AD It Yourself

11 Mantel Decor Ideas That’ll Light Up Your Living Space

Make the hearth of your home into a gallery with these tips and tricks
Collage of mantel decor ideas including vases small artworks balanced with larger ones layered leaned images
Mantel decor ideas like vases, framed artworks, or ceramics can help create a tasteful display to serve as the room’s focal point.Illustration: Ellie Schiltz/Getty Images

The fireplace mantel is the jewelry box of the house. Hear us out: Like a jewelry box, the mantel holds prized possessions and coveted family heirlooms. Most mantel decor ideas include displaying all your best trinkets and treasures like a mini personalized museum. The mantelpiece is often the focal point of an abode’s living room or dining room, making it the ideal landing spot for all your showpieces. Typical mantelpiece main characters include large works of art, family portraits, cherished glass vases, or other rare and beautiful objects worthy of a starring role in a room’s decor scheme.

But because styling such a prime location can be a bit overwhelming, we’ve rounded up 11 mantel decor ideas for creating visually pleasing mantelpiece displays—including the best bits of home decor advice from experts—to make the jewelry box of your home truly shine.

What decorations to put on the mantel?

There are so many factors at play in considering what decorations to put on the mantel. The size of your mantelpiece, the design style of the rest of the room, and whether or not you use the mantel for burning incense or candles are all considerations when decorating a fireplace mantel.

Tara McCauley, an interior designer based in New York, encourages going big with a large piece of mantel decor. “Mantels are an underrated place to display sculptures or objects that can’t be hung directly on the wall,” she says. “At the Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse, I displayed a pair of contemporary metal sculptures by the artist Gunnar Theel atop the very traditional marble mantel in the primary bedroom.”

On the other hand, a single standalone item is all you might need to create visual interest. A professional family portrait, for example, might do the trick. If the design of your mantel is eye-catching already, displaying fewer items is best.

How do you style a modern mantel?

This all depends on whom you talk to. For modern farmhouse–style shiplap mantels, go for French topiaries or more pastoral pieces from the Magnolia brand by documented shiplap superfans, Chip and Joanna Gaines. But for many, the key to modern styling is choosing minimalist designs. Here, the idea is to pare the mantel down rather than overwhelm it with too many accessories. To get a streamlined look, choose one or two simple yet standout pieces to set the mood. “I always associate a pair of candlesticks with some ivory tapers with warmth and coziness—preferably melted down a bit, so that they don’t look fresh from the store,” says McCauley. The warm glow from a candle can be enough to achieve a simple, modern look with a touch of romance.

How can I decorate my mantel?

Start small, and then layer on your favorite pieces into a vignette or two. Krysten Ledet, owner and principal designer of Krysten Ledet Interiors, prefers layering to mix and match. “I am a fan of asymmetry for mantels,” she says. “I always gravitate towards a few items: family photos in one-of-a-kind frames, a funky mirror or piece of art, candlesticks, and a vessel with natural florals.” Once she gets all the right standout items, she plays around with their placement to find the best balance to complement the room. Ledet adds, “The best part is that these items are easy to change and mix to keep your mantel evolving and relative to your personal life and taste.” Now that you’ve got the gist of decorating a mantel, read on for 11 ideas mantel decor ideas.

1. Pair large and small items to create a sense of balance

Large floral displays don’t overwhelm a mantelpiece when offset by small objects, like thin candlesticks and small votives.

Photo: Simon Upton

One of the best decorating tips beloved by design experts is to style a mantel with a balance of items on both ends. “I like to think of it in three parts,” says Julia Longchamps, principal designer at Julia Longchamps Design. “You have your middle, which should be your largest item like a mirror or art, then balance out your wings with items that express your style.” She suggests mixing in decor items like candle holders in clusters, “so maybe one side [of the mantel] has two items or three, depending on how much space you have. Then the other side only has one [item].”

2. Style with ceramics for smooth texture

These slick ceramics give the mantelpiece an artistic flair and allow for the perfect display of seasonal flora for a pop of color, or dried plants to give the space an earthier feel.

