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.

The Benefits of Indoor Gardening

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 Houseplants have not been this popular since the seventies! Plants beautify and improve the physical indoor environment. They lower the overall toxicity level within your home.  The best detoxifiers are Peace Lilies, Chinese Evergreens, Pothos and Snake Plant.  Plants provide oxygen that helps to reduce blood pressure.  Your indoor garden will even help to filter noise levels and diffuse the brightness of lights.  Best of all, studies indicate that that the whole process, potting, growing and grooming plants improves both mental and emotional well-being.

 Just as in real estate, location is everything. Indoor plants require 9 things:

·       Light

·       Humidity

·       Appropriate Temperature

·       Water

·       A good growing medium

·       Containers with Drainage

·       Fertilizing

·       A period of dormancy

·       Regular grooming with microtip pruners and a chopstick.  (Chopsticks allow you to aerate the soil so that it does not become compacted). 

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Matching Requirements

·       Evaluate your living conditions and select the best plant to match the light, heat and moisture conditions of your home.  

·       Instead of trying to adapt the indoor site to the needs of the plant, place the plant in the correct location

·       Poor choices means the plant will be under constant stress


Most tropical plants need 12 hours of light a day:

If a plant requires High light, it requires a south or western exposure.  Medium light means a west or east exposure.  Low light exposure means a north facing exposure or the interior of a room.  If there is not enough light to read comfortably, your plant will not grow well.  Rotate plants grown in windows regularly where light comes in by only one direction.  Plants need to be turned so that they do not become lopsided. If you move a plant, it will usually take about three weeks to adjust to the new location.


·       The only secret to successful watering lies in your ability to notice and respond to the signals of the plant.  

·       It is actually better to water too little than too much and let the plants dry out slightly in the interim. 

·       Use water at room temperature so as not to shock the roots.  Letting it sit overnight apparently allows harmful chemicals to evaporate.    

·       Water in the morning as much as possible.  Misting is also great for your plants.

·       Reduce watering in the winter when there is less light due to shorter days and overcast skies.

·       Unsalted, cooled water leftover from cooking vegetables is great for plants.  


·       Temperature is usually only problematic in the winter.  

·       Nighttime temperature is often too high.  It should be 5 to 10 degrees lower at night. Avoid cold porches.  

·       Avoid foyers with drafts from the door.

·       Leaves should not be allowed to touch cold windows.

·       Avoid positions with direct air flow from heating vents.


·       In winter, heated air lacks humidity and plants suffer.

·       Cluster plants closely to create a microclimate.  Huddling or grouping plants together allows them to benefit from each other’s moisture.

·       Kitchens and well lit bathrooms are often the best locations for plants due to the higher humidity.  They are also generally warmer.

·       Add a waterproof tray filled with water and gravel to boost the relative indoor humidity around houseplants.

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·       Most indoor plants are grown in soil-less mixes that are a combo of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite.  These combos are usually sterilized to be free of pests, diseases and weeds.

Drainage & The Right Container

·       Plants can be grown in nearly any type of container as long as drainage holes release excess water.

·       The pot should not be too big in comparison to the plant…usually only two inches larger than the grower’s pot.

·       Repot your plants in March if you plan to grow them outdoors during the summer.   

·       2/3 pot to 1/3 plant is the best in terms of visual proportion.  

·       Clay pots are ideal but they are porous so they dry out the quickest.

 ·       Avoid using clay shards to cover the drainage holes…they just impede drainage. 

·       A cachepot, which are pretty pots used to disguise the plain green grower’s pots, should ideally have a functional pot inside.  This double pot method, i.e. the grower’s pot contained inside the cachepot is ideal for houseplants. 


·       Fertilize once a month during the growing season of March to October.

·       Fertilizing is not necessary during the winter months as they need their period of hibernation…even though they are indoors.

·       Avoid fertilizing weakened or recently repotted plants until they show the signs of recovery. 

·       A sprinkling of used coffee grounds can also provide nutrients and houseplants benefit from the nutrients found in clear, tepid tea.

·       The fertilizer for winter flowering plants should be diluted to one-quarter strength.

·       Any balanced fertilizer will do but a 20-20-20 formula is always a safe bet.   


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·       October to March: most plants need to go into hibernation during the winter; though few go completely dormant. 

·       Fluorescent bulbs can supplement the much-needed rays of sun.   Do not push your plants to grow with fertilizer during this period.

Good Grooming

 ·       Check your plants for insects on a weekly basis.

·       Keep them dust free. When leaves are free of dust, it is easier for the plant to breathe. 

·       Remove dead leaves and flowers. 

·       Give a weekly quarter turn to encourage plant growth. 

·       Spruce up the bare expanse of soil with decorative mulch…shells, sheet moss, bark, etc.

·       Cacti and succulents should never be sprayed.  Waxy leafed plants should be cleaned with a damp sponge.


Repot your plants if….

·       They are too big

·       You need to water them constantly

·       The roots are growing on the surface of the soil

·       Water sits on the soil surface after watering

·       The soil turns too hard

·       A white crusty salt builds up.

Repotting is best done just before active growth in the spring i.e. the end of February and early March.

Plant Choices

Generally speaking, the lighter the leaf colour, the greater the requirement for light. Variegated plants need more light than all green plants.


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