How to decorate a junk style mantel

How to decorate a junk style mantel via

As soon as the Christmas mantel decorating came down this weekend, I was feeling the need for a trash to treasure mantel. What can I say… I was craving my rust and wood. 🙂

How to decorate a junk style mantel via

How to decorate a junk style mantel? Easy! Layer, stack, move around like minded clutter until it feels right and there you have it. 

However I dug down a little deeper today, so here’s the wordy version of how I do it:


I look at shapes of things. The window is square so I soften it up with circles and straight lines rising outside the window itself to break out of the box configuration. A surplus comes tumbling out at each end as well. 

Old rusty lantern lit / part of How to decorate a junk style mantel via

The light trick

White mini Christmas lights were tucked in behind the works and wound up into the lamp to help brighten things up. Lights are my secret weapon often because of the dark fireplace, otherwise elements can simply disappear. They sure cast a neat glow in the evening.

Old crate, barbed wire / How to decorate a junk style mantel via

Like minded elements

Bringing like minded elements together is what makes this work. In fact it was very hard to go wrong. Love those rustic woodsy tones!

barnwood birdhouse / How to decorate a junk style mantel via


It’s actually quiet and subdued. There’s lots there, but it doesn’t scream lots because the darks and lights are close in colour tone and texture.

old window, barnwood bird house, crates  / How to decorate a junk style mantel via

Watch for overload

Heavy decorating on a fireplace mantel is one exception I make. I generally have a sparse hand, but if something isn’t in the way, I go to town.

But you can overdue it. I have a fanatical eye (that is both a blessing and curse) and one extra thing just makes it look jumbled. It’s hard to explain.

Say you have two cups on a table. You decide to add a glass coaster under one cup but realize it ruins the clean lines of the cup. That’s how I’d feel if I added one too many elements to something. You’d think it would get lost in the shuffle but it stands out like a sore thumb to me.

But I always try. I get to the point of too much, then take away, rather than having to add. Go big or go home! 🙂

rusty pulley  / How to decorate a junk style mantel via

Here you can sneak a peek at the lights behind the pulley. It glows much brighter in person.

old crate with broken wood  / How to decorate a junk style mantel via


Working in layers offers more dimension without feeling ‘too full’. 

How to decorate a junk style mantel via

I don’t have any official training in this.  And I don’t even know if it’s right!

But for my junk filled home, it’s perfectly trashy perfect. And free. 🙂

more mantel decorating
more junk decorating

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Categories: DIY, Fireplace mantels, Junk Drawer, Reclaimed wood projects, Staging / decorating
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40 thoughts on “How to decorate a junk style mantel

  1. My mantel suffers from the same post Christmas disorder. Actually it suffered from it before Christmas too. Good timing on this post, I had “mantel” on my too do list. Now I have a road map for it, thanks.


    • The trick to avoiding symmetry is only allow yourself one thing of each item making it impossible to repeat what you’ve just done. Funny how our minds work… symmetry is the one thing I tend to avoid! 🙂

  2. NI—CE DONNA!!! Good job!!! I just feel sorry for that little birdie that is going to try to take over that cute birdhouse. Your kitty I am sure will be on watch. You have the type of mantel and fireplace that the rusty stuff looks good on.

  3. I like how your design follows the shape of the stonework in the background. It sort of frames in all the pieces to form a picture in itself! I just love all the different things you’ve used.

  4. Beautiful! It’s like a work of art all in itself. I love the one bit of color too…the yellow license plate and your advice on symmetry was spot on! I’ve had that problem my whole life…thanks for solving that one!
    I know exactly what you mean about you just know when it doesn’t feel/look right. There are a few spots like that in my house now but I can’t take the time to make them “right” at the moment but they grab me every time I walk by. And it does take me a long time to do stuff…like your mantel. You gather, place, rearrange, remove, add, switch, rotate, stand back and look…. multiplied by 100! LOL! Sometimes the littlest area can take me hours! But lately I just keep going because I want to get this place on the market and sold so I CAN spend hours and decorate how I want to without approval by buyers or real estate people,,,and trust me…they would not approve! LOL! Thanks for your great advice and beautiful mantel!

  5. I know I shouldn’t be surprise about anything you do, but I am. Another great display. If I did this and got as far as you, I would have taken the jar lid wreath on the left and stood it up so that it would be more symmetrical. I keep having to fight my left brain. Sometimes I leave stuff lying around my house and that seems to be the best place for it. Maybe because it is not studied. When can I buy an eBook from you? Ann

  6. There are all kinds of design “rules” but the one I use is do I like it?
    If you were designing for someone other than yourself, even if you followed the textbook rules exactly and the homeowner hated it, the result would not be a success.

    The only other design rule I try to stick with is that uneven numbers of things seem to work best, but I apply that only if things are very close in size and shape.

    Who am I kidding? I can not follow the rules.

  7. So because of you my living room is a mess! I realized my mantel had not changed (except for Christmas time) in at least eleven years! Now all of that is pulled down and I’ve rounded up my rusty stuff and am trying to make sense of it. I’ll send you a link to my blog post when I get it finished. Well, maybe not finished, but to the point where I can live with it!

  8. I just don’t have the eye for junk like you, Donna. I try. I have all the pieces…but I still can’t put em together.

    I have some really cool stuff.
    One of these days you should have a “Show us your pile of cool stuff!” SNS.
    ~ Dana

  9. I LOVE the look of this mantel!!! The beam is especially wonderful. Good Job! We moved into new house in Nov with small living room. Unfortunately, my mantel holds the flat screen TV (which I HATE by the way)and HE has other electronics piled on it too. Well, that is changing this weekend. Even if I have to leave the screen…the other is being replaced with “stuff” appropriate placed. Thanks for the kick in the pants to get this small but major change in motion.

  10. Ya – something went “wonky” and published my comment when I wasn’t done. (I stole your word “wonky”…it’s so freaking funny)
    Try again: You are so good at layering your mantel. You chose such a great stone for your style. Beautiful…. not wonky! =)

  11. Light would look great with this mantle. I leave my blue lights up all year round just for some added color and brightness.

  12. I have just found your blog and already enjoy checking out your entries and wonderful ideas. Loved the junk style mantle—all the items are so much fun. I have just started a blog in which I chat about antiques, a little history and talk about items that are for sale in three shops we rent space in here in west central Minnesota. Primitives are my favorite treasures because they have such personality and speak to what was. Hope you can check in at Past time collectibles & antiques blogspot and let me know what you think. Will look forward to exploring your Facebook page as well as following your blog. Smiles

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