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Oh Me, Oh My, Oh Mantel! | Four Makeovers Take the Mantel from MEH to Marvelous

Photography by Kathryn Feldmann

The fireplace in any room is almost always a focal point. Most fireplaces have a mantel. But decorating it—beyond the obvious holiday attire—can be a challenge. If the mantel above your fireplace has become fusty and ho-hum, these fresh designs and tips from four Roanoke Valley interior design professionals will solve your “what-to-do-with-the-mantel” conundrum.

Jessica Durham of Magnolia wanted to create a light, airy space updating and modernizing the classic fireplace. On the mantel, creating balance was important and the large modern abstract by Carson Overstreet, with its beautiful hues of pink and blue, was a good starting point. The other paintings by Lauren Bolshakov complement Overstreet’s piece while adding dimension. Bringing texture to the mantel is a live fern from local Townside Gardens as well as pampas grass which creates visual interest and height. Durham says, “When designing a neutral palette, it’s important to incorporate lots of texture.” This is evident in the use of the basket, plants, and the boucle large-weave throw. Keeping the style light, leaning toward modern clean lines is signature Magnolia. “Helping clients transition their traditional pieces and update their homes to a cleaner, more contemporary look, is what we do really well,” adds Durham.

Elaine Stephenson loves the bold contemporary style,  of this abstract painting over the mantel. Local artist Courtney Cronin uses a vibrant color palette that makes the traditional fireplace feel fresh and current. Stephenson uses accessories that provide contrast in style with colors that are more subtle and traditional than the brilliance of the painting. She says, “I like the way the colors in the Guinea hens, although muted, are incorporated in the painting.” The Guinea hens are English antiques, offering balance to an otherwise contemporary design. The vignette is symmetrical, bringing order to the vibrancy and asymmetry found in the painting. Adds Stephenson: “I like for my mantel design to be interesting, simple and not contrived.”

An unfussy and modern yet traditional arrangement by Halifax Fine Furnishings uses reflective surfaces and captures light even without a warm fire in the fireplace. Crackled celadon vases and porcelain shore birds are in balanced alignment, framing the gold leaf sunburst mirror. Faux boxwood balls atop the vases add a natural element and elevated symmetry. Designer MaryJean Levin notes, “The varied heights of the objects bring harmony to the simple symmetry of the arrangement.”

The unusual fire screen reflects the glow of the afternoon sunshine and adds movement to the static fireplace. Levin adds, “Light and reflection make the fireplace and mantel a focal point and add sparkle throughout the year.”

The rich colors in the artwork guide the design elements and work well with the scale of the fireplace and mantel. Cherished paintings add a focal point and the accessories complement the subject matter. Meredith Draper, co-owner of Ellie Proctor Antiques and Fine Things, points out, “The design doesn’t always have to be symmetrical,” as modeled in this vignette.

Ellie Proctor Antiques and Fine Things’ strong suit is mixing old with new. The antique lamps are from New Orleans; however, the clear hurricanes are new and placed strategically so as not to hide the artwork. The antique Flow Blue compote holds green moss balls lending an earthy, natural feel. Antique leather books are leaning casually, adding texture and provenance. The ginger jars at either side of the hearth are new. Draper says, “The jars are timeless, adding symmetry at the base of this design and are very much in keeping with the feel of the collection of objects— antique, vintage and new.”

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