If you’ve so much as saved a photo of a Parisian home on Instagram, you know one thing to be true: To truly achieve an interior with a similar je ne sais quoi, you need a mantel. Where else are you going to house your army of taper candlesticks and vases of carefully dried florals? When your apartment has the architectural intrigue of a cardboard box, this is a lofty goal—or that’s what we thought. A scroll through our own feeds showed several New York City–based bloggers with their own equally ornate, flower-filled surrounds. It got us wondering: Is there a secret influx of Haussmannian buildings in Manhattan that no one told us about?
Apparently, no. This creative crowd has just been in on a little secret: You can DIY a 17th century–inspired mantel. Jenny Cipoletti, creator of Margo & Me, gave us the intel. Her brownstone in Jersey City, New Jersey’s historic Van Vorst Park neighborhood is full of charm, but it was missing the fireplace she craved as a living room centerpiece. So she bought one online and assembled it herself. You’d never know that it didn’t come with the place.
“I’ve always been inspired by rococo or late Baroque style,” says Cipoletti, whose well-documented love of all things Parisian motivated the purchase. When she saw designer Josh Young’s etched marble hearth, she finally took the plunge; it instantly made the space look warmer.
Admittedly, it’s expensive—but nothing compared to constructing something bespoke. The cast-stone mantel comes in three pieces and is completely freestanding. Cipoletti recommends taking your time putting it together, so your future vignette doesn’t topple over when you least expect it (the opposite of chic). There are only two steps: Use a polyurethane glue to attach the legs, and add L-brackets to keep the whole thing securely against the wall.
Then comes the fun part: styling it. Cipoletti kept it light, layering in a sculptural bust and gilded frames for a scene that looks like it was plucked straight out of the 11th Arrondissement. “The mantel alone can feel empty, so I added books and magazines in the center to fill it in,” says Cipoletti. “Put a mirror or faux tiling on the wall behind it if you don’t love the way it looks bare.”
Another New York City blogger, Christie Tyler, took the neutral route for her identical faux mantel, relying heavily on natural materials like wood and ceramic. Think of yours as a tiny snapshot of your personal style. We’d personally tackle this DIY with an approach that’s equal parts elegant and cheeky (no pun intended):
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