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9 Inventive Materials for Memorable Fireplace Mantels

Whether made from stone, wood or metal, the decorative ledge we call a mantel has rested over fireplaces for centuries. Mantels display our family photos, art and accessories — often all the things that we treasure the most. As the focal draw of every fireplace, it should be worthy of displaying your most cherished items. See if any of the inventive and beautiful mantels here will inspire you.
Railroad tie. A repurposed railroad tie sends a great design message for bold rustic interiors.

Design tip: Railroad ties can be very twisted and warped. When you're hunting for a salvaged railroad tie, it is important to find one that is as level as possible.
Limestone. This clean and timeless stone is perfect for a contemporary environment. The thickness of this mantel and its asymmetrical placement provide just the right balance for the fireplace and the space.

Design tip: Limestone comes in many different types and styles — and some are much more cost effective than others. Ask a designer or do your research carefully before settling on a slab.
Log. A log mantel like this one almost one-ups a railroad tie for authentic rustic style. The log pictured here has had a portion of the top carefully sawed off to create the perfect shelf-like platform.

Design tip: While installation might be tricky, finding a log of your own to use for a mantel is easy and incredibly affordable.
Cast stone. For the more traditionally inspired home, select a cast-stone (similar to cement) mantel like the one shown here. They're manufactured in hundreds of styles with just as many edge profiles, so you are bound to fall in love with something that's just right for your home.

Design tip: This is a great choice for a custom hearth, too. Combine a cast-stone mantel with a cast-stone hearth for a cohesive design.
Stainless steel. Break up all the natural-looking materials in a home with a stainless steel mantel. A touch of bling in an interior is always a good thing.

Design tip: Stainless steel can be expensive, so be aware before you start shopping. Also, make sure that it's not placed too close to the fire, since this material can heat up quickly.
Tile. Cover a new or existing mantel with a stunning tile of your choice. The tile design here shows off visible grout lines, which together become another awesome detail on this gorgeous mantel.

Design tip: Use grout in a color that contrasts the tile for an especially eye-catching design.
Stucco. Some fireplaces look best when they blend in seamlessly with their environment. The mantel pictured here is covered with the same stucco material as on the walls. Superior lines are accentuated rather than enhanced.

Design tip: Stucco is all about texture. Work with your installer from the very beginning to make sure you get the exact look and feel you want.
Marble. This oversize marble mantel anchors this huge living space perfectly. The black marble and its matching hearth tie the room together without looking too matchy.

Design tip: Marble has a lot of movement, so be prepared for a lot of veining and feathering of different colors. This is perfect for those homeowners who want a completely unique look.
Wood. This streamlined piece of wood used as a mantel is perfect for this retro interior. The one pictured here is referred to as a floating shelf, as there are no visible brackets supporting it. Such harmony!

Design tip: Correct installation is of the utmost importance for this type of mantel. Since there are no brackets, it needs strong internal supports to be able to hold heavy objects.