The Mantel From Hell: summer edition

I hate my mantel.
I mean really.  I hate it.  What is one to do with a decorating conundrum like this?
mantel. fireplace, vaulted ceiling, asymmetrical, paneling,
1. There is a wacky, asymmetrical vaulted ceiling
2. There is a wacky soffit that sticks out
3. The fireplace is centered on the room, not on the mantel
4. There is beautiful woodwork, but it is oak and wacky Hubby won’t let me paint it a nice crisp white.

So I am never happy with how the mantel is decorated, and since I decorate seasonally, there are 4 times a year where I am freshly disappointed.

This had been my lame spring mantel:
green, blue, mantel, artwork, bird, topiary, turquoise
Hardly inspirational. In fact, it kind of irritated me every time I looked at it.
I looked at mantels here.

The Lettered Cottage

It inspired me to summer it up a bit.
turquoise, white, summer, shell, coral, mantel, barn star
I took the green frame from the spring mantel and shot it with a coat of Rustoleum’s Heirloom White. (Yes, I use the same frames over and over and over again.)  The barn star was a rusty red metal, but I cleaned it up and painted it with my current favorite color: Valspar’s Mediterranean.

I put a nail through the top of the barn star and into the frame, but the two bottom points of the star are secured with Museum Putty, which I have raved about in previous posts.
turquoise, white, blue, summer, frame, mantel, starfish
I tucked a few twine-wrapped starfish into the frame and secured them with Museum Putty as well.
From there I added a blue vase with hydrangeas that I’m drying and various shells and summery items.
turquoise, mantel, frame, white, star, shells, silver
I am a big believer in the rule of 3.  Three pops of the turquoise, three silver candlesticks, three books… Odd numbers are good. They just balance nicely.
coral, shell, blue, barn star
starfish, twine shell, candlestick, silver apothecary jar, shells, summer, decor
I like the details.
It’s when I step back and view the whole wacky, asymmetrical mess of a mantel that I start getting twisty. Grr.
Any suggestions?
(And don’t say “move” or to use a blowtorch.  Handosme Hubby already shot down those ideas…)


  1. says

    I dunno!!! You are one of my go – to’s for decor ideas! I think it looks good, really.
    And the only thing that would make the assymetrical thing NOT pop out would be the white paint. :/
    Um. I totally need to go guess again cuz I got it wrong. BLEH.

  2. says

    I have seen people use white contact paper when they coudln’t paint. One blogger did all the kitchen cabinets with contact paper on her rent house. It would let you and your husband see if white really worked for you or not. Another idea is lean some beadboard at the back of the mantel for a backdrop. Maybe even frame it out with a cool bright frame. ????

  3. says

    If it were me, I’d just paint it while hubby was asleep! But if you want to play it nice……You could make a wooden cover. Or actually have hubby make it since you’re being nice about it. It would be a BIG project, but I don’t think it would be too difficult. It would go from ceiling to mantle top, and you can connect it discretely to the ceiling and side walls without damaging the oak. You can use inexpensive fencing boards connected together in the back like a fence. Or you can have the connecting board in front and Have a little bonus shelving! Actually that’s what it would be is a fence with the boards either going vertical or horizontal
    You could put pieces of felt behind the wood to keep from damaging the oak. You could paint the wood white and leave it or distress it. It would have a beachy, barn door look. The is pretty though, you might want it back some day or for resale value. But like you, I like to paint everything white right now. Take care, Mary :O)

  4. says

    I’d say you’re completely screwed on this one, but I’m guessing that a) That’s not really helpful, Captain Obvious and b) You already kind of know that. Will he let you paint the brick and tone that down a bit? I’ve seen a nice white wash that cuts down some of the red. If your issue with the wood is the warm tone, would going a darker stain be better for you? Men are generally purists when it comes to wood. My husband doesn’t want me to paint anything that’s stained. I like the idea with the shutters or a larger backdrop up there, but I’d think that you’d have to be careful of the lines. You’ve already got a lot of lines going on there. Good luck.

  5. says

    I can’t tell if the panels above the mantel are recessed or raised, but either way, what if you “upholstered” the 3 panels that are directly above the fireplace. That would give you a more centered focal point and be a less permanent fix than paint. If the panels are recessed, its easier to upholster some foam core and stick it in the panels. I’d go for some that had a tone on tone pattern. Anyway…my 2 cents….LOVE your blog. You inspire me.

