10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel

by Bethany Joy Foss

The mantelpiece could be considered one of the most consistent displays of decorative personality across all homes. Originally designed to be ornamental, it isn’t any wonder that eyes are immediately drawn to the characteristic form and fitted shelf to help center a room. What happens around the mantel is almost as important as what happens above, inside or placed on top. Mantels provide warmth whether the hearth they host is functional or not.

After moving into a new home a couple of months ago, I found myself somewhat lost in a new space with a troublesome mantel, so I turned to the archives for inspiration. The most logical solution seems to be placing a mirror above to add depth and reflect light within the space. This is an elegant and timeless approach, but I was looking for something a little more unique. I landed on these 10 creative ways to decorate a mantel from resourceful homeowners that thought a mirror wasn’t quite enough to reflect their personality. –Bethany

10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
A multimedia sculpture decorates the space above the mantel in this colorful Maine home. The odd tin tree was purchased by Ayumi and Chloe in Butte, Montana for their master bedroom. The couple collects vintage squirrel and strawberry ornaments to gradually decorate the branches.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
Neal and Andrew in Philadelphia use plant life to decorate their mantel. An unruly fern and harvest scene in a handmade frame reflect their love of farming and use of natural objects that can be composted or returned to their garden. Painting the mantel an accent color brings the whole piece forward as a moody focal point along the back wall.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
A custom-ordered family crest was made by an artist on Etsy for this San Francisco couple. They wanted it to tell the story of their wedding colors, nicknames and states of origin. A small, hand-lettered “Welcome” is painted above the personal vignette and unique family memorabilia like letters, photos and figurines are lined up along the mantel shelf.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
In this South African home, a jewelry maker and industrial designer add visual height to their space with a vertical statement piece. The neutral tone is easy on the eyes as they are drawn upward to the top portion of the piece and tall ceiling beyond.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
Similar objects neatly aligned create a personal and textural display in this rustic Savannah home. The helmets were given to Kelsey and Erik by a Frenchman at their favorite thrift store and they filled in a grid layout by drawing in the ninth helmet themselves.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
The mantel trim and framed wall are painted tone-on-tone colors in this Philadelphia row house to create a quiet, but breathtaking display. A textural stack of books gives purpose to the non-functioning fireplace and brings in warmth from the pages instead of the usual visible spines.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
This colorful English home showcases a vintage collection of miniatures and a row of small succulents in clay pots of various sizes lines the mantel shelf below. The old typographer’s tray keeps the small pieces secure and out of the way, but visible for discussion or reflection.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
Loose artwork prints paper-clipped to the wall and offset by a line of bronze Shaka Bottle Openers is a simple mantel solution in Andrew’s temporary apartment in Rhode Island. The clip method lends itself to a gallery aesthetic and lets the artwork stand for itself in raw form without a frame or glass.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
A regal, vintage mantel clock sits on a white mantel shelf in this Brooklyn railroad apartment. The airy blue wall behind and warm sepia portrait centered above creates a point of interest in the living space through complementary contrast.
10 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Mantel on Design*Sponge
This approach creates symmetry with simplicity in a London Highgate home by pairing these framed floral patterns from Nina Saunders set over the mantel and highlighted by two gold figurines. The same arrangement could be achieved using small rolls of vintage wallpaper to add color and pattern that would be easy to replace or change over time.

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  • I’m charmed by the 7th one with all the little plants and Frida’s portrait. I’m a sucker for both and I bet it’s a vignette that changes all the time. The truth is I love the entire house that comes with it. Such a fun space. A real kaleidoscope of colour! :)

  • I love Andrew and Neal’s harvest photo, with the dog portraits to the side (and I love their whole house). I wasn’t very productive today, waiting to hear how my 17-year-old dog will come through surgery, so the dog stuff was very therapeutic (heard later that she’s fine).

  • Thank you for all the unique and fun ways I could decorate my mantel. I really like the idea of hanging a family crest. It would be really fun to have family memorabilia and things that we all love. I will have to consider doing that for our family.