Fireplace Mantle Styles
Fireplace mantles come in many styles. All of them can be expected to include a frame for the fireplace with a shelf along the top. A complete mantle will also include an upper panel, usually made from the same material as the frame.
A dark stained maple can make for an impressive mantle piece. With the upper panel included, this mantle can look like an oversized upright piano. Sturdy columns with a simple base and smooth front rise along either side of the fireplace. At the top, they widen out to provide extra space. The front of the shelf can have a simple carved design that will add to the stateliness. The upper portion can include a smooth rectangular panel and a short triangular arch. This arch can be particularly effective if it runs flush against a vaulted ceiling. This design can also come in a hard oak or cherry finish.
For a brighter look, consider a snow white mantle. It's just the thing to complement the snow outside while framing a roaring fire within. The framing on either side of the fireplace can be flat and flush, with ridges running up along the outer edges. These ridges can be picked up by the top part of the frame and turned horizontal to complete the effect. Above the frame, the shelf can flare outward to give a little more space and a pleasing decorative effect. The upper portion can pick up this flare and repeat it at the very top. In between, three equal-sized rectangular panels can complete this piece in style.
This same style can have an airier, more open look just by changing the wood to a pale color and staining it rather than having it painted. For a further change, the side framing can jut out more from the wall, giving a more three-dimensional effect. And instead of ridges along the perimeter, picture a raised portion running up the center of each leg and along the center of the top. For a final change, give the upper portion four panels instead of three.
For a still light, but stately look, consider a mantle in maple with a caramel stain. The legs can run up each side as thick columns and then be continued in the upper portion. This gives the appearance of a single column on either side of the fireplace, running from floor to ceiling. The panel of the upper portion in between the columns will be recessed, giving a pleasing depth to the piece.
Another way to add dimension to the piece is by having the mantle shelf vary in depth. At the edges, where the columns rise up, the shelf can stick out farther, forming the tops of the columns. In between, the shelf can be more shallow, possibly with another, deeper portion halfway in between the columns.
An arched frame can impart a pleasing curve to an otherwise straight design. The columns rising on either side can be joined by an arch over the top that is divided into several panels. Various fascia designs can add more than a simple curve to this top portion along with decorative carving of roses, grapes, oak leaves, or shells.
For a much bolder effect, the columns can be carved as statues of people, lions, or other figures.