the JK Place Capri– where I would like to live.;]



Dujardin Design

A bit of whimsy is always a nice touch.

For more English Staffordshire Dogs – either antique or vintage, click here.


Lonny Magazine

Simple, clean and fresh. It reminds me of San Francisco, for some reason.



Michael S. Smith


Alright, I confess… the antlers might be growing on me. I dunno. I never use them, however, I don’t mind them here.


fireplace mantel decorating ideas

Victoria Hagan

Another gorgeous Victoria Hagan design. Love the fireplace and the stone! oh, while I’m thinking of it. You know those awful, cheap, shiny brass thingy inserts you see so often? Ya know with the tacky doors that turn brown? Well, you can yank all that out!


via - @gpschafer @deborah_nevins - instagram - not bland design fireplace mantel - gorgeous sconce - oil painting

via – @gpschafer and @deborah_nevins – instagram – not bland design fireplace mantel – gorgeous sconce – oil painting


Below is a mantel that I painstakingly “erased” that which lay upon it.





There are times when just one thing is appropriate.



photo: Nelson Hancock

This is a perfect example. We have an exquisite antique carved fireplace mantel. Imagine junking up the top of it. We could add some elegant sconces or candle sticks and that would be all I would do here!



Peter Benson Miller via One King’s Lane

Love the vintage creamware . I think a large collection is fine if that is ALL it is. That is a rich look!



Josie Moran Via Lonny –

Art by Artfully Walls- they are having a sale right now!

A few special art pieces make for a satisfying display on this lovely mantel.



And, a close-up


Charming, homey and slightly Boho.


living-room-McGrath-ii-english-country-house-style-white fireplace mantel decor

Beautiful Living Room by McGrath II found on Katie Considers


English english country house coote sykes Bellamont House - Fireplace mantel decorating

Above is an English country house that I was lucky to get to see on my trip to England in 2017. For more of this amazing home, please click here.

The way they styled their fireplace mantel is incredibly charming.



Above and below by the wonderful Sheila Bridges

Sheila can do no wrong in my book. Everything she does is exemplary. She innately understands the rule of thirds.



Superb display and just right in every way!  I love her little quirk of having one thing off-balance. It appears in the image above, as well.


fireplace mantel decor photo-Amy Neunsinger-mark-d-sikes-hbx-carved-fireplace-1211-de

Mark D Sikes

photo: Amy Neunsinger

This is an older image. But, if we examine it closely, there are two pairs, three pieces of art, and three objets. Beautifully balanced, too.


Mark D Sikes - southern living showhouse - gorgeous tone on tone living room - fireplace mantel decorating

Mark D Sikes – southern living showhouse – gorgeous tone on tone living room – fireplace mantel decorating. You can see more of this amazing room here.



India Hicks

This is from India Hicks home in the Bahamas. Very stylish. Very rich. Gorgeous home. It’s the old-money-I-don’t-care-if-the-sofa-hasn’t-been-reupholstered-in-25-years-look-just-because…

India is fabulous! If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, you must. She’s screamingly funny in a very dry, British way.

But please just tell me why there is a palm tree growing out of her fireplace mantel that’s sitting precariously close to the edge in a very large GLASS vase? Alright, I realize that I’m going out on a long palm frond here. After-all, who am I to question something that was published in a book by decorating royalty?!?


I’m concerned for your safety is why.


You have to understand; I raised two HELLIONS. Sure, go ahead and laugh. You have no idea. (or maybe you do?) Alas, I’m alive to tell the tale.

Barely. (to be clear, I love my two monsters insanely. They are handsome, very talented young men now! And safe to take out in public!)

If this was in my home while they were growing up, the room would be covered with palm fronds, water and thousands of shards of broken glass.

Besides, isn’t it just too overbearingly huge?

Maybe India thinks so too? Me thinks a stylist stuck it up there so we would be sure to understand that this is her ISLAND home.


saskias havekas

Saskias Havekas

Well, we have the rule of thirds, unity of color and form. Besides it’s a Paris apartment.

It’s romance personified.

I could move there right now and I wouldn’t change a thing!

If you’d like to see more fireplace mantel decorating inspiration, please don’t forget to check out this post

And also these posts about white fireplace mantels, stone fireplace mantels, and smouldering fireplace mantels


And also for fireplace mantels with TVs and/or just decorating around the TV, click here.

and here, too, for some cool ideas.

AND – for a long wall with a fireplace, there are some ideas here.


Below is a widget I created with many items that would be good for fireplace mantel decorating; either on the mantel, above it or to the side. Of course, they aren’t all meant to go together. I tried to pick out a selection of classic items. Many of them are on sale. If you see DD, that means that it’s reduced and then reduced again.



Please check out the hot sales!



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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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