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Dressing Up Your Tired Mantel

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The grandeur of a foreboding, elegant mantel piece has been the focal point of many enduring interior design mantras for generations. Often a gathering place for families, the fireplace has been a staple of human comfort and practicality for time immemorable; in modern living spaces, the mantelpiece is seeing a resurgence as an important addition to the comfort and habitability of a homey space.

Think of a mantel piece as another strategic focal point to draw the eye into the centre of the room - or as a top hat for the fireplace. In this post, we’ll list a few innovative ways to update and invigorate the forgotten allure of a contemporary mantelpiece.

Not Just Another Shelf

The mantelpiece has become a pseudo shelf for any number of knick-knacks, photos, mementos and decor, and that’s OK. While it can serve as a shelf to bring personality and a bit of character into the room by adding family portraits or some kind of family heirloom that you put on display. The idea of using the mantelpiece as a way to draw attention to the centre of the room isn’t a new one - but we can do better than that.

By eliminating these things from the mantelpiece and allowing the gist of ‘less is more’ to come through, you can draw attention to the mantel’s architectural qualities and its contemporary aesthetic. By allowing your mantelpiece to frame your fireplace, you’re drawing attention to a critical piece of human existence: the space in which families gather to tell stories, and warm their hearts. When you place too much accoutrement on top of the mantelpiece, it still serves this function, and yet it seems minimized, cluttered.

A great alternative, and a good way to draw attention to the mantelpiece while not sacrificing storage of shelf space is to construct or invest in library-style shelves on either side, emphasizing the symmetry of the room and pulling the eye inwards.


If you’re someone who adores the look of a mantelpiece adorned by a gallery wall, a plethora of artwork or meaningful mementos, go for it! The key to a mantelpiece if to draw the to a focal point within the room so a simplified fireplace - perhaps by painting the entire thing white - can add relevance and attention to the things you place above it.

Adding a massive portrait, painting or other piece of artwork, or even a large mirror can add class and elegance to any number of fireplace designs. A statement mirror should be the approximate size of the mantel itself, adding detail and emphasis to the size of the mantel.

You don’t need a rustic piece of expensive barn bed to add an organic and natural vibe to your mantel either. An old piece of decking, or upcycled salvaged wood - even a live edge split log can add tons of character and a sustainable flair to your abode.

Experimenting with Materials / Texture

Now that you’re actively trying to draw attention to the mantelpiece and the fireplace, it’s time to investigate and reimagine the mantel itself. Your personal taste may vary depending on which kind of fireplace you have in your home - a woodstove, open wood fireplace, or a modern gas model - but the sentiment remains, the mantel is the cherry on top.

Playing with the aesthetics of your fireplace and creating a nice contrast of materials is a great way to add drama and eclectic style to a room. By pairing an old cast iron wood stove insert with an elegant mantel constructed of white or cream crown-moulding, you build a chic and modern space that oozes class.

Similarly, if you’ve updated your fireplace to a modern gas insert with a slick glass, or stone veneer, a rustic barn-beam mantel can have the same effect - translating into a character of different, complementary tastes through juxtaposition.

Removing the Mantel Altogether

Design doesn’t marry itself to every last traditional design element. Good innovative design ideas constantly play with the ideas of elimination, removal, and simplifying spaces for the betterment of flow and visual appeal. In this regard, the fireplace - and fire itself - is a symbol of human longevity and innovation.

The mantelpiece physically capping the fire was built on the need to reduce the likelihood of house fires as a physical barrier from flames engulfing the flue or wall. If you’ve removed your fireplace and have employed a gas insert, removing an outdated mantelpiece altogether can draw attention to the space it provides now as a pseudo bookshelf, a fresh spot for the TV, or a creative iteration of repurposed Christmas lights or candles to take the place of a roaring fire.

Ridding the room of a foreboding mantelpiece is just as powerful a statement as re-imaging its look. It can be done if you give the proper respect to the space you’re creating. A mantelpiece can be reduced in size as well, to offer a delicate focal point, rather than a strong and solid signifier of hearth’s of olde.

Modern Twists

AMny modern fireplace mantel’s aren’t mantel’s at all. Sliding panels which hide flatscreens or music systems are an excellent way to draw attention to the empty space above a fireplace that don’t require the use of a bulky mantel.

Tuscan style fireplaces flip the entire idea on its head - literally - as they boast the fireplace above the mantelpiece, using the traditional location for the fire as wood storage. In this regard, your mantel piece becomes the floor of the fireplace, and can be used as a base for new design ideas.

The use of smooth smoked black glass or stone elevating upwards far higher than a traditional mantel allows the room to feel larger and loftier, an excellent way to add perceived space to a cramped space.

Lacey Grey Fabric loveseat Pallucci Furniture | 32 E Broadway Vancouver, BC | V5T 0B6 | Phone: (604) 568-4855 | Google+

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