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How to design a holiday mantel

Christy Pogorelac is a marketing manager and freelance writer who likes to cover topics like entertaining, nutrition, fitness and lifestyle. Along with writing, her favorite past-times include date nights with her husband, jogging in the...

Make the most of your mantel

As family and friends gather to celebrate good times and good company around the fire, the decorations on your mantel will complete the winter scene. Putting a little planning and design time into the process of decorating the mantel for the holiday season will ensure that the focal point of the room looks flawless.

Christmas mantel

Step 1: Assess your space

Apply the classic measure-once, cut-twice rule to your holiday mantel design. You need to know how much room you really have to work with in width, length and height. Understanding the space limitations helps you take full advantage of your design opportunities and avoid overspending on decor that you won't have room to use.

Step 2: Consider a theme

Tie the holiday decorations throughout your home together with a theme -- perhaps a holiday color palette or your favorite holiday story or movie.

Step 3: Account for balance

Avoid the temptation to fill every inch of open space on your mantel. Instead, work open areas into your design and make them just as integral as ornaments, candles, snow globes and bows. Don't hesitate to edit the decorations down. Giving your mantel accent pieces a little room allows them to shine and keeps them from getting lost in the clutter.

Take an untraditional approach to choosing mantel decorations: Bring in items from other rooms, such as baking tools and cookie cutters from the kitchen, a favorite holiday toy or even a few of the family's favorite seasonal books.

Step 4: Experiment with asymmetry

Overlap shapes and layers, and balance tall and large objects with small ones. Play around with placement, but keep small items together so they don't get lost or overlooked in the design.

Step 5: Plan for simple swaps

Switch out everyday decor with holiday-inspired pieces. For example, replace photos with cards and holiday photos in the frames. If you have a painting hanging over your mantel, replace it with a holiday-inspired piece for the season. Winter landscapes are classic. For an eclectic look, frame letters in each pane of an old window frame for a holiday message wall decoration that turns heads and inspires cheer.

Step 6: Choose your materials wisely

Make safety an ongoing consideration throughout the design and decoration process. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Spray your greenery with fire-retardant spray if you have a woodburning fireplace.
  • Don't hang garland low enough for sparks from a fire could ignite it.
  • Raise candles on stands to keep heat from drying out fresh foliage on your mantel too quickly, and never leave a burning candle unattended.

Watch: How to make a personalized Christmas stocking

Create a stocking to hang by the chimney with care for years to come.

More holiday decorating ideas

Hot colors for the holidays
Holiday decorating on a budget
3-Month holiday decorating: Simple tips for decor that lasts

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