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Jenna Bratcher is StyleBlueprint Nashville’s Associate Editor and Lead Writer. The East Coast native moved to Nashville 13 years ago, by way of Los Angeles. She is a foodie through and through and enjoys exploring the local restaurant scene bite by bite.
There’s nothing like decorating your home for the holidays to get you into the spirit of the season. When done properly, a thoughtfully designed mantel can set the stage for family festivities and provide the perfect backdrop for seasonal photo ops. We tapped some of the South’s top florists and home designers to get insight and inspiration for creating a beautiful Christmas mantel this holiday season.
7 Tips for a Beautiful Christmas Mantel
1. Consider your surroundings, then pick a color scheme and style … and stick with it.
You can decorate your fireplace mantel in silver and gold, dress it up like a whimsical winter wonderland, or opt for a buffalo check-themed display — whatever strikes your seasonal fancy. The key, according to the experts, is choosing your aesthetic and not wavering. Whether you opt for a classic or unique spin on your style, Troy Villager, owner and designer of T. Villager Designs in Nashville, explains that solidifying your theme will guide the professionals — or you — in purchasing the pieces you need to complete the look and make it flow beautifully throughout the room.
If you have several mantels in your home, don’t be afraid to pick a different design aesthetic for each one, which offers variety. If you’re struggling to land on a design style, consider letting your tree inspire your Christmas mantel and tie everything together with a few consistent elements that complement one another, such as matching ribbon or a few crossover ornaments. “We always tell our clients to be aware of their surroundings when creating a mantel,” says Troy. “For example, it should match the decor of the room or holiday color scheme. It’s great to have some statement pieces, but we don’t want it to compete with surrounding bookshelves, art, TVs, etc. Also, if your tree is right next to the mantel, we stay away from greenery as it starts to compete with the tree.”
2. Don’t shy away from non-traditional colors and decor.
Christmas is a holiday filled with tradition, and most of us have carried a few with us through the years. While you may be particular about when you open presents or which Christmas cookies to bake, your mantel is the perfect space to stray from tradition and let the holiday spirit move you. Consider atypical pieces, infuse colors not typically associated with the season (such as coral or turquoise), or try a sleek, monochromatic look to add a contemporary touch. Rick Pudwell, Director of Horticulture at Memphis Botanic Garden, even suggests livening up your mantel by combining fresh greenery and planters for a non-traditional, winter-themed scape. The trick is to allow yourself the creative license to think outside the box, resulting in a one-of-a-kind, memorable mantel design.
3. Forage through your yard.
Nature is good for the heart and the hearth, so if you’re looking for mantel inspiration, look no further than your own yard. From pine cones and branches to dried leaves and floral clippings, nature is the perfect source for beautiful, inexpensive touches to fill in your mantel design. “Wander through your own yard for clippings with pops of color and interesting foliage to complete your living mantel decor,” says Rick of Memphis Botanic Garden.
4. Organize by room and secure your decor with zip ties.
When it comes to decorating, half the battle lies in the prep work. Thankfully, the experts have a few suggestions to help avoid any decorating drama. Laura Lawler, assistant manager of Birmingham’s The Mercantile by Miller, suggests laying your floral garland on the floor to add stems, ribbon and ornaments, then zip-tying everything before placing your masterpiece on the mantel. “Zip tie them in to secure them, then move the floral around to hide the zip ties,” she offers.
5. Choose asymmetrical groupings and staggering heights.
Asymmetry doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of balance. In fact, contrasting colors, shapes and sizes make for a more unique and compelling look. Using consistent elements throughout your design creates a sense of movement, especially when you utilize various objects with staggering heights such as candlesticks or flower vases. Laura at The Mercantile by Miller explains that it breaks up the negative space, offering a more dynamic setup.
6. Consider combining real and faux foliage.
It goes without saying that faux flowers and greenery will withstand the test of time, while live stems are likely to wilt before you can say, “Happy New Year.” Still, there are ways to achieve the “just plucked from the garden or forest” look while maintaining longevity. According to the experts, the trick is mixing the two, combining fresh and faux selections for a more well-rounded arrangement. “To give your mantel a more realistic and natural feel,” says Laura of The Mercantile by Miller, “use live magnolia, cedar, or eucalyptus stems that you can find at your local grocery store. These stems usually aren’t hard to come by, and they’re great to mix in with faux greenery because they last! They just need a little spray of water now and then to keep them refreshed.” By mixing in some faux flora along with your fresh picks, you don’t run the risk of losing the entire mantelpiece overnight.
Annora McGarry, Marketing Director at Bates Nursery and Garden Center in Nashville, also recommends trailing plants such as pothos and philodendron for a pop of live greenery. Since those houseplant selections are already in pots, they’re a sturdier option, too. If you’re looking for something slightly more festive, mini living Christmas trees and poinsettias can be a vibrant addition to your mantel decor, with the option of being planted in your yard once the holiday season is over.
7. Layer, layer, layer!
There may be limited space on your mantel, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create something inspiring. As with your Christmas tree decor, layers are what make your design appear dynamic. A garland with vintage accents and unique embellishments is a memorable garland, indeed. Whether you opt for ornaments, ribbon or family heirlooms, layer your greenery so it provides a lush foundation for all of your colorful holiday-inspired fun!