This past weekend my husband kept the girls while I traveled to Dallas to visit my best friend of 12 years. Kate and her husband bought a new house back in August and she wanted a little help getting it decorated. I was more than happy to help, especially since the trip would involve my first visit to Magnolia Market in Waco! I mean, she really twisted my arm. It was pretty amazing what we could accomplish without our children in tow, even considering she is 6 weeks from having her 3rd child. We worked on two rooms, her guest bedroom and her living room. I wasn’t planning on blogging about our projects, so we didn’t get great before photos to show the transformation. But the mantle in her living room looks so great, I thought it would be a fun to do a post sharing how we approached decorating it. I’ve got 7 mantle refresh tips and tricks to help you decorate your mantle!
The Before Photos
Here are two before photos of the mantle in her living room. The first is from the sale listing, and the second is from Christmas, a few months after Kate moved in.
In the first photo, the mirror is too small for the mantle. It could possible work height wise if it were hung on the wall, but really could stand to be quite a bit larger to be appropriate for the proportion of the mantle. The candle sticks and vase are too far away from the mirror, and the decor doesn’t look connected or related to each other.
In the second photo, Kate did a better job at making the mantle seem full, but the pieces still aren’t large enough for the wall space above the mantle. It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the mirror was still much too short for the wall space.
7 Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks
Go Bigger than You Think
Look for pieces that are large enough for the space. You often need larger items than you think you do in order for the space to look full enough. This also keeps the mantle from looking cluttered, because it takes a lot more smaller pieces to fill the space than it does larger pieces. A good rule of thumb is to look for items that are 2/3-3/4 the size of the space you are trying to fill. The medallion piece fit that requirement in height, and we used other large pieces on either side of it to fill out the width of the mantle.
Layer to Create Relationships
Be conscious of the depth of your mantle and the pieces you are using, and try to layer items in front of each other as much as you can. You want the pieces to feel like they have a relationship with each other, and best way to do that is to overlap them a little. The candlesticks were too deep to put one in front of another, but I put them close together and had one sitting more towards the wall and one closer the front so that they look a little layered. The cotton falls in front of the medallion art just enough, and the greenery is just tall enough to create a relationship between those items.
Try to use a mixture of textures. (wood, metals, painted surface, plants, candles) There isn’t necessarily a “right way” to go about this, but just keep it in the back of your mind while shopping. We picked out the candlesticks first and then found the cotton while we were hunting for the statement piece. Once we found the medallion art, I knew we needed to add something shiny. The vase keeps all the natural tones from being too boring. It wouldn’t have been enough on it’s own though, the little green plants added more texture. While it was still a natural element, the added color was important (more on that later).
Mix Styles and Shapes
Use different shapes and styles. Kate’s style is “traditional casual”, which basically means she loves Pottery Barn but wants it to feel more lived in. The mantle doesn’t tell the whole story of the living room, but you can still see hints of “traditional casual” in the different pieces. It’s really fun to mix seemingly opposing styles, and adds a lot more interest to whatever you’re styling.
For example, the shiny silver vase feels a little fancy, but we made it feel relaxed by adding cotton stems. The driftwood orb next to the vase keeps the casual vibe going, while the medallion art feels more formal. The shape of the candlesticks feels formal, but the wood finish is more casual. Those juxtapositions keep your decorating from feeling really one note, or like you ordered everything from the same store.
The shapes kind of fell into place based on the items that we liked, but I just wanted to mention that it’s a good idea to use round candlesticks and/or vases with square or rectangular art. The opposite is true as well, vases and candlesticks with straighter lines work well with round or oval art. Just remember to mix up your shapes.
Vary the Height
Stagger the height of the items you are using. Even if you have to stack books under an item to help it be the right height. Think about it like the items are stair steps, and you want to try to have an even number of steps from the tallest object down to the lowest object. The steps don’t need to be next to each other like a staircase, but hopefully that helps you get the idea. For this mantle, the “steps” are pretty small, but they don’t have to be, it just depends on how many items you are using. If there were only 3 items on the mantle, the steps would naturally need to further apart, but as long as the height changes are about equal, it will look right.
Incorporate Color from Your Space
Incorporate color as needed. Kate’s color palette is navy, grey, natural wood tones, and a touch of green. I really wanted to add navy to the mantle, as it’s the only color not represented, but we just couldn’t find anything in navy that was appropriate. It still works though because there are navy curtains on either side of the mantle. Again, just like with all the other tips, mix it up as much as you can!
(sorry for the blurry iPhone photos!)
Imitate what You Like
Find inspiration for what you want your mantle to look like. The most helpful thing Kate did to get ready for me to come decorate with her was to have a few pins from Pinterest ready to go with mantles that she liked. If you really have no idea where to start with your mantle, go browse for ones you like on Pinterest and then try to copy what you like about them. It may be hard to find the exact pieces in just the right sizes for your space, so instead look for pieces that are similar or that you like better!
Thank you Kate for a wonderful weekend of decorating, and for letting me share your beautiful home for some mantle refresh tips and tricks.
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