One Mantel, 24 looks.

This is how my mantle has looked for the past … I don’t know … 2 months or so.


Mantle 1


Using most of the same things, but cleaning it up a bit and changing their positions, it’s a whole new look.  It’s more symmetrical, more balanced.  More traditional.   Which  changes the entire feeling of the room.  For no cost and about 30 seconds worth of time.


Symmetrical 2
Most people shove things on their mantle, coffee table or bookcases and leave them exactly the same way for all eternity, or at least until the next holiday when they put up a) garland b) a wreath, or c) a giant stuffed Easter bunny in a straw hat and overalls.

Put away that bunny.  Today I have inspiration for you.   24 variations on the same mantle using regular objects that most of us have.  Books, candlesticks, vases, and most importantly … weird little objects.   Unexpected things like binoculars, antlers or cameras.

So sit, relax … and start scrolling.





  Mantle 19


Mantle 17

Mantle 4

Mantle 6

Mantle 8

Mantle 9

Mantle 11

Mantle 14

Mantle 20

Mantle 15

Mantle 16

Mantle 25

Mantle 13

Mantle 21

Mantle 18

Mantle 22

Mantle 3

Mantle 23

Mantle 7

Mantle 12

Mantle 26

Mantle 24

Mantle 27


Inspired?  By even just one?  All you need is one.

Tips for mantel design.

Display a collection.  Designers say this all the time.  But what *is* a collection?  I don’t collect Royal Doultons or antique doorknobs or anything like that.  BUT, I do have a bunch of white vases. I don’t necessarily collect them.  I just have them.  Same with books, white stuff in general, antique mirrors, candlesticks, and the list continues. You may not think you have a collection, but you probably do.

Display things that mean something to you.  The fifth picture from the bottom, that has the metal surrounded by a gold frame shows the mantel with a bunch of the fella’s accomplishments.  His metal for running the Around The Bay Road Race in Hamilton, a small kettle bell award from a Crossfit competition, and a circle of concrete from a big job he worked on.  Set out separately around the house they don’t amount to much, but together on the mantel they work and they remind.

Don’t worry.  Don’t worry too much about getting things “right”.  It’s a mantel.  You can change it if you want.  Just do what looks good to your eye.  You know why?  Because no matter what they say in decorating magazines, you’re the one lookin’ at it.  Chances are a magazine editor isn’t going to come bursting into the living room to chastise you for not having a “pop” of colour.

Gold & Silver.  Yes.  As a matter of fact.  You *can* have both gold and silver together on a mantel, coffee table, or wrist.

Continuity and Balance. Now I’m about to backtrack on the “don’t worry” thing.  If you are worried that a magazine editor might be coming over, think about continuity.  You can have a variety of mismatched objects on your mantel, but something in them has to go together.   There has to be something that lets your eye roam around the entire mantel.  It might be a tiny bit of black in a frame that repeats in a book or a feeling of “country” in all the pieces or a tiny white votive candle that balances out the white vase on the other end of the mantel.  Even a mantel that seems unbalanced when you first look at it, has something that is indeed balancing it.

The very last mantel picture in the series is a good example of that.  Nothing is symmetrical when you first look at it but the white candles on the right balance the white vase on the left.  The gold frame on the right balances the gold frame in the centre, which is emphasized with the tiny vintage brass flip calendar on the stack of books.  The blue of the Picasso print on the left, is picked up in the blue of the dress in the gold frame and again, everything is emphasized by the blue book in the stack of books.


The accessories I used are all things I had around the house and most of them are inexpensive.  The only thing that’s really worth anything is the antique gold frame with the little girl in the blue dress.  Everything else was under $100 and a lot of the accessories were either free or bought for $3-$10 at garage sales and flea markets.

You can buy pop up opera glasses like these on Ebay for around $12.

Opera Glasses

I absolutely LOVE this small landscape painting.  I got it at a garage sale for about $5.  The chipped enamel platters are from an antique market.

Mantle 20 B

The Bombay Company sold these glass blocks up until a few years ago.  As I’ve said before a glass block or a glass dome can make anything look important.  Even these $5 ceramic roses.


Tinga Tinga.  At least I think that’s what this African painting is.  It’s not colourful like Tinga Tinga normally is but it’s from the region and painted on masonite.  Estate Sale $20.

