How to Decorate a Mantel

How to Decorate a MantelOften, fireplace mantel is a focal point of a room and yet we struggle to figure out how to decorate this beautiful feature.  Should it hold family photos?  Or maybe a flat screen TV?  We try candlesticks, mirrors, pictures and plants but nothing feels right.  As it turns out, the trick is understanding the shapes and proportions that help pull it all together.  So here are some tips to get you started on the right path to a beautifully styled mantel.

1. Create Layers

Create 3 layers of décor for your mantel.  Always includes layers 1 and 2.  Layer 3 is optional depending on your decorating style.  Below is an illustration using my bedroom mantel.  You can see more photos from my home {here}.

Master Bedroom Mantel from TIDBITS&TWINE


Layer 1 – The Anchor:  Choose a large object that will be the focal point of the mantel for the center area, such as a mirror, artwork or even a flat screen TV.  Whatever the object, it will serve as the anchor for the remainder of your design and should be the tallest object in your overall design.  Also, ensure that its scale is appropriate for the space.  The visual weight of this object should adequately balance out the visual weight of the firebox below the mantel and should fill a large portion of the wall above the mantel.

Layer 2 – The Weight:  Choose objects for the right and left sides of Layer 1 that will add width  and visual weight to the overall design.  These items do not necessarily need to be identical, so long as their visual weight is similar. (For more information on how to manage visual weight with dissimilar objects, see this post.)  When choosing these items, make sure that their height is smaller than that of your Layer 1 object but still proportionate.

 Layer 3 – The Filler:  Add objects of varying heights to the center of the mantel underneath Layer 1 .  Varying the heights of these objects is important so that you do not to create any horizontal lines with your decor which would then detract from the horizontal line of the mantel itself.  You do not want anything to compete with the mantel!  Again, as you choose these items, keep their scale in mind to make sure they are smaller than the items chosen for Layer 2 but still proportionate.  If you want a very clean, minimal design, you might opt to skip Layer 3.

Layers 1 and 2 included, but not Layer 3 for a cleaner style. Image by Tucker & Marks


2.  Maintain a Triangle of Movement

Following the layering steps above, Layer 1 should be the tallest, followed by Layer 2 and then Layer 3.  In this way, you create a triangle above the mantel with the tallest point at the center working down as you move out left and right.  This helps our eye focus and allows a smooth transition from the mantel as we scan the rest of the room.

by bhg

by bhg


3.  Keep Scale in Mind

It important to keep scale in mind not only as the objects relate to the fireplace, but also as they relate to one another.  All of the items should overlap each other so that they feel connected to each other and act as a cohesive unit.  Think of it as a step-down effect from the tallest point in the center of the mantel to the shortest point on the outside edges.  You want to take small, gradual steps without any jarring height decreases.




Once you’re comfortable with the process, think about what you might want to showcase on your mantel and where these items might fit within the layers mentioned above.  Consider using a mantel to showcase art, collectibles, seasonal decor, fresh flowers or even family heirlooms.  Then sit back and admire your work!

by The Old Painted Cottage

by Bruce Kading Interior Design

by Tess Fine


Tidbits&Twine - Signature





5 Ways to Create a Space You’ll LOVE

5 Ways to Create a Space You'll LoveLet’s assume you’ve got the basics in your family/living room (sofas, chairs, coffee table, accent tables).  From here, how can you transform the room from a space that you live to a space that you love?

Here are five things that help to pull a room together:

1) Accessories – Including accessories not only adds character to the room and makes it look lived in, but helps blend all of the furniture together into a cohesive unit.


by Mustard Seed Interiors


by Pastels and Whites


by Kasey Buick


2) Toss Pillows – Admittedly, these sometimes get in the way when trying to cozy up on the sofa, but they add so much to the room and can help tie the color scheme together.  (For more information about tying everything together, view previous post.)

by Corynee Pless

by shelley morris interiors

by Apartment 46 for the Home


3) Lighting – Even if you have overhead lighting, it’s always nice to add table lamps, floor lamps and/or task lamp for the cozy glow that they provide.

by MuseInteriors


by Kasey Buick


4) Plants – Live plants help to soften a space and add make the space feel more natural, versus manufactured.  If you lack a green thumb, there are several varieties of indoor plants that are easy to care for such as the  Peace Lily, Pothos or Kentia Palm .  The Fiddleleaf Fig is also very popular, although it needs more light than some of the other plants listed.  If live plants just aren’t feasible for you, try preserved boxwood topiaries or preserved moss balls.

by Haddon Interiors


by Dayna Katlin Interiors


by Sara Tuttle Interiors


5) Art – Don’t leave your walls empty!  Show off your personality and style with wall art like painting, pictures, maps or even architectural items.

by Dreamy Whites

by Dreamy Whites






How to Create “Filler” Books

We recently remodeled our master bedroom (more on that in a post to come!) and now have some built-in shelves around our TV.  Oh boy!  Another opportunity to decorate!  The top shelves are quite high, though, and so I decided to fill them with books, but I didn’t have any that matched my decor.  I really wanted some “filler” books that fit with the color scheme of my room, much like Restoration Hardware uses in their displays, but buying them can be quite costly.  This is where my beloved Pinterest comes in.

Here’s a look at Restoration Hardware’s navy blue books on a coffee table display:

Restoration Books


Using Pinterest, I came across two fantastic tutorials on how to recover books.

1. Creations by Kara has a great tutorial with step-by-step instructions

2. DIY Maven also has some great ideas


Ultimately, I used a combination of these two ideas to create my covered books.  I didn’t want to separate the book from the cover, and so left it intact like Kara did, but cut the corners as shown in the DIY Maven tutorial.



  • Hardcover Books
  • Fabric of your choice (although shouldn’t be sheer or the cover will show through)
  • Glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Something to weigh the book down while you measure and cut (unless you remove the cover from the pages)

I got my books from the sale rack at the used book store.  My only criteria was that they were the right height for the space I needed to fill.

I’m not including the step-by-step instructions here, as both of the two links above are very detailed and are a great resource, but here are my “before” and “after” pictures.


Before – in all its red glory!

Book Before




Filler Books


I’m pretty happy with how these turned out and now my cherished little bird has a spot to sit!



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