Jan 27, 2011

My mantel, my mantle

In each home we have owned, I have wanted (and gotten) a fireplace with a mantel. Last home had two fireplaces and three mantels (one fireplace was two-sided.) I love (REALLY love) having a fireplace. And - of course - a mantel. But decorating said mantel doesn't come naturally to yours truly. And this home's fireplace has the added complexity of having a massive brick wall above the mantel. Everything seems to recede into the earth-tone brick.

I know, I know..what a problem to have, right?  But all whining aside, I've developed a real mental block when it comes to decorating this prominent feature of our living space, and each season seems to bring new and bigger challenges for me.  (I never decorate the mantel the same way twice.  Maybe if I found a style I really love - or even really like - I'd just fall back on it each year.  So far, nada.)

So the mantel has become a mantle.  You know, a yoke, a burden, a responsibility that I shoulder alone (because if I left it to the menfolk of this family, there'd be some random UT memorabilia thrown up there willy-nilly.  And that's just not happening.)

So let's back up to last spring, when I put together an homage to our South Carolina spring trip, with blown-up photos of starfish and sea stuff. I really liked that scheme, but:
  1. There was a complete and utter DEARTH of tasteful or inspired mantel decoration between the holidays and spring. Oh my.
  2. In retrospect, the scale was still a little small. Or maybe it's just me thinking I should somehow cover that vast expanse of brick with SOMETHING?
At any rate, spring and summer, the mantel stayed pretty much the same.  Then came fall and I did pump up the orange with some seasonal items.

And then...the Christmas mantel.  Three days of decorating resulted in this.   Pffft.  And now that has been down for several weeks....and there's a void once again.  I keep looking at blogs with mantel ideas, hoping to get inspired. Or find something I could shamelessly copy item-for-item. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that.)

A painting class scheduled for last week got canceled due to snow.  Alas, it was going to be a painting of a winter wonderland scene, which I had hoped would grace my mantel until it is time for another trip to South Carolina.  I decided it was high time to implement Plan B.  (Well, to be more precise, it was time to create and implement Plan B.  And now that you've heard all my excuses and rationalizing, here's this year's winter mantel.

I'm not sure it's worthy of much commentary or explanation, but in case you're interested, here's what I did:

I started out with a print of Monet's "Magpie," one of my favorite winter scenes, in a brushed silver frame.  In front of the print is a mix of old and new candle holders, with crushed oyster shells in the bases.

Hobby Lobby had some fantastic closeout deals on the black candlesticks (which I really wanted last Christmas, so a very early "Merry Christmas 2011" to me!) ;  their flowers were 50% off and I already had the vase sitting around collecting dust.  The mirror was borrowed from the dining room.
The center is another mix of old and new:  the bronze barnstar is new (but was half off!), while the vase, bird statue, candle and "Family" sign are from recycled from seasons and mantels past.  (Okay, some of the floral stems are new, too.)

    So what do you think?  Will it carry us through these bleakest months weeks of the year?  Any suggestions or ideas?   I'm really hoping this mantel can be gently transitioned into a spring mantel in a couple of months.  I like the idea of gradually changing it over every few months instead of a total overhaul each season.  Especially since I seem to encounter a mental block when I'm faced with the prospect of a complete change-out.

    And in case you're wondering, yes, we've thought about painting the brick or covering it with drywall and painting it the color of the walls, but our time in this house may be ending soon. If that happens, I'm not going to waste the time (and extreme energy) to tape and mud and sand and paint, especially dangling from a ladder, when the next residents may not appreciate or value my efforts.  Of course, if we decide to stay put, then that may be high on my list of honey-do's this spring.

    Happy decorating!