mantel of responsibility

December 18th 2014 Comments: 0 Topics: ,

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, nothing beckons us like congregating fireside.
The gaping maw of a fireplace with its flames ablaze provides warmth both temperate and temporal. Our love for this primitive fixture is evident by our time-honored desire for placing beloved objects around its chasmal opening. We honor its presence by decoration; treasured adornments almost act as sacrificial offerings to the fiery god.

Here are a few ways we’ve paid decorative homage to the classic mantel:

Elevated mantels are not good for the expected large artwork. The sight line is simply too far up the wall.  Small objects strewn on its ledge create a casual landscape. Tall fireplaces are best embellished with an assemblage of small, precious items carefully curated to overcome the formality grand fireplaces bring to the room.


Large scale artwork lives best over a short, simple fireplace.  Powerful paintings do not need to do battle with tenacious mantels.  One voice in the room is enough.  A lone rustic hearthside chair completes the composition.


For casual interiors, try placing a single object off center.  An intimate picture, which would look lost at sea centered above a fireplace, appears at once harmonious when inadvertently placed off center.


Try placing artwork on either side of an over-scaled fireplace.  Combined with flanking seating groups, the nestled furnishings seem to huddle about for warmth like their human counterparts.


Break some rules. We draped this large tapestry over the breast of this tall stone mantel.  Part artwork, part drapery, there is something inherently treacherous in placing the precious in contact with the combustable potential of demise.  The stable formality of this room required a gesture uniquely unstable.


Or be bold and do nothing!  A casually placed white urn provides all the garnish this moody mantel requires.

However you bling your blaze, do it with gusto.  No one likes a lukewarm hearth.


Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley


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