Home Is Where the Hearth Is

A fireplace is often a room’s focal point, and it’s an even bigger draw during the holiday season. But the fireplace mantel can be a tricky spot to decorate. It’s an unusual space: long and thin. I traveled to some of my favorite houses in Raleigh to see how different decorators chose to utilize this space. Some are conventional, and others are a bit more unique. Don’t forget to pin your favorites!

Santas Everywhere!

This retired couple spent many years travelling around the world, from Cambodia and Thailand to Alaska and Antarctica. Throughout their journeys, they collected wooden Santas. For one of the four mantels in their home (this one is in the kitchen), they have put their Santa collection on display. The order may look haphazard, but it’s not. The Santas are thoughtfully arranged so you can see each doll’s face, and they are bookended by large vases with curling bare branches. It’s a lovely conversation starter.

Upscale Elegance

This could have been a tricky room to decorate due to the (gorgeous) aquamarine paint, but I love how this mantel came out. Magnolia wreaths and garlands have exploded in popularity this season, and it’s easy to see why. On one side, the leaves are shiny green; on the other, they’re a matte brown. This magnolia garland amps up the glitz by adding in gold leaves, as well. A gold foil reindeer bust is featured in the center. Tall, thin, sparkly golden trees and intricate candlesticks create some depth and draw the eye upward. A good rule of thumb when decorating your mantel is to vary the heights of the objects on display, so the viewer’s eye moves rather than settling. The whole ensemble melds perfectly with the elegance of the room.

Simple and unexpected

This mantel is very basic, and retains the non-holiday-related pictures that adorn it all year round. The centerpiece has some unconventional elements: the teal color, of course, which brings to mind icicles and frosts, and echoes the color of the matting. Instead of the usual holly, ivy, and evergreen, the centerpiece is built around ferns, which are shaped a bit like Christmas trees. The gold cording adds visual interest and ties the design together. 

The Rustic Traditionalist

This is a tasteful, more conventional mantel decoration. The fireplace is outlined by a pinecone, evergreen, and cranberry garland. Notice how it extends beyond the mantel? If you’re decorating with a garland, make sure it’s long enough: at least a foot should hang down on either side. The quilted stockings contribute to the homemade, rustic feeling of the mantel, and the gold ‘Joy’ and ‘Peace’ stocking hooks stand out against the darker backdrop. (Side note: I love how the fireplace surround is a festive tartan!)

For the kids

This fireplace is located in a kids’ playroom, so it has some younger elements. A simple evergreen garland is adorned with a red, green, and gold ribbon. Tucked around the garland are old-fashioned children’s toys and stuffed animals. A few ornaments hang from the sides of the evergreen garland, as well. Wooden soldiers, a Santa figurine, a carved Christmas tree, and some teddy bears are a taste of the toys to come on Christmas morning. It looks straight from a Victorian novel!

Peppermint Pink

Pink is not the most popular color when it comes to Christmas decorations, but it works perfectly in this guest room. The owner’s late mother (that’s her in the wedding photo) loved pink, and this room is an homage to her. (I just love the pink marble fireplace!). This mantel has the typical evergreen ‘base garland,’ but it’s interspersed with carnation foil poinsettias and a long, royal pink ribbon trimmed with gold. Sparkly tinsel surrounds the clock, and elegant, feminine ornaments (see the French horn and the carousel horse?) are woven throughout.

Traditional Charm

This miniature village is a family heirloom given to the owner by her grandmother, and it’s decorated this estate every holiday season for decades. The dripping evergreen boughs on the top of the mantel help to draw the eye upward, where several antique Santa figurines look down upon the village below. The simple white stockings don’t detract from an already busy scene, but still leave plenty of space for Santa to stuff some toys.

I wish each and every one of my friends and clients a happy holiday season, and the very best of New Years!