Spring is an ideal time to lighten and brighten the look of your fireplace mantel display. Some years, I completely remake the look of my mantel at the start of each new season. And others, I keep the same basic display in place the whole year through, then add just a few seasonal touches here and there to give is a quick freshening up.

At Nell Hill’s, we’re loving a dramatic but subtle, lightly layered look for fireplace mantels this spring. Want to create this fresh feel on your mantel? Here are some tips to get you started.

Start from Scratch

Sometimes the easiest way to build a new mantel display is to completely clear off the old one, giving yourself an empty stage full of possibilities. While your mantel is bare, stop for a minute to consider the artwork display you’ve built around it. If you don’t like what you see, take this opportunity to reconfigure, creating a new look by hanging existing art in a new way. Or, maybe it’s time to upgrade your artwork, replacing pieces you no longer love with those that make your heart sing.

When creating your mantel display, you can come at it in two ways. One method is to visualize the finished look of the entire mantel. Another is to start with one side, arranging and modifying as you go, letting the one side dictate what you place on the other side. For our mantel makeover today, we’re starting with the left side then working on the right.

We picked a lovely accent lamp to ground our grouping because it adds much needed light to our dark and dramatic room and repeats the gray, black and gold color palette established in the wall color and artwork. Next comes two standing magnifying glasses –one of my favorite accents in the store right now. I love how the round, reflective surface of these glasses adds a bit of sparkle to the grouping, but is still subtle and subdued. We finished off the grouping with a framed snapshot. Don’t ever be afraid to use snapshots in your decorating – I do all the time. I think a house isn’t a home unless it tells about the people who live there, so display pictures throughout your home that tell the story of your life. So far, this display is timeless and could easily be left up all year.

To give our mantel a subtle spring look, next we added a few spring icons to the right side. We picked a garden statue and a vase holding some spring branches. Notice how sparse the floral display is–mostly bare twigs with just a few faux greens added to give the slightest suggestion of green. I really like this natural, minimalist look right now. To finish off our grouping, we stacked two small, black wooden boxes on top of each other and placed them toward the middle of the mantel. Notice how we’ve created a diagonal line with our three decorative elements that leads the eye down and across the mantel.

Here’s the finished display, a visual treat that pulls together the mosaic of monochromatic artwork on the wall with a timeless grouping on the left and a spring tableau on the right.

If you’d like a stronger spring feel on your mantel, substitute the grouping on the left with accents that showcase the season more directly. We replaced the lamp and picture frame with two apothecary jars filled with natural-looking birds’ eggs. You can’t tell very well in this snapshot, but we also tucked in a bird’s nest on top of the eggs in the shorter jar. This modification screams spring without being overly cute or cliché. It’s the perfect look for a formal living room.

Add a Tweak Here and There

I’m opting to keep the core of my mantel display the same for all the seasons this year. Then, every few months, I tweak it just a bit to give it a fresh feel for the current season. If you are too busy for full-fledged seasonal decorating, this might be a great solution for you, too.

For this spring mantel display, we wanted to go for a restful, serene look that could stay up all year long.

We started by hanging an intriguing tapestry of mirrors. The mirrors are from the same grouping and look identical except the size and shape. Some are hung from the wall, overlapping. Others are resting on the mantel, leaning against the wall.

To give this display a garden feel, we wove in several pieces of rustic pottery, repeating the color of the pots but mixing up their size and shape. We rested a terra cotta pot on its side on the right, put a chubby, aged urn toward the center and positioned pots holding plants on the left side.

My favorite feature in this mantel display is the line of worn, antique books tied up in several groupings with string. The bookends we used here are really two wall brackets!

We repeated the unique look we created with the antique books on the left side of the mantel, using these aged volumes to make a riser that lifts our smallest potted plant up so it wouldn’t get lost in the overall display. To give this display an instant fall makeover, all you would need to do is place some fall foliage in an urn and tuck in a gourd here and there.

This mantel display is built around a few key foundational pieces that could be kept in place year round.  The addition of the three pieces of white pottery lightens the look quite a bit, providing excellent contrast from the dark wall color and black wooden boxes. As with the first mantel display, we added a potted plant and garden statue to lend a hint of spring. Notice the fun iron hand on top of the stack of boxes? It’s actually a small shelf you can mount on the wall to hold little objects like your car keys.

Our last mantel display features today’s hot French market look. Several layers of monochromatic accents give it loads of interest. I love the subtle texture, and it’s so light and airy, it’s ideal for spring but could also be left up all year long.

Next Week …As you get your home ready for spring, don’t forget your front door! I’ll have some fun ideas for making your front door bright and cheery for the season.

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29 Responses to “Fresh Spring Looks for Your Mantel”

  1. Natalie Says:

    Can you please tell me what the paint color is in the first picture?

  2. Bettina Woodring Says:

    Thinking you really need to do your own monthly magazine:) Love your blogs!

  3. Diane Pond Says:

    Love the look of the mantels. Would like to see also the traditional mantel for a family room. I need a fresh look for my home in St. Joe, Mo. (craftsmen style home) and my Southern Ca. home (traditional).
    Thanks for ideas ….diane

  4. The Tablescaper Says:

    Great ideas for getting that fresh look!

