So I started googling "decorating a mantel." I discovered that Better Homes and Gardens had a nice tutorial with several display ideas. The main idea I was getting was that the simplest designs were about symmetry. Matching candlesticks, one on each end of the mantel, etc. Only one problem... I didn't have two of much of anything.
As part of the "don't buy anything much unless you're sure you REALLY "need" it" approach to decorating that I've taken since we moved in, I wasn't sure what to do. And then I remembered this box of stuff that was sitting in my parent's attic. It came from my bachelor cousin. A lot of good things have come from my bachelor cousin because my great-aunt (surrogate grandmother, really) decorated for him, and he doesn't care about the value of antiques. So he moved a few years ago, and he gave us some really great stuff. Including this box that I couldn't remember what was in it.
So Mom and Dad brought it with them when they came for Seth's birthday. I spent an evening digging through it. I found many mugs with engineering firm logos in the cardboard recesses. There was a very strange wooden frog that Seth loves. I got some more rag towels for emergencies. But best of all... there was also a beautiful collection of Spode items, some pewterware, and some crystal. And there were two of a lot of things. Yes! God is so good, even in the tiny things, like mantel decorating. And what you see at the top is the final product.
Sure, I'd like to have a little more greenery, and maybe I'll add a nice vintage book or two later, but for now, this is working. And its much better than the bare mantel that was there before...