Fireplaces are such a focal point of any home! Not only are they traditionally the marker of where a family gathers, over time their presence has sort of evolved into this pedestal where homeowners can show off their unique personalities through their favorite knick-knacks, collections and photos.

Since your fireplace can make such a bold statement, I was kind of bummed out by the fact that my new home didn't have one. But I've managed to come up with a sort-of replacement mantle, by dedicating my entry table as the main gathering place for a few of my books, an oversized mirror and greenery (and—during the holidays—stockings). 

But as is with any attention-grabbing feature in your home... It tends to be very noticeable or jarring when the design feels even a little 'off'. 

This was the case for two of my recent clients, who for nearly 6 years had struggled to agree on new finishings for their out-dated stone fireplace and mantle. This Austin, Texas couple initially reached out to me to Spruce their living room, but we all quickly realized that what they needed was to kick-start their home renovations with a few 'Sneak Peek' designs for a new clean + modern mantle. 

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you probably already saw the announcement last week about this new service I rolled out: Ask Ding! While the 'Chat' package is the perfect solution for getting expert answers to your design questions during a 20-minute online consultation, the 'Sneak Peek' package also includes a selection of 3 custom mock-ups for you to choose from, and a complete resource list of where to purchase the elements of your favorite design. 

Since this couple was initially having a hard time visualizing a transformation, it was clear to me that they would really benefit from seeing 3 unique design solutions. And, ultimately, the mock-ups were what helped them to come together and agree on a final design—yay! 

Here are the top three features I took into account when creating a well-balanced design for their custom modern mantle mock-ups:

1. Room Size

Size, and measurements are important when creating any design! You want to make sure everything fits perfectly, so the space doesn't end up looking cluttered or bare. My clients' family room was not very large, so it was important to keep the design options simple and clean. Adding too many ornate or bold details would have made the space feel overwhelming. 

2. Natural light

The typical rule of thumb is to include as much natural light in any space, as much as possible. But, unfortunately, you don't always have control over how many windows you have. So, depending on the lighting already available, you'll want to adjust the brightness of your design accordingly. Although my client's living room already had a good amount of natural light, I wanted to refrain from including anything too dark, bulky or heavy.

3. Style

A natural flow is critical to any well designed home. Whenever you're redesigning one room in your home, you always want to make sure the new plans compliment any existing design elements within your space. You want to make the style feel cohesive! My client's home already had a pretty modern and casual vibe, so I knew I didn’t want anything too ornate or “fancy." With all three options in their 'Sneak Peek' package made sure to keep things simple by incorporating neutral colors + warm wood elements.

Take a peek the 3 design options I created for them, below. And find out what transformation this wonderful couple chose for their modern mantle design! 



The ultimate goal with their modern mantle renovation was to jazz it up with a clean and casual vibe. Without making the design too heavy, I wanted to provide them with a bold design option to choose from. You'll see that this option features jet black painted stone. So, to lighten it up, I also suggested a slightly lighter color for the walls and trim, along with a beautiful white hexagonal tile. 

In terms of the mantle, I chose a bright natural wood and decided to keep the couple's original collection of items on the ledge. This included a couple of the couple's favorite family photos, stacked books, a succulent and a petite piece of framed artwork.


Even though my clients wanted to keep their renovation simple, It was important for me to provide them with an out-of-the-box option that they probably wouldn't have chosen themselves but would still cater to their modern farmhouse-esque vibe. I'm a firm believer that sometimes we just don't know what we want until we see it! 

In this design, the white shiplap frames the fireplace from top to bottom, and adds a little more warmth and texture to their space. This design option also features updated decor for the mantle, including a modern globe candle holder, baby cactus and a stack of collected items from the family (in this case a couple of their favorite reads). 



This ended up being my client's selected design! The white paint adds a much needed facelift to the original stone, making their living room a lot brighter and more inviting. And the black hexagonal tile provides a nice contrast with the fireplace, helping compliment the bold presence of the t.v. You'll see the same natural wood featured on the mantle, as well as their existing collection of items. They already had such a great expression of their personalities on the mantle, so I didn't feel like it was necessary to change what already felt 'at home' to them.

Check out the before + after of their selected 'Sneak Peek' design, below! I can't wait to see the finished photos—I promise to share them with y'all on Instagram ASAP. :) 

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