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How to Decorate Your Mantel in 5 Easy & Frugal Steps

We’ve been spending nearly all of our time at home. After a long winter, I’m starting to get a little antsy. We never really decorated when we moved in. We put hand me down furniture wherever it fit and we never painted or even changed out the curtains. I’ve dreamed up so many projects for our home. For now, I started out small with this mantel and my budget was a generous $0.

before

Here is a quick before shot. Not too bad, but I knew it had more potential. What makes it look a little unfinished is the fact that I have a huge bare spot in the middle and that I have a lot of little things off to the side. It is also just cluttered and messy

I spent a full day putting things on my mantel and taking them down. I got so frustrated and nearly spent $120 on a large painting that I didn’t even like. At the end of the night I was upset, exhausted, and confused. Turns out there are a few things you want to pay attention to that make decorating a mantel so much easier.

Step One: Clean

Everything looks better after a good scrub. I took everything off of my mantel and wiped it down. The previous owners of our home used to put a candle on the mantle, which made the brick above the candle and the ceiling discolored. I took a magic eraser to the painted brick and most of the gray surprisingly came off! Magic Erasers are magical, but they work so well because it is essentially sandpaper, so be careful what you use it on! We will have to fix the ceiling when we repaint.

clean

The fireplace grate also frequently falls. It had some white scrapes of paint on it from hitting the brick. I was able to use the magic eraser on this as well. Everything just looks better when it is clean!

I also tidied up the space. I took the red blanket out of the wood bin that hides all of my daughters toys. (I plan on making a wood top for it in the future!) I also tucked away the power cord that plugs in our faux fire space heater. If we don’t have it on, we probably don’t need to have it plugged in!

Step Two: Anchor

Mantels are typically pretty big and have a lot of dead space above them. Adding one large piece to a mantel allows your eyes to rest on something and makes it look less cluttered. Typically, people put a large mirror or a larger piece of art.

Picture frames are a strange item to me. A nice brand new frame can be so expensive (+$100). Even to pick up a basic small picture frame at Target can run you $20. Now think about how many picture frames have been made and sold in the past 50 years. How do we not just have a huge surplus of picture frames? When I moved, I asked my parents and my inlaws for any frames they had lying around. I also nearly always find some sitting out on trash day. I shamefully and not so shamefully pick them up and carry them home. I have a big stash of frames now in my basement that I can take from whenever.

owl

This wood frame was the largest frame that I had. I cleaned it up, took out the aged owl photo, and saved $10 by spray painting the framing mat white. I made my own art and had my sister print it for me. I do like how it turned out! In the future I may replace it with a larger frame or mirror, but for now it will do!

Step Three: Layer

frames

To give your mantel body, you have to utilize its depth. If you were to take a bird’s eye view of it you want things to be spread throughout and not in a single line. An easy way to achieve this is to layer frames onto your anchor piece. You want to make sure these frames aren’t too small and preferably are different sizes. Pieces also look best in threes, so shoot for an additional two frames!

I took two more frames out of my stash and added additional artwork that I made. I wanted all of my artwork to follow a particular color scheme and theme so everything looks cohesive. I created a geometric print with some fun line details and another floral and line detailed picture to tie everything together.

If you would like these prints for yourself they are in my freebies library! Sign up for my email list at the bottom of the post to get the link!

Step Four: Height

books

To add visual interest, you want to make sure that everything on your mantel varies in height. On the left I added some old books underneath a jar to give it a little height and add some texture. I painted the jar with this faux ceramic technique.

rightSide

Once again, objects also look best when they are placed in groups of three. So on the right side I added a pot with some greenery, a mason jar with some dried citrus, and a green glass jar. They all vary in height which gives it a more cohesive look. I also loved how they added some color.

This is the reason candlesticks are so common for mantels. They are a really easy way to add some height! I don’t have candlesticks, so I had to do without.

Step Five: Greenery

Plants always make a room feel warm and grounded. It can be such an easy addition to any space and it does not mean that you need fresh flowers every two weeks. Here are three easy options for greenery:

eucalyptus

  • Faux florals are looking more and more realistic these days. If you want to invest in something that needs little upkeep and will never die, this is a great choice. I love these eucalyptus leaves from Ikea. Your local craft store may also sell faux florals.

  • Dried flowers and branches are also super trendy and eco friendly. Certain plants and flowers dry better than others. Do some research if you want to go this route. I added some dried eucalyptus to my faux to make it look a little more full.

branches

  • Outside has plenty of free greenery for you to use! Even if it is the dead of winter, simply adding some bare branches can bring a little bit of nature inside and brighten up a room. I found some branches and added them to a jar I painted to liven up the space. I can’t wait to add some forsythia branches in the spring!

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