Photo: Ekaterina Demidova/Getty Images

As far as mantel ideas go, a collection of ceramics has great potential to elevate a space beyond the ordinary decor. According to Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight, an interior design studio based in New York, elements like hand-thrown ceramics—“or hand-forged metalwork, rich in sincerity and individualism”—can help to upgrade the everyday display. Moreover, the unique pieces have an inviting quality to them. People are more likely to touch them—and that’s part of the point. “Combine different textures, from the roughness of stone to the smoothness of glass, to engage the senses,” he advises.

3. Add height with tall candlesticks

Candles and candle accessories, like candlestick holders, bell jars, and hurricane glasses, can help fill out empty space on a mantel.

Photo: Annabelle Breakey/Getty Images

Do you have one of those tall fireplaces that stretches to vaulted ceiling heights? Take advantage of the space with taller candlesticks. Jaimee Longo, founder and principal designer at The Layered House, likes to incorporate candlesticks of varying sizes “depending on the mantel height.” She avoids using the same amounts of accessories on each end of the mantel, however. “Overstuffing tends to look cluttered on a mantel, so less is more when it comes to everyday styling,” she says.

4. Go casual by leaning in some art

A gold-framed antique painting can take on a more natural, less stuffy feel if it’s leaned on the mantel as opposed to hanging on the wall.

Photo: Arris Photography

To get that lived-in look, try a simple makeover by taking down your artwork and propping it up against the wall over the mantel. “I like to keep my mantels simple with a pair of high/low vessels on one end, and a framed piece of art leaned up against the other end,” says Longo. Chelsea Thowe, lead designer at Forge & Bow echoes her sentiment. “We love to lean art,” she says. “It gives the mantel a more casual, effortless feel.” Plus, leaning art makes it feel like the piece is a part of a collection of items, rather than floating above the mantel. Thowe adds that leaning mantel art also provides an opportunity to layer multiple pieces on top of each other.

5. Or hang up artwork for a classic look

Hanged artwork centered above the mantel frees up space for displaying objects like plants, candles, and ceramics.

Photo: Laura Steffan Styling: Krysten Ledet Interiors

At the same time, hanging up art offers a crisp, clean style to the mantelpiece. Kristina Phillips of Kristina Phillips Interior Design chooses to use meaningful art that reflects a home’s story and resonates with the homeowners. “Abstract landscapes from unique regions or places, as well as captivating photographs, can provoke emotional responses and enhance the room’s ambiance,” she says. These you want to hang up, especially if you want a collection or gallery wall across your fireplace mantel.

6. Create a collection of smaller art pieces

Decorative vases are balanced out by sculptural artworks in this mantel display.

Photo: The Good Brigade/Getty Images

From a collection of framed polaroid photographs to an assortment of tiny knickknacks, small space mantels love minute collections. But be sure that the art is the right size for the space, says Phillips. “Anything too small will feel insignificant, and too large will look awkward.”

7. Set an eclectic mood with old-meets-new decor pieces

Modern candlestick holders mixed in with an antique-looking bust give this mantelpiece an eclectic vibe.

Photo: brizmaker/Getty Images

Juxtaposing old and new objects on a mantelpiece creates visual interest. And you can easily DIY a fusion of old-versus-new with upcycled decor items. “I love incorporating old items such as picture frames or vintage books,” says Ledet. “Something about old, storied pieces provides a moodiness I gravitate towards.” Mixing those more antique items classically found on a mantelpiece with modern objects gives the focal point of the room a bit of edge and intrigue.

8. Enliven your palette with different pops of color

Flowers and small framed pictures inject some life into this white mantelpiece.

Photo: Miguel Flores-Vianna

All-white interiors, or even just those with a more subdued color palette, practically beg for the occasional splash of a contrasting hue in the color scheme. But you don’t need to overhaul a space with vibrant tones to achieve that lively feeling, especially if you prefer more muted paint colors. “One of my favorite go-to [mantel decor ideas] is a series of vibrant-colored candles with unique candlesticks,” says Ledet. “The height variations and contrast of color are simple yet intriguing.” Colorful candles work great as an extra bit of interest against a mostly white fireplace.

