Decorating for the holidays often revolves around a Christmas tree adorned with lights and ornaments. But a beautifully decorated holiday fireplace mantel is an equally important focal point for creating a festive mood.

What makes decorating the mantel such a cherished Christmas tradition? 

Long before the advent of television, families gathered around the living room fireplace to spend time together. The fire provided warmth and light in the wintertime. Back in those days, stockings would hang up to dry by the fire. Legend has it that Saint Nicholas once through a sack of gold coins through the window of a family in need, only for the bag of coins to land in a stocking. 

Whatever the true origin may be, fireplace mantels and stockings have been intertwined with Christmas traditions for as long as anyone can remember. The tradition has made mantel decorating a treasured pastime that continues to this day whenever the time comes to “deck the halls.”

Fireplace Mantel Decorating Ideas

There is no one way to decorate a mantel, and how you choose to do it is a matter of personal preference. However, there are some common themes or approaches you might want to take such as:

  • Natural theme. Cover your mantel with seasonal greenery, such as pine garlands, mistletoe, pinecones, or poinsettias. Sometimes greenery can mess with your allergies, which in that case faux plants are perfectly fine to use!
  • Collector’s display. The mantel is often the perfect place to display your collection of Santa Claus figurines or a place to layout your miniature Victorian holiday village. 
  • An array of ornaments. Ornaments aren’t just for trees. You can place a stand on your mantel to display your favorite ornaments or use wire or small zip-ties to create a centerpiece of colorful ball ornaments.
  • Light it up. Cover your mantel with strands of twinkling lights, or an array of seasonal candlesticks to bring some festive illumination to your living room.

You might be inclined to try a little bit of everything, which is fine too! Just be careful not to overload your mantel with too many contrasting ideas, or it might start looking a little tacky. On the other hand, a tacky Christmas theme might be what you are going for, but make sure that it is purposeful.

Christmas Fireplace Mantel Styling

Whatever theme you decide on, certain design principles universally apply. Consider the following aspects of your design to make your mantel decorations everything it can be:

  • Color scheme. Stick to a primary color scheme, and you can’t go wrong. Red and green, silver and gold, and blue and white are traditional favorites. Putting them all together, though, can clash.
  • Levels and layers. Create a visually impressive display by choosing pieces of different heights. Consider what parts will go in the foreground near the edge of the mantel, and which pieces will go in the background towards the wall.
  • Choose a focal point. While you may decorate your mantel with several different pieces, you should consider having a one standout piece that catches the eye first.

The best thing to do is to gather your decorations and start arranging them. Stand back and see what works and what doesn’t. You can continue to arrange your mantel until you get it just right.

No Fireplace Mantel, No Problem

Just because you don’t have a fireplace, doesn’t mean you can’t have a mantel! If your home or apartment doesn’t have a fireplace, you can easily mount a wood mantle to your wall and create one. A freestanding wood mantel can act as a floating shelf that you can use for storage, framed photos, or other decor all year round. 

Putting it All Together

So, you’ve adorned your mantel in tinsel and other holiday baubles. Now what? 

Well, of course, you’ll probably want to hang your stockings. Instead of using nails or tacks that will leave holes behind, use weighted hooks designed to hold stockings. These can be placed on the edge of the mantel and can usually hold up to a pound of goodies—so be mindful not to overstuff your family’s stockings on Christmas Eve.

If you have a Christmas tree, you should make sure that the decor compliments the decor used on your mantel to create a cohesive look. Consider using the same color palette, at least so that the mantel doesn’t compete with your tree.

Finally, you’ll need to turn your attention to the rest of your living space. Will you be entertaining a large number of guests at Christmas? You’ll probably need some extra table space for presents and food. Reclaimed wood table tops are a good choice, especially if you have a reclaimed wood mantel to match. Table tops can be combined with hairpin table legs for a quick and sturdy solution. 

When all of the elements come together, you will the spirit of Christmas come to life, and so will your guests!

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