Today, the chimneypiece is generally referred to as simply the mantel or mantelpiece. The design of the mantelpiece is an opportunity for the architect or designer to create a unique element in a building. Indeed, mantelpieces can be artworks in themselves as designs often incorporate sculptural elements like columns, capitals, figures, and other decorative flourishes.
You'll find fireplace mantel designs made of all kinds of heat resistant, hard materials, like wood, granite, limestone, marble, and concrete. You'll find mantels made of many different types of wood, but some of the more common are oak, walnut, maple, cherry, and mahogany. Sometimes the wood is stained, other times it is painted. Obviously, some of these materials are more expensive than others. You'll pay much more for a mantelpiece carved from marble or granite than you will for one made of wood. Cast stone and concrete give the appearance of more expensive stone at a lower cost.
You don't need a fireplace to have a mantel. Homes where fireplaces are impractical or impossible, such as some condominiums or apartments, or newer houses, may have a mantelpiece as a "hearth" but no fireplace beneath it. The function as a visual center point of the room is maintained. You can install a mantelpiece on any flat wall, around a heating grate or radiator, or wherever you feel the focal point of the room should be. You can choose to construct your own using fireplace mantel kits.
fireplace mantels are probably a prominent feature of your holiday decorating. If your mantel does not have hooks installed, and you don't wish to drill holes in it to do so, stocking hooks that sit on the mantel and hang below the lip are a good alternative. Sprigs of fresh or fake greenery, berries, pinecones, and winter flowers give your holiday mantel a fresh, natural look. Bring the aesthetic of the tree over to the mantelpiece by adding a string of lights or candles.
Don't let your mantel sit empty the rest of the year. If your mantel doesn't have a large decorative piece above the "shelf", you can use this space to hang a mirror, a flat screen display, or a piece of art. Using greenery, fruit, or fresh flowers can add a touch of color to the room. You may also wish to decorate with candles, small sculptures, and vases.