Mantles can bring out your inner decorator or cause you frustration.  I hope at the end of this post your inner decorator will be leaping.  If you don't have a mantle, but have a buffet, console table or even a wide window ledge all the principles/design tips  still apply.  for additional information about  decorating above a fireplace check here.

Come along to a traditional home that is getting a foyer facelift.

Fireplaces and mantles are usually a focal point in a space.  Often there are other architectural details that ensure it is a dominant feature.  In this case, there are two archways on either side of  the fireplace, one into  the living room and the other into the dining room.  While the fixtures in the home are traditional, the homeowners have mixed in contemporary furniture while still honouring the original feel of the house.


Original photo from homeowner
Initial observations:

The mirror:
  • reflects the chandelier adding interest 
  • has simple traditional styling  that relates well to the  the other architectural features
  • will  reflect what is put in front of it adding  visual depth
  • frame has same tones as floor only darker
  • fits the width of mantle, but seems to overpower it (less so when you are in the space)
  • is heavy and mounted on original plaster walls, it stays 

Thanks to the program Olioboard, I can import the original photo from the homeowner and layer options on top of it. That's designer's dream when presenting ideas to a client.

With the central position of  the fireplace between two archways, a symmetrical design would  be a fitting line of design. l

Solution One:

 Emphasize a vertical layout using art to bring the eye up.


Including art work with a white matt  connects with the mantle colour (try to match the white matt with mantle, yes, this one is a tad too bright). You can play with the style of art work.  Sometimes adding a modern piece is a way to combine styles. 


traditional mantle, mantle vignette, art, decorating a mantle

traditional mantle, mantle vignette, art, decorating a mantle

traditional mantle, mantle vignette, art, decorating a mantle

Thoughts:
I like the simple calla better  because  the lines are vertical and the simplicity of composition and colour scheme is calming and works better with whatever objects you choose to put beside it.  I like rounded shapes next to verticals or if not rounded, something with soft, irregular  edges.  My choice would be the vases  rather than the topiaries because I like a lighter, softer look.

traditional mantle, mantle vignette, art, decorating a mantle


Here's the same idea with a more traditional painting without any white.  The look is dark and a little overpowering and with no overlapping it looks a tad to boring.  All of this can be adjusted of course.  Which  painting works best? 


Solution Two 

Bring your eye in from the sides of the mirror by creating two strong verticals. 

traditional mantle, mantle vignette, flowers, decorating a mantle, sculpture

This is the opposite of the first solution but you are still using verticals to direct the  eye up. Having the flowers in a dark/clear frame connects with the darks in the fireplace, and also with the white in the mantle.  The vases are contemporary as is the sculptural piece but they all "play nicely together".


Solution Three 

Go neutral contemporary and layer symmetrically.

traditional mantle, mantle vignette, decorating a mantle, vases,

This arrangement still brings your eye in from the sides of the mirror and emphasizes the vertical, but it is an overall softer look.


Solution 4

Pick up the  colours in the fireplace and layer symmetrically with a mix of traditional and contemporary.

Solution 5

Use battery operated console lamps and soften  the arrangement in the centre.

traditional mantle, mantle vignette,  decorating a mantle, asymmetrical design


Just for fun...

the girls in the house would pick this one!



and I am  more comfortable with asymmetrical designs.



There are so many options  and each has its own reasoning.  In the end it all boils down to personal taste. Which would you choose if you were the homeowner? 

 
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