I have mantels on the brain, so please bear with me! (Also, I’m working on tracing down the links on all the photos, which is harder than it looks!)


via Emily Henderson, the reigning queen of all things mantel and decorating and baby snuggling.

We know what to get the bride, but have you heard the old saying of what to get the man(tel), “Something alive, something to lean, something you love, something with sheen.”  NO?  OH, wait, did I just make that up?  Apparently being snowed in for a week making soup and reading too many books.  Either way, I’m keeping the saying.

I have some fun stuff happening at my house this Thursday, which involves me needing to take down my Christmas wreaths off the front door and de-winterify my mantel.  I know, it’s February 17th. What’s your point?  It’s been snowing and we’ve been watching the Olympics, which makes it feel like Christmas? or something like that.  Anyhoo, it got me thinking about mantels, how much I love them, how they can change the entire feel of a room, how you can go your whole life and not really realize your full mantel potential.

And the beautiful thing about mantel decorating is this—it’s a VERY limited space.  Which is good, because it’s not overwhelming.  You don’t have to think about decorating the WHOLE room or the WHOLE house, just a little shelf above the fireplace.  It’s a great place to start if you feel like your house isn’t a good reflection of who you are.  Make your mantel sing.  Give it a vibe that says something to the world about who you are.  Let your mantel tell a story.  Even if that story is that something tragic must have happened to you because it’s February 17th and your mantel still looks like Christmas.  In my sad defense, I took down the greenery and the Christmas lights and may have killed the cactus.  But other than that, my mantel still looks like this.  I feel like the pom-poms really show our team spirit. Go USA!


Here are the 4 things your mantel needs from you.    Pick one to do today.  I’m declaring it  happy mantel’s day.

1. Something alive

Now allow me to use the term loosely.  It could very well be a living plant, which I adore on mantels.  I’ve had succulents, irises, cactuses, amaryllis flowers, and even nearly dead unnamed house plants.  But, let your imagination wonder.  Twigs aren’t technically alive, but they count.  I’ve chopped branches off of everything in my yard and stuck them in water and put them on the mantel.  Fresh flowers are even better, but they have such a short half life, that I rarely use them. Something alive or once alive gives the vibe of movement, freshness, air.  And never underestimate the power of taxidermy.  What could you add to your mantel today to give it some life?


James Brittain



And, um?  Why I did not get small animal taxidermy for Valentine’s Day, I do not know.  But, now you know how to steal my heart.



2. Something to lean

I’m a huge fan of artwork on the mantel.  Most mantel decorating experts that I know (?) say that you can have one large piece that takes up most of the mantel wall space, say like this, for instance:


OR.  Several (odd numbers) of pieces that are different shapes, sizes, etc.  Maybe like this.



via my girl decorator crush, Emily Henderson

Or like my fall mantel.    I really should have had one more smaller piece of artwork, but the two busts sorta function like one funky shaped piece of art.  See how easily you can twist the rules to make your mantel your own.


Or this.



3.  Something you love

Now  listen.  The beauty of this is that we all love different things.  I love antlers, funny sayings, busts, books, and quirky little animal figurines.  You may like velvet paintings of Elvis.  To each his own.  Nobody can tell you what to do.  Your mantel will love you for trying. There’s no judgement here.

Like this mantel, for example.  I’m insatiably curious about this person.  We would talk for hours, because WOW, this is a story I want to hear.


And this one.  I need some kind of rabbit paraphernalia.


Or this one.  What is in those bottles? And that ballerina sculpture thingy.  You have my attention.  Tell me more.




4. Something with sheen

And by that I mean something that shines.  It could be a mirror, a little pewter vase, something copper.  The key is variety.  Try to have a variety of textures, colors,  and finishes.

I love this room of Melissa’s from The Inspired Room. Beautiful, simple mantel.  And it has all the elements that make a great mantel, including a little shine.


I love the peek we get at this one with the little metal bowl.


And my favorite mantel lover of all times, The Nester.  She can do a mantel (or a room) (or a house)  like nobody’s business.


And later this week, I’ll show you what I came up with for my Spring mantel project, which may or may not involve some yarn wrapped antlers.

(Follow my mantel-spiration on my Living Room board on Pinterest.


So, let’s discuss. Go to your mantel right now and tell me the story your mantel is telling.

I’ll be hanging on your mantel stories all day.

Does your mantel need a new story?  Some love?  Something shiny?  Less dust?

Well, then join me for a mantel makeover this week.  We’ll share our fresh mantels on Friday on Instagram using the hashtag #loveyourmantel

I can’t wait!



