Having a fireplace without a mantel is like owning a sofa without the throw pillows. The opportunity is there and it is clear that the sofa would look better with the throw pillows, but all you have to do is add them.
If you’re thinking that you lack the carpentry skills for installing a fireplace mantel, you should be pleased to hear that you don’t need them. There are many ways to install a shelf-like mantel on your fireplace and even more ways to style them. Take a look at these 30 tips to DIY and decorate your fireplace mantel shelf and you’ll have your living room looking like a whole new space in a weekend.
Top Tips for Decorating Your Fireplace Mantel Shelf
1. Live Edge Mantel Shelf
Just take a minute to swoon over that live edge mantel shelf. It would be the easiest thing to install and give you a reason to splurge on that live edge wood piece that you’ve been eyeing. (via Houzz)
2. Wood Mantel for Your Fireplace
You’ve probably seen the project for faux wood beams floating around Pinterest. Use the same method to create a lovely wood mantel for your fireplace. Such a classic look will match with any style your living room could possibly have. (via Addicted 2 Decorating)
3. Install a Shelf Above a Fireplace Inside the Wall
Is your fireplace inside the wall? Don’t believe that scenario leaves you out of the mantel shelf game. Build one from pretty moulding pieces and it will complete the fireplace picture. (via Designer Trapped)
4. Use Large Vintage Brackets
Putting up a mantel shelf really only requires the shelf and the brackets. Find yourself some lovely large vintage brackets that show a little wear and tear to bring some life into your fireplace mantel shelf. (via @magnolia)
5. Stain Your Shelf for a New Look
Maybe you’re looking at your mantel in disdain but you’re without the funds to do a big mantel shelf makeover. With a simple can of stain in your favorite shade, you can give your mantel shelf a whole different vibe. Go dark or go light, either way go the opposite of what you have for a new look. (via Sarah Sherman Samuel)
6. A Black and Bulky Shelf
Looking for a big mantel change? You can’t go wrong with something that’s black and bulky. Find the biggest brackets you can and add trim to the bottom for interest. (via Home Bunch)
7. A Long Fireplace Shelf
Some fireplaces possess the awkward orientation of having a set of shelves on one side instead of both. What do you do with that? You install a mantel shelf that spans across the fireplace as well as the shelves to the side. Suddenly the whole wall is brought together in perfect harmony. (via HGTV)
8. A Shelf Above a Stove
Just because you have a stove instead of a fireplace doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a mantel too. Place one in the corner behind the stove and you’ll find that having that shelf helps you fill an otherwise awkward space. (via The Painted Hinge)
9. Hang a Large Piece of Art
Large art is one of the best things ever created. With one simple piece hanging above your mantel shelf or even just leaning against the wall, you can give your space a makeover and with something that makes you smile each time you look at it. (via Unskinny Boppy)
10. A Large Mirror to Add More Light
Of course, a large mirror is also a great way to fill your mantel without making it seem cluttered and super decorated. Plus, it will bounce light around the room and make your space feel bigger so it’s basically a win win for everyone. (via Rachel Bishop Designs)
11. A Minimal and Chic Mantel Shelf
If you aren’t into the decorated mantel movement, that’s okay. Add a pinch of greenery and a photo of your favorite place or your family for a minimal yet chic mantel shelf look. (via Centsational Girl)
12. Hang a Poster Above Your Fireplace
Many people say posters should always be framed. We say different. Using whatever method you see fit, hang it above your mantel shelf and no one will think the worse of you or your fireplace for using twine. (via HGTV)
13. Use Layering to Create Depth
Even on a mantel shelf it’s pretty easy to create the feel of depth. Layering framed photos or artwork, stacks of books in different sizes, small trinkets with sentiment in the front of it all, the different layers will help you give interest to your mantel in a snap. (via Emily Henderson)
14. A Simple Empty Windowpane
Are you in love with the chipping paint and weathered look of vintage pieces? Use your mantel shelf to display a simple empty windowpane for a fun and minimal farmhouse feel. (via The Lettered Cottage)
15. Update Your Mantel Shelf Each Season
As you change your decor with the seasons and the holidays, don’t forget to include your mantel shelf. Display your favorite flowers in the spring, a chalkboard quote in the summer, bright leaves in the fall and mini evergreens in the winter. (via Duke Manor Farm)
16. Display Houseplants
Mantels are usually great places to display houseplants too. If you’re a collector of leaves and cacti, place your very best pots with plants at different heights along your mantle shelf for a greenhouse look. (via @shophesby)
17. Install Lamps
Some fireplaces are in desperate needs of extra lighting but don’t have the mantel space to accommodate lamps. Now is the chance for you to install your favorite sconces to provide that light without taking up any mantel space. (via House of Jade)
18. Frame Your Television Screen
Television screens are a rather ugly yet necessary element of the living room. Many times that means mounting it above your fireplace. But you can help improve your mantel view by framing your screen so it looks like a black canvas instead of an unsightly screen. (via Remodelaholic)
19. Base Your Decorations on Your Room’s Theme
While you’re picking and choosing what your mantel shelf should display, make sure you’re making your decisions based off the theme of your living room. Pink flowers won’t work if there isn’t any other pink in the space. (via A Pretty Life In The Suburbs)
20. Hang a Banner
Don’t have the money for a mantel shelf makeover? That’s okay. Hang a banner that you’ve bought or even made yourself to distract your eyes from the mantel you don’t like. (via Dining Delight)
21. Install a Shelf Above Your Sofa
You know that you don’t even need a fireplace to have a mantel shelf? Install one above your sofa or above your piano or above your TV, wherever you have a blank wall that would just look better with a mantel shelf. (via @angelascozyhome)
22. A Simple White Shelf
Sometimes less is more, and we often find this to be the case in modern home décor. The DIY Playbook shows us how to decorate this simple white shelf that sits above the fireplace. By adding minimal decoration to the area, you’ll have a sleek and stylish addition to any home. Often, homeowners choose to put far too many decorations in this space, which can then leave it looking disorganized and messy.
