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4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel

Hello fabulous people! Today I’m talking about 4 easy peasy tips that will make decorating your mantel a breeze. If you’re like me, you probably struggle with decorating this teeny, tiny space. I know it’s always been a challenge for me. So today I’m sharing a few simple guidelines that I’ve found to be really helpful when it comes to mantel decor. Plus I’m excited to show you one of my latest vintage goodies–an antique lunchbox that is full of history and perfect for the mantel!

4 Easy Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage Decor

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Now let me first clarify that I’m no mantel decorating guru. Not even close. However, through a lot of trial and error, I’ve found 4 simple things that help make the process a little easier:

1. balance

2. layers

3. complimentary colors

4. texture

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage Decor

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage and Farmhouse Decor


Instead of creating a perfectly symmetrical look, my goal is to simply aim for balance. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Here I chose the vintage lunch box and an old scale to help balance things out. Both items are “heavier” to the eye, so putting one on either side of the mantel helps to even out the overall look. It’s not perfect, but it’s balanced and that’s the goal.

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage and Farmhouse Decor

How cool is this old lunchbox? It belonged to my great uncle. He worked on the railroad in the 1940’s and carried this lunchbox to work with him every day. It has little dents, scratches and markings all over it. It’s definitely lived a full life. And honestly, it reminds me of simpler times. Slower days and less distractions. I’m just so happy it has stayed in our family over the years and now it’s on our mantel. He passed away long ago, but I can still remember visiting him in the nursing home when I was young. He sure was a sweet soul.

Vintage Scale on Mantel--Tips for Decorating the Mantel


Layers are a great way to add interest to your mantel. Since you don’t have much room to work with on the mantel, look for something thin and flat to put in the back. That wooden piece from an old crate in the back there is a great example. I laid it horizontally and it’s an awesome backdrop for the rest of the display. Plus it’s unexpected and vintage, so that’s a win in my book. You could also do this with an old window, picture frames, or even old washboards.

{the live simply sign is from The Painted Nest Etsy shop}

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage Farmhouse Decor

Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Farmhouse Decor

Complimentary Colors

You guys know I’m a big fan of neutrals. But for this mantel look I went with a black vintage lunchbox and a green scale. Not exactly neutral, but they do compliment each other in this look. If I had gone with a red vase instead of the white one, or bright orange lunch box, it probably wouldn’t have worked quite as well. I like to think of the mantel as a collage or puzzle, so I try combine pieces that seem to fit together naturally.

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Old Spindles and Vintage Scale


This is an easy one. And I personally think vintage items add great texture and dimension to any look. The tattered and worn book covers, the chippy white spindles, even the little green plant–it all adds texture and dimension. And I love the contrasting texture of the rusty scale and the smooth white vase. The combination of textures are what make it interesting and visually appealing.

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel Vintage Farmhouse Decor

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage and Farmhouse Decor

Wall Mounted Baskets Farmhouse Decor

Can we talk about these baskets for a hot minute? I’ve had sooooo many questions about these on Instagram and here on the blog over the past few months. I found these at Hobby Lobby, but there’s a ton of very similar options on Amazon. {two great choices here and here} I love them in this spot by the fireplace, they fill this little section of the wall perfectly.

Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage Farmhouse Decor

4 Tips for Decorating the Mantel--Vintage Farmhouse Decor

So there are 4 simple and easy tips for decorating your mantel. I hope this was helpful if you struggle in this area like I do. Like I said earlier, I’m no expert, but these are the guidelines I try to keep in mind and it really does make the process easier. And I love having my great uncle’s lunchbox in our home and displayed in such a prominent spot. It has so much history and it’s really so special to me. If you have a old lunchbox like this in your family, maybe it belonged to your dad or your grandfather, pull it out and try it on the mantel. It’s the perfect size and I bet you’ll love it.

Let me know what you think and if you have any tips of your own to share, I’d love to hear it. Thanks so much for stopping by my friends! xoxo

Another mantel look you might like…

Farmhouse Style Fresh and Simple Mantel

Leave a Comment

The Comments

  • Kim
    August 16, 2016

    Hi Sarah

    Thanks for sharing as mantel decorating has always been a challenge for me. You’ve given me so good ideas. Love your blog, thanks for always sharing your ideas and home with all of us.

    • Sarah
      > Kim
      August 16, 2016

      I’m glad it was helpful Kim! Thank you for being here & your sweet comment. xoxo

  • Molly
    August 17, 2016

    Thanks for sharing. I love getting inspiration from your blog!

    • Sarah
      > Molly
      August 19, 2016

      Thank YOU for being here Molly!

  • Ragan
    August 17, 2016

    Love the lunch box! Wish I had my dad’s old one that I remember him carrying! Decor with meaning is my very favorite!! I’m guessing you like to change up your mantel now and then. Your uncle’s lunch box would also be cute propped open on a shelf or other surface with hydrangeas like the white the one in your mantel photo peeking out! Great post and tips! Thank you!

    • Sarah
      > Ragan
      August 19, 2016

      I completely agree Ragan, decor with meaning is way more fun. And I’ll have to try your suggesting of putting flower in the lunch box, great idea!

  • Heather Hoben
    August 17, 2016

    Sarah, I am so grateful I stumbled upon your blog this summer. It has inspired me and encouraged me to freshen up my decor and use my beloved vintage finds in unique ways! Would it be possible to somehow send you a picture of how I styled my salvaged mantel? I am pretty proud of it and would live your advice/input. I love your blog!! Heather

    • Sarah
      > Heather Hoben
      August 17, 2016

      Heather! Of course you can. I’d seriously love that. Email me at And thanks so much for stopping by, I’m glad you’ve found some inspiration on my blog! xoxo

  • Brenda
    August 17, 2016

    Looks great! I use these same tips and usually love the result! Love the lunchbox and the history of it!

    • Sarah
      > Brenda
      August 17, 2016

      Thanks Brenda!

  • Lanita Anderson
    August 17, 2016

    Loved your post and the ideas for decorating a mantel….thanks for sharing! I’m not sure what I love best – the old lunch box or the vintage scale!!? Both are great! Blessings to you…..

    • Sarah
      > Lanita Anderson
      August 17, 2016

      Right?! It’s a toss up for sure. But I think the lunchbox, with all its personal history, wins out for me. And fun fact–I actually found that old scale at a farm auction this summer–I got a great deal. Thanks for stopping by Lanita!

  • Jolene
    August 18, 2016

    That lunchbox, though… I would love to have a family heirloom like that! I’m blown away with how you’ve incorporated it into your mantel & styled everything! šŸ™‚ Also, I have those same exact baskets from Hobby Lobby. I bought them a few years ago to hold cards at my wedding, and then ended up hanging them on the wall in my kitchen to hold my potholders. How funny! I recognized them right away. Aren’t they perfect?

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Sarah
      > Jolene
      August 19, 2016

      Thanks Jolene, you are so sweet! And high five for having the same baskets, I love mine! So cheap, but so purdy too.

  • Deedee Lewis
    January 18, 2017

    I really like your tip about aiming for balance when decorating your fireplace mantel. There’s nothing wrong with playing with new ideas when decorating your fireplace mantel, especially if it’s an idea you have never tried before. I will have to try some of these decorating ideas myself since my fireplace is due for a redesign.