53 comments on “4 Gifts to Give Your Mantel {#loveyourmantel}”

  1. You say tomatoe, I say tomato. You think taxidermy is “alive” i think it is dead, might as well put a grocery store package of cow tongues on mantel.
    Perhaps a bowl of fruit or nuts …I consider that more alive.

  2. I love this post! The mantel is one of my favorite things about a house. Though I have all the suggestions on my mantel now, this will give me fresh inspiration for new Spring finds. Thanks, Edie!

  3. I really do love the look of your mantels, Edie, but I tend to gravitate toward a simplistic look in my own home. I think it’s the dusting and, unlike a photograph of a beautiful mantel like yours, I have to look at my own all. the. time. It just becomes too much visual clutter for me. Right now I have a mirror over the mantel and 3 large vintage chemist/apothecary bottles in that yummy aqua color. My mom brought me my first bottle after a road trip to upstate New York and I recently tracked down 2 more on eBay. I’d like to stick a frond of something in one of them, but have yet to find an artificial frond that looks, well, not artificial (a real something is just not practical right now where I live in Wisconsin).

  4. I’m feeling a bit envious because, sigh, I don’t have a mantle. What would you suggest for those of us without a mantle (and without the possibility of a faux one)?

  5. I love decorating my mantle! What a great post. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with. I need to change mine out because it’s current story is “LOVE” for Vday. I don’t know if I am ready for my Spring stuff yet. I need to do some browsing for ideas. Thanks so much for all of your inspiration.


  6. Thanks for sharing…mine has an old white chipped window, a heart stone w moss on it, a pinecone in a silver jefferson cup, a bunny silver serving platter, two turquoise love birds, a painting by my daughter, and two tall pewter candle sticks flanking either side, and a happy birthday banner bc my husband’s bday is this week;)

  7. My mantle is so lonely and quite bare. It has just one large picture hanging above it. High time that I gussy it up. I’m going to give your little ditty a try. Alive, lean, love, sheen; got it!

  8. I’m always looking for mantel inspiration!! My television hangs over mine so no leaning artwork. 🙁 And heaven forbid I accidentally cover the sensor up so we can’t adjust the volume. 😛 Mine is pretty neutral with a brown pottery pitcher bought on a trip, ORB frame, old books, (you know spines torn off 😉 ) a cast iron pineapple finial panted white, metal vase and a couple of votives. And my “live” plant, well, my fake succulent that seriously does look real!! After we quit using our gas logs I put a plant on it. I probably won’t rearrange mine for a month or so. 🙂 I do add little touches occasionally like birthday cards, sports memorabilia for big games, seasonal pictures, etc. 🙂 I would love to see you or someone address accessorizing the mantel with a tv hanging above it. 😉

  9. I don’t have a mantel, but I do have two four foot high bookshelves that flank the armoire at the end of our living room. I decorate the tops of the bookshelves like two mini-mantels and it makes me very happy!

  10. Oh Edie, this post is precious. I do so love your way with words. And mantels. :). My mantel needs a new paint job AND a new story. Right now it’s just naked, and that’s not a story anyone wants to hear. See you on Instagram!

  11. My mantel was screaming, “Dust me!” until a few minutes ago. I have something leaning, something with sheen, but it’s cheating since the sheen (mirror) is leaning. Something I love? Yes. I don’t have something alive. I need to remedy that. It’s still a little sparse to me, so I need something else. I wish I had a smartphone cause I would be on instagram in a skinny minute to see all the mantels.

  12. Thanks for the inspiration, Edie! My post-Christmas mantel is telling a sad story of emptiness. I am going to add some (good fake) succulents and find some art to lean. Next, something shiny 🙂

  13. I’m so glad I looked up your blog to read this post. I’ve always dreamed of having a mantel to decorate and now I have 2. We just moved into our house this past June and I’ve been having fun decorating our “main” mantel. I say “main” mantel because our other mantel is in need of some serious help. At any rate, I really enjoyed this and I’ll be back on Friday to share mine on IG. I believe I have all elements that you describe above, but unfortunately my plant is not doing so well. We lost power a few weeks ago and our house temperature went down into the 30s and I think all of my plants suffered 🙁

  14. When we were looking for a house 2 years ago, I insisted it had a mantel! I love mantels….nothing says Christmas like greenery and stockings hanging from the mantel. That being said…..it has been the most stressful spot of my whole house! I can decorate a room in no time, but in mess with my mantel for HOURS! I move stuff, change it around, Nd end up tweaking it for days to get that “perfectly-casual” look, like it just threw it all together. I only change it around1-2 times a years, but thanks to this post, I feel the need to fiddle with it….thanks 😉

  15. So excited about this! I have googled for weeks looking for mantel inspiration! I don’t do alive (or dead) 🙂 on my mantel. But, I have a HUGE mirror leaning that takes up most of the space. There are lanterns on each side of the mirror with a felt heart wreath my daughter gave me leaning against one of them. On the mirror I try to always put a banner for the appropriate season. Right now there is still a sparkly valentine banner….well, I guess I DO have the shine element!!! Thanks for this, Edie. You are the BEST! muahhhhh!

