How to style a stylin’ mantle in 4 easy steps

One of my favorite parts of our vintage apartment is the fireplace, despite the fact that it doesn’t work and (probably) has a bunch of spider nests inside the grate, which I refuse to take off and clean out because SPIDERS. It’s a major focal point in the living room, and instead of taking the easy way out and slapping our TV up on the mantle, I decorate and redecorate it constantly throughout the year with themed crap I find in other parts of our house.

This season’s unintentional theme is RED STUFF and features everything from our elopement bunting to a Halloween-y candlabra, a vintage Valentine’s Day candy box, and some greenery left over from Christmas. (It’s still technically winter, you guys. Greens are still A-OK.)

When I decorate the mantle, no matter the theme, I use a series of tried-and-true steps – layers, really. Follow the transformation from boring fireplace to so-full-the-cat-can’t-even-jump-up-there mantle in four easy steps.

Step 1: Start with the big stuff.

I gathered three large items – a framed Hermes scarf, a vintage doily stretcher, and a red mirror I stole from my dining room gallery wall – and layered them for a multidimensional effect. It just looks better that way, I guess.

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Step 2: Add something soft-looking to balance the hard edges of larger items.

In this case, we used an evergreen garland, but other suitable items could include a wreath of some sort, sprigs of flowers or greens tucked in the nooks between frames, bittersweet or willow garland … seriously, go bananas here.

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Step 3: Anchor your corners.

I just think it looks better this way, I guess. Here, we’ve used a silver candelabra, dug out of a box of Halloween decorations, and a milk glass vase of red berry sprigs that can’t go anywhere else because the cat wants to chew ‘em.

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Step 4: Finish it off with random knickknacks.

This part is the most fun, of course. For our RED STUFF theme, we added Russian nesting dolls, a map-covered letter from Urban Outfitters, and a vintage Valentine’s Day candy box. Would have added more if the mantle was a wee big larger.fancykins mantle styling how to 4 fancykins mantle styling how to 2 fancykins mantle styling how to 3 fancykins mantle styling how to 9

BONUS Step 5: Add a hanging detail, like bunting you used in your wedding photos.

You didn’t think I’d pay $20 for a wedding prop and then never use it again, did you?
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And there you have it! Easy-peasy, and way more appealing than some bare-bones mantle, if I do say so myself.

I don’t know about you guys, but Chicago’s first heatwave of 2015 has me hankering for some springtime decor. The high today is 70 degrees, for crying out loud. Have you taken down your wintertime decor yet? Any cool plans or projects up you sleeve this spring?

  • Paige Viollt

    Looks awesome! A fireplace is the one thing I wish we had in our condo (even if it isn’t functioning) – I just love the focal point of them!

    • Hollie

      I didn’t realize how much I loved ours until we started looking at new places that DIDN’T have fireplaces. Just felt like something was missing! I’m sure I would get over not having one (especially since this one doesn’t work), but I’m used to seeing it all the time :) Haha

  • Johanna

    I love how you styled this. I suck at our mantle. It really looks disjointed. Gonna give these tips a whirl. Can you show your Spring mantle?

    • Hollie

      I’ve found that I like my mantle decor the more full it looks – when it’s just a few things here and there with too much open space, it always looks like something’s missing. Definitely play around with it & take items from other parts of your house, sometimes that makes a difference! Will def share spring mantle when I get it all figured out :)

  • Katie

    Aw, I love that you used your bunting. I hope we have a mantle some day to put random stuff on! :)

    • Hollie

      Before I had a mantle, I was similarly decorating shelves, sideboards, dresser tops, you name it – the same rules apply! Go bananas, lady, haha :)