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What Are the Best Tips for Decorating a Mantel?

Alex Tree
By
Updated: May 17, 2024

The best way to decorate a mantel is to have a plan. The three-plus-one rule of themed decorating can be particularly useful in creating a unique mantel display. By following a plan and theme, decorators avoid excessive decor that only serves to distract from the overall theme. Breaking away from the generic can also help mantel decor stand out; for example, instead of hanging the typical ornately framed picture above the fireplace, the decorator can strategically place oddly shaped, unframed mirrors. It is entirely possible to think outside the box when decorating a mantel while still following a plan.

Three-plus-one essentially means placing three similar objects on one end of the mantel and one object on the other end. The three objects chosen are often obviously similar, such as all three being red decorative clocks or candles. A vital part of decorating a mantel using the three-plus-one rule is choosing three objects that are different heights. Their height should not vary too much, just enough for the eye to slightly wander up and down. All three objects should be placed near one end of the mantel, usually with the tallest of three placed in the middle.

Next, the one part of the three-plus-one rule is chosen. This object must be taller than the three objects already placed and is usually also related to them in some way. For example, if the three objects are white candle holders trimmed in gold, the one large object might be a gold vase with white flowers, though the similarity need not be that obvious. Once this object is chosen and placed on the other end of the mantel, most people still have a good portion of their mantel empty. To fill this void, the decorator can hang a large mirror, framed picture, or other work of art in the center.

Whether the homeowner has chosen to follow the three-plus-one rule or another rule of decorating a mantel, thinking outside of the box can help create a display visitors remember. For example, there is no reason why clocks, laptop computers, or wigs cannot be used as decorative pieces, assuming the heat of the fireplace is not a problem. It is also not necessary to achieve an elegant look, because funky, whimsical, or the 1800s are all valid themes. For theme ideas, homeowners can look through furniture catalogs, think about items that they are passionate about, or just let their children choose the decor, because there is no wrong way when decorating a mantel.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and WiseGeek contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and WiseGeek contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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