How to Decorate a Mantle for Christmas

 This post will show you one way to decorate a mantle for Christmas.  To help you understand the spirit of the design, I want to tell you a little about the house.  This is a Colonial Williamsburg style home that is less than 10 years old.  My client purchased it about five years ago, and we completely renovated and expanded it.  They loved the original character of the home, including the painted moldings, and wanted to maintain all of those features.  Blue would not be my first choice for dining room trim, but it is historically accurate here, and honestly, I think the room would not be nearly as exciting without it.  My client loves color.  The more and brighter the better.  You will see in another post a different room where more color is apparent.  The dining room became the most sedate room in the house. 
The Christmas decorations I do for clients are typically reflective of both them and the home where they live.  I like to do things that at least hint at the color palette of the home, but at the same time add enough traditional Christmas colors that it reads “holiday.”  This post shows a series of five photos progressing through the process.  Photos are at the bottom of the post.
The first photo shows the mantle before decoration.  I have removed the two porcelain figures and the antique porcelain that usually reside on the mantle for safekeeping during the decorating process. 
The next photo shows the mantle after garland and ribbons have been applied.  The first step is to determine how you want the garland to look.  I prefer a luxurious look with the garland, which usually means it should have a nice swag to the center section and the tails should meet the floor and be just a tad bit longer than necessary.  This gives a lush, full look.  This garland is a nice quality artificial garland that is very believable.  We decorate this house before Thanksgiving, so there is no way a fresh garland would survive until Christmas.  You could do this same design with fresh if you prefer…just wait until about two weeks before Christmas to put it up.  The garland is a mixture of several different types of greenery and has large pine cones mixed in it which really add to the natural look.  You could easily take this garland to a rustic setting, but the natural feeling of it performs beautifully in this formal setting.  The garland is hung with two small nails with large heads at the back corners of the mantle shelf, near the wall.  Always put the nails in the top side of the mantle so the nail holes won’t show after Christmas.
Ribbon is the next step.  I used five different ribbons here.  There is a sheer yellow to tie in the yellow from the room, a blue and yellow silk check, a solid soft pinky red, gold metallic, and a rosy red that has a velvet damask pattern on it.  Don’t be afraid to mix different ribbons together.  It is a great way to get the colors of your home into the decorations.  I would recommend always using at least three different ribbons, and have used up to seven at a time.  My bow is made of only two loops per side.  When you have all the different ribbons, two loops per side equals 10 loops per side when it is fluffed out.  I use only ribbon that is French wired which means that the wire edge is actually woven into the ribbon.  These hold up so much better than ribbon that is not wired.  They can be packed away flat, and easily fluffed up the following year.  We have used these ribbons for three years, and they still look new.  You will want to include a tail on the bow that goes down the garland toward the floor.  I use the “branches” of the garland to bend around the ribbon to hold it in those bishop sleeve type loops that go down toward the floor.  The other tail can follow along side that one, but in this case, I used the same technique of folding a branch over the ribbon to drape it toward the center of the garland.  This gives an even distribution of color all around the fireplace.
The third photo is a detail of the ribbon and ornaments on the garland.  We used bright yellow solid glass balls, gold metallic balls, rosy red solid balls, glitter stars with mirrored centers, and a collection of White glass egg ornaments with blue decoration hand painted on them.  We used a lot of each ornament.  My client requested a “full look”, so this is heavily laden.  This could be effective with only a few ornaments scattered throught the garland.  There are about 10 of the gold balls, 15 of the rosy red, 15 gold metallic, 25 glitter stars, and 20 white eggs.
The fourth photo shows the mantle finished in the room.  You can see how the decoration blends beautifully with the room’s decor, and how the addition of the red makes it look holiday festive.  Notice how I added ribbon to the top of the mirror.  This is a great way to bring the decoration up and create an entire wall look without taking the actual greenery up and around the mirror.  It just ties everything together as a unit.
The last photo shows a closeup of the antique porcelain figures my client uses on the mantle, as well as the antique bowl.  We added ribbon to the figures to “animate” them.  All of a sudden, they feel like they are the ones who have decorated the mantle.  In the bowl, we tucked a few springs of greenery, and some of all the ornaments we used on the mantle.  I am a fan of using your everyday items during Christmas, and this is a great way to do that.  By adding ribbon to the figures, and putting ornaments in the bowl, you have “created” Christmas arrangements.
When you are decorating for the holidays, don’t be afraid to experiment.  Remember, it is only up a short time, so if it doesn’t turn out exactly perfect, it is ok.  Each time you try, you will get better at it, and before you know it, you will be the talk of the neighborhood.  Keep it fun, and something that is manageable for you.  It should also be something you like, and you should have fun doing it.
Mantle before Christmas garland
Mantle before Christmas garland
Garland and ribbons Garland and ribbons
Detail of garland

Detail of garland

 
 
Completed mantle

Completed mantle

Detail of bowl decoration

Detail of bowl decoration