Go large. Small knickknacks can look rather lost and insignificant on a mantelpiece. The solution? Choose chunky oversized pieces that are guaranteed to make an impact. Here a kind of gothic‐meets‐pop‐art look gives this mantelpiece masses of original style. The hot‐pink letters add a zingy focal point against the gray backdrop and prevent the skull and statues from looking too intimidating.
Choose bilevel furniture. Clear surfaces look great – but let's face it they are hard to keep clear. One way to solve that problem is by picking out coffee and side tables with a lower shelf. You can spread out your stuff when you're home alone and then stack it up and stash it on the bottom shelf when company comes.
Use baskets. If you want a neater living room make friends with baskets. But before you shop for baskets figure out what you really want to keep in the living room (see No. 6) so you can choose the right ones for the job. Toys are best in open baskets because they make it easier for little ones to find what they are looking for; personal documents and messy‐looking items are better stowed in lidded baskets. And remember to measure your shelves before shopping; you don't want to come home with a carload of new organizing supplies only to find they don't fit.
Neutrals with texture blue and red. Grass cloth wallpaper and burlap shades add texture and warmth helping a redbrick fireplace settle into the space. Wood furniture close to the darkest tones in the brick also helps. Larger amounts of blue in a rug and pillows and just a dash of red make for a classic nautical look.
Oversize art. If you have a large expanse of brick to cover – a fireplace that reaches all the way to a high ceiling for instance – artwork is a great way to break it up. As long as your brick is not a really bright red most artwork should work with it. If you are unsure try bringing a clear photograph of your fireplace with you when you're looking for art and check if you can bring the piece home on a trial basis before committing to buy it.
Whitewash. If you have a truly massive brick fireplace and you are not fond of the color consider giving it a gentle whitewash to lighten the hue. This can be a good compromise for those who do not want to paint their brick as it allows some of the texture and color to show through. You can water down the whitewash even more than was done here to very subtly tone down the color of your brick fireplace.
Decorative over‐the‐mantel mirror. It's the oldest interiors trick in the book. A striking over‐the‐mantel mirror gives even a supersnug living room a sense of space and light. However don't settle for just any old mirror. For old‐school elegance go for a Shabby Chic–style French‐looking piece with an ornate white plaster or gilt wooden frame. If you can afford to get an original vintage mirror complete with authentically aged silvering. If not consider reproductions – they work a similar magic for less cash.
Leather club armchair. Fancy the private members' club look? Then opt for a classic deep‐seated leather armchair like this one; the more battered the better. Buy secondhand for extra lived‐in character or source a vintage‐look piece about town (feather‐filled cushions offer an added slouch factor). Prettify it with a floral cushion then sit back and relax with a cuppa (or glass of port).