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!

  10. Hope says:

    Can I shop your house instead of mine? That little landscape with the sheep just melts my heart!

  11. Call Me Patty says:

    I thought they were all great, I don’t know if I could pick a favourite. They each create a different mood…….but seriously?……the ashes? Come on Karen, that just ruined the whole shot.

  12. Rondina says:

    My favorite was the sixth one. The first one with the man playing the guitar. It had depth and I thought the items were perfectly placed off-center. I’m the type that arranges things one way in a house and they stay there forever, my mantel being the exception.

  13. Alex says:

    Damnit now I am a really bad Canadian for not having a fireplace. Next house it’s a must have.

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I don’t have a mantel anymore..would love to have one again..I love your antique mirrors the best..

  15. Karen says:

    Prepare yourself for a lot of love, Karen: love the Pottery Barn glass candlesticks, love the mantels with more ornate mirrors the most, and love that I can see your entire post in Google reader!

  16. marilyn says:

    i liked # 5 the best…love that print! followed by 12 and 17..great post karen! i too like to fool with my mantle..dont know how to send u a pic or i would

  17. Linda says:

    I love the “twigs” mantel, it’s so calm/modern.

    I have a “mantel” that’s 80″ long, 23″ deep, and 29″ before you hit the ceiling. The previous owner built it around his large screen TV. I don’t have a large screen TV, I have a 35″ TV. Aside from tossing a man up there, I have NO idea what to do with that much space!

  18. Lisa says:

    Our fireplace is in a corner so I have a curved mantle which can sometimes be challenging to decorate. I think I need to start experimenting a lot more and not get so hung up on working around the curves.

  19. Cindy Marlow says:

    First, one needs a mantle…however, I did say, ‘Oooh, I like that!’ at least 16 times!

  20. Langela says:

    My favorite is the pitcher and platter setup.

  21. Angela that London says:

    This is a little bit spooky Karen, I was going to message you today to request some more of your inspirational decor ideas. I first found your blog about 2 years ago when I was looking for ideas on displays for the large wall unit bookcase I’d bought. It was the shoot in your house that inspired me to buy my beautiful antler on Ebay. I also collect vintage and my long suffering fella has learned to love my 1940s chandelier and various other girly ‘tat’ as he calls it. Yeah well we still got the big telly and PS3 so shut it! Where do you hide yours? (telly!) I love pics 8,14,16 and 24 best – your gilt mirror collection is lovely. I’ve done similar in the bedroom but with 1920s/30s mirrors and I also mix brass with silver in my collection of vintage chain-mail bags. Now feeling I should let in a bit more masculine style influences love your fella’s lump of concrete – superb! More of your house please if can bear it. Gold medal for Karen, hope doing the mantel didn’t drive you mental.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Angela – Thanks! Even though it was the most logical and probably easiest, I refused to put my television over the mantle. It would overpower the room and instantly become the focal point. Which I didn’t want. So I hung the television on a telescoping and articulating hinge on the wall to the right of the fireplace. To angle it for better viewing we just pull it out. It’s still ugly but less of a focal point. ~ karen!

  22. Rebecca P says:

    Super fabulous post! It looks like it was probably a lot of fun to put together, but also a lot of work! Just wanted to let you know I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be referring back to it again and again for inspiration.

    My favorite, btw, is probably the one with all the mirrors. So dramatic! Second is the one you chose!


  23. Diana says:

    Hi Karen,
    well done!!!

    That is what I`m doing in my job every day!
    as a window dresser in a furniturestore!
    Love the glassblock and my favorite is the 3rd one. it`s so clean;o)

  24. Rebecca says:

    I love all of these looks! I wish I had a mantle to get creative with.

    • Another Jan says:

      Rebecca, I do not have a fireplace,but built a faux one in the corner to house my ugly flatsceen and DVD, etc. Z-brick, drywall and a bit of trim. Fun project!

  25. Natika33 says:

    Awesome! I like your idea of changing your mantle more often. The Japanese version is probably the tokonoma. It gets changed a bit more often (since they usually have to replace the dying flowers), but the overall design is kinda boringly similar. Maybe I’ll practice doing something entirely non-Japanese in that space and see what works.

    On another note – do you have any suggestions for displaying rather childish (ie. not so refined-looking) objects? I have a bunch of relatively small and cutesy plastic figures that tend to un-sophisticate anything they’re put beside. Most of them I can put in boxes away somewhere and be happy, but I’d kinda like to display these guys

    Any help?

  26. Laura Bee says:

    Lovely, I am so jealous of your mantle. Mine is totally out of place oak monstrosity. (gas) In the corner with a drywalled ledge above. I keep thinking of painting it white. Or ripping it out & putting a nice little gas “woodstove” so we won’t have a mantle to deal with. The cat likes sleeping up there though.
    And whose guitar pick is that? Just curious, I caught a pick thrown by Honeymoon Suite’s bass player Gary after a show a few years ago. He tossed it right at me – best catch ever!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. The guitar pick and framed, signed set list are from a Ramones concert (one of approximately 100) I went to starting in around grade 9. I also have drumsticks. Gabba Gabba Hey. ~ karen!

      • Laura Bee says:

        Way cool! I have a drumstick from way back that I can’t for the life of me remember where it came from. Must have been a great night…

  27. Jenny says:

    Ooooo…I do have baskets that can take a few holes. I really like that idea. If I get it set up “picture worthy” ill send you a shot of it. :) Thanks!

  28. Jenny says:

    I have a challenging problem, as some mave have as well; a cable box and a ps3. These are “required” on my mantel because my tv is above it. Do you have any advice on how to incorporate those into a cohesive looking mantel?

    • Karen says:

      Jenny – You’re not going to like my answer, but I want you to move your television. Not willing? Uch. O.K. The only thing can do with the cable box and PS3 box is either a) see if you can somehow get longer cables for them so you can hide them lower down or simply put them in something. A wicker basket, lacquer box … that sort of thing. Something that the remote can work through. You may need to drill a hole in it to get your remote to work. Depending on the size of your mantle you can also just place stuff around the offending boxes to hide them. It’s hard to give any more advice than that without actually seeing the situation. Hope it helps a bit. ~ karen!

    • Angela says:

      My TV is also over my mantle. We ran cable under the house so the DVD, DVR, etc. are in the closet across the room. Works great!

    • Natika33 says:

      Can you partially cover them with pretty paper or cardboard (leaving space for air of course)?

  29. Katrina says:

    Man, this totally reminds me of many an art school assignment. Take a small set of items and draw them over and over in different arrangements. Once you hit about 50, your mind sort of lets go and you start to see the items as colors, textures, and shapes instead of “things.” It lets you get rid of any preconceived notions of how things are “supposed” to go and that’s how you can get interesting and new compositions.

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