  16. Love all beautiful mantel pics! I have a 3-sided or “peninsula” fireplace which I love, but has always been a challenge to decorate. Any suggestions??

  17. My Christmas wreaths are still up too! (blush) I have been thinking about putting them away, does that count?
    I love that mantle under the “Something You Love” category that has a bird flying off its perch. So many treasures to look for in that picture. Love. I don’t have a mantel either, but I’m thinking of styling the top of a chest of drawers using your styling philosophy. It’s so great to have a formula for what to use instead of just throwing stuff up there and hoping that it works (my normal routine)… Can’t wait to see everyone’s mantels!

  18. No mantel in this house – the one we are moving to in the spring has TWO!!!

    We have our flat screen TV on top of a cabinet, and since we have very high walls the space above seemed lonely. I bought a nice beefy floating shelf to hang above the TV and pretend it’s a mantel. I ran through your list and have all of the required items – yay! I think what you have provided does indeed provide a good balance to the look.

    Looking forward to my real mantels and all of the possibilities they will bring. Including the simple pleasure of “hanging stockings with care” come Christmas.

  19. my mantel is off somewhere presently unknown to me, saying “please buy me and the house that i am in!”

    i live in a mantel-less apartment right now and am searching for a home to buy. while having a mantel isn’t a must-have for me (i would choose instead to have a window over the kitchen sink), i sure would be happy to have one … another place to decorate! 🙂

    thanks for the inspiration.


  20. I don’t have a mantel, but mounted on the wall above our desk hangs a ‘mantle-esque” (new word?) shelf my honey built. (from my “projects for Dave” pinterest board!!)
    My favorite ‘lean’ or ‘love’ on that shelf is a B/W photo that my grandfather took in the late 50’s or early 60’s looking up the driveway towards the house and the barn, cows in the corral, and the canyon walls in the background. It was taken in winter with snow on the ground and smoke is rising from the chimney.
    However, the ABSOLUTE BEST part of the photo is that in the foreground is the shadow of my grandfather as he took the picture. Always, every day, it makes me smile to see ‘him’ at the place he loved the best – and the place that was magic when I was growing up.

  21. I have a really nice mantle that my husband decorated 🙂 It currently has a giant 60″ television on it, a cable box, a beautiful carved wood duck, an old Brooklyn lantern (on top of the cable box, lol)and some rushes he decided needed to be added around the duck.

  22. Loved this post–and thanks for the inspiration! Finally, I am motivated to “play” with the mantel today! I haven’t been since I cleared it off during Nester’s tchotchke challenge last summer. I don’t do instagram, either. Could, you, would you consider creating a linky on your blog post Friday as well? Please and thank you.

  23. Hi Edie! I loved this post so much that I completely “reinvented” my mantel and wrote a post about it! Of course I quoted your genius advice directly because that’s what it is. Genius. 🙂
    Can’t wait for the Instagram party!

  24. Ok, I will post my pics to instagram later but sharing here…I was inspired by your post, so I picked up a few new items and re-arranged my mantel today! I added some mercury glass for “sheen” and a new picture of my kids in a groovy frame…I struggle with my mantel/fireplace because dear me…22 feet of fieldstone…it’s a honkin’ big/tall space to fill – height is my issue. Right now I have a gorgeous woodcut monogram on top of a grapevine wreath and added a tall vase with twigs today.

    For those with no mantel…what about a sofa table or piano top?

  25. My Mid-Winter mantel is up as of today. It has lot of shiny silver things, a huge old window to lean, branches that were once living and this “love”ly set of hand carved fox and hounds that belonged to my grandfather. Photo is posted on Instagram. I’m really in love with it.

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  27. I have depression especially in the winter. I went to the doctor today and got an additional prescription that he says will have me feeling much better within three weeks. Honestly, I’d just as soon stay in bed but that is the nature of depression. My house is a mess and my mantel has not been really decorated with thought since Christmas. Because of your column I’ve decided that I will “do” the mantel even though I don’t have the energy to clean the whole house. Thanks for reminding me that when you aren’t up to doing all that needs doing, doing just a little can go a long ways.

  28. Well, in my house the husband won, and we have the flat screen tv over the mantle. Could you write a post with suggestions for decorating in this scenario? The bottom of the tv is only about four inches above the mantle. Help!!!

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