interior design

15 Ways to Style a Mantel

by Amy Azzarito

DesignSponge Fireplace
If you are lucky enough to have a mantel, you know that the fireplace and that mantel are the focus of the room. There’s no way around it, you just have to embrace it and make that mantel sing. Here are 15 mantel styling tips from just a few of our Sneak Peek homes. If there’s one takeaway here, it’s that, when it comes to mantels, bigger is better. Unfortunately, I don’t have a mantel or the fireplace part that goes with it. So I’m living voyeuristically through these photos and dreaming of the day when I have my own.   –Amy

(See also 10 Fantastically Styled Coffee Tables and Styling a Bookshelf: 10 Homes that Get it Right)

1. Go big or go home. (Aim for the piece to be at least 2/3 of the size of the mantel itself) Here the soft gray tones of the fireplace in Douglas Riccardi’s home marry well with the gray tones of the vintage poster hung above.

DesignSponge Fireplace
2. If you don’t have a single large piece, create the same impact by using multiple pieces of artwork. A good example is this minimal white fireplace, complimented by a gallery wall in Haley Ann Robinson’s home.

DesignSponge Fireplace
3. Tried and true mantel decoration – the statement mirror. Just make sure it’s large enough. This mirror works because it is nearly the size of the mantel. It doesn’t hurt that the fireplace in this Victorian home is rich with historic detail.

See all of our tips for mantel styling after the jump!

DesignSponge Fireplace
5. Add sculptural items – Your mantel doesn’t have to be a display spot for just candles and vases. Anything that has a sculptural form is perfect for the mantle. Here Rebekah Carey NcNall paired her vintage circus poster with a stack of books, a globe and vintage soda dispensers.

DesignSponge Fireplace
6. Place your art off-center and balance it with other objects. Here Maxine Sutton’s empty mirror keeps focus on the beautiful wallpaper.

DesignSponge Fireplace
7. Simple can be better. If your fireplace has great detail, like this one. You can keep it simple.

8. Go round. Juxtapose round mirrors or artwork with the rectilinear mirror shape of a fireplace. This mantel carries the round theme from the mirror through to the objects – the circular shape of the fan and the oval bell jars (that protect the couple’s wedding cake topper)

9. Paint it Black: Mantels are often the visual divides between the wall and fireplace, but painting the exterior around the fireplace place like this home looks chic and any suit or smoke residue blend right in. And it creates the same divide without a proper shelf.

10. Keep it monochromatic: If your mantle has decorative details like this home, you don’t need to distract from them with colorful decorations. Try grouping items of the same color to create interest without taking away from the beauty of your fireplace.

11. Add salvaged wood: The Jersey Ice Cream company team created their own rustic mantle using a piece of salvage wood. The wood has its own character and patina so you don’t need to add much to make it feel special.

12. Add wallpaper: If you want to keep your mantel styling simple, but want a little extra visual interest, add a sheet of wallpaper above the mantel like Brad Dufton did.

13. Play with progression of scale: Start with larger objects in the center and spread out to smaller objects for a fun play on scale. Jocie Sinauer did that with antique jugs and the effect is beautiful, but still simple.

14. Use the entire space to style (and store) if it’s non-working: If your mantel is over a non-working fireplace, use the top to display artwork and the bottom to organize books, artwork and anything else that’s beautiful to display.


15. Make an installation: Framed artwork is lovely, but sometimes using a little DIY power can lead to something more interesting and statement-making above your mantel. This wood installation by Rochelle Chavez and a white wooden installation by Fitzhugh and Lyndsay are great examples. Just make sure that if you’re working with wood you keep it at least a foot away from the fireplace opening and metal lashing.

Suggested For You


  • is anyone else having trouble reading design sponge on Feedly? The RSS doesn’t seem to be working!

  • I’m always looking for inspiration on how to style my mantel, which I struggle with since there is a built-in bookshelf on only one side. I have a hard time since it’s not symmetrical – any ideas out there?? The mantel and bookshelf is white, the fireplace is red brick (and I refuse to paint the brick!). Help meeeeeeeeee!

  • I have a lot of trouble with mine, as well. I live in a craftsman style house, with two built-in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace. The mantle goes over the fireplace and both the bookcases, spanning the entire length of the wall. On top the issue of it’s massiveness, the part above the fireplace slants back, sort of like picture 7 in this post. Can’t really hang anything on it, that would be weird, right? I can’t get a grasp of the proper scale of things to put on it. Anyone have any great craftsman fireplace wall situations?

  • Hi,
    Just came across this post. I know its over two years since last comments have been posted but I’m having similar problems with a fireplace and I need some inspiration to update it on a limited budget.

    It has cream brickwork inserted and beige plain glazed tiles for the mantel and the hearth.
    Any ideas would be really welcome!