Create a timeless mantel that can change as easily as the weather
It’s not just a place to hang stockings in December. Whether it’s large or small, modern or traditional—a home’s mantel is typically the focal point of the living room, making it the perfect place to show off your unique style.
But for many of us, time and money are limited. The goal is to create a budget-friendly mantel display that we can keep in place 365 days a year—with just a few changes each season to keep it current.
To show us how to transition to this fall mantel, we went to the home of Peg Breiholz. The owner of The White Brick House in Forest has a passion for neutrals and a love of thrifting.
Gather together what you want to use.
You can find unique décor items without draining your bank account—your parents’ or grandparents’ unwanted things, flea markets and thrift shops are good places to start. Consider choosing a few pieces that can hold fillers (flowers, grasses, etc.). “That’s why I use watering cans year-round,” Peg says.
Also, keep in mind a balance of different materials: wood, glass, metal, and organic things like branches or florals, etc. This will give your mantel display texture and make it more visually interesting. Peg prefers to use more wood, for warmth, in fall or holiday displays. In spring and summer, she may include more glass or metal for a cooler tone.
Select a backdrop item.
Every room and mantel is different, so you need to assess your space to determine whether you need a large piece (such as Peg’s “Orchards” sign) or something smaller to anchor the space. “In my living room, because the ceiling is so high, you really need this large sign to pull your eye down and bring your focus in toward the mantel,” she explains.
Add your large items…
Two large metal watering cans, a wooden organizer with drawers and an antique lantern are a few items Peg keeps on her mantel year-round. When assembling mantel décor, she uses wooden boxes or stacks of books to raise up items that are in located in the back. She also prefers to create asymmetry—and this starts with those larger pieces. “Personally, I don’t really like having two candlesticks, for example, on each side of the mantel,” she says. “It’s almost like with a painting. You want to lead the person’s eye through the display, sort of on a journey.”
then get smaller…
Peg uses an antique glass kerosene jar, a scale and a rusty star as a few of her medium-sized pieces. She also says this is the point where some people can get a little overwhelmed about what should go where. “You should aim to balance the visual weight on your mantel so one side doesn’t feel heavier than the other, even though the objects are different on each side,” Peg explains. “You need to keep in mind, there is a lot of trial and error. You will have to play around with the mantel a lot and even come back to it after a day or two if you think something doesn’t look quite right.”
For a subtle fall display, Peg uses cattails as a filler in her water cans. You’ll also find antlers in an aqua egg basket, and pine cones and squirrels are used as small additions that have a fall-feel… but also aren’t orange pumpkins. Your small- or medium-sized items can also be a great place to add in an accent color. (Peg prefers little pops of aqua and green.)
This can easily be your spring/summer mantel too!
The big pieces stay put. All you have to do is switch out some smaller items to transition your mantel to a different season.
Instead of antlers, squirrels, and pine cones…you’ll find a bee skep, honey jar, bird house and bird’s nest in this summer mantel display. Daisies and grasses are used as the filler instead of cattails. A green watering can adds a bit of color without being too overpowering.
All of it combined together says “summer” without changing the tone of the rest of your home. “I’m not looking at the literal time of year—such as pumpkins for fall. I go more with how it feels,” Peg says.