For millennia, folks have gathered ’round the fire to tell stories, to cook, to stay warm. In 2024, the fireplace is still the congregation point in a home, and the focal point of whatever room he’s designing, says architect and interior designer Eddie Maestri. He recently launched his debut mantel collection.
Designer Chad Dorsey agrees. “The fireplace is the center of the home, and it is such an important architectural statement,” he says.
No matter the layout of your space, “typically you don’t turn your back on the fireplace,” Dorsey says. As such, the architecture of your fireplace and mantel is key to the overall style of your room. You can stage it with photographs or paintings, a vase, or nothing at all, but “the fireplace really can tell a story about the person and who they are,” he says.
Dorsey knows this better than most: His debut collection of modern bespoke mantels, called STRIKE, took the interior design world by storm when it launched in 2019. People wanted to break from the traditional and were excited for modern, he says. They were drawn to his more dramatic pieces, like the Sausalito.
He leaned into that dramatic energy with his second collection, STRIKE 2.0, which launched last month. The eight-piece second collection focuses on joineries and how materials interact and fit together. Each made-to-order mantel can incorporate one to four materials, including various marbles and limestones, in various finishes. The first piece of the collection, The Fitting, can use up to four stones with a brass or steel clasp to fit everything together, for example. “So, it’s a combination of materials and how the different materials interact with each other,” Dorsey says.
While some of the pieces are completely new looks, like The Plinth and the Hinge, Dorsey says others draw on the previous collection. The Thread, for example, is a more traditionalist approach to the Sausalito. And the Sausalito 2.0 and Sausalito 2.0 XL are “fun ways to reinterpret a cult following.”
Between designing, prototyping, and photographing, it took about two years to develop STRIKE 2.0, Dorsey says. “It’s time to start thinking about the third collection.”
Joining Dorsey in the bespoke mantel world is Maestri. The designer says his studio has created custom mantels for their clients for years. His new line, called Maestri Mantel Collection, is really more of a “passion project,” a chance for him and his team to stretch their creativity.
He launched the 11-piece collection last December, but they began working on it around the summer of 2022. Each of the designs “started out of doodles from the sketchbook,” Maestri says. While traveling or while working on other projects, he’d scribble down architectural details he noticed and liked.
Those details became his mantels. But, “we wanted to do things that weren’t literal but just inspired by the lines,” he says. For example, the Carondelet was inspired by the doorways of Greek Revival homes in New Orleans, Maestri’s hometown. The swoop on the Palais comes from the drapery at the Paris Opera House. The cutouts on the Montclair mantel draw on molding from one of the studio’s restoration projects.
Like STRIKE, each piece in the Maestri Mantel Collection is made to order. The mantels are available in natural stone, such as marble, limestone, travertine, and adoquin, as well as plaster. Maestri says the mantels are on the theatrical side. That was intentional. “The fireplace is usually the center of the room—the showstopper of the room,” he says. “We wanted something that would be really interesting, a conversation piece.”
Add (figurative) fuel to your fire with a well-styled surround. Dallas designers tell you how.
Almost as important as the fireplace itself is how you style it. Maestri likes to keep things simple, with just a piece of art and one more object, like a vase, on top because “I feel like the mantel itself is the art piece,” he says.
Dorsey also isn’t a fan of clutter on top of the fireplace, but says he’ll never not style his mantel. When working with design clients, he prefers to sift through their collections of objects and art for a more personalized look. You should let how you live dictate the decor, he says. “What you’re doing on top of your fireplace is really part of your storytelling in your home.”
Here are more styling tips from three other local designers.
- Joshua Rice
- Barry Williams
- Hillary Littlejohn Scurtis
“I prefer no art or a smaller-scaled, more muted piece—like one by my favorite local artist, Otis Jones—mounted off-center. If you have a dominant surround, it’s best that it not compete with the art above. A small sculpture, bud vase, and candle can create a nice grouping.”
“If the mantel is very handsome, my approach is restraint—softening it with a bit of artwork rather than the typical mirror. I like a bit of candlelight, and [these] 3-Ring Christofle candlesticks bring geometry and elegance. Flowers arranged at home really are charming. Keep it simple—cut from your garden or purchase locally.”