I think one of the most common mistakes for people styling mantles is the disproportionate size of things they place up there. A tiny candle alone is dwarfed by the size of the mantle and looks out of place. Clump several candles together and you're headed in the right direction.
I also think people struggle with what types of things to put on a mantle. Mirrors, large art pieces and vases are traditionally used but the sky is the limit as far as options. Truly, you should display things YOU love and love looking at.
Here are some great images for mantle inspiration.
First, here's an example of how grouping lots of smaller candles can work. Notice the mix of height of the candles themselves but also that either side is flanked with something offering some additional height - a topiary and candles on candlesticks. The white of the candles offers uniformity and pulls the style together.
Here's another image of grouped candles but notice all of the other elements that are brought in from sconces flanking the mirror to art leaned up against the mantle. Again, notice that there are decorative elements, a vase and art and a box stacked with brass vessels on either side. It helps balance the styling.
This is one of my favorite mantle styling images. I love the simplicity of it but at the same time, it has great texture and visual interest. Notice that just having the jars with the branches flanking the mirror would have been a little too matchy-matchy and symmetrical. Thrwoing in the additional jar and coral add just that additional hint of something to make it really appealing.
Sometimes less is more. But sometimes more is more. These next few images have a lot going on but they feel lovingly collected over time and are beautiful and visually stimulating.
So, back to the specifics of my friend's mom. (I call her my friend's mom but truly I think of her as my friend too!)
Here is her mantle:
I'm so jealous of the size of the room and for the height of the ceilings and those beautiful built-in bookshelves!
Given that the decor is already traditional, I thought these pics might be good inspiration for her:
Yes, I know that last picture wasn't of a mantle but you can see how a similar set up would work.
A large mirror would help open up the space and coupled with some candlesticks and a ginger jar and maybe some books, it would give her mantle a whole new look!
A couple of shopping inspiration pieces for her:
While a blue and white ginger jar would also tie in nicely with her decor, I thought that this sweet jar I found on overstock was a little different and would also tie in nicely.
Anyone else have any great mantle styling tips they want to share?!