They show them in all the magazines, or maybe you have seen something on Pinterest.  I’m talking about fantastic displays on fireplaces, sideboards, shelves and more. We are going to go over some basics on how you can pull together a show stopping display in your home.

Before we get started a brief note about the pictures you will see in my blog, I take them myself, usually in my home.  So these are real things that you can do. These are not projects where there is a magazine company with a staff of 15 people and a professional photographer with high-tech lighting and filters.  So they may not seem like the best quality but they are things you can do yourself.

decorated fireplace

#1 Choose a style or theme

Choose a theme, style, or even a collection. Often times I start with an inspiration piece or a focal point.  They can help you select colors and help you determine other items to put in the display. I pull together more than I think I might need and often shop around my own house.  

#2 Patina vs. Damage

Make sure that the items are not broken or damaged. Patina and wear are fine but broken or dirty isn’t attractive.  Dust or vacuum items first to remove most of the “dirt”, then clean with a damp rag, using an appropriate cleaning solution when needed.  When cleaning framed art and mirrors, don’t apply window cleaner to the glass. Spray it on a paper towel then clean. Applying window cleaner to art and mirrors will cause the cleaner to run under the glass, leading to damage.

#3 Size and Scale

Use the right size and scale items.  Items that are too small for your display will leave it feeling flat.   If the items are too big they take away from your focal point or cause the display to visually lean.  

  • The scale is too small.  
  • The stair stepped candle holders are rather uninspiring.
  • And it is visually unbalanced with the white appearing heavier than the black lantern that blends in with the firebox.
  • We start by lowering the wreath so that it seems to fit better.  
  • By using black and white on both sides it visually balances the display.  
  • The teal color from the wreath is used throughout and ties everything together.
decorated fireplace
decorated fireplace

 #4 Evens or Odds

fireplace hearth

If possible work in odd numbers in varying heights. Without our knowing it, our eyes are visually drawn to odd numbers and settles easier on them.  Don’t stair step your display. When you have varying heights of three similar objects place the tallest in the center back, next tallest on the inside of the display, then the smallest on the outside.  

However, odds don’t always work out.  When you use a two of the same item you have a few options.  If they are the same size, use them symmetrically, by placing them on either side of your display.  If they are of differing heights, stagger them and find a third item that compliments them and use them just like you would if there were three.  
Pairs lend well to symmetrical display.  While all the items in this display are not exact pairs this would be a symmetrical display and one of the easiest ways to use pairs.
Notice that the colored shutters and owls are not exact pairs.  I used the taller shutter with the smaller owl and smaller shutter with the taller owl which balances the display.

#5 Balance

Create balance.  So much of display is just a game with your eyes and how you brain processes it.  Color can play an important role in this part of the process. Again we want to use the rule of odds.  The #3 is your friend this time. Using color in a triangle in your display makes it more cohesive. A single pop of color can draw your eye   When you look at the display does your eye tend to lean or tilt? If it does the display needs better visual balance.

fireplace triangle

#6 Time to play

fireplace hearth

Mentally try to picture a large triangle.  This will be the outline for your display. Use the guidelines above to help you build your display. Personally, I will set it up, take a picture on my phone, and then change things. I may do this 3 or 4 times before I am happy with the display. Remember sometimes it is best to keep it simple and have fun. This is your display; the goal is for you to like it. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and incorporate things that wouldn’t normally be used for home decor.  These are guidelines to help create and understand why you might like one display over another.

 In an upcoming post we will apply these guidelines and see the same mantle decorated for the next few seasons.  Start thinking about where you need to decorate.