Friday, December 13, 2013

Wishing and Hoping Part 2: The Mantel

Waaay back in July, I posted about some plans we had for a family room update this winter. Now that it's officially winter, the time is fast approaching! Though we will probably wait to begin the painting until after the holidays, I've been excitedly making plans. You can see some of my ideas on the Family Room Update board on Pinterest.
Today I'm sharing the area of our family room that has perplexed me from the beginning: the fireplace wall. This is how the previous owners had it before we moved in.
Sorry it's so blurry!
 And this is why this area has posed such a problem for me:
  • The long mantel. I'm not a decorator by nature, so filling a space like that without making it look sparse (like above) or cluttered is overwhelming. And because the supports for the mantel are built-in brick, I can't really shorten it.
  • The narrow space above the mantel. Less than 30 inches -- this really limits the scale of my mantel decor.
  • The brick. I've always loved exposed brick, in old homes especially. However, there are no windows in this room. It does open to a sunroom with 7 windows, so there is some natural light coming in, but I feel like the dark brick makes the room feel dark and gloomy.
  • The hearth. If there wasn't a raised  hearth, I feel like I would have some more options of what to do with the area.
  • The wood stove. We have since added a wood fireplace insert and I think it really is an improvement over the screen that was there already. However, while I love the clean lines and the heat it provides, it can limit my decor options, at least in the winter, because of the fire hazard.
A major remodel isn't in the budget, so we'll have to work with what we have.  Originally, I was going to tackle the entire wall in one post, but it was simply too much. So today, I'm going to just focus on the mantel area itself.
The mantel itself is a long 2.5 x 7.5 inch board painted a dark brown. I have thought about painting the mantel, maybe black to match the stove. I also really like the idea of adding a "slipcover" front to it likeThe Lettered Cottage.
Take a minute to pop over and check it out Layla's $82 Fireplace Makeover. If I hear back from her with permission, I will add the picture. 
Wouldn't that add so much character? However, I think it would probably be a bit pricy, not to mention difficult to get a piece of lumber that long home from the store. We'll have to see if Hubby and I can pull something like that off.
As for decor, from the moment I saw this picture on Pinterest, I had my heart set on a mirror over our mantel like ThriftyDecorChick.
Isn't it pretty? Not too busy, simple and elegant... I loved it! But she had a much taller and narrower space to fill. It was difficult to find a mirror that was the right scale, especially on a budget, but I was determined to make it work. I even found a mirror at Goodwill over the summer that I was going to update with a thicker frame. I put it up on the mantel to see how it looked and it stayed there for quite a while, along with some art that was in the kitchen at our old house.

Plus a few "accessories" we put up there to be out of Kiddo's reach...
And it just didn't work. The scale was still wrong, and adding a large frame would not fix it. Plus, because it was so high, it displayed a reflection of our ugly popcorn ceiling. Not exactly something we wanted to highlight...

Because we're in decorating limbo until we decide for sure about paint, I didn't want to go out and buy (or DIY) any art, so I decided to work with what I had. One day while kiddo was napping, I dug out the box of pictures that hadn't made it back onto the walls since we moved. I put them up on the mantel and played around for a while with different arrangements until I found one that I liked.
It's not perfect, but it's much better. I can definitely live with it until I make up my mind about a more permanent solution.
I think I'll have a better idea of what to do once we have finalized our paint color and rug. I love simple, clean decor, so whatever I do with the mantel will be very basic. I love the idea of a set of simple black frames lined across the length of the mantel, either with family photos or nature prints. I found the Valentines Mantel from Just a Girl to be great inspiration.

So, there's my temporary mantel solution, just in time for me to take it all down and put up some Christmas decorations. At least I've had the opportunity to enjoy it for a few weeks!
Do you have a mantel? How do you decorate it?


  1. Wow, this is a tricky wall...especially if you like a clean, modern look. The mantel especially looks difficult. I like what you have done with the frames - I think anything that you layer as a collection will keep it from being busy. I like the idea of layering a lot of interesting old mirrors across the mantel - although that does still leave the ceiling reflection problem. I think even a ton of pillar candles could look cool - although you would need about a million!
    I will also throw out there that I painted our brick fireplace white and it made a huge difference in making the room less dark. Not only did the lighter color help, but paint is reflective while brick seems to suck the light right out of the room.

    1. Carrie, thank you so much for your advice! I'm still trying to figure out my personal style (and meld it with Hubby's) as we decorate this new home. I like simple and functional decor, and Hubby likes things a little more rustic. I'm sure we can find a happy medium; we're just not there yet. :)
      Thanks for the tip about painting the wall, but I'm afraid that's out. We both really like the look of exposed brick, and Hubby hates painted brick. We're still toying around with the idea of a very light white-washing, though I think it will take a little more convincing for Hubby, since the new wall color really did brighten the space quite a bit. I talk about that here:
      Again, I SO appreciate that you took the time give your opinion! I really admire your decorating style. :)


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