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Sure, it is one thing to see a great mantel display and reproduce it in your own home. In fact, it is a great idea, because inspiration from other sources is what this feature is all about.

mantelBut what if you could learn to create your own original mantel displays using the same techniques the professionals use? Now there is a DIY skill you can apply time and time again.

Better Homes and Gardens Magazine has a tutorial online that teaches basic design points that you can apply to your own mantel designs.

So in the spirit of being inspired, and tutored in basic mantel design elements, I set out to create three show-stopping mantel displays in my home, one for each fireplace.

First up, the family room, pictured at the top of this post. I knew I didn't want anything super-formal in our coziest room, so according to the Better Homes and Gardens tutorial, I probably didn't want my display to be too symmetrical. That works, because I was up to more of a challenge than symmetry, which Better Homes and Gardens suggests guarantees success.

I knew I wanted to include some favorite prints of ours, and since the room doesn't have much artwork hanging in other places, I like the cozy factor the backdrop of paintings creates.

Better Homes and Gardens (BH&G) suggests layering to create an eclectic look, so I made sure to put a photograph, candle and rosewood box in front of the prints. I tried not to make it too cluttered, because we do that to the rest of the room, slobs that we are. The result, to me, is cozy, simple and reflects the things we love, a perfect mantel display for our most lived-in room.

fireplace mantelNext, I tackled the living room. Now, we are not very formal people, and I didn't want to use the symmetry that BH&G suggests for formal rooms, because it would be too formal for us. So instead, I took their ideas about asymmetry to heart, and made sure I balanced out the displayed items for a more formal effect than had I went with the eclectic layering that suggests more casual.

So here is my balance rationale:
  • tall candlesticks on the left balance out the hanging items on the right
  • items are equally spaced, not clumpy
  • colors and textures are repeated, like the black framing the mirrors and the metal of the urn and frame
I even added a bit of the BH&G radial design ideas, meaning the objects radiate out from a center point. I used an invisible, asymmetrical point when hanging my things on the right side of the display, but I wanted to incorporate something with the radial effect.

I like the predictable, like the birds on the urn matching the birds in the framed paper, and the paisley from the paper picking up the green leather paisley frame. I also like the way the circle mirror catches your eye in a sea of squares. Am I happy with this one? You bet.

fireplace mantelNow, believe it or not, the mantel display in Owen's playroom was the most challenging for me. This design was all about eclectic. BH&G's best tip for designing an eclectic arrangement is to know when to stop, and that was hard once I gathered some of Owen's favorite things to display.

After I settled on what I wanted to display, arranging was pretty easy. Owen's artwork juxtaposed with Eric Carle's is a bold choice, to say the least, but I am happy with the way it turned out. I have a feeling the toys will rotate often.

Because of the bold colors, I tried to keep the textures simple and matched the black frames of the artwork. I can't wait for Owen to wake up fro his nap and give his opinion!

Did I mention that I didn't go out to buy one single thing for any of these mantel displays? I simply used what I already had throughout my house. Can you say "free?"

I have had a chance to practice on three mantels using the information gleaned from the BH&G article. How'd I do and what did you try?



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