Designing a Holiday Mantle to Impress Your Guests

Holiday mantle design by JSB DesignsIf you see me out and about leaving a trail of glitter everywhere I go, you can be sure it’s Christmastime! Holiday decorating is in full swing and I’ve been trimming trees and decking the halls for weeks now.

My car, my clothes and my hair tend to have a layer of glitter covering them from mid-November through January. This is the price we designers pay to create holiday dazzle for our clients!

From festive tablescapes to designer Christmas trees, there’s always something that needs a little extra sparkle.

One of my favorite places to decorate for the holidays is the fireplace mantle. This is the site of so much Christmas magic! From Santa Claus to stockings hung with care, the fireplace is the center of celebration.

If you are lucky enough to have a mantle, chances are you are always looking for new ways to make it the focal point of your holiday decor. Here’s a few tips for creating a picture perfect mantle display.

Formulate a plan

You don’t have to be a professional decorator to put together a mantle that is both eye-catching and festive. Look for inspo on Pinterest, magazines or your favorite designer’s Instagram feed (ahem, @jsbdesigns1) to find ideas of what you want to create.

When I’m working with a client,  I ask them a series of questions to get a feel of the aesthetic they are wanting before we even get started. Try asking yourself these questions:

  • What colors are you envisioning? Traditional red and green? Modern black and white? Sophisticated metallics?  Choosing a color scheme helps you focus while shopping for decorations.
  • What overall vibe are you aiming for? Are you hoping to create a festive winter wonderland? Sticking with a classic Christmas look? Going for glitz and glam? Hoping to create a magical modern farmhouse?

To choose a theme for your mantle, take a look around at the style of your home and your other holiday decor. You’ll want your mantle to jive with the rest of the room.

There are so many beautiful holiday trends out there and if you’re anything like me, you love them all! That’s why it’s so important to have a clear idea of what you want the finished project to look like.

holiday mantleSpruce it up

Once you’ve got your inspo mantle in mind, it’s time to pull together all the elements. I like to start with a base of garland. Garland is just a string – or strings – of greenery used as decoration, especially around the holidays and during the winter months.

Think of garland as a mini version of the Christmas tree. This is the starting point and what we build on top of the greenery is what makes our display stand out.

Spruce and fir garlands are a classic Christmas look. Their greenery is very lush and full allowing you to easily mix in strands of lights, ornaments and baubles.

Pine and cedar garlands tend to have longer, wispy branches. These can easily be dressed up to fit with more formal and modern styles or dressed down for a simple but gorgeous natural looking mantle.

Many garlands feature a combo of greenery. For a rustic look, pine cones and berries are added. Eucalyptus and bay leaves add a touch of modern farmhouse. Some elements are quite unexpected like this garland I did using Magnolia leaves.

Does my garland have to be green? Nope! There are gorgeous white, black and metallic versions out there too! Finding the right base will set the tone for your mantle display.


Let there be light

It doesn’t feel like Christmas without the soft glow of twinkling lights. Adding lights to your mantle decor can really liven up the room. And with so many varieties of lights on the market today, it’s never been easier to find just the right strand.

holiday mantle decor by JSB DesignsAs with pre-lit Christmas trees, many garlands are pre-lit and ready for you to plug in and go! The cords on these are usually hidden very well so if that’s a concern for you, consider opting for a plug-and-go garland.

For a subtle but magical look, try delicate fairy lights. The cord on these is almost invisible and the light is just enough to draw your attention. The small battery pack can be hidden in the garland for easily turning them on and off. I love how this set from Amazon has both warm white and cool white.

LED light strips are useful in pretty much every situation so I’d love to try them on a mantle! I haven’t actually used them in a mantle display yet but I think it would be so fun!

These light strips have tiny led lights that can be controlled by remote or an app to change colors, brightness and some even sync with music! The strip can be cut the length of your mantle to fit just perfectly.

Dress it up!

Now for the fun part. Here is where we add all the glitz, glam, bam!

Conveniently, most retailers have their decorations arranged by theme to make it easy on shoppers. Since you’ve already decided on a color scheme and style in step 1, just push your cart through the corresponding aisle and fill up your cart! Easy peasy!

Ornaments for mantle decorOkay, I guess there’s a little more to it than that but seriously, pick things that jump out to you and fit with your desired aesthetic. You’re looking to fill in that garland with ornaments, ribbons, and other accents.

Let’s walk through this mantle I just finished up for a client.

These large red ornaments are a perfect pop of color! I like to keep my mantle decorations symmetrical so I worked from the middle out spacing the ornaments evenly.

Be sure to pick up some floral wire to attach the accoutrements to your garland!

Next came two large bows on the corners of the mantle. Ribbons and bows give your mantle garland a professional finish but are quite simple to make yourself.

Retailers like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby sell all types and sizes of ribbon and thanks to YouTube, you can watch a quick tutorial and make a beautiful bow yourself!

Holiday mantle decoration by JSB DesignsI found this video to get you started.

And finally, we have the toy soldiers flanking the fireplace to complete the look. I love how the black and white on the soldiers and in the bows really ties everything together and anchors the mantle decor to the black fireplace.

Have fun!

As with all decor-related endeavors, I encourage everyone to have fun with the project! This time of year is always so busy and can be a time of stress for so many. I hope that you will find your holiday decorations to be a way to flex your creative muscles while you relax, unwind and enjoy the season.

So open a bottle of wine, crank up Mariah Carey and let the glitter fly!