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Merry Mantels

by Magnolia
Published on November 9, 2021

Story by Anne Campbell
Market Editing by Elizabeth Ulrich
Photography by Carson Downing
Produced by Scott J. Johnson

This holiday season, let your mantel draw everyone in. After all, the hearth, with its warm glow, beckons as a gathering space, while the area on top serves as a blank canvas for wherever your yuletide imaginings might go.

Whether your personal style is traditional, whimsical, or somewhere in between, our hope is that the four setups that follow will serve as inspiration to bring a few of your favorite holiday pieces front and center. So mix, match, and let your holiday style shine bright!

A Very Merry Mantel, Four Ways:

Keep it Casual

The Breakdown:

Even at the holidays, less can be more. If you’re not the type who enjoys pulling everything off the shelf for one season, consider leaving behind a piece or two that you really love (even a large piece of art). Part of keeping things easy-going is to bring in just a few things that play up the season, like greenery, candles, and of course—your family stockings. Keep the decorations complementary to your existing colors to maintain an easy-going yet pulled together vibe.

Where to Start:

If you have a favorite piece of wall art, child’s pencil drawing, favorite ornament, or piece of nostalgic memorabilia you hold dear, those simple items can be an ideal jumping off point for a minimal yet meaningful arrangement.

Play Up the Whimsey

The Breakdown:

If you have a playful approach in mind, consider flanking both sides of your mantel with vintage-inspired miniature trees. An unadorned wreath hung from a mirror above balances out the cheerful decor below and offers a place for the eye to rest. Pompoms and colorful tassels add a punch of play. There is no perfect formula to placement here—the idea is to have some fun, then continue to mix and match as the season goes on.

Where to Start:

Lean into colors that feel festive, yet show off shades that are slightly lighter, or darker, for a playful twist. Letting the whimsical decor take the lead will turn it into a tone-setter for the space.

Experiment with Contemporary

Pictured: Horizon of Mountains Wall Art

The Breakdown:

This modern, blended style comes from mixing pieces in ways that feel fresh and unique. While garland and pine cones are more traditional decorations, hanging them in an asymmetrical way sets the tone for a current feel. Mix- and-match antique brass candlesticks with neutral tapers add visual interest and depth in front of the focal point art. For a nod to the contemporary, omit stockings altogether, and let the decor take centerstage.

Where to Start:

Balance can come even when elements aren’t perfectly even. Letting some pieces be askew, like candlesticks in varying heights and greenery positioned in an asymmetrical way can actually move toward big-picture harmony. Eclectic items in the same color palette can contribute to a contemporary feel.

Return to the Traditional

Pictured: Black Gatecrest Taper Holders

The Breakdown:

For a time-honored aesthetic that feels fresh, cultivate a color story and weave that thread throughout. We love golden hues—mustard, caramel, and honey. Here, we begin with a brass mirror for reflection and height. The wreath hung on top is accented with leaves and dried citrus that pick up the color theme, and then the same oranges and fronds are added to the neatly draped garland below. Stockings in the same shade tied with charcoal ribbon take color to the last detail.

Where to Start:

Use traditional holiday elements as the centerpieces of your design. Fresh greenery and dried citrus are timeless, and can help establish a color story that you can then incorporate across the entire mantel, from candlesticks to stockings.

This story was adapted for digital from the winter issue of Magnolia Journal.

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