Finding the Perfect Mantle
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
If you’re struggling to find the perfect mantle for your fireplace, you’re not alone! I’m right there with you! I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect mantle off and on for almost a year now. In today’s post, I’ll walk you through the process of solidifying your shopping criteria, some mantle recommendations (links included), stores to shop at and what kind of budget to expect. Here we go!
Step 1: Figure out your sizing
If your mantle is going to be sandwiched between a TV and a fireplace, the size of your mantle will be a little more tricky. You'll need to make sure the size of your mantle works with BOTH your TV and Fireplace.
Have no fear, here is what you need to hear:"A mantel with a 6” Face Height can stand its ground in a large home, however, it can overpower a smaller space. If you have a smaller space, we recommend a mantel that has a 4-5” Face Height." - Waters Edge Woods
When we renovated our fireplace last year, I ordered a wood beam mantle that was 6" face by 6" shelf. We held it up to the fireplace and it immediately looked top-heavy! Our concrete surround only protrudes 6" from the wall, so to have a beam protruded another 6" off the fireplace looked SO heavy! We immediately returned the beam.
Now I reflect on this picture, I realize that the 6" by 6" inch actually doesn't look terrible. I think I was so immediately turned off by the "massive" size because I hadn't seen anything that big in the space before and I was in complete shell shock. I think an ideal size for our fairly flat fireplace would be a 6" face with a 5" shelf.
The point here is, you may have to play with it and find the perfect size for your unique space! Don't be afraid to shop and return until you find the perfect one. I do this all the time! I like to think that I can visualize things well in my mind, but sometimes you really just have to see it in person. There's no shame in "getting it wrong" because 1) you're learning what you DON'T like and 2) there's no such thing as getting it wrong; there's only good, better, and best.
As for the length of your mantle, it should always extend past your TV and, obviously, your fireplace. A mantle that runs the same length as your TV will look very boxy and lacks visual variety. I won't expand on this much further because Chris Loves Julia already did an amazing post on this topic and I couldn't say it better; check out their post where they take a deep dive into mantle length. (Visuals and all!)
Step 3: Style
Now that you have the size you want, you'll want to pick a style for your mantle. This will determine the texture, material, and sometimes the color of your mantle. For example, if your space is traditional, you'll probably want your mantle to have lots of detail and will probably want it painted.
If your space is more rustic, you will want more raw edges and probably a wood finish.
Photo Cred: Magnolia
If your space is contemporary, you could go with a wood beam that's sanded down with slightly rounded edges.
Photo Cred: Cottage Beams
And if your space is modern, you'll want cleaner lines and sharper corners.
Photo Cred: Maine Homes
Or... no mantle at all!
Photo Cred: Fireclay Tile
Step 3: Color/Stain
If you haven't already picked a color or stain for your mantle this would be your final step in building your mantle shopping criteria. Think of your mantle as a piece of furniture in your space. The color of your mantle is huge and will affect the look and feel of your room.
I thought I wanted a dark, rich wood stain, one that will complement our brown leather couches. However, when I saw that dark wood beam in the space combined with our concrete surround, it quickly turned my contemporary fireplace into an industrial feature; which is not at all what I was going for! That's when I pivoted my color pallet to lighter options.
When selecting a color or stain for your mantle, you want to take into consideration what colors are behind it and around it. What color is your fireplace surround, what are the main colors in the room (walls, furniture), and most importantly your flooring? All these colors make your color pallet. The question you'll need to ask yourself is how do I want my mantle's color to play with these other colors? Do you want your mantle to...
Photo Cred: Chris Loves Julia
Photo Cred: Meadow Blu
...Or stand out?
Photo Cred: M. E. Beck Design Inc
Do you want your mantle to be visually grounded or married to another item in the room? This is my favorite question and one I often ask myself when designing a space. First, let me explain "grounded." My two corner tables have a wood stain that perfectly matches the brown leather of my couch.
If you were to squint your eyes they would blend together as one. This GROUNDS my space.
However, I have this blue velvet chair that is MARRIED to my floral rug.
Why? Because they bring out the best in each other and give each other purpose in the space. It's like they make each other feel wanted and needed. The blue velvet chair could stand on its own, but that would feel a bit random. The rug gives it purpose and reason for being a bold pop of color. Likewise, the blue chair makes the rug's coloration feel justified and welcomed. They both look significantly better together and give the room a sense of confidence and belonging - they are married.
Too deep for you? Did I lose you? Ha! I'll step down from my soapbox...
The point is, there may be items in your room (your couch, flooring, shelves, wall color) that you want your mantle to be married or grounded to. Take a look around the room and see if there's something missing, or feels left out that your mantle color or wood stain could help enhance!
Don't underestimate the power of your mantle! It's a statement - what do you want it to say?
What to budget
The larger your mantle the more expensive it will be. Our mantle needed to be 6' long and just about any mantle I shopped for ended up in the $300 range. Smaller 4’ mantles can be around $100. A custom mantle can easily cost $700-$1,000 give or take. Our DIY mantle will have cost about $200 after all is said and done.
Linked Mantle Suggestions
I know shopping around for a mantle is exhausting! I know because I did it off and on for a year! Ha! Since I've done and a ton of shopping, let me share some links with you to maybe save you some time. Here are some of my favorites (all images are linked to the source):
If you live in the UK or surrounding areas, please take advantage of Cottage Beams company. If they shipped to the US, I would have ordered from them right off the bat. I absolutely LOVE everything they make! This white oak with rounded edges is my inspiration for our DIY mantle.
Modern option: This black beam below would look very sleek, especially on top of a stone or concrete surround.
Rustic or Farmhouse option: This raw wood beam would be quite a statement and look wonderful against shiplap, brick, or stone.
If you want to soften the beam a bit, search for a beam with corbels! This instantly screams COZY! Love it!
Contemporary option: This would be great for a contemporary, modern, midcentury modern, or modern-farmhouse, or even modern-cottage space.
Traditional option: Last but not least, if painted the right color (maybe dark indigo, forest green, or even a black! Now my creative juices are flowing ha!), these timeless traditional mantles can really be stunning!
Stores to Shop at
If you're feeling overwhelmed by where to even start your mantle shopping, let me point you in the right direction. 1) Wayfair. Filter your search by size, style, and color/finish and you should find something you like. Don't forget to check the reviews. 2) Lowes or Home Depot have great options online! It's pretty rare that I see mantels sold in stores, so I'd stick to online shopping through either store. 3) Shop local. Is there a reclaimed woodshop in your area? Or a woodwork store? You can never replace the in-person shopping experience with a computer screen - trust me.
Not Finding Something You Like?
Story of my life. If you struggle to find exactly what you want, that means you need a custom mantle built or it's time to pick up your sander and DIY your own mantle! A custom mantle will cost an arm and a leg (I received a quote that was $1,000 for a wood beam custom mantle), but you'll get exactly what you want! If you're looking to DIY your mantle, follow along on our Instagram stories to see how we are currently DIY-ing our mantle from the ground up.
Stay tuned for next week's blog post where I walk you through the step-by-step of our DIY mantle! I can’t wait to see this beautiful piece finally installed on our fireplace; it’s been a long time coming and I’m excited to share it!