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Saturday, September 5, 2015

10 Steps To A Budget Friendly Fall Mantel


Fall mantel2
Do you want to make changes in your home for the Fall season, but have a hard time knowing where to start?

This post is just for you!

I see so many mantels that are a bit over board in their decor ,and they would not fit into everyone’s home. 

Some home decorators like a more is more look as in the above image.

It is easier to do a more simple version so I started looking for a mantel that was simple, balanced and well designed.

Plus, I wanted it to be a mantel that any homeowner could personalize to their own design aesthetics on a budget.

fall fireplace

In the above image you will see that the mantel   meets all of my criteria, simple, well designed, balanced, and I believe that the overall composition can be personalized to fit in most homes.

I also believe that most home decorators could duplicate this mantel if given the resources, and some guidance.

Not everyone is as clever as the designer, Melissa Michaels,  to come up with this composition on their own.

After getting permission from Melissa I decided to do a step-by-step of how to create this mantel. 

Find a picture of a mantel that you love, admire, and what will fit into your home, and your budget. You are going to use this image as your pattern.

I have already done the first step when I found Melissa’s mantel in the above image.

Label each design element on the mantel you have chosen.
Shall we dis-mantle the mantle piece by piece, and see what we can come up with?

fall-fireplace framed


Once you have identified all of the pieces it is time to make a list of what is needed.

Decorative objects (three golden apples)

Two picture frames with artwork in two different sizes.

Large vase for Fall branch with leaves.

A grouping of decorative vases.


Study what each piece adds to the grouping.

For instance………
Three golden apples add balance, and a bit of shine to the grouping.

Two picture frames add a layered look, and height to the composition.

The Large vase with the Fall branch add height, theme(Fall), color and life.

The group of two vases add something solid next to something clear, and they also add texture.


If you took a pencil, and drew a line from the top of each object to the next piece you would create an up, and down line, creating an undulating line. 

It is important to have your objects go up and down in height when creating a vignette on a shelf or mantel.

This line will create movement to the observer’s eye viewing the composition, and that is a very good thing.

undulating line 2


Now that you have your list of objects shop your own home first, and use whatever will work in your composition. 

Remember we are trying to work on a budget. If you are missing some pieces make a list and then the fun part….. 

Since this post is to show you how you can do this on your own, and on a decent budget we will start from scratch for the purpose of this lesson.

Where to begin?

I am going to start with the large vase that will hold my Fall branch because I have decided I want to do a color instead of a clear vase. 

Since color can be a jumping off point it is wise to choose your larger more colorful pieces first.

This is where you get to use your own individual style and taste.


I chose this blue/gray demijohn 21in. vase from Target. 

The reason I chose blue/gray is because it works in my home, and I love to use darker values of blues in the Fall/Winter months.

Now that I have my color jumping off point I start to think of the next object that will most likely have more color to add to the composition, and the next choice will be the artwork.


With blue as my base I make a trip to ETSY!

Etsy is such a wonderful resource of talented artisans and you can often find pieces at a reasonable price.

I typed in Fall watercolors in the search box, and here are a four of the beautiful images that I was attracted to.

I have them paired in two’s since we need two for our composition…………….

Pair #1
Watercolor art My Tree  climbing tree love tree by CheyAnneSexton, $20.00

Acorn Love /  Acorns / Fall / Autumn / Brown / by kellybermudez, $20.00

Pair #2
Fields of Love / watercolor print / grey and yellow / gray and yellow / Archival Print

paired with………
Fall leaves Fine Art Print of original by VerbruggeWatercolor, $18.00

At this point most people would think it was time to choose the picture frame. 

We are not going to do that next because we need to first choose our two decorative vases. 

The  decorative vases color, and texture will determine what direction we will go with the picture frames and matting.


Took a trip on line to Target! Target has great decorative pieces at a budget friendly price point. Plus, it is available to all on line.

Remember I am trying to make this budget friendly and accessible for all of my readers.

The first pair I chose resembles  what Melissa chose in her composition.

                    $25                                $20
e605ea0182a2265f329402185db30d9c       1f51a4225b43795620c6027ebe2862f4
                   VIA                                         VIA


                   $45.99                          $47.99

You will notice that the pair of vases vary in heights. This is important because as I previously said we want an undulating line to keep the eye moving from one object to the other in an up and down motion.


At this point I pull together the elements in a collage to see which pairings are pleasing to my eye, and it will also give me a clue to what picture frame finish and color I should be using.

Ribbet collage Fall mantel blog post

In this pairing I have a nice color combination, and textural, and height differences. It is warm and looks very Fallish to me.

Ribbet collage Fall mantel blog post #2

Since I tend to like lighter and brighter look when choosing elements for my own home, this particular pairing is more pleasing to my design aesthetics so I am going to choose pairing #2.


I bet you think we are going to pick out the picture frame don’t you? 

At this time we are going to choose the small objects that are represented in Melissa’s mantel by the golden apples. 

The apples give a bit of shine to the composition. I am going to do my own interpretation, and get some shine and textural difference by using votive candle holders.

In the Fall/Winter months I love to light candles so I always try to incorporate candles in my vignettes so that is why I have made this particular choice.

However YOU might choose the golden apples, pears, or even some other small decorative element that you enjoy using in your home.

Keep in mind, the lower height is what made me go with votives vs. a higher pillar candle



We get to choose the picture frame!!

At this point I have all of my colors, textures, heights and elements.

I take a closer look at my artwork which has clearer and brighter colors, then I look at my votive holder which has just the right amount of black.

I think a black frame will be a nice contrast in this configuration. For those of you who tend to like a more subtle contrast a nice natural to medium tone wood frame would work equally as well.

Ribbet Edit Fall Mantel blog post artwork

For me, black is my choice, since black and white are used in the room with my fireplace.

You will need to choose two different sizes of frames to give height, and a layered effect. Take a look at Melissa’s composition and see the heights she used.

fall-fireplace framed

Both frames are a bit higher than the second largest element, (clear cylinder vase) in the composition. 

Keep that in mind when choosing your frames. You might have to layer matting in your frame to make the artwork fit with off the shelf frames. 

We are trying to keep this budget friendly so we don’t want to do a custom framing job which can tend to be very expensive.

Stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Target have a nice selection of frames, and matting that you can work with. Ikea is also another great resource for budget friendly frames.

Of course none of this is an exact science, and what I have shown you is my own personal design aesthetics.


The important lesson to take away from this is to lay out an overall plan before taking the plunge, and make sure it is pleasing to your eye and your budget.

I hope this blog post has given you a new way to look at composing vignettes in your home, and that you now feel empowered to move forward.