Ellen Silverman

Many years ago, I bought an amazing yellow mantle, salvaged from an old house in Maine, to surround the fireplace in an apartment I thought I’d live in forever.   Then things changed (life’s operating principle) and I had to leave that beautiful space, and make a new home amidst the the harsh realities of the New York real estate market. My new apartment had no fireplace. Still, I thought: Why not have a mantle without any notion of a fireplace at all?

So I took the yellow mantle with me to the new space and leaned it against the living room wall. Although my “country” pine mantle has nothing to do with the 1950’s or 60’s, it’s spare lines somehow fit perfectly with my mostly moderne furniture. It acts sort of like a sculpture or large painting to define and focus the space, and provides a platform for ever-changing still-lives, not to mention, somehow giving a sense of “hearth”.

The vast range of mantle styles makes for lots of possibilities for using a mantle as furniture, without an actual fireplace. You can find old mantles at flea markets, antique stores and salvage sites (like my favorite Salvage One), thrift stores, or Ebay.  And any wood  mantle can be painted an interesting color.

Ellen Silverman

The key is finding the mantle that works with rest of your furniture, and with the feeling you want to achieve, for it will definitely set the tone for the room.  That might mean choosing a mantle of a completely different style to create an unexpected harmony, like the pairing of this over-the-top mantle  “wedding-cake” with some cool modern chairs; together they make an inspired contrast that lends a wonderful feeling to the room and really makes you look everything in it in a new way.


via Emma’s Design Blog

If you’ve found illumination, joy, or inspiration in this post, please consider supporting Improvised Life. It only takes a minute to make a secure donation that helps pay our many costs. A little goes a long way towards helping Improvised Life continue to live ad-free in the world.

Support Improvised Life ♥

7 replies on “a mantle as furniture (no hearth)

  1. love this entry!
    i’ve been a bit mantel obsessed lately and have been blogging about interesting mantels i’ve found lately…not sure anyone finds it as interesting as i do.
    anyway, wanted to say that your piece is gorgeous!!!; good call to take it with you.
    we too live in nyc and have a faux fireplace-mantel found via pennsylvania dealer!
    all best,

  2. I just found your blog and love it. in the mantel as furniture picture there is a chair in the foreground…we have two of the same chairs and have been wondering where they came from. If this one has a label on it anywhere or you know the name I would like to know.
    you can see two of them on our website in the 3rd st. pictures


  3. RE THE CHAIRS IN FRONT OF THE YELLOW MANTLE: A number of people have asked about the chair(s) in front of my mantle that Remodelista featured. As you can see, they’re not a matching set. The small three-legged one with the roundish seat came from the 26th Street flea market in NYC many years ago. The seat on the veneer had a piece missing, so I patched it.

    The larger chair was a lucky find in the garbage. There were two: one in terrible shape, the other needing some fixes. So I cannibalized the bad one for parts and fixed up the other. It looks very similar to a Paul McCobb chair though I couldn’t say it is for sure.

    Sorry I can’t be of more help!

    If anyone knows anything about the little three-legged chair, please let us know.

  4. Hi Amy, I checked out your mantels at and they are beauties. Any of them would be great as is. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *