When the home you are staging has a fireplace, its mantel gives you a perfect opportunity to call attention to this feature.

Whether it's wood-burning, gas logs, non-functioning, electric, or just decorative, a fireplace is usually a room's main focal point.

Having such an inviting focal point makes your staging work easier. Put some stuff on the mantel and you're done.

Mantel basics

Not so fast. What stuff? Choose the wrong accessorizing props and you've missed an opportunity to enhance the room's selling point. Arrange them poorly and you've ruined the relaxing effect a fireplace has on a room.

In my eBookDIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, I offer five different formulas and plenty of do's and don'ts that will make easy work of decorating even a problem mantel.

This fireplace is slightly off-center, so its 
mantel was decorated asymmetrically, 
and with an odd number of items.
Decorate the mantel in the same style you've staged the rest of your house.

If your home has an open floor plan, wall to wall carpet, recessed ceiling lights, and casual furnishings, choose objects for the mantel that are modern, fun, and informal.

If your home has high ceilings, crown molding, hardwood floors, chandeliers, and a formal dining room, choose objects that are traditional, historically interesting, and sophisticated. Be selective, because you need only a few things.

Decorators use what they call the Rule of One and Three. Their advice is to choose one large or tall item and balance it with three small but somehow related items. Maybe you have a centerpiece between them, or the four things may be the whole show.

That rule works fine for informal mantel groupings, but not so much for that formally balanced mantel. There, you'll want one side to look just like the other. If you have pairs of identical vases, candlesticks, picture frames or obelisks, set one of a pair on each end of the mantel.

For less formality, keep the pairs together and balance the mantel asymmetrically.  Stand back and squint, and you should be able to tell if the mantel balances.

Choose your props carefully

Pick mantle props that have varying colors, textures, shapes and sizes. Just as you've done with the rest of your staged house, stay away from small stuff and go for big, clean shapes. That doesn't mean you can't use found objects from nature. Branches, pinecones, shells, rocks, feathers, and driftwood can be wonderful mantel props.

Stagger the props to create a fluid motion as your eye moves from left to right, the way a buyer would glance over a mantel. Vary the heights just enough to make it interesting, but not so much that your eye jumps around.

I'm a believer in the fooling-around approach to accessorizing. Experiment with what you have on hand, and you're bound to discover the perfect arrangement. Every staged house for sale with a fireplace deserves some thoughtful attention to its mantel. I hope you'll be inspired by these photos to create your own mantel masterpiece.

Just a couple of dramatic items are all it took 
to accent the beauty of this contemporary style fireplace.
A cozy home with cottage-style furnishings deserves 
a mantel dressed in nature-themed objects.