I think everyone has a spot in their home that they never really seem to get right. For me, that spot is my mantel. When we moved in, the family room was dark and uninviting. The stains on the carpet made me think this had mostly been the dog's room, and the insert for the fireplace had solid iron doors so the crackling fire never took place in the room even when it was burning. Needless to say, we made a few changes. Painted walls, installed wood floors, whitewashed the brick and replaced the fireplace insert as well as the mantle shelf. My only focus was to make the room clean and bright. The room is lightyears better now than it was, but I still don't feel great about it because of that big space above the mantel shelf. It always stairs so empty at me. I haven't really done something about it as I haven't had a clear idea on how to actually work with that very long and narrow space. There are other places in my house that are much more rewarding to work with and so I have simply been procrastinating about this mantel issue.
I made two options with two different strategies. I'd love to hear if you have a favorite of the two and if you have any ideas on how you would use this space.
Here you can see my super long, wall to wall mantel. Not neat and manageable like most mantels you see.
My strategy for Option 1 was to put markers at about the same width as the fireplace and decorate within the space between them. This way I would allow myself to work with a shorter section and for the eyes to focus on what's happening there rather than how long that shelf is. For this option I wanted to work with light greens, silver and whites for an early spring display. The frame in the center works as an anchor and then I took some branches from the apple tree for the vases on the end. Between the end markers I added my spring flowers and greenery, working in a downward slope from the branches on each side. As you can see my Scandinavian roots have me quite comfortable with white space, which is a good thing because my shelf is pretty narrow so layering with fillers is quite difficult.
All the way at the end of the shelf I put some lamps. They help to soften the edges of the wall and also it's really nice with some light on that wall.
I liked the springy feel of the gentle colors in option 1, but they seemed to disappear against the wall. Especially with the black fireplace right below being so dominating. So my strategy for option 2 was to create more balance. I also wanted to try and use more of the shelf and create a slightly more modern expression .
I used two darker framed photographs to create a wider anchor in the center that has enough visual weight to counterbalance the fireplace below and takes command of that big wall. Then I put one black item on each side of the shelf to tie the anchor and the fireplace together with the shelf. The untamed greens and the wild branches makes this feel like a celebration of nature as it should for spring, but it also lends some sculptural qualities. The brass elements add warmth and a touch of classic elegance.
I like option 2 much better, but I think the strategy for option 1 could have worked better with more distinct markers in the end. I'll try that again when it's time for the next update.
Do you have a favorite of the two options?
I bet there are more of you out there with a similar wall to wall mantel so I'd love to hear how you decorate yours!
Only one thing left to do this weekend for me..sit down with a glass of wine in front of this fireplace :-) I hope you get a wonderful Sunday afternoon as well!