How to Decorate Your Living Room's Mantel Anytime of the Year

With an interior designer's eye, you can style floral arrangements, colorful candlesticks, and other curated objets d'art.

crystal mantel decorations
Photo: Kate Mathis

When you decorate your living room, you should make sure to pay special attention to the mantel. Why? "It's the focal point," explains Joyce Downing Pickens of JDP Interiors. "The mantel grounds the entire room. Oftentimes, it's the first thing you see when you walk in." So, finding ways to incorporate decorative elements on your mantel will go a long way in bringing the overall atmosphere and look of your home together.

Mantels support the masonry—or building materials, like brick—above a fireplace. Once, these hearths were the primary source of heat, light, and nourishment in the home. And while the fireplace is no longer essential to a modern family's survival, it still exerts a kind of gravity over its surroundings, lending order to an interior. The desire for the comfort of "home and hearth" inspires interior designers and homemakers alike. Versatile décor is one way to take one season into the next without having to revamp the room entirely. It's the focal point of a room, so make sure it illuminates your style with a few choice accessories—whether traditional, modern, or country. Here, Pickens shares her picks for what to gather around the fireplace.

Start with beautiful base décor.

The formal mantel always has some central feature: a painting or a mirror, most often, dignified by flanking matched objects. For a look that will last, start with that singular feature. An oil painting, dried flowers, and candlesticks, Pickens says, are all good options. Then, all you have to do is change the flowers and the candlestick colors every season. The base décor—meaning the paint color of the room or even a painted brick fireplace—should then inspire the seasonal objects.

Swap out elements throughout the year.

The finest thing about your mantel is that its perfect width and length for great display. It brings out the stylist in all of us—not to mention our personal flair for still life. If you collect framed artwork, pottery, or anything at all, your mantel shelf is prime display space. Arrange your favorites on it, your latest coups, or the shapes that please you most. The beginning collector or the minimalist might prefer the "garniture" approach by lining up a set of decorative objects across the shelf in a satisfying high-low configuration.

As the months pass, you can add or take away decorative elements. "Have fun with it!" Pickens says. "Swap out the accessories and play around with what you already have." You could add bowlfuls of fragrant fruit, an assortment of candles, or mount a stately pair of sconces to the wall.

Add holiday touches.

Special times of the year are your opportunity to go maximalist on your mantel. "For Christmas, I always get extra Christmas tree cuttings from the tree farm and add it to the mantel along with my other seasonal decorations," says Pickens. "For spring, I bring in fresh cuttings of anything blooming from my yard or my walks or hikes."

The key is to be creative and show what the holiday means to you. And, if you really want to be innovative, there's no harm in decorating for different seasons as long as you include a common element that ties it together.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles