A Guide To Displaying Art Over Your Mantel
I love fireplaces, there’s no better way to get cosy on a chilly night than snuggling up in front of an open fire.
Not all fireplaces are working, but they’re still a great spot for filling with candles & other ornaments.
Sometimes the actual firebox is converted to a gas or electric heater, but I personally enjoy staring into a wood fire.
Either way, a fireplace with or without a mantel, is a wonderful feature to have in a home & is a perfect spot for displaying artwork.
So how do you display a picture above a fireplace? Choosing the best proportions & size art is important, as well as deciding on the type of artwork that will best complement the style of mantel as well as room décor. There’s also various hanging methods to suit the type of wall the picture is being hung or mounted on.
There’s 3 Main Considerations When Hanging Art Above A Fireplace Or Mantel:
1. Matching the décor.
2. Correct proportions & placement.
3. Secure & safe hanging methods & hardware.
Matching A Picture To Your Fireplace, Mantel & Room Décor
Fireplaces can be many different styles, from the decorative designs of the 1920’s through to the 1950’s.
In the 1960’s they became less decorative with the use of more stone & brickwork, to the very sleek & modern fireplaces we see today.
Picture Frame Styles That Compliment Your Mantel
Whether you’re hanging a painting or a photograph, the style of picture frame is the main component that needs to complement the design of the fireplace as well as harmonizing with existing décor.
Looking for unique canvas art for above your mantel? I highly recommend checking out Canvas Cultures. I love them because they support independent artists.
You could have a vintage fireplace as a stand alone feature in a room using modern décor.
In this instance, a modern picture frame may work well, or even a frameless artwork such as a canvas wrap, metal or acrylic photo print.
If you have an older home that still retains not only the fireplace & mantel, but many of the features from the decade it was built, then an appropriate style picture frame will probably be more suitable.
With modern décor, a single vintage piece of wall art can be a fantastic focal point in an otherwise clean & crisp space.
This can include an ornate or funky picture frame hung above a modern mantle or fireplace, it will add a wonderful contrast.
As well as the style of picture frame, colour also plays an important role.
Many interior designers follow the 60/30/10 rule & I've mentioned this in other articles also.
This is where 60% will be the dominant colour such as walls, floor coverings & main furniture items.
The secondary colour makes up 30%, being soft furnishings like curtains, other furniture items & even an accent wall.
The 10% is an accent colour that includes accessories like cushions & lamp shades.
An accent colour can be used in the artwork itself as well as the frame.
Artwork That Won't Clash With Your Fireplace Design
Although not as crucial as the type of picture frame used, certain styles of art may not sit well above some fireplace designs.
For instance, a vivid photograph of modern city architecture may look out of place hanging above a vintage fireplace or mantel.
A stylish painting or photographic portrait will be more in keeping with the era.
Colourful abstract paintings & photographs can look amazing over a modern fireplace & may even sit well alongside art deco, 1950’s, 1960’s & 1970’s fireplace designs.
Choosing The Right Size Art For Your Fireplace
Choosing the right size artwork is important, as there’s certain guidelines when it comes to a picture being proportionate to where it’s hung.
Of course, each fireplace will be different.
Many open fireplaces will have the chimney breast protruding from the wall.
If a modern heater has replaced the firebox, there may be no mantel & the fireplace may sit flush to a featureless wall.
Many modern homes can have a very wide chimney breast in relation to the fireplace.
You may also have a wood burner or gas heater that simply sits, or is fitted to, a standard wall.
The artwork will need to be proportionate to the fireplace as well as the wall size.
How Big Should A Picture Be Above A Fireplace?
Because fireplaces can vary in size, you’ll need to choose an artwork that will be proportionate & look good on the wall.
Generally, a picture looks best when it’s approximately 80% the width of the mantel or firebox it’s sitting above. But other ornaments & décor items displayed on the mantel will also determine the best size & proportions for the artwork.
Often the mantel is the perfect place for displaying other décor accessories like candles, statuettes & other ornaments & even smaller framed photographs.
In this case, the picture will still need to be centred above the fireplace, but in proportion to any ornaments sitting either side.
Too small a picture is going to look lost amongst the other ornaments, so the 80% guideline will still apply.
The artwork will be approximately 80% the width of the available wall space.
How High Should A Picture Be Over A Fireplace Or Mantel?
A commonly asked question when it comes to displaying art is:
How high should artwork be hung above a fireplace or mantel? A useful guideline for hanging artwork above any piece of furniture is the 66% rule. 66% is the amount of wall space above the picture, whilst the 33% will be between the bottom of the picture & above the mantel or firebox.
Again, it’s a guideline, not a hard & fast rule.
Ceiling heights can vary, but generally it’s a good formula to work from.
A picture needs to look connected to what it's hanging above, so if the 66% rule doesn’t look right, interior designers suggest hanging pictures no less than 6 inches & no more than 12 inches above the mantel or firebox.
This maintains a visual connection between the artwork & the fireplace & the picture won’t appear lost on the wall.
Can You Hang More Than One Picture Above A Fireplace?
Above a fire, mantel & on the chimney breast is perfect real estate for artwork.
But should you hang more than one artwork? Absolutely, providing you choose the right sizes & proportions, you can arrange multiple pictures as you would with a gallery wall. Whether you’re hanging only 2 or multiple pictures, the overall approach is to treat them as one artwork.
