How to Style a Fireplace Mantel

  • Article by: Sally Wood @ Richard Ellis Design

There’s a reason fireplaces continue to be a favourite architectural and design piece long after the invention of gas and electric heaters. We no longer need fireplaces anymore, but we still want them. Why? Because nothing offers that sense of communion, gathering and warmth that a fireplace and a well-decorated mantel can bring into a home.


If your home features a fireplace, you need to make the most of the surrounds by styling your mantel to perfection. Here's how to do just that.



If you want to opt for a bold, dramatic mantel design, then don’t hold back. The biggest mistake you can make is to be too wishy-washy and end up with interior design that hovers somewhere between restraint and drama. Instead, select large design pieces that are at least two thirds of the side of your mantel—this will ensure your design piece holds its own in comparison to the overall size on the mantel.



Use a large object like a mirror or wreath to anchor your overall mantel design. It's best to design around this object so be sure to choose it first. By making a decision on your anchor object, you can select other, smaller items that will work in the overall design without creating clutter.



Using tall items like stacked books or candlesticks creates visual interest in your mantel. Tall items also link the entire shelf which creates the sense of order that our eyes are naturally drawn to. If you're setting up a modern fireplace surround go for sleek candlesticks or ornaments. Stacks of classic, leather-bound books are ideal for creating a heritage look to match a Victorian or Tudor style fireplace surround.



You can soften an imposing anchor piece by layering decorative elements in front. These elements could range from photos and smaller pieces of art, through to travel mementoes and other small personal items. These smaller pieces will help to personalise your mantel and imbue it with your own unique personality.


Natural Elements

Don’t forget to add some ‘real-life’ natural elements to your shelf. The presence of plants and flowers increases relaxation and air quality. When you combine this with the natural glow of a fireplace you’ve turned a room of your home into a sanctuary or peace and harmony.



Design doesn’t have to be symmetrical. In fact, too much symmetry is a bad thing. Asymmetry creates something called visual movement, which is when our eyes naturally move across and up and down a design piece. You want your mantelpiece to do this as it makes it interesting. On the other hand, if everything is the same size and height there is no movement for the eyes and the whole scene is rather lacklustre.


With these tips, creating a fireplace surrounds and mantelpiece for your beautiful fire is easy. What's clear is that your mantel is as important as the fire itself. When your fire isn't on, it's your mantel and surrounds that will do the heavy lifting in terms of the design, so if you want an architectural wonder that‘s always ‘on', use these tips and get that chimneypiece sorted.

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Published: 13/08/2020
Author: Sally Wood
Company: Richard Ellis Design