Growing up, my family routinely decorated for the fall and winter holidays, so come October, the inevitable who’s-gonna-climb-into-the-attic-and-get-the-Halloween-decorations-down conversation would come to light. This was a task that almost always fell on my Dad, but we had the conversation nonetheless. If for no other reason than to use as a scare tactic against my brother and me, like “you better do your homework or you’ll have to go in the attic” which is a serious threat to children, as it’s common knowledge that all attics are filled with mold, spiders, the zombie from Hocus Pocus, and all the horrifying scenes from scary PG-13 movie trailers (or at the very least, a few scenes out of Are You Afraid of the Dark?).
But well before the holidays showed up, and before the holiday decorating was underway, (and even before the talks of climbing into attics had begun), there was special attention paid to the fireplace. I don’t know that my mom planned it this way so much as her eyes naturally turned to the fire, the moment the temperatures dipped in September. It was as if we had ignored the mantle and all it’s working parts for the better part of the summer, and then in a flash, our living room became a parade of candles, twigs, strange objects, and frames of all sizes.
Year after year, I would sit on the sofa, watching in awe, as she placed objects, one after the other. Tall, short, geometric, abstract, up and down, up and down, until she decided her work was complete. Every year, our fireplace looked just a little bit different. One year she even went so far as to paint the red brick white. A decision she belabored for months before finally committing <“You know you can’t go back once it’s painted” she said, over and over “But the red brick is super ugly” I said… And then a few years later, she had sheetrock put in which she promptly painted…“white” “No, Lauren, it’s cream.” “Mom, it’s white.” And then many years later, she just went wild and gutted the whole thing. Our fireplace then became a rare stone masterpiece wrapped in a custom gray-painted wood frame “Purple” “No, Lauren, it’s painted grey.” “Mom, it’s like, purple with maybe a hint of gray.”
…Hold on, I need to call my mom and apologize…
Ok. I’m back. She still loves me.
My whole point here is that she’s not alone. Many of us turn to our fireplaces once we realize fall is approaching, or (as with our current case) has already crossed the threshold. So it’s time to shake things up a bit and beautify that warming focal point for the cool seasons to come. Below are a few ideas to help you get inspired with your own parade of fireplace decor.
But first, this wouldn’t be an EHD-approved roundup without a bit of advice and some “rules.” When creating a vignette atop your mantle, remember this phrase: Something tall, something short, something shiny, something dull. Oh yeah, and something “organic”. We need not only a balance of heights but a balance of textures to create interest. And be sure to stick to odd numbers. For example: If you wind up with four things on the mantle, you probably need to add one more (five) or remove one thing (three). It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s usually right. Okay, that wasn’t so hard, right? By all means, go rogue, but if this is your first go ’round on the fireplace decorating circuit, this is a good place to start (and stop if you’re happy with what you cook up).
Now, let’s dive into the combos we came up with: seven styles all with the same relative elements. Our basic formula here was lighting, focal point, mantel decor, fireplace accessories, textiles where applicable and a place to perch in front of the fire. Each fits the tall/short/shiny/dull recipe, you just need to add in the “organic” bit. Be it flower clippings, greenery (like the wispy vine in the lead photo of this post). It breaks up the structure of solid pieces, making things feel more personal and livable. Another note: let’s say you don’t have a functional fireplace…just something more decorative. Try filling the inside with pillar candles, or even just birch logs or firewood in a log holder to fake it ’til you make it.
Alright, let’s dig into these combos, shall we?
Okay, let’s start with the most cozy, fall-inspired combo: what we’re calling traditional lodge. Most of us have visited a lodge or two in our lifetimes, and the percentage of those lodges that were styled right are approximately 3% of the lodge population (I made up that statistic, but I took stats in college so you can trust my numbers). This vignette plays to all my favorite things that create a traditional lodge: rich, dark woods, cozy wool blankets, old prints, and a healthy balance of shiny glass and metallics with matte blacks.
