An Easy Way to Decorate Your Holiday Mantel

An Easy Way to Decorate Your Holiday Mantel

Many people find decorating a mantel a daunting task so I wanted to show you an easy way to decorate your holiday mantel….or any other time of year!

The secret is, get the look you want and then just exchange pieces for different holidays.  I often do this if I don’t have alot of time.  In fact, I just did it last week for Fall.   This is what my fireplace looks like on a typical day…

So for Fall, all I did was change out some pieces for similar pieces, change out some colors and I was done.  It literally took me about 10 minutes.  Now here is what it looks like for Fall.

If you are having trouble pulling together the look you want, the best way to tackle it is to go back to basics.  Here are some elements and principles of design to consider:  Space, Scale, Line, Balance, Form, Light, Color, Texture, Pattern.  These will serve you well in anything you’re trying to decorate, from a table to a whole room.

But some of the words sound fussy, so let me break it down for you.

  • Space — this just means the space you have to work with, so in this case the space is the size of your mantel.  You only have so much width and depth so your object choices will be dependent on the space you have available.
  • Scale — this is just how the size of one object relates to the rest of the objects.  If you have one giant item and lots of little bitty items around it, the scale will look “off”.  Keeping the scale a little more balanced helps tie the whole thing together.
  • Line — think of a line.  It can be straight, curved, zig-zag, free-form, horizontal, vertical…you get what I mean.  Now think of a line in regards to the height and shape of your objects.  If you have a formal fireplace, you may want straight lines or 45 degree angles meaning everything’s height is relative to the next object and building a specific visual line.  As you can see below, I like a free-form line.

  • Balance — This has to do with symmetry.  A symmetrical design is typically more formal than an asymmetrical one.  But even if you want asymetrical, you don’t want a large quantity of items on one side, and few on the other.  I have found that if you like a simple, elegant fireplace then symmetrical is often the way to go.  If you like a lot of “stuff” on the fireplace then it pretty much comes out asymmetrical without trying.  I typically like an asymmetrical look, mostly because I like alot of items displayed.  But sometimes I change it up and want a simpler, scaled back look like I did for Valentine’s Day.  Yes, for me this is scaled back!

  • Form — these are the objects themselves.  What form do they take?  Are they round, square, rectangle…  A mixture of shapes keep the fireplace interesting.

  • Light — this element isn’t as relevant for a fireplace as it is for the whole room.  But you don’t want the mantel to be in a dark corner of the room.  There should be some ambient light and maybe some accent light on the mantel like candles or maybe a string of mini lights during the holidays.
  • Color — colors on your mantel should reflect the color scheme of the home or the holiday you’re decorating for.  Last year I decided to go all red for Christmas.

  • Texture — one of my favorites.  A mixture of textures add interest to any space.  Here you’ll see I have fabric,  plastic, natural wood and chicken wire all in one area!

  • Pattern — another favorite.  Just like texture, patterns add some fun to your overall design.


So now that you have considered all the elements, how do you put it all together?  For any holiday or your everyday look, gather some items from around the house.  I’m constantly stealing decor from one room and putting it in another.  If you want to buy a few new pieces, some great places to buy beautiful and inexpensive items are Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, At Home or Home Goods.

To dress the mantel, I start by adding one big piece in the middle…well almost middle.  I like it slightly off center to keep with that asymmetrical theme.  Then I add a piece on each end to anchor the display.  These can be two of the same like bookends, or two different pieces of similar height and weight.  Then the rest is just fill in.  Keep in mind that you can stack items, like items on top of books above.  Add as many or as few items as fits your taste, keeping in mind the elements above and using a mixture of textures, colors, shapes and sizes.

You’ll find how-to’s throughout the web that say you can’t have too many things on your mantel… or that you can’t have too few items…or that you can’t hang a mirror because it reflects the ceiling…but here is the bottom line.  There is no right or wrong.  It’s your mantel.  It’s your taste.  Incorporate some simple elements of design and you’ll get exactly the look you’re going for.  Then if you want to keep life simple, when you’re ready to decorate for a holiday keep your basic design and swap out some pieces for holiday decor.

Let me know how you decorate your mantel.  Leave a comment below.