  6. says

    I was going to say paint it too, but since youre not allowed to do it, I think you should just stop thinking about the mantle and focus on the wall.

    Put a huge sunflower/sun mirror there (you know, these ones that are so popular everywhere? There are tons of DIY-versions out there too) which will take the focus of the mantle. Or else get three high prints that you can put on the panels, thereby taking focus of the vaulted ceiling.

    You really need something big to create a focus point.

    If you still want some decoration, simply put a few, pretty big, pieces on there and spread them out – like two vases to the left, and a little box and a lamp to the right or something.

    I understand why you do not like it, but I think you will only be making it worse if you try to make it into something it is not. It isn’t a classical mantel, so don’t treat it as one. Space everything out, group in smaller groups and use the whole mantel for decoration. Also, the star-in-the-frame is truly great looking, but wrong size where it is now. If you want to keep it, put it to the right, just leaned against the wall.

    You mantel decorations are really great, I think they are so lovely! I just don’t think they fit like they are on that mantel.

  7. says

    My first instinct was ohhh paint it white! Darn it! Then I thought get some old shutters and lean them against the mantel. I saw someone else already suggested that too. I think you need something big in the background for sure. Like the shutters or maybe a mirror or a large clock. Hope that helps!

  8. says

    I like the room. If you want to tone down the wood (without painting it) consider layering something over it without damaging the oak. My motto is when you can’t LOSE it, USE it. You’ve got a great place to display large collectables on that soffit. I prefer homes that are unique and have their own character.

  9. says

    I love how you decorated for summer and you’ve given me some wonderful ideas! Painting a frame over and over — like so simple and why did I never think of that before?

    I see what would drive you nuts about the mantel…it’s just wonked.

    I’d be tempted to paint it out to match the walls…including painting the soffit and then it might, hopefully look like it all blends together and that it’s not just “stuck” there on an angle. I’d leave the mantel itself as it is, just paint out the wall behind it.

  10. tracy says

    personally,I’d tell hubby I’ll meet you halfway and paint the brick. That alone would make a big difference.

  11. says

    Totally in the for what it’s worth category since my mantle currently has a large painting and a can of pepsi up on it.. but… forget about the paneling panels and go bigger.. like REALLY bigger and wide to center up on the space. I am also thinking that round or oval might be kinder than more angles which make your eye pick out other lines. Also.. Unless you use the fireplace during the summer how about an overly wide firplace screen that then visually rebalances the off center fireplace and then also eliminates it looking like a dark hole.

    You have a stunning space.. I do agree about the painting and am not actually a wood girl myself.. but many guys are.. they really groove on natural wood. Yours is beautiful ……ohhh hold on.. would he consider letting you darken it to get the red/orange tone out?.. it would better go with the brick at that point.. tone down the shine a bit in the process.. I can photoshop that for you if you want :)


  12. says

    Why not embrace the asymetrical-ness and follow the line of the ceiling in your decorations? Completely ignore the fireplace and use the entire mantel. You could go really big on the one end, then step down all the way to the other. It’s a challenging space but denial is always the best policy 😉 Just my two cents – good luck!


  13. says

    I was thinking paint the brick – but then that might make it feel top-heavy. I have mixed feeling about painting the oak :) If it was dark pine, I’d grab a roller & go to it! But then HH wouldn’t be arguing with you…

  14. says

    Have you shown him some painted fireplaces. Our first house had all natural woodwork and my husband would never let me paint it. The second home had paint woodwork and we just moved into are third home and he is letting paint all the woodwork. Yea! It makes the room so bright crisp and clean. Good luck! Keep working at him. Love what you did will the mantel.

  15. says

    I am with you on threes. Three children make me look just right. Oh, your mantle! I think it looks really lovely, you hit all the right notes. I am with #24 commenter, show your husband some pics. My husband is not a visual kind of guy when it comes to decorating, so I have to show him an example if he is hesitant. Will your husband let you paint the brick? That would change the look dramatically too.

