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How to balance mantel decor so your display isn’t an overcluttered mess

Fireplaces are a natural gathering place for the family, and the mantel is a great location to display photos, candles, art, and more. Mantels are naturally the focal point of the room, so you have to pay close attention to this feature. If your mantel is too crowded or haphazardly organized, your guests are sure to notice. Decorating a mantel can be tricky to pull off since there isn’t a ton of space to work with. It can be easy to get carried away with decorating and end up with an overcrowded look. If you’re having trouble balancing mantel decor, stay tuned. We have the do’s and don’ts of mantel decor so this statement piece looks elegant and stunning.

Decluttered mantle with plant and sconces.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mantel decor do’s

Decorating a mantel without creating clutter is about more than just cutting down on the number of items you use. Here are quite a few tips and tricks to achieve a complete and well-thought-out look that’s perfectly balanced.

  • First and foremost, plan before you begin decorating. Consider the shape, structure, style, and color of the fireplace and mantel, and pick colors and textures that complement these features.
  • Give your display some space, avoiding items that are too busy or bulky. Less is more when decorating a mantel, so balance your decor with empty, negative space to create a sense of harmony in the design.
  • Use pieces that are of different sizes and shapes. Place taller items in the back and smaller items in the front so the scheme is more visually interesting.
  • Layer items in front of each other to create a depth that is necessary when making any sort of visual display. Make sure to switch up the colors, textures, and finishes on the layered pieces so they’re visible against each other.
  • If you’re going for a formal look, take advantage of symmetry. For example, place one significant item in the middle and use matching pieces on either side.
  • For a more modern look, cluster similar objects together in a group of odd numbers. Groups of three or five work better than grouping items in pairs.
  • Lean some items against the wall for a more relaxed look and hang things on the wall for a more formal design.
Decluttered mantle with art and candle.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mantel decor don’ts

Using a bit of restraint is essential when decorating a mantel. Follow the suggestions below, and you’ll be pleased with the outcome.

  • Don’t add random items that you don’t know what else to do with or else your mantel will look like a junk drawer. Again, this is where planning comes in. Finding things that complement one another in terms of their style, color, or theme is vital.
  • Since the mantel is most likely the focal point of the room, choose meaningful items that show off your personality. This is a great opportunity to incorporate knick-knacks you picked up while traveling or family heirlooms.
  • If you’re going to layer items, don’t put similarly sized items in the background and foreground. Pieces should overlap a bit, but you don’t want to hide the ones in the background completely. If you can’t see an article, your mantel is well on its way to being cluttered.
  • Don’t use objects that are all the same shape. Mixing up the shape and size of the items you use will create balance naturally.
  • Don’t get carried away with the materials you use. Combining glass, wood, silver, brass, and gold all in the same display will look overwhelming. Limiting your display to a few materials will be much more pleasing to the eye.
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Decluttered mantle with plant.

No matter the style of your mantel, there are a few rules to follow when it comes to decorating. Though it can be tempting to display all of the items that are meaningful to you at once, less is more. If you have an abundance of pieces that you want to use to decorate your mantel, think about dividing everything into smaller batches and mixing it up a few times throughout the year. Having a thematic aspect to your mantel is also a great way to celebrate the holidays and the changing seasons. It can also be refreshing, for both yourself and your guests, to change up the vibe of the focal point in the room once in a while.

Using a bit of restraint may take some getting used to, but trust us, you’ll like the results.

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Kelly Kaliszewski
Kelly's work has appeared in blogs and on websites. When she's not writing, she is playing with her two dogs, cooking, or…
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