Style: Tips for a beautiful holiday mantel

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

Santa picked the fireplace as the spot where he makes his big splash at Christmas, and you should too! Your mantel is a wide open stage just awaiting your creativity. Creating as stunning look on your mantel is a lot easier than you think when you have a little inspiration and know the tricks. Here are two great looks the Nell Hill’s design team fashioned to spark your holiday decorating fire, plus tips on how to pulling off the look.

Magical magnolias

When we design our holiday mantels, we almost always start the creative process by picking a beautiful garland of greens to serve as our muse. A gorgeous preserved magnolia leaf garland is one of my favorites and gave us an elegant backdrop for a nature-inspired mantel treatment, made magical with a sprinkle of shimmer.

Mother Nature is not matchy-matchy, so you find all kinds of colors and textures swirled together in the natural world, blending together to create a rich tapestry. So on our holiday mantels, we take a tip from the great outdoors and pull together a wide variety of greens, in all hues and finishes. Instead of swagging the garland over the top and sides of the mantel, we secured the rope of greens to the front of the mantel, letting the ends hang down loosely. Then, we embellished both sides of the garland swag with a variety of picks and baubles: lime velvet ribbon, iced berries and pine branches, glittering fern fronds and shining mercury glass tree ornaments.

To keep our display secure, we inserted a few mortar screws right where the wall connects to the mantel, one on the left and one on the right. We then secured sturdy wire to the screw and wound it around the base of the garland. Use wire or plastic zip ties to cinch the ornaments in place.

Pretty in pearls

Playful and fun, this spunky drama-queen of a mantel takes a traditional holiday look to a whole new level. We started the display with a basic evergreen garland, pre-lit with retro-style white lights. One benefit of a simpler garland is it allows you to go in a million different directions with your colors and accents. We opted for a palette of pink and green, giving the season’s traditional red and green palette a preppy makeover.

The structure of the mantel display is also a simple swag with embellished corners. Once we secured the garland to the wall, as described above, we started loading it up with sparkling picks, pink and green ribbon, and strand after strand of glorious pearls. But these aren’t your grandma’s pearls! To make this traditional look seem so fresh and fun, we combined layer after layer of pearl strands, mixing together a wide array of sizes.

Each corner of the swag is knotted with folds of ribbon, which serve as a hub for the spray of picks behind the fabric loops, like these decadent gold berries. I love the added touch of the vintage-look pink ornament garland, which is strung on a velvet ribbon. We knotted it up so it looks like clusters of ornaments.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at