  16. says

    I think it looks great! I could really see all that great molding painted white. I hope you can change his mind 😉 I know men have this thing with wood. I like the idea of leaning something up there as a back drop. It would give it more height with those great tall ceilings you have. Oh and I have that same blue vase :)

  17. says

    Nope, I’ve got nothing…. I thought I did, but nope! I had a ceiling like this in my second apartment. I embraced the asymmetricality of the wall by hanging some large framed art on the wall. I put one very high on the wall and followed the vault down with the other one. When I first tried to explain it to my husband he wasn’t having any of it, but once I showed him my plan, he liked it. So I guess what I’m saying is to fill up the space more with bigger things. Consider this for what it is — free advice! 😉

  18. says

    Well at least you have a MANTEL! I’m always so jealous of the mantel party’s and I can’t link up..Boo!

    I live in WYOMING..I should have a fireplace and a mantel:-)

    I look your mantel! Maybe you could just paint the brick white and darken the Oak:-)

    You really got a great space…I thought it’s cool to have things off center.

  19. says

    you should not feel bad, your room is awesome. You did a great job in both your spring and summer mantle decor. We often think our homes are a disaster instead of making it a place that we can enjoy.

  20. says

    I think it turned out fabulously!

    But I see what you mean… that would drive me nuts as well! If I were you, I would be nagging my hubby to death until he gave in about painting it white! lol But I agree with other people- maybe just paint the brick!

    Thanks for linking up this week! I’ll be featuring this tomorrow.

  21. says

    Great Job on the Summer Edition! I get what you mean about the angle. I live in a 70’s something angular house. Darn angles everywhere I don’t want them!
    BUt I thank the Lord I have a home:)

  22. says

    Now I’m no decorating expert but I like your mantel. I know that you’ve talked about it before. I love the star and its color. My mantel is bare so I’m really no help, but I can send you good vibes :)…or a picture of Caleb to brighten it up.

  23. says

    I love your decorating style! And I love all your things on the mantle. But I think you need a big focal point. A big piece of art or the shutters like someone else suggested to draw the eye up and away from the fact that it’s not centered. Then a few accessories but large ones: big candle sticks, a large urn, etc. You have a big space there with the vaulted ceiling so you need big items.

  24. says

    I’ve got to say…I like your fireplace just as it is! I think there is something to be said for wood trim sometimes, plus I love how it contrasts with the assymetrical ceiling, which I also love. If the wood was painted white, I don’t think it would blend in too much, and you would miss out on a great architectural feature. I do think the brick could be painted though, how does Hubby feel about that? Love the summer feel though! Thanks for linking up!

  25. says

    I love the vignette you have put together!

    But what if you totally embrace it’s asymmetrical-ness? (I don’t know if that is an actual word. LOL) Put a huge shutter or plant, something tall on the tall side of the wall…then decorate down with the shape of the wall?

    This coming from a total symmetrical decorator…I don’t know if I could do it. 😉 But if you can’t paint it, it might be worth a try.

  26. says

    Oh my gosh, I did the exact same thing on my mantle…with the picture frame and metal star. Initially I went to the thrift store hoping to find a frame that the star would fit inside of, but when I got it home I realized it was just a little too small. I ended up loving how it looked 😉
    BTW, mine is a barn wood frame with a dark red star!

  27. says

    Hey there~ Oh I have a few spots ( or rooms even) in my house I would say drive me as insane as your mantle drives you~ but I think you did a wonderful job with it. The way you have it styled it so pretty and perfect for summer! Thanks for linking this up at Feathered Nest Friday! :)

  28. says

    Following with GFC.
    Thank you for linking up to Bacon Time. For the first party it was a huge success with over 300 links. I am going to have a special give away next week just for linkers. Thanks for grabbing the button too!

  29. says

    Since everyone else has thrown in their .02 cents I’ll add mine as well :) I’d use something LARGE and white to break up the wood. An old door? (horizontally maybe?) Could you even hang it above the mantle and then go from there? I’d layer some too. Old door, maybe an old window or some frames leaning against it. The soffet doesn’t even bother me at all, but all the wood does and I totally get where you’re coming from. Could you temporarily stick some type of white (drop cloth?) fabric to the walls or mantle? – think temporary apartment dwelling stuff, I think you can temporarily stick fabric to walls with spray starch and it won’t damage anything. Anyways, just an idea :)


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