When I think of farmhouse decor, I either think of Joanna Gaines’ designs on Fixer Upper, or my mind spins straight to rooster wallpaper and checkered tablecloths. But, as with any style, the farmhouse look is dynamic and much more flexible if we just allow our minds to play around a bit. Here, we stuck to a black and white/neutrals theme (it’s almost like farmhouse minimalist! Did I just make that up?). The landscape diptych brings in some “nature” and sets off the rest of the peaceful, comforting look. Loose white candles set the mood, and an organic stump stool plays off the firewood and gives you a place to sit after a long day of tending to your
Mid-century modern has been such a buzz word (buzz phrase?) for about, um, a decade now, and why not? It’s a killer throwback, but I don’t commonly find that going 100% MCM is palatable for most homes. However, with a bit of consideration, you can easily add pieces of the look and balance it out with your dominant style. This MCM mirror had me at OH HELLO, so naturally, the rest of the design was built around it. Bubble sconces are funky and fun, the screen feels a bit Art Deco but it still totally works, and brass and camel accents phone this combo in with a fresh spin. And just like that, we have a perfectly blended MCM look.
1. Sconce | 2. Mirror | 3. Sconce | 4. Candelabra | 5. Fireplace Screen | 6. Two-Toned Bud Vase | 7. Faceted Blue Vase | 8. Wood and Brass Stool | 9. Log Holder | 10. Throw Blanket | 11. Fireplace Tool Set
I’m not sure when it happened, but the whole Scandinavian thing grabbed hold of the Internet and was like “YOU WILL LOVE ME!” and we were like “OKAY, I LOVE YOU!” and now we’re all running around looking for white oak, white finishes, and hints of soft color (well, maybe not Arlyn). Something about the simple, light lines (in both color, and stature) offers such a welcomed, calming sensation to the viewer. While I have many favorites in this combo (i.e. the blue print and the artful sconce), it was the log rack, of all things, that really inspired me. The design is simple, attractive, and highly functional—three things of great value to anyone in the process of decorating.
1. Tall Wood Candle Holder | 2. Short Wood Candle Holder | 3. Brass Snuffer | 4. Blue Abstract Art | 5. Black-and-White Geometric Art | 6. Sconce | 7. Two-Toned Vase | 8. Rocker | 9. Log Holder | 10. Throw Blanket | 11. Basket
You have great style, but you don’t need to SCREAM IT at everyone who walks by your mantle: you’re an artsy minimalist that leans into the whole California casual vibe. You know that using a couple abstract paintings layered over one another creates interest and an entirely new (and distinctly styled) look, for the art pieces. Insert narrow candlesticks, organic vases, and an architectural log holder and Ta Da! Signed, Le Artiste (ahem, that’s you).
1. Sconce | 2. Blue Abstract Art | 3. Neutral Abstract Art | 4. Sconce | 5. Candlesticks | 6. Brown Vase | 7. White Vase | 8. Round Log Holder | 9. Fireplace Screen | 10. Fireplace Tool Set | 11. Wood Stool | 12. Throw Blanket
The rich, romantic vibe of modern victorian (which team EHD originally introduced you to with all the accoutrements back in this post) is something we couldn’t resist styling around the fireplace. The trick is mixing old with new, or at least things that look old with things that look new. While I wish this ornate gilded mirror was actually vintage, it still achieves a luxe yet lived-in vibe. It also sets the stage for some shiny and new objects, like this dramatic urn and velvet lounge chair. If you can source a vintage white plaster bust that will fit on your mantel, it would definitely round out the look.
Most of us own a TV and a lot of us have no other option but to place it above the fireplace. So how do we make that look right? In researching for this post, I found a multitude of “camouflage” options, like putting doors in front of it, or hanging a painting on top of it with a sort of shadow box behind it, but if you just want to be real and live with your TV on display, but also want to have a good looking fireplace/mantel situation, we hope this helps. You own that shiny TV, and you love that shiny TV, so just let her freak-flag fly! And in the spaces surrounding her, we will do our best to distract, deflect, and style it up. So for this combo, we went with a “rustic glam” theme. The lighting balances the black box that is your TV, being brass and rounded. I also liked the idea of balancing out the dark frame of the television with a brass screen (otherwise you risk getting two big black boxes to stare at).Wood and leather through the vase and log holder inject that warm, rustic vibe. Oh, and no TV would be complete without a lounge chair (which we kept super modern and sculptural to shake things up a bit) and cozy blanket (which leans to the more “rustic” side of this vignette).
***Thank you to Lauren, a new contributing market research, for helping to pull this post together. Here’s a little bit about Lauren, since she’s new around here: Originally from the Oregon Coast, Lauren spent the past decade in Portland working in modern furniture and eventually starting up an interior decorating business. She believes that good design requires patience and that the right coat of paint could actually change your life.