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How to decorate a mantel like a pro.

Often a fireplace mantel is the focal point of a room and yet we struggle to figure out how to decorate this feature. Should it hold family photos? Or maybe a flat screen TV? We try candle sticks, mirrors, pictures and plants but nothing feels right.

The key to understanding the shape and proportions that help pull it all together.

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1 Create layers

Create 3 layers of decor for your mantel. Always includes layers 1 and 2, layer 3 is optional depending on your decorating style.

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, art work or even a flat screen TV. What ever the object, it will serve as the anchor for the remainder of the design and should be the tallest object in your overall design. Also ensure that it’s scale is appropriate for the space. The visual weight of this object should adequately balance out the visual weight of the fire box 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 need to be identical, so long as their weight is similar. When choosing these items, make sure that their height is smaller then that of your layer 1 object but still proportionate.

Layer 3 – The Filler

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

2 Maintain a triangle of movement.

Following the layering steps above, layer 1 should be the tallest followed by layer 2 and 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.

3 Keep scale in mind.

Its important to keep scale in mind not only as the objects relate to the fire place, but also as they relate to one another. All the items should over lap 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 with out jarring height decreases.

Once your comfortable with the process, think about what you might want to show case on your mantel and where these items might fit with the layers mentioned above. Consider using a mantel to show case art, collections, seasonal decor, fresh flowers, or even family heirlooms.

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