Symmetrical accents should be used on mantels in formal rooms.

How to Accessorize a Modern Mantel

by Michelle Radcliff

Modern fireplace mantels come in a variety of materials, including painted or stained wood, concrete and cast stone materials such as marble, granite, limestone, sandstone or slate. Fireplace mantels and surrounds can also be used to create a fake fireplace, a modern decorating trend for those who want the look of a fireplace mantel but don’t have an actual fireplace. Keep in mind that less is more, especially with modern, minimalist styles. Be careful not to over-accessorize your mantel.


As the room's focal point, the eye can be drawn toward the fireplace mantel with color. Modern accessories such as art glass, ceramic vases and framed art with vivid colors help focus attention on the area. Unusual or unexpected accents add extra interest. A vase filled with peacock feathers will certainly catch the eye. Another option would be a drip candle bottle, created by burning multiple drip taper candles in various colors. Flowering or brightly colored houseplants could be used as well.


Modern mantels, especially those made from smooth stone such as marble, granite or slate, should likewise be accessorized with smooth, sleek textures. Metal and glass objets d'art provide the right texture, but you also can add interest by choosing metal or glass sculptures with unusual twists or glass art with air bubbles. Textured metal wall art has a special painted, hand-sanded surface that creates a three-dimensional effect and visual movement from reflected light, similar to a hologram. Any of these contemporary art objects are perfect for a modern mantel.


Along with color and texture, a variety of forms will help showcase your fireplace mantel. If you decide to hang a mirror on the wall above the mantel, choose one with an unusual shape, such as a round, convex bubble or a starburst frame with sharp, pointed rays. Mix tall, vertical candle holders or sculptures with smaller, rounded objects. When using plants or flowers, try a variety of leaf shapes or blooms.


The manner in which mantel accessories are displayed will depend on the style of the room. In a formal setting, mantel decor should look balanced or symmetrical. For this look, you need identical pairs, such as a pair of candle holders or a pair of vases. Place one item on each end of the mantel, separated by a larger object in the center such as a decorative mirror or framed art. An informal room should have groupings of items with an asymmetrical design. Groupings of three or five are more aesthetically balanced, especially for informal or asymmetrical design schemes.

Faux Fireplace Mantels

A faux fireplace mantel can be accessorized underneath as well as above. An arrangement of pillar candles in varying sizes makes a nice accessory in place of a real firebox or one that is not used for fires. Seasonal displays of pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn in autumn or potted lilies, daffodils and tulips in spring add eye-catching color. A painted birdcage with surrounding greenery makes a nice, eclectic display. Place a few interesting objects on top, such as antique bottles, a handmade wreath or a grouping of hammered copper tiles displayed on small stands. The mantel itself can be painted a bright, bold color to give it more of a modern edge.

About the Author

Michelle Radcliff owned a retail home furnishings business for eight years. Radcliff offers decorating advice on her blog, Home Decorating News, is a regular contributor on interior design at and earned certification as an interior decorator from Penn Foster College in 2013.

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