As I discuss in my book Living With What You Love, the mantel is an open canvas. It’s a place to place your collections and keep the conversation going around the hearth. Your mantel can be as formal or as casual as you deem fitting for your home’s personality, just as the collections you display on a mantel can be as simple as shells from your nearby beach or as complicated and sophisticated as highbrow works of art. Here are some creative ideas to try—in your living room, bedroom, anywhere—right now.
Dare to showcase photographs without frames
Frames on a mantel are lovely but breaking with convention will make your mantel stand out above the average. My favorite example of this is in the home of the decorator Rita Konig. Above, Rita’s mantel is a sprawling, romantic homage to her friends and family via tacked-up Polaroid photographs.
Incorporate a mirror to create dimension
I love mirrors on mantels because it’s the easiest way to make things 3-D and double-expose a collection on top. A mirror, above, also beautifully reflects the rest of the room. You can experiment with different shapes and sizes to forge the visual effect that works best for your personal space and style.
Celebrate a love of the outdoors
On this mantel, above, Home from the Sea’s Tonya Goodwin—who collects seascape castoffs and hand-makes reproduction versions of them for sale—combines raw environmental ingredients with a classic mantel for a clean, simple and relaxing effect. It’s proof that lining up something as elemental as river stones, pine cones or shells can work even in an elegant or extremely traditional setting.
Photographs: From top, images one and two courtesy of Living with What You Love; image three courtesy of Home from the Sea