Elevated Essentials: Grandmillennial Mantel Decor
2 ways to style a grandmillennial mantel with tips and advice to curate and arrange a charming display!
This is Part II of my Elevated Essentials series, and in this post we will be looking at how to curate and style a grandmillennial mantel. This look is more formal, more feminine, and more elegant. If you are unfamiliar with grandmillennial style read this post. In Part I, we discussed decorating a more casual mantel in a preppy traditional look.
The mantel here is from our formal living room — my favorite room in the house! It is painted in a soft dove gray and white to complement the riot of bold colors in green, blue, and pink of the furnishings and drapery. We love this room for sipping coffee Sunday mornings and entertaining guests.
As I mentioned in Part I, decorating mantels has a long history and important visual language. Consequently, there are 4 decor essentials necessary to a beautifully styled mantel: 2-D features, lighting, natural elements, and curios. Let’s look at how to curate these elevated essentials for a grandmillennial mantel!
Elevated Essentials for a Grandmillennial Mantel:
Art, mirrors, photographs, and other flat visual elements are 2-D features that can be hung in the space above your mantel or propped up on it.
The goal – add visual interest to the fireplace and impact the style, feel, or harmony of the room as a whole.
For that classic grandmillennial look, I love a beautiful gilt Neoclassical mirror. The benefits of a mirror are its multi-tasking ability: it is both stylish in terms of frame and shape while also adding to the lighting of the space. I was lucky to find my gilt mirror at a local antique shop for a song because the glass had been damaged, but I just took it to a glazer for a new mirror inset. Don’t be afraid to purchase something that needs a little repair just be sure to factor in that cost too.
I also love the look of a plate wall gallery above a mantel. This is a very traditional look, but affords lots of visual interest with the endless options in pattern and shape. Use a mixed size of plates and consider a large central dish like a grand platter to focus the arrangement.
Don’t be afraid to get sentimental with this elevated essential either. Choose a 2-D element that is near and dear to your heart like a painting by a family member or a portrait of your family.
My picks for 2-D:
Sconces, candles, mirrors, lanterns, and/or lamps are a key decorative element to any mantel.
The goal – help highlight the fireplace/mantel area, increasing it’s ability to draw the eye and act as a focal point.
For both of these grandmillennial mantel styles the lighting is fairly simple. The two brass sconces to either side of the mantel are original to the house. I love the feminine floral spray and crystal detail. When we moved in I polished the brass and cleaned the crystals. If I was buying a new pair, I would opt for a vintage tole!
The secondary lighting feature in look one is a pair of silver-plate candlesticks. The simple shape keeps the look classic, but the colorful green taper jazz it up for a contemporary feel. I also love the look of gilt tole candlesticks in unique shapes like these tulips or a pair of colorful Wedgwood holders.
To emphasize this look, choose lighting that feels romantic and delicate with floral motifs, crystal garlands, classic details, and that little extra glitz. The mantel is also a prime local to display your inherited silver and crystal!
My picks for lighting:
The third mantel decor essential is fresh or faux flowers or greenery in the form of arrangements, topiaries, wreaths, garlands, etc.
The goal – bring texture and something fresh and natural to the area.
For both the preppy traditional and grandmillennial looks, choose traditional florals and greenery like orchids, magnolia, boxwood, hydrangea, peonies, and fern. You can confidently invest in faux versions of these because they are classics that won’t go out of style and can be used for years to come.
In the first mantel look, I mixed faux and fresh florals with a preserved magnolia wreath hanging from the mirror and a pair of mixed floral arrangements in pretty yellow Chinoiserie vases (wreaths and vases available at my July 16, 2020 sale on IG). Fresh floral arrangements are a lovely option for parties and holidays, and if you choose beautiful vases then they can stay on the mantel as a decorative element even when not filled.
The second look, makes a statement with the natural element, featuring a collection of differing preserved boxwood topiaries (available at my July 16, 2020 sale on IG). I lined them up down the center of the mantel alternating shapes and sizes for an elegant look.
Shop this magnolia wreath here for $47!
My picks for natural elements:
The final mantel decor element is ornaments and curios like china, figurines, books, vases, ginger jars, etc.
The goal – add personality to the mantel that reflects the style of a room, showcases a collection, tells a story, and/or connects to a memory, hobby, or trip.
To achieve the grandmillennial look on your mantel with curios think vintage, antique, and heirlooms! This is the prime spot to display an inherited treasure or collection from your grandmother!
I often display my collection of Staffordshire flatbacks in the center of the mantel where the boxwood topiaries are here. The two Rose Medallion temple jars on either end help anchor a variety of shapes and sizes. See my spring mantel for that look.
Use the mantel shelf as an opportunity to display valuable antiques and other decor you simply love!
My picks for curios:
Styling a Grandmillennial Mantel:
Now that we’ve gathered the elevated essentials for our grandmillennial mantel decor, it’s time to arrange them to optimal effect!
With both of these mantel looks, I’ve used several classic design techniques that you can apply to any flat surface abutting a wall. First, let’s take a look at overall shape and balance.
Zig Zag Shape
- This layout serves to draw the eye across the mantel connecting the elements both on and above it.
- The key to arranging mantel decor in this shape is to use alternating heights.
- A symmetrical order of the decor keeps this shape from being too chaotic.
- The “V” shape arrangement focuses the eye on what is on the mantel.
- The key to this shape is placing your two tallest elements at each end of the mantel. Make sure the height is at or close to the half way point between the mantel and ceiling.
- Don’t be afraid to play with asymmetry here to keep this layout interesting.
Other mantel styling techniques:
- Mixed Shapes – To add visual interest and keep the mantel decor from feeling boxy, both mantel styles mix in rounded shapes with the wreath, topiaries, and curving temple jars.
- Simplicity – Remember sometimes simple is better! Version two of this mantel really feels sophisticated to me because the decor is paired down to 3 elements.
- Proportion – Consider the overall size of your fireplace and height between the mantel and ceiling. Your 2-D feature should take up over half of the space. At least one or two of the other decorative elements should be half that height.
Everyday mantel styling can be tricky. There is no doubt! But this break down of the decor essentials and styling techniques for a grandmillennial look will set you on the right path to an elegant, traditional mantel .
Many of the elevated essentials pictured in this post will be available for sale on July 16, 2020 on my Instagram. To find out more about how my sales work read this.
Love all of this! If I could pick up your mantel and pop in it my house, I would in an instant! I am working on redecorating my living room and dining room, and I appreciate your tips. My mantel is 75 inches wide and there are 46 inches from the mantel top to the ceiling. Would a 39 x39 mirror work (looking at the Primrose Mirror at Anthropologie)? I know you said the 2D item should take up at least half of the space — this is a little under half but it seems huge 🙂 Would appreciate any advice!
Hi Erica! Thanks for stopping by and your kind words. Our mantel is definitely one of the main attractions of the house. You could definitely make a 39″W mirror work in your space. You would have about 18″ either side, which could feel rather empty, so I would balance out this size mirror with some wall sconces or large vases. Best, Katherine
Thanks for your advice! I appreciate it! I’m looking at all of your photos for inspiration as I seek to redecorate. You have a great eye.
Thanks Erica! Glad you are enjoying P&P. Let me know if you need decorating help.