Are you overloaded on holiday decor yet? It seems the blogosphere is blowing up with nothing but tablescapes, outdoor decorations, trees, and mantels. Is it weird of me to say that I really enjoy it? We are both having a lot of fun seeing everyone's ideas and implementations to make their house a very merry home. So if you haven't tired of our series of festive posts, or if you think our contributions are particularly worthwhile, I hope you'll enjoy a detailed description of the next of our holiday decorations.

Now that our exterior Christmas decorating efforts are complete, I turned my attention to sprucing up the inside of our home for the holidays. We're fortunate enough to have two fireplaces with their original mantels in our modest 1880s Victorian, but the age of our home also presents some serious mantel decorating challenges. 

The fireplaces we have are actually very shallow, most likely meant to be coal burning. Because the firebox is quite small, the scale of the fireplace and the mantels are also somewhat miniature. The mantels themselves have a bit of a curving profile on the front edge of the shelf, and these two factors combined mean that we only have a few inches to effectively decorate. But don't worry, I'm crafty enough to get the job done.

I like to follow four primary principles when determining how to best decorate our mantels. 

  1. Try to be complementary of the decorations throughout the rest of the house, including the outdoor decor.
  2. Ensure the mantel decor works with the rest of the decorations in the room.
  3. Make every attempt to be sensitive to the time period of the house while still involving some more contemporary items. In other words, anything more modern shouldn't be glaringly gaudy.
  4. Keep it simple.

If you'll recall from yesterday's post, our outdoor decorations were made using largely natural materials. Magnolia leaves, pine sprigs, and boxwood made the base for the floral swags that I built. 

I decided to carry this concept of natural elements to the inside by arranging some pine and holly clippings across the mantel shelf. 

Since this particular mantel is in our dining room, I want to be complementary to the Christmas tablescape that we covered in our post last week. To accomplish this I decided to accent the fresh greens with a collection of mercury glass similar to the ones I hung from the chandelier, as well as some small tea lights in glass votive holders. I picked up several mercury glass ornaments at a Crate & Barrel post-Christmas sale and am now reaping the rewards.

While the greens and mercury glass are as appropriate today as they may have been during the late 19th or early 20th century, I used two white/clear, skinny, tall, and modern trees to add visual interest to the mantel. Our ceilings are 10', and we have a large mirror above the fireplace. If we don't place something tall on the edges of the mantel our eyes will be lost and the mantel will look short and flat. We can't have that.

In my opinion no mantel is complete without a couple of stockings that have been hung with care. We have two small felt stockings that work perfectly for our needs. They are small enough to fit under the mantel without feeling too heavy or cumbersome. They also have a very distinctive and somewhat unexpected shape to them, which I think makes for a very unique overall look. 

Most importantly of all, this whole thing is so simple. There are no wires, no lights, no twinkling things that make sounds. The natural items are readily available in many yards, and the decorations are simply placed on top of the greens. The whole thing only takes a few minutes to setup, and a few minutes to take down at the end of the season. 

There you have it, that's my complementary, natural, sensitive to the home's period with a little bit of modern, and super simple fireplace mantel. What do you think? How is it different from your mantel? Is it too simple for you, or do you like the way it turned out? 

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the stockings are for Mel (left) and Lulu (right). 

Yes, they both get many gifts for Christmas, assuming they exhibit behavior more nice than naughty. Mel, that means no more plant-induced vomiting. And Lulu, no more ER visits this month. You kids are killing me.

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Comments 3


12/7/2011 at 9:50 AM
Very nice. I much prefer simple over all the twinkly lights and things.

Our "mantel" is a little odd. We don't have a fireplace in our farmhouse, so I decorated the top of a bookcase. I used old fruit jars, epsom salts, and tea lights...some fake pine garland, a silver pig that I adore even though it's weird, and a sparkly bird ornament.
It sounds wonderful Ashley! I love that you've come up with an alternative solution for a "mantel" -- and the silver pig sounds fantastic! That makes me wonder if our silver hippo needs to be worked into our mantel decor? ;-)
Rosemary Lockwood
4/13/2020 at 4:49 PM

Your outdoor decos
Were simplistic and gorgeous. Thanks for the ideas
Rosemary 4 13 2020

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