5 Steps to a Beautiful Fall Fireplace Mantel Using the Basic Elements of Design
I showed you a peek at my Fall mantel when I posted how to make a Wood Bead Garland for Fall. Today I am going to show you the entire mantel.
Instead of just showing you photos of my Fall mantel, though, I thought I would explain what goes on in my mind as I create a new look for my mantel every season, often using the same items from year to year.
5 Steps to a Beautifully Decorated Fall Fireplace Mantel
Readers often ask me how I come up with my ideas and execute them. I worked in retail display for many years. The job gave me lots of practice creating displays and vignettes on store shelves and ledges, using only the contents in a prop room to create them.
I had to be resourceful and learned a lot of ways to make the same items look different so they would continue to entice shoppers.
To change the look and style of my mantel, I simply play around with the items I have chosen, along with applying the “basic elements of design” until a new look emerges with which I am happy.
You can do the same thing with the items you own to create a beautiful Fall mantel in your home, simply by following basic design principles.
These elements all work in conjunction with each other. Together they are what turns a bunch of decorative stuff into an eye-pleasing statement and makes you a designer.
This year when decorating your mantel for Fall try using these…
Fall Fireplace Mantel Design Element Basics
Without getting complicated, these design elements and principles are what I keep in mind when I look at my stash of decorative fall items and an empty mantel over my fireplace.
Note, I said, “keep in mind” as they are merely a tool to create something visually pleasing using just about anything on any surface. Feel free to break from them to come up with something totally unique and perfect for your taste and personal decorating style. They are just a guide to get you going.
Also, don’t forget to consider that the wall behind the mantel becomes part of the whole mantel decoration. It could be a painted wall, stacked stones, paneling, a mirror, or a piece of art.
Step 1: Balance
Figure Out If You Want the Decor on Your Mantel to Be Placed Symmetrically or Asymmetrically
Balance is the weight of the items placed along the length of the mantel. The elements don’t necessarily need to be of the same size on each side of the mantel. Balance can be achieved by placing a large element on one side of the mantel and several small elements on the other side that are equal in color, texture or size.
Last year I decorated my mantel using symmetrical balance. It is achieved when the weight of the elements on both halves of the mantel are even on each side of a center line. In this case the sides are nearly identical.
This year, I decorated my mantel using asymmetrical balance. It is achieved by the use of color to create the balance, but you could use objects to achieve it also. The white canvas on the left is balanced by the 3 white candles on the right.
Balance can also be achieved by placing the canvas in portrait mode where it is taller than the rest of the items on the mantel. To balance that on the other side, I draped the wood beads off the mantel on the right. These two items create an invisible diagonal line across the mantel. Note that I also placed more white candles on the hearth to bring the color white and similar items to acccent the whole fireplace into the mantel design.
Also look at how you space the items. You don’t want to simply line them up, unless you are going after that look. To create more impact on the mantel, consider how much space you place in between each element on the mantel. This can change the look dramatically.
Layer or overlap items in front of each other as I did with the white canvas, window sash and wreath. Tighten the design by bringing the whole collection to the center of the mantel. This will make the items look cohesive and not like a bunch of clutter lined up.
Step 2: Size & Proportion
Keep the size and proportion of your items in mind. If you are using larger items, placing something really small or dinky will just end up looking like clutter. If you are not sure if an item you place on your mantel is too small or large in connection with other items, do the “Squint Test”.
Simply stand about 10 feet away from your mantel and squint your eyes as you look at it. This will put the size and shape of the items along it in better focus and allow you to see if something looks off. It really works, I do it all the time to keep whatever I am working on in balance as I add and remove new things until I like what I see.
Step 3: Repetition
Repetition of elements along a mantel will strengthen your design by tying together individual elements. It helps to create association and consistency and provides a visual rhythm that pleases the eye.
Repetitive elements can be as simple as the actual items you place on the mantel, the use of the same color of a collection of different items, using repetitive shapes, or even texture.
For instance, I used 3 (odd numbers always look more visually appealing) rustic textured balls along the left side.
On the right side, I lined up 3 white candles. These don’t match, but that doesn’t matter in an asymmetrical display. If I was working on a symmetrically decorated mantel, I would use the same 3 items on each side.
For this fall mantel, I used repetition with the free printables that say – It’s Fall Y’all across the window sash.
Step 4: Contrast in Texture/Color
Contrast allows you to emphasize or highlight a certain item. It is created when two elements are total opposites. Note the navy blue window sash against the stark white canvas and the third item, the Autumn-hued wreath.
Contrast doesn’t necessarily have to be achieved using colors. It can also be achieved with shapes and textures like the stone wall behind my mantel or a basket against a shiny copper planter or shiny mirror hung on the wall above the mantel.
When you add items that contrast against each other, it guides the eye to where they should look first or to the most important element. For it to work successfully though, it must be strong and obvious. It needs to make an impact.
And don’t forget, just as when you decorate a room, choose a color scheme for your fall mantel. I used navy, orange and yellow.
Again, odd numbers look better, so choose 3 colors or go monochromatic and use all same shades of a color when choosing the items to use to decorate your mantel.
Step 5: Harmony
Once you are are done, take a step back and see if what you created is not only in harmony with the rest of the room, but with all the elements themselves. When they are, you will know that you have succeeded in creating a fall mantel just as a designer would.
Using these basic elements of design can be used to decorate any area or surface in your home; they are not just for creating pretty mantels and vignettes.
Do you take into account any of these design elements when you decorate your home?