9. Hang a TV for entertaining

A television is one of the more foolproof mantel decor ideas, though it’s key to keep the display below it simple to ensure no items obscure the screen.

Photo: Joe Hendrickson/Getty Images

Liz Toombs, owner of PDR Interiors, decorates sorority homes. She finds that placing TVs above the fireplace makes for the best fireplace mantel decor in spaces where groups of people are regularly coming together. “[The sorority house] is used for conversation, gathering, or studying,” she says. “The space was intended to be serene for the women using it and attractive for guests visiting.” So, while the TV takes pride of place above the mantel, Toombs is careful to add items that do not detract from the screen while still complementing the mantelpiece. For example, sometimes she adds in abstract framed art to create a bit of visual interest.

10. Or ditch the TV for items with sentimental value

In lieu of a big screen, an eclectic assortment of objects rests beneath a display of mounted skulls in this western-infused mantelpiece.

Photo: Paul Viant/Getty Images

Jennifer Verruto, founder and CEO of Blythe Interiors, says the fireplace is meant to hold family meaning. “Other than providing heat, fireplaces are a wonderful way to bring character and personality to your space,” she says. “Display your favorite decorative objects and keepsakes or ditch the TV and center a beautiful piece of artwork or mirror over your mantel.”

11. Embrace the seasons with a fall or Christmas mantel

An arrangement of painted pumpkins and festive decor items with an autumnal color scheme can make your mantel feel fall-ready.

Photo: Kristen Prahl/Getty Images

As leaves change, so should your mantel decor. Longchamps switches in autumn color candles on her mantel. “I love tapered candlesticks in fall colors: burnt orange, burgundy, chocolate, taupe,” she says. “They’re effortless to arrange in a cluster that will make your space feel cozy and sophisticated.” Balance out the candles with a shorter item; Longchamps suggests a small vessel with foliage or a sculptural decorative item.

Natural pieces can help to herald in a distinctly autumnal vibe. What better way to signify the changing of the seasons than to bring the outdoors inside? Pumpkins are certainly a reliable, classic fall decor choice, even if they aren’t necessarily as perfect looking as decor items you’d find in home stores. Kropovinsky suggests highlighting the natural splendor of imperfect pieces for the season: “Embrace the love of imperfection by incorporating naturally imperfect items, like raw wood elements,” he says. “These components, with their innate flaws, bring a certain warmth and sincerity to the space.” And they work well against an already natural-feeling stone fireplace or brick fireplace.

A simple garland of eucalyptus branches draped across the mantel gives the display a classically festive vibe.

Photo: Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Take your holiday season decor up a notch. To perfect a Christmas mantel, Longchamps pairs garlands with velvet bows and bells for a classic showstopper. “I could keep this [style] up all winter as it brings me so much joy,” she says. She also opts for bottle brush trees. “As an avid collector, I love creating a bottle brush forest on the mantel, and you can layer some twinkle lights in just to set it all off.”

To create a woodland atmosphere, Ledet uses a garland for greenery and folds in additional natural elements, like pinecones or cranberries. “For an added touch, include winter-themed books with eye-catching bindings,” she recommends.

Small snow-dusted evergreens and conical white tree figurines make the mantelpiece into its own festive holiday village.

Photo: Melissa Ross/Getty Images

But greenery isn’t the only way to go. Kropovinsky, for whom winter is all about the contrasting textures and colors and less about the obvious Christmas decorations, suggests making it a white Christmas with snow-inspired decor. “Combine the crispness of snow-covered landscapes with the tactile warmth of hand-knitted throws or hand-carved wooden figures,” he says. You can achieve the look by setting up mini Christmas village figurines on your mantel and using items with a snowflake motif as wall decor across the expanse of the fireplace.