I tend to like a less styled mantle rather than an over-styled one. The busy look can be hard to pull off without just looking cluttered. In fact, I have a few stand-by formulas for a beautiful mantle (and I believe in tweaking for the holidays!)
The first to hang a large mirror over the mantle – rectangular or circle or square doesn’t matter, but it should be large and come down to within a foot of the actual mantle while still looking proportionate on the wall – seven inches is a good distance between the two. Then, lean a piece of art on one side of the mirror – they should slightly overlap. Add something like a vase or candlesticks opposite – this object should be roughly equal in height to the art piece. Add a squat plant between the two but off center. Add one to two decorative objects (a brass animal or pretty bowl would work) on either side or slightly in front of the leaning art piece. You can also skip the decorative items and plant and just lean a few pieces of art, but they should be decently sized, no 5×7 family pictures.
The second also features a large mirror but could also be a painting… some people who watch TV in this room won’t want a mirror, but in a more formal space I like the extra light a mirror lends. Add a tall topiary (preserved boxwood is my favorite, or rosemary) to either side of the mirror or just in front along the sides. Boom. Done.
I am not, in general, a fan of flat screen TV’s over the fireplace – it calls unnecessary attention to a totally non-decorative piece and is uncomfortable to watch. But in many instances it is the only place for the TV to go (especially in new construction homes). So if that is the case, I have a few suggestions for working with the TV over the mantle.
Distract from the TV by putting family photos in frames on the mantle – normally I’d say this is potentially a little too busy, but it’s one of the only things that won’t block the picture. Get nice wooden frames with a little heft and pretty shape – no dinky frames or they’ll be totally overpowered by the TV looming overhead.
Frame out the wall around the TV with simple molding and even hang a similarly sized piece of art (or slightly smaller) directly above the TV (with the molding forming a rectangle that encloses these both, with a little breathing room). Use the same topiary arrangement as above (just to the sides of the TV).
This concludes our Styling Series! I hope you had fun and learned lots!