    - The Tablescaper

  5. Christine Says:

    I love your mantels, they are so cozy. What would you suggest for those of us who have a two story ceiling above our mantel? All that blank wall space seems so intimidating.

  6. Judy Says:

    We have a big mirror above our mantel. What would you suggest to put in front of a mirror?

  7. Jo Says:

    My mantel needed ‘something’ and thanks to your ideas I made it POP!

  8. Elizabeth B. Says:

    Marvelous-every month! So look forward to absorbing your terrific creativity, Mary Carol.

  9. B Otto Says:

    All wonderful displays, so different and as always, well done. I love the challenge of transitioning from one season to another. Thank you for the inspiration!

  10. Jane May Says:

    I love your ideas for the mantle. Do you have any suggestions for decorating a mantle that has the large opening for a flat screen tv and a tall wall to the ceiling above the opening. Currently I have a large picture on the wall over the tv and on the mantle I have a tall candlestick on each side. It needs more of something and I”m stuck or just need to start over. Any suggestions?

    Thank you!

  11. Kim B Says:

    I love your ideas. I was talked into doing a painting that hangs over the fireplace and houses a
    flat screen t.v. behind it. With one push of a button the painting rolls up and there is your t.v. Sounds great, however it isn’t. The paintings to choose from were hideous. I always thought I could easily replace it. No so easy. I am now leaving the painting rolled up only to have a beautiful black square as the focal point on my wall. Any suggestions?

  12. Jeanne Cheatham Says:

    Do you sell the wonderful silver candlestick lamp that you show on the mantle? If so can you share the height and the cost?

  13. Kimee D. Says:

    The mantles are absolutely beautiful. Can you share where to find them? I am loving the blog. Thanks

  14. Katie L. Says:

    I have the same issue as Christine (3/3/11). I have a fireplace with brick reaching up to two stories. The brick was poorly done and I’m considering having it drywalled from the mantel up but I’m nervous about all that “wall”. Would it be as big of an eye sore as I’m imagining?? Any suggestions?? Thank you!

  15. June Winter Says:

    I have the same question as Jane May with a TV that sits in the center of the mantle framed in an alcove. I have an iron piece on the wall above the TV. Have a 12 ft. ceiling. Would like some ideas for decorating the small space on each side of the TV (about 15″). Would love to see some ideas for fireplace mantles.

  16. Janet Hanna Says:

    What can you do with a raised hearth???? In other words a Low mantle??????????

  17. Diane @ Spoon And Chair Says:

    I love the “tapestry” of mirrors idea and included it in my blog post where I update my mantel for spring with a spring floral arrangment http://spoonandchair.com/2011/03/06/spring-mantel-with-spring-florals/

  18. Mary Carol Says:

    Natalie–Hi, the color on the wall of the first picture is our new ‘Farmhouse White’. Samples are available on our online shopping–www.nellhills.com, then click on online shopping.

  19. Mary Carol Says:

    Diane & Judy–For a traditional look on your mantel—-think symetrical, for ex: Two urns on each side and a picture in the middle or two sets of candlesticks with a stack of boxes in the middle. Stay tuned next month for more mantel ideas.

  20. Mary Carol Says:

    Christine–Maybe you could try leaning or hanging some artwork, or a gallery of artwork above the mantel then leaving a standard space on the mantel for seasonal display.

  21. Mary Carol Says:

    June and Jane—Try building a gallery wall of pictures or mirrors around the T.V. and then add some interest with pottery and or candlesticks.

  22. Mary Carol Says:

    Kim—Is there anyway you could replace the picture with a mirror that you took off the mantel while you watched T.V.?

  23. Mary Carol Says:

    Katie–Before you take the brick down maybe you could consider putting a nice piece of artwork on the brick–maybe even painting the paint white to give it a new look–would love that!

  24. Mary Carol Says:

    Katie–Before you take the brick down maybe you could consider putting a nice piece of artwork on the brick–maybe even painting the paint white to give it a new look–would love that!

  25. Hayley Says:

    Love the grey paint color! Can you tell me what it is?

  26. jane Says:

    Do you still sell the journal type diaries? They are long and narrow and have a place to write for each day. My Mother (94) loves hers and uses it in the nursing home for people to write in when they visit her. she remembers these kind of books in the corner grocery store her parents owned. (they kept track of charges for food during the depression). The other day her brother came to see her, she hadn’t seen him for a while and he had changed his looks (new teeth :) ), instead of asking who he was, she said, please write in my journal. After reading what he wrote, she called her other brother to confess. I thought that was so cute. She is in need of another book. Thanks.

  27. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Hayley—That is our new ‘Abby Steps’ paint from our Mary Carol Artisan Paints line. Available in the stores and our online shopping.

  28. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Jane—We still have our ‘This and That’ journals available for $10.00. Come see us, or we can ship one out to you.

  29. Laurie Says:

    Hi! Love your mantle ideas. I love the tapestry of mirrors in the first picture. Where would I look to get some mirrors to give me the same effect.

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