7 Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks

January 10, 2017

Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks

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.

Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks-1-min

Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks-1-min

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.

Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks

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.

Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks

Mix Textures

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.

Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks

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.

Mantle Refresh Tips and Tricks

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!

Need to see more mantle inspiration?  You can see my mantle, or head over to my Pinterest board all about pretty styled mantles.

Thank you Kate for a wonderful weekend of decorating, and for letting me share your beautiful home for some mantle refresh tips and tricks.

mantle refresh tips and tricks



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  1. Reply


    Hi Shandy! I’d love to have a mantel to decorate, it’s one of my big decor wishes for the future, lol. I don’t have the room right now, bur I imagine it being so much fun decorating one?? your tips are very helpful and the mantel you decorated for your friend turned out beautiful!! Lucky you that you got to go to Magnolia market!!

    1. Reply


      Hi Katrin, mantles are pretty fun. I think these tips could really apply to any flat surface in your house, but I understand why you want a mantle! Magnolia was really great, I’m so glad they have an online store too!

  2. Reply

    Linda at Mixed Kreations

    I love the new look of the mantle. We have a mantle but I can’t decorate it because the hubby has his TV hanging over it, with his sound board on the mantle. Men and their toys.
    We went to the Magnolia Market over the summer, but I’m ready to go again. I could spend a fortune there (that is if I had a fortune to spend, lol).

    1. Reply


      We used to have our tv over the mantle, but decided we didn’t like looking up so much. I understand men and their toys for sure, we are working hard on our living room right now, and he is on board, but I can’t get rid of sub woofers, speakers, or Internet boxes. :-). I would definitely love to visit Magnolia again!

  3. Reply

    Nikki Frank-Hamilton

    Wow! What a difference. You can really see Kate’s personality shine through the mantle decor, and traditional casual is a great describer. The entire room looks tied together now. What a great space to hang out in and enjoy a growing family. Great job!

    1. Reply


      Thank you Nikki! We had so much fun putting it together.

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