If you know me in real life…or if you’ve been following us on Instagram and/or Facebook…you might have picked up on the fact that autumn is my favorite time of year. 😉 It’s just so colorful and cozy. And those are two of my favorite adjectives! I absolutely make sure that our fall mantel is one of the first things I decorate around here when the calendar starts making its way to October.
I’ve heard it said that “Autumn is a Southerner’s reward for surviving summer.” (James Farmer) I tell you what, the first time I saw that quote on Pinterest, I repinned it so fast it’d make your head spin. Perfection! Because autumn is a fabulous reward for anything…and because west Tennessee summers are so blazing hot that sometimes survival is the only thing on your mind. Thank the Good Lord for air conditioning! I wouldn’t make it through July without it.
But now October has crept upon us – and with it, cooler temps and breezes. Ahhhh….autumn is definitely in the air!
I must admit, I started pulling out the fall decor in early September. Before the calendar announced the true arrival of the fall equinox. It felt a little rebellious…but still perfectly right. 😉
The fall decorating extravaganza always starts with our mantle. I’ve got several easy items that set the scene, but I like to spend a little time getting the look just right. I love symmetry, but I also love creating a more interesting visual than one side exactly mirroring the other. Since I have a degree in merchandising and interiors, that’s something I may pay attention to more than most people…but I totally think YOU can do this, too! It just takes a few pointers and some practice and you’ll be heading to rearrange your bookshelves and dresser next! Let’s get started.
Remember, rules are made to be broken, so there are definitely other ways to design a mantel. But these are some easy guidelines to learn.
#1 Find a focal point first. You don’t want to go adding all sorts of knick-knacks, all willy-nilly. Your focal point will draw the eye to the middle of your mantle, so it needs to be the biggest item with the most impact. In decorating my mantels, I lean towards using wreaths almost every single time. It’s not necessary to use one, of course, but they’re an easy way to anchor your mantle design because they’re a substantial size and are able to showcase lots of color.
I didn’t make this particular wreath, even though I’m a wreath-maker. So, remember…you don’t have to MAKE everything. If you find a perfectly beautiful wreath for a good price at the store, well, just take that baby home with you!
Other ideas for focal points: a big mirror or framed picture or a non-wreath fall arrangement.
#2 Add an item of medium height. This keeps the eye moving smoothly over the display. It wouldn’t be best to have a nice, big focal point and then lots of small items on either side. Your eyes would move disjointedly across the mantel; you need items of several different sizes to be more visually pleasing.
This is a lantern from our wedding that I use in my decor all-year-long, but it’s especially perfect during the fall months. It came with a battery candle on a timer and those are just my FAVORITE. I set my flameless candles to come on about the time it gets dark outside and then they stay on the entire evening. The batteries last for several months, and every evening feels a bit more magical when they light up. =)
I’m pretty sure my mom got several of these lanterns from QVC for wedding decor. They don’t have the same ones anymore, but I’m loving this crescent-shaped one.
I think it would look fabulous on a fall mantle! They have several other lantern options, too, including a small indoor/outdoor harvest one. 😉 Be forewarned: flameless candles aren’t cheap, but they are totally some of my favorite year-round decor items, so I think they’re worth it! I do like to burn good-smelling candles during the fall/winter, but I don’t want to burn a million of them on the bookshelves and mantel. I burn one at a time – usually on the coffee table – and then let my flameless candles provide the rest of the ambience. =)
#3 For symmetry’s sake, find another item similar in medium height for the other side of your focal point. It doesn’t have to be the same height or color. But a similar size.
I used this white pitcher I found at Target awhile back and shoved a handful of faux wheat inside. It’s actually one of my favorite things to decorate with and it was So Super Easy.
I love that the pitcher is white, which picks up the white from the mantel itself. And it’s curved, which softens the angular lines of the books, lantern, and mantel trim. The wheat is a light color, too, which helps it stand out from the bricks behind it. It’s also a softening, organic element.
#4 Books are excellent design additions. I have a fondness for using several hardbound Harry Potter books: see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) in my mantle designs this time of year. The books are massive, the colors are appropriately fall-ish, and they give off a hint of spell-binding autumn magic without being overly Halloweenish. I don’t change this mantle until Christmastime, so I want it to carry on after October 31st.
A few hints: you can stack the books all kinds of different ways. To give a little more visual interest, I stood one upright beside another one. I separated the green-covered ones for more balance on each side of the wreath.
#5 Balance your colors. Since there is an orange-colored Harry Potter book on the right side of the wreath, I felt that the left side of the mantle was lacking in that hue. I brought in a small orange faux pumpkin to take care of that. And I added a bronze metal gourd from our wedding to balance the coppery lantern.
There are also two more pumpkins in my design. One made of twigs and berries, which provide little pops of orange – and a fabric pumpkin with bigger pops of black and cream. (Be looking for a tutorial on the fabric pumpkin soon!) Awhile back, I read a designer’s quote that said, “Every room can use a bit of black.” I wasn’t so sure of that…after all, our living room has a lot of browns. But she was right…it just WORKS. Don’t be afraid to try a little something different!
#6 Stand back and look. Rearrange if you need to. Sure, your focal point is at the highest point in the middle; then your items of medium height. But you don’t have to have the whole design in graduating height on either side of your focal point. Then you’d have a triangle. Make things more interesting by changing it up just a bit. I like to have slightly smaller items between the end items and the medium-height items. This way, your eye travels down, but makes a few unexpected stops along the way.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it all right on the first try. I always make a few tweaks before I’m happy with it! And don’t take yourself too seriously. This is not a life-or-death situation. It’s just for fun – so enjoy! =)
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