Wondering what to put on your mantel? Or how to decorate it in a way that looks “right”? Here are three simple steps that will teach you how to decorate a mantel like a pro!

Often, a 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.


The key is understanding the shapes and proportions that help pull it all together

How to Decorate a Mantel

A fireplace mantel tends to be a prominent feature in a home, so it’s important that it reflects your personal style and that it acts as a focal point. So you can’t just put anything up there. No, there’s a process and some “rules”. Read below to learn how you can decorate a mantel like a pro in just 3 easy steps!

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

White fireplace mantel with mirror clock above candlesticks and books

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. When choosing these items, make sure that their height is smaller than that of your Layer 1 object but still proportionate.

If you don’t love a symmetrical look, here are some tips for creating an Asymmetrical Style!

 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 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 aren’t just for mantels! In fact, you can use the concept of layering to give your home a “finished” look. You can get the details in my guide The Art of Layering

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.

Create a triangle of decor above white french fireplace mantel next to antique dress form

3.  Keep Scale in Mind

It is 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.

Mantel Decor

Here are some of my favorite decor items to use when decorating a fireplace mantel.

Fireplace Decor Ideas

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.

Here are some designs I’ve created over the years. Notice that when you’re comfortable, it’s okay to break the rules!

Oversized clock above a white brick fireplace with candlesticks and antique demijohn
clock above a fireplace mantel decorated with a collection of breadboards and greenery
Christmas fireplace mantel with pink gold and white and antique blue shutters

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  1. Francene Sorrell says:

    Yes this post did help.. I’m working with a piece of art that Is the focal point of the room…just don’t know what to put on the mantel that won’t distract from the painting…

  2. Stephanie Maroe says:

    Beautiful display! Where did you get the oversized clock face on the mirror that is used as the anchor?

  3. Hi- thanks for sharing the information. I am on the hunt for the Roman numeral mirror featured above- can you share where it is sold?
    Thanks so much!

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Andrea – I bought it at HomeGoods years ago and I don’t know who the manufacturer or distributor of it is. I’m so sorry!! Good luck with your search. :)

  4. Kim – I love all your decorating tips – I’m struggling with my mantle. It is very long and not sure what to do with it. If I were to send you a picture would you be able to give me some suggestions???
    Thank you!!

  5. i LOVE your home. It is gorgeous. If you don’t mind me asking, where did you find a pear branch spray, that is on your mantle. I have been looking every where ( online & in store) for a pear branch or lemon branch spray with no luck. All I have been able to find is packs of 16+ which are almost $200. But I only need one.

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Caitlin – Sorry for the delay in responding! I bought it at Target – maybe 2 years ago? It’s still one of my favorite faux branches to use for decorating. I wish I had an alternate suggestion for you but I haven’t seen any recently. Target should be getting their faux stems in soon so maybe their restock it…fingers crossed! :) Kim

  6. Hi! Love the basket (holding birch logs) on the fireplace in the first photo – where did you find it?

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Alison – Thank you! I love that basket, too! It’s super useful and I find that I move it all around the house for different uses. That particular basket is from Pottery Barn but you can find a similar one at Cost Plus World Market and sometimes, even HomeGoods. Good luck with your search! :) Kim

  7. Where can I get the mirror with the clock printed on it?

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Samantha – I bought the mirror at HomeGoods a few years ago and I’ve never come across anything similar since. Sorry that I couldn’t be of more help!!

  8. I love the mirror clock that is above your fireplace! Where did you get it! Your house is beautiful!!

  9. You have a beautiful home, thank you so much for sharing it with us! We have just purchased our first home and our new fireplace arrived today, this mirror is perfect! Can I ask where it’s from or if you know anywhere that makes similar? Thank you!

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Ayisha – Congratulations!!! How exciting!! I purchases that mirror at HomeGoods and I’ve never seen one just like it again, but I do know that Restoration Hardware sells a similar (but expensive) one. Good luck and enjoy your new home!!

  10. Kim is possible that you can let me have a full picture off the whole green and white fireplace from a bit further back please ? I really want to do mine like that…..Stunning!

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Donna – Sorry for the delay in responding! You can sign up to receive new posts via email, which is the easiest way to get new posts. Here is a link to sign up: http://eepurl.com/bi6X5z

      You can also browse through the Archives by post title, which might help you find older posts that interest you. The Archive is located in the right-hand sidebar of my site toward the bottom. Thank you so much!! :) Kim

  11. How do you accommodate for a fireplace that is off center in a room with a cathedral ceiling? My fireplace is left of center of the wall that changed height. The wall space above greatly changes from one end to the other. I appreciate any tips! I’m finding a balance challenging.

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Megan! If you want, you can email me a picture and I can do my best to give you some ideas! -Kim

  12. Hello,

    I, too, love your home and your taste….I am looking for something like the giant mirror clock…would you be willing to share where you found it?

    Thank you,


    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Kathy,

      Thank you so much! I found it at HomeGoods a long time ago and haven’t ever come across another one like it. Restoration Hardware has a somewhat similar version (although it might be convex) but that’s the only one that I’ve found so far that is similar. So sorry that I couldn’t be of more help!

  13. Hello,
    Decorating is a foreign language to me. I appreciate your tutorial. Looking forward to putting the lesson into practice and turning our house into a home.

    Thank you,

  14. I love your blog and your taste. It’s simply amazing. I have a quick question if u don’t mind. I have a three sided fireplace with a very wide mantel . It’s driving me crazy as I am unable to decorate it the right way. Would appreciate it if u could give me some tips.

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Zeina – Thank you for your kind words! Do you mean “wide” as in the length left to right or are you referring to the depth?

  15. I also found this post through Pinterest. I have been going mad trying to find a way to decorate my mantel. This is so helpful, thank you!

    One question: I have a corner fireplace with a deep mantel area (~25″ at the deepest point). Do all the same rules apply, or is there anything else to consider with that?

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Alexandra – I’m so glad you came across this post and found it helpful!! Yes, you can follow the same principles for a corner fireplace as well. Your “anchor” though, will need to be something that sits on top of the mantel, as opposed so something that hangs on the wall since it’s a corner. So just place your anchor on the mantel and lean it against the walls, and then add the rest of the decor as usual. Hope that helps!! :) Kim

  16. Thank you! I found this post via Pinterest, and I will be using it to decorate my mantle. We just moved into a new house and I FINALLY have a fireplace…but I have no idea how to decorate it! This will be very helpful.

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Suzanne – I’m so glad you found this post helpful! Thanks for visiting via Pinterest and taking the time to leave a comment – they are always appreciated. Congrats on the new house and good luck with your decorating projects! :) kim

  17. Just what I needed! Pinned! Do the same principles apply to an entryway/console table?

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Faith – I’m so glad you found this post helpful! Yes, the same principles can apply to console tables. You might also find {this} post helpful, which talks about informal balance (in case you don’t have two of something to balance out the two sides), and {this} post which talks about how to create vignettes. Have fun decorating! :) Kim

  18. I loved your tutorial on how to decorate a mantel. I think that will help me, usually I try to put so many things on the mantel that it ends up looking cluttered. Thanks again.

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      I’m so glad you found it helpful! Good luck with your project!

  19. Great tutorial! I’m always struggling with decorating my mantel. Thanks for the tips.
    Visiting from Dwellings.

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Babs – I’m so glad that you stopped by for a visit and took the time to leave me a comment!!

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