Mantelscape Design 101 ~ Creating a Vignette

One of the things I was thrilled about when Mr. Rosemary Lane built our custom mantel a few years back, was the fact that the depth of my mantel was now going to be a full 10 inches. More surface space to decorate...YES!!! It also meant that now I could create far more interesting mantescapes implementing a layering technique that so many designers use in decorating.

First like anything else in decorating, select a theme and a color scheme which will tie in with what you already have in your room. Then go around your home collecting like items in complimentary colors. Today I chose a garden theme for spring which is pretty neutral in color but is loaded with different textures. Items I corralled include plant pots, faux greens, a book on gardening, a few naturally textured orbs, wood candle holders and some empty picture frames I picked up at a thrift store a couple years ago. Place everything you have found on an empty surface like your coffee table, for easy access. 

Now clear your mantel of everything and you are ready to create.

Step One:
Decide on an anchor item for your mantel display. It could be a picture, mirror, platter, large vase of flowers, or what I decided to do was to place a boxwood wreath on the large mirror we already have hanging above the mantel.

Step Two:
Next find a couple items you can use to layer. I incorporated the two empty frames but you can also use  smaller framed pictures, a couple of vases that are like in color but not necessarily shape, books, plates...I think you get the picture. Now when placing items on the mantel you don't have to make it symmetrical, however both sides must strike some sort of balance. You may have noticed that I placed a book under the frame on the left. This adds visually both height and weight to that side of the vignette.

Step Three:
Place items in front of what you used in step two to create more or less a third row of your display. On the left side of the mantel I placed two candle holders, but instead of using candles I chose to add a little texture in the form of two spheres wrapped in a natural material. At the base of the larger holder I placed a small grapevine wreath to add not only contrast and more texture, but it also worked to raise the height of the picture frame just a little bit more.

On the right side are two cute flower pots I found on sale at Michael's and added some faux greens to them for texture. Then their height was varied using three books placed perpendicular to the mantel. I placed them perpendicular because I didn't necessarily want the books to stand out but just to add height to the right side of the display. 

Now even though different items were used on either side of the wreath, the display is balanced both height and weight wise. 

Step Four:
The final step is to add an item or two that departs from the rest of the display with regard to color and texture, but is still pertinent to the theme of the display. I chose a pretty mercury glass pear and placed it slightly off-center.

And for a touch of nostalgia, I decided to place on the right side of the vignette a little photo of my parents on their wedding day.

And my finished mantelscape...

If you notice the overall shape of the arrangement looks something like a triangle.

Placing items in a triangular configuration is a good rule of thumb to use when putting together a display which is centered to the mantel or any other flat surface.

Hope this little tutorial proves to be helpful to anyone who struggles with how to create an interesting and pulled together vignette.

Wishing you all a wonderfully beautiful spring weekend!

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  1. Hi Barbara, it really looks pretty and looks like someone took the time to plan it out and that they had a very good eye. It pays to take your time and I am forever guilty of just throwing something together without any advance planning. Thanks for the helpful hints..Have a great weekend..xxo Judy

  2. Barbara, It has been a while since I visited blogs. Love your header!!! That is a nice tutorial on dressing a mantle. I love the juxtaposition of the white frames against the framed mirror with the diamonds in the background. Beautifully done!
    Hope you have a great weekend- xo Diana

  3. Barbara, this is so pretty! The white mixed with green is so fresh and springy. You could leave it there all summer. Great explanation too. :)

  4. Barbara, your spring mantel is beautiful and thanks for sharing your tips! Happy Weekend!
    Pam @ Everyday Living

  5. I love all the textures and shapes you incorporated in here! You did a nice job...love them all! You should come link this up at Welcome Home Wednesdays. Party opens 7a CST Wed. www.suburbansimplicity.com

  6. Love the tutorial on decorating the mantle. I have never given it that much thought. I am not usually a symmetric styled decorator but when it comes to my mantle which is NOT 10 inches deep I have a picture propped in the center and then rotate candles or pots of greens or scultures on the two sides. Yours is lovely!

  7. Barbara,
    Your Mantelscape Design is stunning, dear friend!
    I adore all the textures!
    Varying heights and a Spring Theme give this such a stately presence!
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Your mantel is lovely, Barbara! And great tips too. Featured at Be Inspired this morning. Thanks so much for sharing!


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