23. A Rustic Fireplace Shelf
Apartment Therapy shares this beautiful New Orleans living room, which has a rustic look and feel. This simple wooden shelf nicely frames the fireplace, reaching all the way down to the floor. When you have a shelf as beautiful as this one, make sure you keep things simple to attract attention to its design. The three candles add the perfect finishing touch and a little color to the area without making it look cluttered or untidy.
24. Add Succulents
If you don’t like to keep large houseplants in your home, succulents are a great alternative. For anyone who struggles to keep bigger plants alive, you’ll find they require less attention and care. However, they still add some much-needed greenery to your home and liven up what would otherwise be an empty mantel shelf. Sugar and Cloth offers us this stunning white mantel shelf that is beautifully decorated in keeping with the rest of the room. We also think the mirror hanging overhead helps to add more light into any living room.
25. Candles or a Candelabra
Candles look great in any part of your home, and the living room is no exception to this. A House in the Hills shares this fun mantel shelf which uses candle holders to add decoration to the room. You can either opt for just a couple of small pillar candles or something more extravagant, as shown in this photo. Even if you don’t use the candles, it’s a fun way to add a unique touch to your empty mantel shelf.
26. A Simple Vase
If you aspire to create a minimalistic look in your living room, you’ll enjoy taking inspiration from Rip & Tan. This white mantel shelf is almost empty, apart from two small additions at the end of the shelf. One vase and one pillar candle are placed on the end, and they add a subtle touch of decoration without detracting from the fireplace. When you have a fireplace that is as stunning as this one, you want to keep the focus on that area instead.
27. A Colored Shelf
While the majority of the shelves on this list are wooden or white, there’s no reason you can’t add a splash of color into your living room. This green shelf from The Spruce makes a bold statement, but it still blends in with the décor. Green is the ideal shade for anyone looking to add plants to their mantel shelf, and we love how this shelf features lots of unique items to show the character and personality of the homeowners. Whenever you have a spare space in your home, make sure you add items that you love looking at each day, as they will bring so much joy to your life.
28. A Plant Filled Mantel Shelf
If you live in an apartment or a home without a garden, you are probably always looking for ways to add more plants and nature into your home. Apartment Therapy shares this stunning Toronto apartment which packs plenty of plants onto the mantel shelf. You don’t need to stick to just one or two plants on your shelf and can add a whole row on like in this photo. Plants look great alongside a white shelf, as you don’t have to worry about the pots clashing with the color of the shelf.
29. Add Antiques to Your Mantel Shelf
For anyone that collects antiques or unique collectibles, this is a fantastic space in your home to add extra items. If you are struggling to find areas to display your purchases, you’ll love having the additional space in your living room. Country Living shows us how to create this living room mantel shelf that puts together a beautiful collection of antiques on the shelf.
30. Colorful Vases
Even if you don’t plan to add flowers to your vases, you’ll love adding them to your mantel shelf for a splash of color. Completely Coastal shares this fun mantel shelf makeover which adds a bright and beachy look to any room. Many living rooms stick to neutral colors, but in a beach house or apartment, it can be fun to add some color to the space.
Mantel shelves are so often overlooked during home makeovers, but they provide additional storage and shelving. If you are short of space in your home or apartment, you’ll find it’s a great place to display your favorite items or pieces of art. However, it’s important to remember you don’t want to make your mantel shelf look too cluttered. Curate a matching selection of items that work well together to create a fun addition to your home. When you decorate your fireplace mantel shelf, you don’t have to worry about it being a permanent addition. For more seasonal fun in your home, switch out the items each season to create a new theme and look.