Tuesday Tips: Fireplace 101

Did Tuesday really happen yesterday? I checked my calendar today and realized it was already Wednesday! I’ve been soooo busy at work that I haven’t even had a chance to blink. But I do have an awesome tip for you, so I’ll go ahead an get on that!

One thing that I love to decorate every so often, is my mantel. I have a electric fireplace that has a heater that digitally puts out flames that look pretty realistic. The best part about is that it’s moveable! I have a 42″ TV and a blu-ray player taking up most of mine, but I still love to decorate it for the holidays. I have found that no matter the season, you can rest assure that these basic tips for decorating your fireplace will remain true.

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Before we start, I want to remind you all about the three basic types of symmetry. Symmetrical symmetry is when both sides of the picture are even. A good example of this is the human body, from the outside. Asymmetrical symmetry is when both sides of the picture are different. A good example of this would be a tree. The branches vary from each side and do not match each other. The last, and one that doesn’t really apply to mantels, is the radial symmetry. Just as it sound, radial symmetry is when no matter how you look at the picture all sides are the same.

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When you’re decorating your mantel you want to keep these symmetrical designs in mind, at least the first two. If you’re OCD like me, you’ll want a perfectly symmetrical mantel. But if you are a little quirky, an asymmetrical mantel is for you. So, let’s get started.

1. Create layers. You want your mantel to have multiple layers so it looks full and planned. Always have 1 and 2, 3 is just an extra.

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Layer 1 – The Anchor:  Choose a large object that will be the focal point of the mantel for the center area, such as a mirror, artwork or even a flat screen TV.  Whatever the object, it will serve as the anchor for the remainder of your design and should be the tallest object in your overall design.  Also, ensure that its scale is appropriate for the space.  The visual weight of this object should adequately balance out the visual weight of the firebox below the mantel and should fill a large portion of the wall above the mantel.

Layer 2 – The Weight:  Choose objects for the right and left sides of Layer 1 that will add width and visual weight to the overall design. These items do not necessarily need to be identical, so long as their visual weight is similar. When choosing these items, make sure that their height is smaller than that of your Layer 1 object but still proportionate.

 Layer 3 – The Filler:  Add objects of varying heights to the center of the mantel underneath Layer 1. Varying the heights of these objects is important so that you do not to create any horizontal lines with your décor which would then detract from the horizontal line of the mantel itself.  You do not want anything to compete with the mantel!  Again, as you choose these items, keep their scale in mind to make sure they are smaller than the items chosen for Layer 2 but still proportionate.  If you want a very clean, minimal design, you might opt to skip Layer 3.

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2. Maintain the triangle of movement. Following the layering steps above, Layer 1 should be the tallest, followed by Layer 2 and then Layer 3.  In this way, you create a triangle above the mantel with the tallest point at the center working down as you move out left and right.  This helps our eye focus and allows a smooth transition from the mantel as we scan the rest of the room. Can you see the hidden triangle in the picture above?

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3. Keep scale in mind. As with anything else you do, it is  important to keep scale in mind not only as the objects relate to the fireplace, but also as they relate to one another. All of the items should overlap each other so that they feel connected to each other and act as a cohesive unit. Think of it as a step-down effect from the tallest point in the center of the mantel to the shortest point on the outside edges.  You want to take small, gradual steps without any jarring height decreases.

Now, who said you have to play by the rules? Sometime a mantel just “works” and that’s okay. Play around with different fillers and anchors and when you’ve got , you’ll know. I love some of these mismatched mantels.

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Happy styling!

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