Holiday Mantels

Marvelous Mantels

Tips to Style a Marvelous Mantel


The Mantel is the true focal point of any room and never more so than during the festive season. It is a prime location so it is important to go for high impact when styling your mantel. Set the stage for a visual feast with these design tips. No mantel? No worries! Use these tips to dress up a sideboard, or a long shelf. 

Start creating your Marvelous Mantel by taking everything off your current mantelpiece. Think of it as an empty canvas begging to be filled. Giving yourself a clean slate will allow you to consider all the creative possibilities. 

The colour palette, theme or style you establish must complement and strongly reinforce the décor of the room.  

 Seven Musts for Mantels

 ·       Before you begin, make certain that you have the seven ingredients for a Marvelous Mantel: the right backdrop, evergreen garlands, lights, visual anchors, a strong focal point and fillers to embellish along the greens…and the tools to make it all work.   

·       Backdrop: What is the backdrop to your mantelpiece? Is it a mirror, artwork, wrought iron, an oversized clock or a television? Is it time to change it up? It might be fun to change it up this year at least temporarily. You may even need to change it because your backdrop does not match your Christmas colour theme. When in doubt, choose a mirror as a mirror above the mantel that reflects the room and adds impact to the decorations. Ensure that what is being reflected is eye pleasing. If your mantel backdrop is hung, it should be three to four inches above the mantel. Artwork should be approximately two thirds the width of the mantel to be in good proportion.  


·       Mantel Greens: Evergreen garlands are a hallmark of the festive season. The age-old question: fresh or faux greenery? At Kate’s Garden, we opt for faux greenery with twigs of fresh for scent. Safety is a factor if you want to light your mantel greens so go for faux. Faux cedar greens give the most natural look. Trailing greens suggest opulence.

·       Lighting: Candles and lights add the glow of the festive season to your mantel. In addition to creating sheer mood it adds to the sparkle and lush look of a marvelous mantel. Choose strands of battery-operated lights to add the necessary twinkle along the greens without having to worry about an extension cord hanging down. The flicker of candlelight on a cold winter light adds to the romance of the holidays. Since you can never leave burning candles unattended, battery-operated candles offer a safe alternative.   Light the way to wintertime memories.

·       Anchors: These important elements anchor the greens and visually anchor the mantel at either end. Think candles in hurricanes, branches in vases, interesting stone finials, lanterns, architectural objects, cypress topiaries… 

·       Focal Point: Most often located in the middle of the mantel, this object, bow or arrangement should be the most visually interesting element on the mantel. The focal point provides the biggest pop and should be high impact.

·       Fillers: Fillers are the embellishments used along the mantel greens to visually connect between the anchors and the focal point; gorgeous French wired ribbon, floral picks, a collection of votive candles, etcetera. Mantels are a great place to showcase collections or objets d’art as long as you edit mercilessly. Just be sure not to line them up in single rows as it appears static. Once you have determined the mood and theme don’t try and put everything on the mantel.  Leave some visual space and do not allow it to appear cluttered. Use odd numbers to create more interesting displays.

·       Tools: With 3M Hooks, a sharp pair of scissors, 26 gauge floral wire and a trusty pair of wire cutters, any mantel can become marvelous!

Basic Design Principles for Marvelous Mantels

 ·       Size and Scale: Bigger and bolder items tend to work better as small items tend to get lost on most mantels.  

·       Symmetry or not?: Will you place your visual anchors so that they match on either side or will you give a new twist to this tradition and place them off-centre?

·       Colours and Style to Complement the Room: Choose a colour palette that does not fight with the décor of the room. Keep your colour palette restrained so that you provide eye candy instead of visual noise.  

·       Pleasing Flow: Tall items give an arrangement movement. Using a variety of heights and sizes make the mantel display more dynamic.   Mix the heights of the mantel accessories and ornaments building from the back to the front. Taller in back, shorter in front.  

·       Vary Textures: Interesting textures encourage longer viewing…stone, glass and nubby pods. Different textures and patterns draw the eye.


Neat Tips!

·       Take a picture of your successfully finished mantelpiece so you will remember what to do next year. 

·       If the fireplace is not used, use a multi-tiered candle stand in the hearth.

Want to see more? Watch Kate's presentation on decorating mantels filmed at the Seasons Christmas Show.