While I convince the hubs that we really need to paint it white (ten votes for going white!) I am also going to be searching the local architectural salvage for a pair of reclaimed corbels (Thanks Tidy Mom for the excellent link - I found the corbel idea there!).
Design-Aholic suggested I think about going chunkier and shorter with the mantle, which is funny because I have actually thought about that, and *might* have convinced Hubs to try and remove the mantle just so I could visualize it easier - and we discovered that removing the mantle = destroying the masonry. I'm think the corbel idea might work the same way, by visually beefing up the mantle and breaking up the vast expanse of wood.
I decided to start with the top half. Little hands can't get up there, so the one part that won't need to be adjusted every ten minutes ;)
Many of you suggested using darker (wrought iron/black) and larger accessories - love it! In fact, the picture I posted was a little misleading; I usually do have much larger objects on the mantle (a 2.5 foot high garden gnome usually keeps an eye on us), but I was in that "just put away the Christmas decorations, still have a few 'winter' items out" mode. So this morning I headed to Hobby Lobby and picked up a few items in the 66% off area, and a canvas for an Alanna Rose original (seven votes to add art on top!).
Here's a little preview:
I bought everything to the left of the canvas, I had the fun moss-covered-rattan-smokestack-thingies (PB sometime last year), and the bird house. For sure the birdhouse is not staying - it's too white and not organic enough. I'm pretty sure my gnome is coming back (I miss him.). I'm torn on the bird topped finial. In person it really blends into the stone; if I keep it I'm thinking of whitewashing it so it'll stand out more. And the arrangment isn't there yet, but it's getting there.
I think I have a plan for the canvas... but that's another post :)
Thanks again for all of the feedback!