Vol.2, No.6

Design and decorate your fireplace mantel

Design and decorate your fireplace mantel to reflect your homes décor and your personal tastes

Bust on a mantel
Photo Credit: Diane Diederich
When a fireplace exists in a room, it is typically the focal point. Because of this, you want the mantel to be as fitting of the grace, simplicity, or grandeur of the décor as it can be.

Starting Points

To begin your design, make your measurements first. While these may change as your design evolves, it will provide your blueprint a starting point. Ideally, the area around the fireplace will be clear of objects that may detract from the task. If an existing mantel is there, do consider its dimensions in regards to what you would like the new mantle to be. Also, decide if your new construction will be a mantel or a surround.

Design Ideas

Remember that wood is not the only material that can be used for your mantel's construction. Consider river rock, slate, cement, tile, or plaster. If you are on a budget, consider building the base of the mantel from a lesser priced lumber or substance such as MDF and covering in a material that will reflect a grander design.

Décor can define the Mantel

If your room's décor is already well defined, consider how you want the mantel to blend in or define the existing scheme. Color or finish will be an important decision when tying a mantel into a room that already has a distinct décor.

If your interior decoration is non-existent, and you are unsure of where you are going design wise, build an idea library before you begin. Browse magazines that contain decorating suggestions, visit furniture showrooms, even walk through your local home-improvement store to gain ideas from the hardware section and lumber itself. Consider different molding designs and see if you can carry an element from your rooms trim into the mantel. All of these things and places may spark an interest that will help you define what look you are trying to achieve. If all of these spark no interest, look inward. Consider what you like and dislike in general. You may realize that you want a mantel to reflect your rustic or eclectic life. Alternatively, you may discover that your tastes run along a more modern vein.

Fireplace Use

Another consideration is what and how you expect the fireplace to interact with the living space. Ask yourself some basic questions concerning the fireplace itself. Will you use the fireplace often? Is it operational or only decorative? If operational, is it wood burning, gas, or electric? Do you want to be able to display objects or pictures on the mantel? If so, what objects, and what are their dimensions? Answers to these questions may help you decide on what materials can or cannot be used in the construction. If you happen to be a collector of antiques and have an object d' art that is destined to be displayed above your fireplace or on the mantel itself, make sure the size will be able to accommodate. If your fireplace will display a trophy from a hunt as the focal point, consider how this could affect the design of the mantel. If you always pictured your mantel resplendent with family pictures, again, make sure that the size is going to have room to display these items.