As temperatures dip here in Michigan, we turn to our fireplaces for warmth and a beautiful glow – as well as a great place to introduce personality and beautiful décor. Your mantel, and the way that you decorate it, can provide a quick facelift for the entire room.

We’ve rounded up some simple universal tips to follow when decorating your mantel. Our tips are specific to the holidays, but the rules can be applied no matter the season.

  1. Decide on a color palette. For the holidays, are you thinking classic red and green, or maybe Hanukkah blue? Perhaps a modern black and white, or pretty pastels. Whatever you decide, everything doesn’t have to match, but the various elements do have to complement each other.
  2. Start with something large to ground the space and be your focal point. This can be anything you love: A mirror can make the room look bigger, a vintage holiday print can set the tone for a very merry hearth, or a large vase filled with greenery provides elegance and style. Your goal here is to have something tall, large enough to be an anchor and guide the color palette for the rest of the mantel décor.
  3. For a festive feel, add something with some sparkle. Think crystal candle holders, hanging Christmas bulbs, a gilded frame. Fill a glass bowl with tiny LED fairy Christmas lights. Metallics and glass work well here.
  4. Lastly, you’ll want a natural element. There are so many good options to play with. Pine boughs, a wreath, wool or linen stockings, a rattan basket (huge this season), or maybe a forced bulb, like crocus or snowdrops. All work well.

Now it’s time to style the items you’ve chosen. Layer them in front of one another. Move them around and take a step back to see what works best. You’ll want a variety of heights and widths. Keep things simple. If you’re using a variety of shapes, textures, and sizes, just make sure they’re balanced ― not necessarily symmetrical ― and you’ll have a beautiful showpiece.

If your mantel needs more than décor, it may be time for an upgrade. You have so many options! The first and easiest is paint. Maybe you’re sick of outdated wood and want to brighten up the space. A quick paint job might be just what you need. You can also update your brass surround to a more modern black. Just sand it, use a heat resistant primer, and a heat resistant spray paint. Voilà! To update a brick fireplace, try a monochromatic look. Try painting the brick, the surrounding walls, and the mantel all the same color.

If the mantel is just too ugly, or you want to change the whole look, there are some inexpensive, fairly easy fixes that can give you a new mantel in hours. If you are a DIYer, you can find free mantel plans all over the internet, whatever your style. For as little as $50 and a couple of hours, you can build a gorgeous new mantel and completely change the style of the room. For those who aren’t so inclined, there are myriad choices to purchase, from the most basic floating mantel starting at around $250 to the most intricate, which can run into the thousands.

Let’s talk about some of the different styles of mantels. Remember that the mantel should enhance the look of the fireplace and go with the style of the room. Mantels are generally made of wood or stone, and sometimes metal. They are an exciting way to add an architectural element to your home. They can be ornate with beautiful carvings and luxurious columns, they can be modern, clean lines with stone, or they can be anywhere in between.

  • A live-edge mantel can go from rustic to beachy. Live-edge mantels incorporate the wood’s natural edge facing the room, retaining the natural contours and beauty of the tree, untouched by a saw.
  • A floating mantel will sit on a plain wall (usually brick when it comes to fireplaces) and give a modern look to your space.
  • An industrial mantel gives a sleek and clean feel to a room. These are usually made of welded metal and are a nice choice for a masculine space (think man-cave).
  • Wood slab mantels are a classic choice that can be used in a variety of home styles. Painted or stained, wood always works beautifully on a fireplace.
  • Stone mantels are timeless and can be natural stone or cast stone.

So many things to think about! Search for pictures of looks that you love and use those as inspiration for your own fireplace. Then use these tips to give your mantel a makeover and let it be the focal point of the room that it deserves to be.