Does your holiday mantel look like an eagle is nesting above your fireplace, collecting your favorite holiday candles, nutcrackers, bows and glittery garland in its tangled branches? Sometimes it is hard to know how much is too much, especially when the holiday spirit has overtaken us and we’re dying to showcase our beloved collectibles! Relax! We have called in help. Five local designers take us into their own and clients’ homes to examine beautifully styled mantels. They show us how to rein it in and achieve a thoughtfully styled holiday hearth with the perfect amount of nature’s greenery, holiday accents and unexpected pops of personality.
Create a Stunning Holiday Mantel
An Understated Elegant Look
Tastemaker: Kate Hartman of Chickadee
“We wanted a soft, formal look for the mantel, so it would not fight with the decor in the rest of the room,” says Kate Hartman of Chickadee. “We kept the mirror that is up year-round and layered a wreath on top for interest.” Kate used a loose, mixed garland intertwined with the wire star garland for a line of classic greenery with added sparkle. “We used mercury glass candlesticks with a festive silver candle ring to add height on either side of the mirror. And, when lit, they have this comforting, warm glow that is perfect for the season.” The oblong pottery vase, holding white tulips and eucalyptus, creates the perfect balance beneath the wreath to finish off the mantel. The simplicity of this mantel decor — with its pure whites and sparkling silvers against the common thread of fresh greenery — is fresh and clean with a refined style, perfect for the celebration of the season.
An Instanbul-Influenced Southern Traditional
Tastemaker: Paige Albright of Paige Albright Orientals
“I use my antique Barker Ellis julep cups as stocking holders, and the Granny Smith apples help as weights and add a nice pop of color,” says Paige Albright of Paige Albright Orientals. “I have a lot of pinks and greens in my rug and artwork and fabrics, so the reds and greens of my boys’ Christmas stockings fit in nicely.” Paige cuts fresh greenery from her yard and gathers special pieces from Leaf & Petal. Both a lovely deep green, the rich texture of the unique fern garland is juxtaposed beautifully against the shiny magnolia leaves. In place of the traditional wreath, Paige infuses that central focal point with her own sense of personal style. She uses a white feather juju hat, a market find from northern Africa ($350 at Paige Albright Orientals), as her holiday wreath. “And I love these handcrafted Turkish leather camels that I found in Istanbul,” says Paige of the colorful sequined camels. “They are just really fun and festive!”
In Paige’s den, kelim stockings and stools give this casual mantelpiece a bohemian-chic feel. A few small, antique accents mixed with lush bursts of greenery are just enough, as she wants this meaningful painting of her three boys by Gina Hurry to take center stage.
Casual Accents for Meaningful Personal Art
Tastemaker: Marianne Strong of Marianne Strong Interiors
“The star of the fireplace is really the custom art the homeowner’s young twin boys created with the assistance of artist Mason McCulley,” says Marianne Strong of Marianne Strong Interiors of the artist, a friend of the homeowners and a Birmingham native who now lives and works in Los Angeles. “I didn’t want to take too much away from that.” So Marianne found ways to keep that work of art the focal point for the holiday mantel, working with the color palette and size of the piece. “My mood for Christmas decor changes year to year. Sometimes I want bright and colorful, but this year I was drawn toward peaceful and simple. The actual mantel is an antique reclaimed beam, so I wanted to continue that natural feel with rosemary plants on either end that also added the height that I was looking for.” Marianne looked for items in muted color tones and different textures to add interest. The soft metallics of the ball garland and the natural pine cones and leaves of the wreath accomplished that feel. “And I knew I wanted a nativity or actual Christmas reference in the decor and this unique pottery one was perfect.” This mantel incorporates peaceful colors with rich textures, while complementing the painting that holds so much meaning for the family.
Nature and Art Mix in Classic Style
“For the living room, we wanted to keep things classic but crisp,” says Marjorie Johnston of Marjorie Johnston & Co. and Jojo Home. “So we used traditional Christmas elements, such as magnolia, amaryllis and pine cones, but we combined them in a somewhat casual way. We didn’t want the mantel to feel ‘too perfect.'”
“We love how the different elements build off of one another for a sophisticated, layered look. We also loved sneaking in a few unexpected items,” adds Katherine Bramlett, who gathered hydrangea and twigs from the client’s yard to accent the crisp white mantel and bold colors of the modern art. The end product is a traditionally polished look with an organic, fresh twist.
“In the den, we wanted the mantel to reflect the character of the room: edited, simple and somewhat masculine,” says Marjorie. “So we used these beautiful citrus and clove pieces on each end of the mantel for a pop of color. We love how the yellows and oranges bring out beautiful tones against the wood paneled walls, as well as the colors in the painting over the mantel.” Marjorie says that when doing a mantel, they will often display a homeowner’s treasured collection.
“For this mantel, we grouped some of the client’s brass pieces. We love the warmth of this finish during this time of year,” says Katherine of the brass collection. In an effort to keep the look clean, Katherine and Marjorie decided to forgo a heavy garland and instead added a burst of greenery from the client’s yard. “And we love to include something unexpected to keep things interesting,” adds Katherine. “So we included the duck in the mix. It’s an unexpected holiday piece, but it fits perfectly with the painting of the hunting dogs in this handsome room.” The overall look is classic, understated Southern elegance.
So whether you want to enhance your personal mantel art, feature your unique finds and collectibles, or create an elegant celebratory look, these insider tips will hopefully inspire you as you create your own stunning holiday mantel. Happy holidays!