Holiday mantels can be challenging. Actually, mantels in general can be challenging – they’re too narrow, too wide, too high, etc. Then at the holidays when you want to hang a swag or a big wreath or load it up with candles, it’s even more challenging to keep it pretty and balanced.
This year is my second Christmas in this home – and this mantel with the extra wide niche is going to get a new look. Maybe my process will help you look at your mantel decor in a new way and change it up a bit! If you’d like to see what I did last year, you can read about it here.
Mantel Lights & Flowers
Here’s how I developed my mantel decor step by step:
1. Start with a concept. It all started with some oversize paper stars from Ikea that are lighted. I also purchased some white silk amaryllis because they were gorgeous, affordable, and I thought would add a touch of elegance. In my head I’m beginning to see an elegant silver and white theme.
I start by sort of blocking in what might work – I gathered white and silver items, tested the flower height and was thinking about just a touch of red.
2. Create the floral focal point. (and a little DIY)
I stuck the flowers in two rows in styrofoam and then had to figure out how to cover the foam. I tried some fresh cedar but thought it was too natural and rustic for my elegant concept (hold it in place with wire pins or even bobby pins).
I had some small silver garland so wrapped the blocks with it to give the impression of a bowl or container. I made these little hooks with wire to attach the garland then just wrapped around and around.
After wrapping, I added moss to the top to finish it off and added one of my birds. On one hand I liked the simplicity of the row of stems but on my big mantel, it was just too stark for me. In this case, less was not more. So I added more.
Some curly glitter twigs will add some sparkle and dimension to the arrangement without overwhelming the elegance of the flowers.
I felt like a little more bulk was needed at the base and the white flowers just weren’t showing up much against my white walls. So I added more red berries and some snippets of white sparkly things I had on hand.
3. Create balance. On the other side of the mantel I took advantage of the huge depth by placing a collection of little trees. They are layered behind the lights to emphasize depth, are NOT all in a row but staggered, and decorated with the same colors and textures in the flower arrangement – red berries, white sparkles and a red bird; the little silver ornaments are big jingle bells from the dollar store.
Here’s the overall view at this point. Have I created balance? Some might say yes because I have a grouping on each side of the mantel. However, the right side is much visually heavier because it’s SO much darker than the flowers. And, to me there is no integration between the two sides – it’s like two separate mantel decor plans. While I like the contemporary floral style, it still seems too stark and not in keeping with the rest of the mantel.
4. Plan B. I tried a whole different approach that didn’t make the photo cut because it was so divergent from my original silver and white concept. As I thought about it, I realized the main problem was the flowers so I dismantled the all-in-a-row look and tried vases. I have two straight sided cylinder vases and one shorter jar. Since I have seven blooms I placed three tallest in one cylinder, two cut a little shorter in the second cylinder and a single bloom in the short jar. To each of these I added a strand of inexpensive garland for the sparkle, the curly glitter sticks and some berries.
By splitting up the flowers I was able to layer them forward to back and use some of the depth of the mantel and use them in a more dynamic way.
Remember I mentioned that the trees and flowers didn’t seem integrated? I tried this version by really spreading the flowers across the space and separating the trees. The Santa was added because I felt like there was no focal point with the flowers divided. I like the trees separated to carry some of the dark to both corners, but the flowers lost their cohesiveness.
5. Final version. My final mantel moved the flowers back together, but more loosely and more central as the focal point of the mantel. The Santa still contributes some visual weight on the left, but is moved to a secondary role. The separated trees create a dark backdrop for all the white in front and the cedar branches (silk) drape over the edge and ground the whole arrangement. Those lit stars really shine and make the whole mantel decor so festive.
If you’re still working on decorating your mantel, I hope you find some helpful tips or inspiration here. As you prepare and decorate for the holidays, remember to take a little time to slow down and appreciate all you have and your friends and family. Cindy and I wish you a very Happy Holiday season.
PS – If you’re still looking for the perfect gift for a friend or family member, we do have gift certificates for color or dilemma consultations. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start the new year – professional help to freshen up a room? Just email us and we’ll get back to you with the details. Check out services and prices here.