Home Style: Fall mantel makeovers

Mary Carol Garrity

Tired of that same-old, same-old mantel display? Ready to give your fireplace mantel a fresh look for fall? Mix your decorating treasures with killer seasonal accents to give that mantel a dynamic new look. Here are some ideas to get you started.

A frolicking fall hunt

Maybe I should have been born in England a few centuries ago because I just love, love, love British hunting imagery and always look for ways to weave it into my interior designs. A richly layered mantel can succeed in celebrating fall while also imparting the thrill of the hunt.

What's a fall hearth without a cheery fire? Start with bundles of white birch logs. But don't set a match to these beauties -- position them for your display, then swap them out for firewood when you're ready to light your fire.

Consider some big statement art as well. Dan and I used to have a beagle, so my heart swelled up when I saw a whimsical painting that I think accurately captures the unbridled energy and goofy sense of humor of hunting hounds. With the painting in place, we started to build a display using tattered old vanilla-colored books as risers on either side of the mantel.

Next we topped the books with twin white wooden lanterns. If you're not a fan of lanterns, you could use any number of other pieces instead. How about matching ginger jars, pillar candlesticks or concrete finials? Use your imagination!

We used a variety of fall picks and sprays on the mantel, tucking them in behind the lanterns and books. For a more dramatic overall display, let your faux foliage climb up toward the ceiling. If the branches won't "up" by themselves, use a fallen stick as a support, first securing it to the wall behind with a tiny nail. The secret to getting a richly layered look with greenery is to intertwine several pieces and twist the stems so they look organic, not freshly plucked from a box.

For a playful finishing touch, we put a pheasant figurine right at the foot of the pack of dogs.

Golden age

Remember that stack of aged, creamy vanilla books we used as risers in the first mantel? Well, they're back again for another arrangement option. Books make great risers because they add texture and monochromatic color. For this display, stack them neatly on either side of a gorgeous mirror framed in gold.

Brass is in again, and I'm thrilled. I really like its warm, soft glow. It offers the perfect tone for fall and holiday decorating, when you want soft luster and subtle shine. Statuesque matching lamps, which reach so high, introduce lots of drama to a display and act as perfect bookends, holding everything together.

Layering artwork is a great way to decorate a mantel. For a visually arresting display in minutes, just overlap a few pieces of complementary artwork in dissimilar shapes. They all work perfectly to create a unified effect.

This particular mantel display is so neutral that you could leave it up all year long, just switching out a bit of greenery to freshen it up for each season. To tweak it for fall, simply tuck in a few pretty autumn picks.

English men's club

Fall lends itself well to masculine displays, rich in menswear fabrics and accents in rich shades of brown, red and green. Our third mantel display is a lighter, brighter take on a traditional English men's-club look. Armless chairs, upholstered in a traditional plaid, set the tone.

Instead of featuring one large piece of artwork above the mantel, we hung a small hunting trophy, then topped it with a smaller piece of framed artwork.

This asymmetrical arrangement uses a wild assortment of fall foliage. I like it when the branches climb and twist about, just like they do in nature. Hurricane lamps on either side of the mantel provide a great visual boundary.

The florals are anchored in beautiful iron planters, finished in a weathered patina that adds to the natural beauty of the grouping. The books add to the traditional ambiance of the display and interject a bit of color.

There is a lot going on in this display, so we wanted to break up the layers with a bit of sparkle. A few mercury-glass pumpkins did just the trick. It's a tiny addition, but has a big impact.

This column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com. She can be reached at marycarol@nellhills.com.