A reader named Kristi wrote in with a question that I thought would be fun to answer on the blog.
“I have been an avid reader of your blog over the years especially since our youngest kids were born around the same time and my husband and I own a Victorian home built in the 1890s. Anyway, after three years of living in our home, I’m still struggling with how to decorate our original mantel. What I find most challenging is the two levels of shelves. I would appreciate any styling suggestions you might have.”
The fireplace is a huge design statement, but it’s also just plain huge at 60″ wide and 78″ tall. The ledges are relatively shallow (the top shelf is 9″ deep, the bottom is 10″), but the ceilings are nearly 9′ high so the fireplace is taking up a good portion of the wall. So how do you decorate a double tiered fireplace?
A bit fussy, with many small, beautiful things. A mantel clock, if you’re feeling fancy. It’s not really my thing.
There are plenty of us, myself included, living in Victorian homes and appreciating the architectural details while simultaneously not wanting to live in a time capsule. These huge fireplaces are beautiful, but they can be tricky! In Kristi’s case, she has those double ledges to contend with, and the fact that they’re shallow is limiting.
The first thing to think about is an overall approach to arrangement. Do you like things to be perfectly symmetrical, entirely asymmetrical, or somewhere in between?
I like a few pairs of items to anchor the look with additional pieces layered in (the “near symmetrical” option above), so that’s the approach I’ll take.
Krisi sent a photo of her fireplace the way it’s usually decorated. There’s a speaker, candles, a framed wedding photo, and a long, low bowl. I say she relocates the speaker to a less prominent spot, but let’s work with the rest!
I’m drawn to ceramic vases and jars, so of course some of the options I put together feature those heavily. Any grouping of similar objects can have the same effect though, provided they’re a good size for the space. Framed prints or paintings layered and leaning work well too. What do you have already? What do you love to collect and display? Start there, then layer in any missing pieces to fill the gaps.
Here are the items I used throughout the post! I’ve used affiliate links when possible and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.
- Charcoal Ginger Jar Urn, Williams-Sonoma
- Celadon Crackle Wine Vessel, Pagoda Red
- Bronze Oblong Footed Bowl, Frontgate
- White Oval Serving Bowl, World Market
- Palm Leaf Print, Schoolhouse Electric
- AERIN Brass Floral Sculpture, Violet, Williams-Sonoma
- Blue Swirl Planter, Furbish
- Olea Wreath, McGee and Co.
- Olive Branch Statue, McGee and Co.
- Barry Dixon for Arteriors Jensen Magnifying Object, Wayfair
- Black and White Striped Hexagonal Box, West Elm
- Cast Links Bookends, Restoration Hardware
- Black and White Earthenware Camel Figuring, Nate Berkus, Target
- Bone and Wood Striped Frame, Wisteria
- ‘Bikes in Paris’ by Sivan Askayo, Artfully Walls • AERIN Gold Scalloped Gallery Frame, Williams-Sonoma
- Large White Foo Dogs, Enchanted Home
- Omaggio Black and White Striped Mini Vases, Unison
- Minna Short Vase, Crate & Barrel
- Indigo Reactive Glaze Vase, Williams-Sonoma
- Barlow Clear Glass Pillar Candle Holders, Crate & Barrel
- Arlington Wall Mount Hurricane Candle Sconce, Pottery Barn
- Bust of Apollo, Frontgate
- ‘Storm Over Little House’ by Harry Stooshinoff, Artfully Walls
- 12.5″ Totem Vase, West Elm
- 16.5″ Totem Vase, West Elm
- Bunny Williams Rouleau Vase, Ballard Designs
- Bunny Williams Flaring Vase, Ballard Designs
- Ming Pagoda, Ballard Designs