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Mantel Magic: It’s Easier Than You Think

September 26, 2019

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Santa Barbara home for sale displaying Mantel Magic above the fireplace in the living room

Even here in sunny Santa Barbara, homeowners want to welcome the new fall season by sprucing up their homes with cozy, stylish décor vignettes. Bringing out the things you’ve collected over the years, designed to make nesting inside more enticing, adds to the splendor of the season. Enter the fireplace and a chance for some mantel magic. Not only is it the perfect place to entertain around, or to spend a quiet night at home near with loved ones or a good book, the fireplace and its mantel can set the stage for autumn. Here are 5 mantel décor ideas to inspire your Santa Barbara interiors this fall.

  • Large-Scale Artwork and Mirrors
    Santa Barbara spaces with gorgeous architectural bones like high ceilings practically scream for large-scale artwork, especially when hung above a classic fireplace. Leading interior decorators prefer one big statement piece over clusters of decorative objects. Many also recommend adding an adjacent sky-high indoor plant; allowing it to casually hug a wall near the fireplace. This creates a neat look that, for purely aesthetic reasons, can create the illusion of a bigger space. That can add to the creation of an airier, more open environment. Another idea is to display firewood next to your fireplace in an open storage unit, transforming it into makeshift art. 

READ: Refresh Your Montecito Home This Fall

  • Use Decorative Objects to Reflect Your Color Scheme
    If you are not into having one large item set the stage for your mantel magic, create a vignette of smaller decorative pieces that, when curated properly, enhance the overall direction of the room. A mantel is a tempting place to display an array of smaller items, as long as they highlight the overall color scheme and style of the space. For instance, if your style is super modern, make sure you choose decorations that fit.

    Keep it interesting with unexpected elements, but make sure they work well together to create a cohesive whole. Picture frames casually propped up on the mantel, leaning against the wall, create a more lived-in, relaxed vibe. Now, that’s true Santa Barbara: the kind of environment that fits so well with our architecture and lifestyle. 

  • Display Indoor Plants
    Perhaps you would prefer to create an effect of green mantel magic. That look is both easy and current. Fresh plants enliven any space and give it more character. Just display your favorite live smaller plants and florals; grouping them together. That green touch will complement the easy, organic feel of any room, be it a living room or the master bedroom.

    For a more modern twist, use artful decorative pots. Handmade are the best because they are one-of-a-kind. If you don’t have a green thumb, simply opt for a succulent. There are many beautiful varieties that are low-maintenance and offer a longer shelf-life. Add some of your beloved avant-garde objects and, voila! A masterpiece of mantel magic.

READ: Ocean View Homes are Good for Our Health

  • Keep it Simple
    We’ve all heard that less is more. That sentiment is especially worth following if the design of your fireplace itself is striking. If that’s the case, let the details show and don't go overboard on your mantel décor. This will ensure a clean, sophisticated aesthetic while keeping the focus on other statement pieces strategically placed throughout the room. Think wall art and lighting, or allow one of our amazing Santa Barbara ocean or mountain views to be the focal point. Perhaps your fireplace doesn't even have a mantel. If so, try hanging a bold piece of art above it to frame your fireplace in style, and use your coffee table or side table for your decorative pieces.

READ: 6 Tips for Selling a Home in Santa Barbara This Fall and Winter

  • Why You Shouldn’t Use A Wood Burning Fireplace
    Not all homeowners want to use their wood-burning fireplaces. That’s due to the fact that air quality can take a dive across California during the months that homeowners want to use their fireplace. This is especially true over the holiday season. That’s when one wants to cozy up to a warm fire on our cool Santa Barbara nights. Experts warn that every year, fine-particle pollution or soot reaches unhealthy levels across the region, according to the state Air Resources Board. Some California communities go so far as prohibiting burning wood or manufactured fire logs in fireplaces, and outdoor fire pits as well, around Christmas. The ban on wood-burning is intended to curb this fine-particle pollution, which can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

    Gas fireplaces are not subject to the ban. That means if you’re concerned about our air quality, you can still cozy up to a fire. Just make sure yours is a clean-burning bioethanol burner. You might also want to get creative with your wood-burning fireplace by adding a cluster of large candles where the logs typically go. This small addition will give your living room a cozier feel. 

Just because we enjoy year-round Mediterranean weather, Santa Barbara homeowners can still celebrate the changing seasons. Decorating with mantel magic in mind is one way to do it. A prime example is pictured above. Take a look at the fireplace in the living room of one of my listings, a Spanish Colonial Revival Beauty on the Santa Barbara Riviera. You’ll notice the current owners have used a few of the mantel ideas in this blog. They use a large piece of art above the fireplace while keeping the mantel simple with a live plant and a couple decorative pieces.

Doesn’t it make you want to sit in that living room and enjoy the flickering light, crackling sounds, warmth, and distinctive smell of the fireplace? If you’re considering buying or selling a home in the area, give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at This is an excellent time to buy or sell!

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“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

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“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch