Why mantelscaping is the decor trend that you need right now

We’ve had tablescaping and bathscaping – now the latest lockdown home-styling trend is all about looking after your shelf

A mantelscape styled by Angus and Charlotte Buchanan
A mantelscape styled by Angus and Charlotte Buchanan Credit: Chris Snook Photography

Perhaps it's the maximalism trend that has crept into our homes; perhaps it’s the fact we’ve been staring at the same four walls for nearly a year; but a fun fascination with dressing our fireplaces has emerged. Known winkingly as ‘mantelscaping’, using your mantelpiece as a space for some much-needed decorative variety can be a simple and joyful way of ushering a sense of the approaching spring indoors. There is something meditative about arranging your favourite things and seasonal flowers on a newly empty mantel or focal shelf – not to mention Instagrammable.

‘A mantelscape is an inherently tidy space,’ points out Bryony Sheridan, a creative consultant and buying manager at Liberty, whose own chic arrangements pepper her Instagram feed. ‘Even if the rest of your room looks messy, a mantel can be a grand moment.’ Here, style experts share their tips on making the most of yours. 

Curate your clutter

‘Mantelpieces tend to be a focal point for a room and as such are an ideal place to display the objects you own that bring you happiness, in an ever-evolving way,’ say Angus and Charlotte Buchanan of creative design firm Buchanan Studio. ‘We like to think of it as “curated clutter”. On ours at home we have everything from vases and candles to books, collectables, fresh or dried seasonal flowers, artworks and treasures like shells and driftwood from beach walks. Moving things around, and frequently ringing the changes in terms of what you display, will help keep a room feeling fresh, stimulating and inspiring.'

Make a bold floral display

Floral artist Hazel Gardiner has developed a reputation for bedecking mantels in flowers – a trend that has exploded in popularity over the past year. Ditch the environmentally problematic floral foam, she advises, and fill cardboard boxes or planting troughs with a couple of layers of scrunched-up chicken wire, then fold the wire over the edge ‘like a waterfall’ to cover the front of the box. ‘That’s basically your structure,’ she says, ‘then you just keep adding things in.’

Floral artist Hazel Gardiner with one of her displays

As covering a mantelpiece in bought cut flowers can rack up cost-wise, Gardiner advises a mix of dried, silk and foraged materials. ‘You could just use all greenery, which looks beautiful,’ she says, suggesting ivy, jasmine, rosemary, ferns and hellebores as seasonal options that could be brought in from the garden now. ‘Grasses are perfect, they can look lovely,’ she adds, ‘as do dried hydrangea heads.

Bring the outside in

Fast-forward the joys of spring with living plants, which can return to your garden afterwards. According to floral designer Shane Connolly (shaneconnolly.co.uk), you’d be amazed at what can be put together from your backyard. ‘Lichen is so beautiful at this time of year; or flowering viburnum; or wintersweet smells incredible,’ he says. Adding ‘any kind of bulb’, from narcissus to miniature iris, will give extra colour and texture. If you don’t have bulbs to bring in, potted bulbs can be picked up for less than a fiver at a supermarket and repotted in whatever bowl you fancy. They’re longer-lasting (so more sustainable) than cut flowers.  Connolly also suggests removing the soil to make planted flowers into living objects (as right). ‘You could dig up one snowdrop, put it in a glass jar of water so you can see its roots, and watch it open. Most things survive with the soil washed off; one pot of ‘Tête-à-tête’ daffodils can be separated into five specimen vases so that the roots and the stems are visible too, which can look amazing.’ 

Top tip: For bulbs placed in vases, keep the water levels topped up to avoid marks and residue Credit: Shane Connolly

Show off the things you love

‘Your mantelscape is all about expressing yourself in a way that makes you happy,’ says Liberty’s Bryony Sheridan. ‘We use our living rooms for downtime, so it should evoke a warm feeling.’ She advises reusing ornaments you’ve already got, and making any new additions a focal point. As for arranging, ‘It’s about varying height. If you put all of the same candles of the same height next to each other, it’ll look very basic.’ Sheridan combines the height of candlesticks and candles with the texture of fresh flowers, which she arranges in bud vases ‘to bring everything together’. She adds that those blessed with ample mantelpieces should try layering objects, too. ‘You can put an artwork behind ornaments – you don’t need to hang it on the wall, it can make a really nice prop.’

Flowers, candles and artwork come together in this arrangement by Bryony Sheridan

Styling tips to bear in mind 

  1. Use candles They add a gentle, twinkling light and, by their very nature, ensure that there’s a regular opportunity to change up colour and style.
  2. Start with a ‘hero piece’ This can be something new, or simply something loved; a standout item that catches the eye as you enter the room.
  3. Embrace the flop Don’t waste energy on trying to make tulips stand up straight, says Gardiner. ‘You can design around it – any flower that has a bend or a curve, celebrate it.’
  4. Give things a new lease of life Old glasses that aren’t being used, heirloom teapots – objects like these can bring personality to a mantelscape. ‘Quantity is not what it’s about, it’s how you use it,’ says Connolly.
  5. Think in odd numbers When grouping things together on a mantel, bear in mind that an odd number of objects is more visually interesting than the symmetry of an even number. Try it out by grouping three objects of varying heights.​

Buys to try 

Clockwise: Recycled glass bottles, £22 for set of three, Garden Trading; Creamware candlestick, £38, Pentreath & Hall; Lacquered twist candle, £4, Rebecca Udall; Canopy trio vase set, £30, LSA International (amara.com); I-scream porcelain match strike, £42, Jonathan Adler

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