A fireplace is one of the most gorgeous focal points a room can have. In addition to being architecturally stunning, fireplaces come with a long history. They represent light and warmth, and they bring an instant air of coziness and class to a space. Is your fireplace looking a little bare? Here’s a quick guide to the do’s and don’ts of decorating your hearth and mantel:

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Do:

Take Advantage of the Space Above

Fireplaces naturally draw the eye. This means your guests will notice it before they look anywhere else in your room. Even if your fireplace itself is neatly decorated, an empty wall above it is sure to stand out. Hanging your favorite piece of art above your mantel will prevent this spot from looking underdressed. An antique clock ties in perfectly with the brass candleholders.

Another great way to decorate the space above your fireplace is to hang a decorative mirror. This is particularly useful for rooms that don’t receive ample lighting from the outdoors, since the mirror will reflect light around the room and boost the overall brightness. Mirrors also enhance the visual space of smaller rooms.

Decorate Inside the Fireplace

If your fireplace doesn’t actually work (or you just know you’re never going to use it) you can bring your decorative vision right into the hearth. Set up pillar candles of various heights on the bottom of the fireplace to create a visually stunning light display. If you have pets, LED candles make a safe alternative. You can also install shelves inside an empty hearth, and use them to display books or picture frames. Electronic fireplaces are another neat alternative.

Think ‘Balance’

Keep balance in mind as you’re decorating your mantel. It might be tempting to fill the space with every figurine you own, but often, less is more. There are no hard and fast rules for how much you should or shouldn’t have on your mantelpiece, but be aware of the size of the surface and the items you’re using to decorate. If you have lots of decorative pieces you’re dying to display, remember: You’re in control! If you want to change what’s on your mantel each week to make sure everything you love gets its time in the sun, you can.

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Don’t:

Forget About Safety

If you decide to use your fireplace, make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Fireplaces can be dangerous – always double check that the vents are opened before lighting the fire, and don’t go to bed or close the vents until the fire is fully extinguished. Moreover, never decorate a fireplace you plan to use in a way that would be hazardous once lit.

Abandon Your Style

Don’t let the “rules” of fireplace decoration get in the way of what you like. Decor convention should always take second place to what you enjoy – after all, it’s your fireplace! If you decorate your hearth with personality and style, it will shine no matter what.

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