The Impossible-to-Decorate Mantel

I mentioned yesterday about how we have this gorgeous mantel/fireplace surround in our living room that I absolutely love…and how it is impossible to decorate.

Well, here it is:

Impossible to decorate Victorian / Craftsman double mantel / fireplace surround

Super cute, huh? I love the interest and architectural detail it brings to the room, I love that it’s original to the house, and I love how it’s a weird mix of Craftsman / Arts and Crafts / Bungalow style and Victorian. It really represents our whole house, which is somewhere between a Victorian cottage and a Craftsman bungalow. I really do love it, how big it is, how simple it is, how pretty it is. It’s just so neat.

Can you tell I like it?

But I don’t know what to do with it. All of those mantel design and decorating tricks you read about don’t work with this. They’re all like “use a large piece of art or a mirror,” which I can’t do, because it already has a mirror and there isn’t much wall space left above this massive thing to hang a large piece of art on. They say to use layering and scale and “three plus one” and all that, which totally makes sense when you have one mantel, but I have TWO. The double mantel, built-in mirror and massive scale of this thing just leave me completely confused as to how to put pretty crap on it to make it look like someone lives here.

I mean, I put boxes of wipes and cups and other stuff on there all of the time to keep it out of reach of curious little hands, but I mean that I want it to look like someone who cleans more than once a month and has a sense of taste lives here. For goodness sake, I took college level courses on 2D design, 3D design and color theory from a great art school, so I should be able to handle decorating a little mantel, right?

Impossible to decorate Victorian / Craftsman double mantel / fireplace surround

It just seems like a shame to keep something so pretty sitting there all naked and lonely. Any ideas?