Marvelous Holiday Mantel

While all our mantels have unique looks, they each share the same four key ingredients. (Photo: Mary Carol Garrity/TNS)

Next to your tree, your fireplace mantel is the most important part of your holiday decor. After all, this is where Santa makes his big entrance! The sky is the limit when it comes to dressing this long, thin stage.

Some of us like a display that has a few discreet touches of seasonal cheer. Others light up with joy when their mantel is brimming with layer after layer of opulence.

Our visual design team, with Bev at the helm, does our Christmas mantels up big, with grand displays in every room, each one different from the last. While all our mantels have unique looks, they each share the same four key ingredients. When decorating your own mantel this year, you can use our checklist as your guide.

Start with great greens
A garland of holiday greens is the base layer of every mantel display we create. You can use yards and yards of a very full garland, dipping it below the line of the mantel and trailing the ends toward the floor. Or you can keep the greens close cropped to the top of the mantel. It’s a matter of personal preference.

To secure your garland so it doesn’t slide off the mantel in a colossal crash, tap brad nails into the seam between the mantel and the wall, both on the right side and the left side. Twist thin wire around the nail head and tie it to the garland.

Your greens do not need to be traditional ropes of pine boughs. If you never have before, try something different this year, like a magnolia leaf garland. We have been using it for years and love the sophisticated look.

Once you have a garland of greens in place, embellish it with interesting picks, like berries, sticks, pinecones or contrasting leaf colors and shapes.

Include a dramatic focal point
We love mantel displays that have a touch of drama. And to pull that off, you need an arresting focal point. Get creative on this one, because the sky is the limit.

Do you have any family holiday mementos you want to spotlight? This is the perfect place. A holiday collection you want to showcase? Pick one or two of your favorite pieces and work it into your design. Go for some vertical height and a mix of sizes and shapes for maximum impact.

Embellish with an assortment of ornaments
This year, our bliss is lots of lush layers. Forget minimalism! To create an opulent mantel, we added an assortment of ornaments, laced throughout the greenery, heled tightly in place with plastic zip ties (be sure to trim the ends of the ties so they don’t show).

When picking the ornaments to include in your mantel, approach it like you would your Christmas tree. Make a pile of small, medium and large ornaments. Make sure there are a variety of shapes, colors and finishes. Start with the largest ornaments as your base layer, then build up.

Finish with twists of ribbon and trim
We really like to use ribbon in our holiday displays. They offer another opportunity to introduce movement and direction into the flow of the design, a new pattern and color, and a dash of glamour or charm.

Lace your ribbon through your garland or dot in bows or knots. For a fuller look, add in garlands of beads and pearls.

By Mary Carol Garrity, Tribune News Service (TNS). This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be reached at