As usual for a Wednesday, we are sharing reader questions/comments/dilemmas/tips or solutions. We encourage you to share your views, discoveries, problems and solutions with the rest of us. Today we’re sharing reader Jessica’s mantel dilemma and how the decor is evolving.
Mantel Decor Dilemma
Jessica originally wrote us months ago about potential wall colors in her home. She was thinking of using this gray accent wall and experimenting with other wall colors. You can see her swatch patches on the left wall. (always a good idea to paint those test swatches) At the time her focus was not on the mantel decor though she has a good start with the use of a perfectly sized mirror.
You can see that Jessica decided to go a different way with her accent wall (she explains it’s more golden than the photo indicates). While the mantel is okay, it could be so much more. The tall vase of red flowers on the left is SO much bigger than the candleholders on the right and the items don’t feel particularly cohesive. At this point, however, she was mainly focused on color.
Then I received an email recently from Jessica saying, “I have a few things on the mantel but I feel like something is missing but can’t figure out what. What do you think of this start? What would recommend to do differently?”
My response: This is definitely a stronger start than the “before” picture because the height and strength of the vase on the right boosts the interest factor a lot. The balance is good with the chunky vase being about visually the same as the lighter candle/flowers. However, the main thing is that something needs to be in front of the mirror, breaking the plane of the frame. It’s too stark and naked. If you can tolerate the asymmetry (which is likely since your current arrangement is balanced but not symmetrical), I’d take away the flower vase (too similar in height to the other vase), move the candle toward the center so it’s in front of the mirror (not just the frame), and add a couple of things to group with the candle.
If you can manage a little layering, all the better. Currently everything is lined up in a row. Your mantel doesn’t look all that deep (probably 5-6″), so I know it’s a challenge, but maybe you could lean a large plate or platter (or even a smaller 11×14 or so mirror) against the mirror frame behind the candle and a box or bowl so that it provides a layered backdrop. Then on the tall vase side, so it doesn’t feel so alone, add a green plant (real or faux) – I’d suggest something not too vertical but that has some drape and maybe a little trailing but creates a somewhat rounded shape. That puts 2 on the right and 3 on the left for an overall odd number. Be sure to arrange it so the plant overlaps the mirror frame. I think once you see a couple of things in front of the mirror, you’ll be happier.
Jessica reworked her mantel and has created a much more interesting grouping. The addition of the lantern and plate on the left make a strong grouping and layering the lantern in front of the mirror connects the mirror to the rest of the grouping. There is still a little too much variance in size between the chunky green vase and the clock. I suggest that Jessica add another layering element tucked behind the clock.
Since there’s already a round plate, a better option would be a piece of art – that would also make an opportunity to carry the red to the other side. Since there’s not a lot of depth, consider leaning a piece of art without a frame. Consider using an unframed canvas (usually only 1″ deep) or a photo or print that is only matted but not framed. Then you could change out the art, change the flowers that are in with the sticks and quickly, easily and affordably give the mantel a new look for every season.
Adding a piece of art might look something like this (art from CostPlus online, an affiliate). Choose something to pick up the warm tones of the wall (this sample might be a bit too bright white) but with a splash of red and fill the space between the vase and clock. The round of the plate is echoed by the round face of the clock; height and balance is acheived on both sides with the use of a vase; color will be carried across the mantel – it’s mantel decor to be proud of.
I want to thank Jessica for sharing her dilemma and pictures of her ongoing progress. There are always other options for resolving a decorating dilemma. Do any of you have any additional suggestions? Jessica will welcome all ideas. Leave your suggestions in the Comment area. And, if you’ve got a project or area that you’re working on, we’d love you to share some photos and details.