Your mantel display is the eye-catching focal point of the room, so take 15 minutes and do an update to mark the change of seasons.
Light and breezy – and super-simple – is the name of the game when it comes to summer decorating. Here are three simple ideas for stunning mantel displays:
• Soft and serene, an asymmetrical display can be intriguing yet delightfully simple. We started by creating a strong visual element on the left side. Pillar candlesticks can be the perfect pick. They bring in height, yet they don’t overwhelm. Three of them make a statement.
For the right side, we used a collection of visually diverse elements to create a tapestry. To give the display movement, use some type of a riser to prop up a few accents. We stole two books from our bookcase, turning them backward so only the vanilla pages showed. We echoed the clear-glass-and-white color palette established by the candlesticks through the first two accents in our montage: a white figurine and a clear glass paperweight. I love a pop of color to shake things up in these monochromatic displays, and, boy, did we get it with maidenhair ferns.
• White and brightly colored pottery is a decorator’s dream. They are bold and beautiful structural elements that fit with just about any style of home. They give you a chance to inject the season’s hottest colors into a display. And they are so inexpensive you can get several to tuck into displays throughout your home.
Because red is so hot this season, we built a display around twin red vases. You can’t put anything wimpy next to these strong sentinels, so the other elements in the display needed to be just as powerful.
Each side of this symmetrical mantel display is the mirror image of the other. Once again, we started by making risers out of a short stack of books turned backward. The red vases stand guard on each side, made even bolder by the added boost they got from the books. We wanted the display to descend, creating a V, so we followed with slightly shorter white pottery vases, each holding live ferns. We could have stopped there for a simple, clean look. But we couldn’t resist the opportunity to add something shiny, so we tucked in mercury glass artichokes.
• Our third display is the most intricate and layered. We wanted a look that pulled together contrasts – strong graphic lines and soft curves. We gathered a passel of books that we used functionally as risers and structurally to create a nice repetitive pattern of vertical lines. On the last example, we formed a V shape with the decorative elements. This time, we reversed the line, gathering our accents into a triangle shape. We bookended the display with two similarly shaped but visually different pottery pieces. We went with a lidded black pot on the right side of the mantel.
One decorative possibility is rolling up pages of weathered books and tucking them into different holders, including cachepots, footbaths, vases and wooden dough bowls. If you feel that old books are sacred, then this technique is not for you because it involves removing pages. We took old books we got for a song at flea markets and tag sales, then gently cut out the pages, rolled them up and inserted several into a vase together. They offer lots of soft texture and can be a fun conversation piece.
You don’t have to clear your mantel and start new when you decorate it for summer. You can just tuck a few seasonal elements into an existing display. That’s what I do at home. I have a few pieces I keep on my mantel all year, like a pair of antique altar candlesticks. I’m smitten with these garish candlesticks, maybe because I grew up Catholic and they connect me with my roots. But they’re a bit heavy for summer. I lighten things up by mixing in ferns inserted into white, simple pottery cachepots.
The right side of my mantel features a few of my other perennial favorites: wooden boxes from my collection and a figurine given to me by a dear friend. I lightened the look again with two plants – a fun, twisting topiary and a fluffy fern. Now for the hard part: remembering to water the plants.
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