I do this in my own home. Raji has a good explanation:
Instead of hanging art on the wall, designer Raji Radhakrishnan of Raji RM & Associates in Brambleton, Va., likes to lean pictures of various sizes on the mantel. "Odd numbers of things always look better than even numbers," she says, "So I would recommend three pieces of art — go to four and five only if they are really spectacular." For the best effect, Radhakrishnan likes to place the largest painting or drawing on the mantel first, slightly off-center, with the second and third pieces (approximately half to two-thirds the height of the first) slightly overlapping in front of it. "In addition to giving the impression that the pieces were accumulated over time," she says, "leaning objects allows you to tuck in mementos or seasonal objects very easily." A mirror gives height to a trio of framed art in Radhakrishnan's room. Photo by Raji Radhakrishnan.
If you want to hang art above the fireplace, consider replacing one painting with a series of nearly identical pieces hung in a grid, starting right above the mantel and going up almost to the ceiling, like the art featured in this Kenneth Brown-designed room. "Think about an arrangement of black and white photography, or prints by the same artist," says New York-based interior-design stylist and writer Jorge S. Arango. "If you arrange them purposefully, the frames themselves create a pattern, almost like a very bold — and very original — wallpaper."
Whether hung on a wall or propped up, the things above your fireplace don't need to be two-dimensional. In fact, in a contemporary home where there is no shelf at all above the fireplace, says designer Raji, "you absolutely need a three-dimensional sculpture, because a flat thing like a painting will almost disappear." Art galleries and museum shops offer lots of sculptural choices. But don't be afraid to think beyond officially-designated objets d'art. New York-based interior designer Amie Weitzman has mounted antique weathervanes and giant African currency above her own fireplaces; the effect, she says, is offbeat and dramatic. Design by Gina Fitzsimmons.
Floor-to-ceiling glass and marble mosaic tiles in brown, gold, cream and grey tones are a spectacular setting for an elevated gas fireplace. The contemporary focal point adds both visual and physical warmth to the room.
Sophisticated moldings are combined with a marble-tiled surround for a traditional fireplace. To allow the space to be a conversational area as well as a space to watch television, Candice hides a television behind a piece of remote-controlled artwork so it's out of sight when not in use.
A simply elegant fireplace surround is painted cream to offset the dark wallpaper in the dining room. Raised off the floor, the visual warmth of the fireplace can be enjoyed from each seat around the table. The fireplace is also flanked with mirrored panels that add depth and dimension, as well as reflect light into the room.