Tinga Tinga

Sometimes you don’t have art, but you do have art or coffee table books.  Stick them in an empty frame, either open like this, or closed, displaying the cover like in the 9th picture from the top of the mantel pictures.

Mantle 10


Quick Reference
List of Mantel Accessories and where to buy some of them


**note most of these links are now out of date and unavailable but searching the Internet you’ll find similar objects**



Candlesticks Mercury Glass from Ikea, Large Clear Glass from Pottery Barn 


Opera Glasses Ebay







Found objects (driftwood, sticks, rocks, moss, etc)

Folded burlap Coffee sack  Several on Etsy

Antique cameras Brownie Cameras on Ebay

Random Objets d’art (gold artichokes, white lacquer box, gold leaf books, ceramic roses, antique framed prints, silver flying pig, black lady sculpture)


Tea lights

Enamel jugs 3 white jugs from Ikea

Antique wood pulley Available on Ebay

Antique antlers Can be found here on Etsy

Wood Acorn Box by Brenda Watts, Cattails Studio

Vintage brass flip calendar  Can be found here on Etsy


Now get out there and rearrange!  And if you’re wondering, my favourite ended up being the final mantel.  The unbalanced one with the 2 gold frames and Picasso print.   It is how my mantel looks right now.

It barely won out over the classic Swedish country look with the white enamel platters,  white jugs and small landscape painting.  I may switch over to that in a month or so.

Or maybe I’ll take everything down and put a big stuffed bunny on the mantel if I find one that tickles my ass.  As luck would have it … I’m not expecting a magazine editor over any time soon.


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  1. Laura says:

    Love this post! Now, I don’t have a mantle but I do have a floating shelf in our bedroom. It should be moved downstairs so I can rearrange what we have weekly.

  2. KJ says:

    I really love this post, and I love the small silver winged pig in 3 & 8. Can you tell me where you got it? I would love to add it to my collection.

    • Karen says:

      Hi KJ – I got the winged pig from my local nursery, Holland Park Garden Centre. It was part of the Christmas collection of all things. I’ve looked it over and there’s no identifying mark or sticker. Sorry! ~ karen

  3. Anemone says:

    I love your mantles…I don’t have one but I have this really nice wooden book shelf that kinda looks like a mantle and is about the height and width of a fire place. I like mantle design with the branches and the coral kind of vase. Maybe because I miss the beach so much. Hey…omg thanks! I know exactly what to do now.

  4. Maria G. says:

    “Most people shove things on their mantle…” – I’m guilty! I love books and honestly, I don’t want to keep rummaging my shelf for the book I am currently reading so I usually put it on the mantle so I could easily access it when I need it. Sure enough, I tend to leave them there for long and made my living room a messy library. Reading this post made me excited especially the 24 Looks in One Mantle. I can’t wait to try out all the looks! Thanks a lot!

  5. Wowza. So many choices and fabulous looks you’ve got going there. I’m going to be playing around with my mantel at the first opportunity. Hmm. That doesn’t sound quite right. Thanks for the ideas! And for the “you CAN mix gold and silver.” I’m always reluctant to do that!

  6. Jess says:

    My favorite was #6, with man playing guitar. It just kinda jumped out at me.

  7. kelliblue says:

    Mantle schmantle. WHERE did you find your gorgeous lucite coffee table??? (and that li’l hunka hunka burnin’ lucite that your ebay pop up glasses are resting on?)

    But seriously folks…your 24 mantle looks are indeed very nice. Of course, they’re by YOU! X24!

  8. Lin N says:

    Continuity, balance and ‘scale’. If yer stuff is too little it looks lost. I found the pictures and a few other things a bit small. Great ideas for changing things up on the mantle. Quick and easy decorating.

    • Carol says:

      I hear what you’re saying Lin N. and agree that scale is VERY important. But I have to say I think Karen’s scale is perfect. And I think Karen’s being a little modest. Her home has actually been featured in a few design magazines so obviously magazine editors have often entered her home. Right Karen? :) I’m not a magazine editor, LOL, but I am a fairly successful interior designer. :) That’s my two cents.

  9. Jodie says:

    That was amazing… did that take you all week to complete??
    What I mean to say is, I loved this!

    • Karen says:

      :) It took 3 days. Throwing things up on the mantle was the easy part. I put very little thought into it. Just threw stuff up there. The difficult part was getting the pictures in a room that’s notoriously dark, then editing all the pics. ~ karen!

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