If you’re hanging 2 to 3 pictures of the same size, they can be arranged side by side or stacked on top of one another.
Just remember to keep the 60/30/10 & 80% rule in mind, this will help you arrange them in a coherent manner that will look balanced.
This is also applicable if you have a greater number of smaller pictures of the same size, but the artworks don’t necessarily need to be the same dimensions as each other.
You can arrange various size pictures together so the final result is that of one larger artwork.
But this will take some pre-planning, as you want the borders between the pictures to be the same throughout.
Again, these are only suggestions, so have fun with this concept & see what works for you.
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Is It Safe To Hang Artwork Above A Fireplace?
Visually, as well as from a décor perspective, the wall space above the fire is a wonderful choice to display art.
But is it safe for pictures to be hung above a fireplace? Providing you’ve secured the artwork & used the appropriate hanging hardware, your picture won’t fall off the wall. But when asking this question, most people are concerned about heat or smoke damage. If you have a mantle, this is normally enough to prevent any stray heat or smoke damaging the artwork, but other styles of fireplaces may need a common sense approach.
Old or modern, fireplaces are designed to draw smoke up the chimney or flue & the heat will radiate into the room.
Fireplaces, whether electric, wood or gas burning, that don’t have a mantle & sit flush to the wall, may have some heat loss upward (heat rises of course!)
If it’s a valuable piece of art or a collectors item you’ll need to determine if the wall space is affected.
Most times it’s not a concern, as heat radiates forward then upward.
We’ve discussed the best height for hanging art, but if you’re concerned about heat try hanging your picture higher up the wall.
Wood frames may be a bit more susceptible than metal frames, as too certain print mediums such as acrylic.
But on the whole, there shouldn’t be any problem whatsoever with pictures hung above a fireplace.
Methods For Hanging Pictures Above A Fireplace
If you’re deciding to elevate your décor by hanging a gorgeous artwork over the fireplace, you’re probably not thinking of simply sticking a poster up with Blu-Tack or Command Strips.
Depending on what the wall is made from, there’s a few options & hanging hardware you could use.
Hanging Art On A Brick Wall
With brickwork you’ll need to drill into the wall & use either screws or screw hooks to hang the picture.
Wall plugs are inserted into the drilled hole for the screws to .. well .. screw into.
A handy tip is to drill into the mortar rather than the bricks. This way if you decide to remove the screws, it’s easier to patch up mortar than brick, especially exposed brickwork.
Hanging Art On A Concrete Wall
As with brick, you may need to drill.
But there are specialized hardwall hooks that are made to hammer straight into concrete & masonry.
They’re rated to hold 10 to 15 kg (22 to 33 lbs) which is plenty of leeway for any sized framed picture.
Hanging Art On A Drywall
Also known as plasterboard in some parts of the world, there’s a few hanging options for this material.
The best & most secure hanging method is to find a wall stud to screw into.
Thing is with wall studs, they don’t always line up to where you want to hang the picture.
Press in hooks do as they say on the label, they simply press into the drywall.
Although with certain hooks, drywall can hold the heaviest of artworks, press-in hooks are more suitable for smaller pictures or canvas prints.
Wall anchors are needed if you’re going to be hanging any pictures of weight.
There’s a few different types of these anchors.
Expansion anchors are plastic wall plugs that once inserted into the drywall, expand when a screw or hook is screwed into them. This holds them snug into the wall.
Threaded anchors are basically big plastic screws that bite into the drywall allowing for other screws or hooks to be used.
Toggle bolts are mainly used & designed for mounting shelves as their design allows for a good amount of weight. But it may be possible to adapt them for hanging pictures.
Last but not least are Gorilla Hooks, otherwise known as Monkey Hooks or Hercules Hooks.
These are really simple to use & have been rated to hold 60 kg (150 lbs) .. supposedly.
The short video below demonstrates how these hooks work.
Other Ways To Display Pictures Above A Mantel
If you’re not keen on drilling holes in the wall, there’s a couple of alternatives you could try.
Picture Rails - some older houses will still have the original picture rails, but there are modern styles of this hanging system that look really sleek, they don't need to look old fashioned.
The newer systems are hardly noticeable, as they look like a slim cornice fitted to where the wall & ceiling meet.
The advantage with this system is the ease at which you can rearrange your artworks, height can be altered by adjusting the hanging wire & simply slide the picture along to the desired position.
Leaning on the Mantel - can’t get much easier than this, but that doesn’t mean it looks like you can’t be bothered!
In a more casual or boho décor, leaning artworks are all the trend.
The art can be displayed on shelves & even on the floor leaning against the wall.
Usually other items like plants, a stack of books or other ornaments are placed around the artwork so as to look like a deliberate arrangement.
If you don’t have a mantel, you’re going to need to drill into the wall anyway.
So maybe ponder on fitting a shelf above the fireplace.
If you're looking for ornaments & other decorative items to dress up your mantle, have a browse through Casagear's impressive product range.
A fireplace can be a wonderful feature in a home, but nearly always it’s enhanced by having an artwork displayed above it.
There are exceptions, as I’ve seen modern homes where pictures detract from the clean lines & architectural intent of the fireplace design.
I really hope you’ve found value in this article & feel free to share if you know someone who may find it useful.