Mantel Composition

There are certain special things about our ranch house that I really love. Having a long mantel above the living room fireplace is one of them. Not too long ago a friend asked me about decorating their mantel. In all honesty, I’d never thought about actual composition. I hadn’t had a mantel before, but I figured it couldn’t be a whole lot different from arranging treasures on a shelf or sideboard. Usually I just put stuff out, move it back and forth, take stuff away, add more stuff in and then it just “looks right.” But I did find out after some googling that there is a theory behind mantle composition.

Here is a simple illustration and 5 tricks I took from Jenna @

1. Center 1 big piece: Begin in the center and choose something that is of a substantial size, maybe a mirror or artwork that you love.  This will be the main focal point of the mantel and will “ground” the other accessories in front.

2. Movement: Choose items that “move” the eye.  Whether it be candles which move from the flickering flame or items of varying heights which make the eye move up and down, include accessories that are intriguing and add vision interest.

3. Visual Weight: A secondary focal point that isn’t as big, but still gives a punch, is a great addition to a mantel ensemble.  When pulling together a mantel, it’s best to layer one piece in front of another.  Choosing a vase with flowers or branches that will sit in front of your “big piece” starts the layering effect.

4. Layering: Whether it be art, photos, candles, or accessories, layering and staggering different sized items in front of each other is a must to create a cohesive composition.

5. Vary Heights: Along with layering, adding accessories of varying heights is more visually engaging.  It helps the eye move up and down and across.  Between layering and varying heights, you want to create a wave effect with your mantel.  It starts out low, then goes up, comes back down, then up again, and finishes low.

This was my mantel at Christmas. My center focal point is actually two large stained glass windows hanging above the mantel (there to stay for now). At Christmas I kept things simple with garland and candles staggered in different heights and groupings. To be honest, I’ve not really done anything decorative with the mantel since Christmas other than remove the garland, so I’m in a bit of a quandary. In fact, I think I’m in a decor dilemma and need help with this long yet narrow space.

Below are a few pictures I took from the internet which show excellent composition and decor. Oh and in the meantime, I am open to suggestions for my own mantel.

Spring Mantle eclectic living room

A Woodland Mantel  ( traditional living room

Kim Nichols eclectic family room

Sherry Hart traditional living room
Becky Pickrel

10 Responses to “Mantel Composition”

    • woven decor

      LIKE button 🙂

      By the way, my daughter-in-law has a little fashionista blog that is a similar style to yours (which is sweet, I checked it out…).

  1. The Haute Frugalista

    Omg!! Im so glad I found your blog!! I just moved from oceanfront to an acre ranch and I feel super out of place. I havent had time to decorate cause I have a newborn but youve given me great ideas!!

    • woven decor

      Well I’m super glad you found me. I’ve been a bit neglectful of my little blog the past several weeks but I’m hoping to kick it into gear. I don’t know if you have ever been on, but I just had a photographer out here a few weeks ago who writes for them and she’s putting together a few ranch “tours” for the site. I’ll post it on this blog when its up. Good luck with your decorating (when baby allows 🙂 ) and you should definitely do some before / after pics.

  2. Wyletter Whaley

    Thanks for sharing this information. I’m happy with the current appearance of my mantle, but I would like to give it a new look. I confess that I too used the ‘add and move stuff around until it looked right’ technique. Hopefully I will be able to use some of these tips to get the desired look quicker.

    • woven decor

      Ultimately I think decorating is still about personal preference with the things we love and though the “theory” behind it helps, I tend to be a bit of a rule breaker 🙂

      • Wyletter Whaley

        This is so true. Decorating is about personal preference. I’m sure that I will continue to add and move things around until I get the look that I want. Thanks again for sharing. 🙂


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