Choosing a Fireplace Mantel: Which Look Is Right for You?

Whether your home is modern, traditional or somewhere in between, find a fireplace mantel design that fits your style.
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Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Welded Metal

For a modern, handcrafted look, the fireplace at HGTV Holiday House 2014 is designed with a welded steel mantel. Sleek and clean, the silver tones of the metal complement the otherwise rustic look of the reclaimed barn siding covering the wall. Mantels made of welded metal are excellent for masculine spaces.

Making a Metal Mantel

In order to create the seamless look of welded metal, a five-sided box is created using hardy plywood. This box is what gives the mantel its "floating" look. To affix the five-sided box to the wall, a cleat is cut and fastened into studs using heavy duty anchors. After cutting sheet metal to size and soldering its edges, the corners are heavily sanded and buffed for a slightly rounded, smoothed out look. This creates a casing which slides directly over the five-sided box.

Modern Craftsman

American Craftsman homes, also referred to as Arts and Crafts and Mission styles, are characterized by a heavy use of stone and wood. Dedicated to materials left in their natural states, homes from this era are excellent fits for wooden slab mantels, which focus on the grain and variation of color in a natural slab of wood.

Craftsman Appeal

Wooden slab mantels are desired by architects and designers for what's referred to as "live edge" design, in which the uneven, natural shape of the wood is simply smoothed out, creating a sculptural edge along the front of the mantel. Since a good amount of skill is involved in creating this style, there are often hefty labor fees associated with fabrication. It's also wise to keep in mind that the wood will need to be oiled about every six months to protect it and maintain its finish.

Traditional Quarter Sawn Oak

Used in many traditional homes in the U.S. and Europe, quarter sawn oak mantels are a derivative of the classic Victorian style. To add authentic traditional charm around your fireplace, consider a sawn oak mantel covered in a dark stain with an inset mirror above it. Mirrors were commonly used above fireplaces in original Victorian homes to play with light and create the illusion of more space.

Oak Corbel

Corbels play a large part in adding personality and architectural detail to a mantel. Many European mantels include elaborate corbels, which are structural brackets made of wood, metal or stone. While corbels on wooden mantels are used mostly for decorative purposes, they're much more structural when used to support stone or metal.

Traditional Mahogany

Mahogany mantels look great in traditional-style homes, including Georgian, Southern traditional and bungalows. Part of the chinaberry family and indigenous to the Americas, mahogany is known for its reddish coloring and masculine appeal. Many designers steer clear of mahogany in modern homes because of its heavy appearance. Additionally, the reddish tones of the wood limit the potential color schemes used in the surrounding areas.

Carved Wood Appliqués

Traditional fireplaces are often characterized by carved wooden appliqués added just below the top of the mantel. To add Georgian or Southern traditional appeal to an otherwise flat and solid mahogany fireplace, consider shopping for wooden appliqués online, then attaching them with wood glue.


Burnishing is a great way to add an antique look to wooden mantels, especially mahogany to offset its rich appearance. Known for a moody, vignetting effect, burnishing is a process in which the crafted wood is rubbed with a small, hard piece of wood using applied pressure.

Dentil Molding

Homeowners interested in adding a touch of Italian Renaissance to their fireplaces may consider mantels with ornate dentil detail. This refers to a pattern made from the repetition of small blocks, which look like teeth.

Dentil Molding Detail

Due to its ornate ornamentation, a dentil mantel is appropriate for formal homes with traditional, European-style architecture.

Victorian Mahogany

Victorian mahogany mantels are known for their grand appearances and intricate details. In this early 1900s home referred to as a Painted Lady, several fireplaces are outfitted with Victorian mantels complete with column detail. Commonly made from oak, Victorian mantels are known for darkly stained or white painted finishes.

Hand-Painted Detail

One detail that sets Victorian mantels apart from others is hand-painted tile. The original tile used in this early 1900s house in Georgia features a floral pattern.

Greek Revival

Known for their use of elaborate columns, Greek revival mantels are appropriate for traditional European, Victorian and Southern traditional homes.

Greek Column Update

To keep the columns from feeling heavy and ornate, consider painting them white for a fresh, modern spin.

Modern Walnut

Mantels in contemporary homes are known for looking sleek and seamless. In this rustic modern home in North Georgia, a floating-style mantel was made from walnut. Its streamlined look has been polished and smoothed out to add visual tension against the rough and rustic stacked-stone wall.

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