How to… style a mantlepiece or sideboard

I often get asked for styling tips so I thought I would share some ideas for styling surfaces such as mantlepieces and sideboards today. Most of us have a surface like this at home and it’s all too easy for them to become a dumping ground for piles of post, empty coffee cups and bunches of keys. Style them in the right way, though, and they can become a fabulous focal point.

My first tip is to think about how you group objects. Never place things in uniform rows and try to arrange them by using items of different heights. This will give your display energy and interest. Vary the heights of objects and try placing the tallest object close to the middle.  Also, by using objects of differing heights, it will look artfully styled rather than things looking as though they have been left there accidentally.

Try to keep the number of objects you use odd. For some reason, odd numbers of things are always more interesting and it is an age old stylist’s trick to always place objects in groups of three or five and never two or four. It just looks so much better.

Try to place things together and in front of each other, without leaving big gaps. Play around with them until they feel right. We all have objects at home that can be transformed into really cool displays once they are placed next to the right thing. For example, place a vase next to a photo frame, a candle, a picture and a small pile of books. Use something random and unexpected! This will add cool factor. Place photos or artworks leaning against the wall, slightly overlapping. You get the idea.

Here are some images from the homes of stylists Marianne Cotterill and Sarah Fry, artist Annie Morris and stylist Claire Durbridge from my book Creative Living London (photographs by Ingrid Rasmussen), which I hope will inspire you: