Several strategies put focus on mantel


February 02, 1992|By Rita St. Clair

Q: The fireplace mantel is easily the best feature in my living room. Can you suggest how I might make it look more important? The room is fairly formal, with traditional styling.

A: To create a focal point in a room -- which is what you're seeking to do -- a number of both obvious and subtle changes can be of help.

One of the most straightforward strategies is simply to group the major seating pieces around the object you wish to highlight. In ++ the case of a fireplace mantel, however, the eye may be pulled away from the intended focal point unless the surrounding wall is treated in a suitable fashion.

The photo offers a good example of how this can be done. Assuming that you already have artwork on other walls in the living room, there's no need to hang a painting above the mantel. A properly scaled mirror with an interesting frame might be a fine addition, especially if its shape is different from that of nearby artworks.

In this model, designer Marilyn Rose chose a gilded-frame mirror that nicely emphasizes the scale of the fireplace, even though the classically detailed mantel is considerably more subdued in its styling.

Dressing the mantel itself is an important part of the operation, which some people find quite difficult. The tack taken here -- a pair of candelabra and a centrally located clock -- is one sure-fire way of giving the mantel some needed height. Another option, when making a more contemporary statement, would be to place crystal or marble obelisks at either end of the mantel.

Because of their classical shape, obelisks can actually be a suitable choice in many traditional settings as well. A grouping of plates, properly displayed, might serve as the mantel's portion of a collection that continues elsewhere in the room. Keep in mind that it isn't necessary to construct a perfectly symmetrical arrangement. Balance, however, is essential to achieve in regard to the size, color and placement of accessories.

The composition atop the mantel will appear less fussy if it includes some greens, such as grape ivy or any small trailing plant. Put them in an attractive cachepot that complements the other nearby objects.

In many cases, the finish of the fireplace is in the same color as the room's woodwork. While that does promote unity of design, such a match also tends to diminish the importance of the focal point. I would treat it differently from the other embellishments in the room.

The basic objective of all these options is to create a frame around the fireplace. So why not take a direct route, and install a border on the floor? Here, the wall-to-wall Du Pont Stainmaster Luxura carpet features a cut design that acts as a decorative frame on three sides of the fireplace. This subtle carved pattern continues right around the rest of the room, giving the entire space a finished look.

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