Let's roll up our sleeves and make some December Magic!

Magic Mantels

Good morning ladies and gentlemen! The holidays are upon us, so let's roll up our sleeves and make some December Magic! Let's focus on mantels. (No mantel? See below for details on how to add one, fireplace or not.) Chimney or not, mantels are where the stockings are hung with care for Santa's visit! That's what makes them as fun to embellish as the Christmas tree. With a few words of wisdom you can make magic on your mantel…oh my gosh, am I bestowing words of wisdom? How absolutely daring of me.

Think Big

The most common mistake I see people make in regards to their mantels is this: The items are simply too small! Take a good look at the mantel, what happens on the actual mantel shelf and the space above. This is where the magic takes place. Let's say you have an 8' ceiling with a 6' long mantel sitting at 5' high. This gives you 18 square feet to display you winter wonderland. Slow down here…where did she come up with 18' square feet? Here's how: From the top of the mantel shelf to the ceiling is 3' and mantel width is 6' (3' x 6' = 18') square feet. Design involves a considerable amount of math as you'll see if you keep reading my column. With this said, placing a couple of 6" figurines on the mantel and a candle and calling it good won't create the impacted you are looking for- Gorgeous! When doing a mantel for the holidays or for life as usual scale with the accessories chosen for mantel does matter! By placing identical pieces at each end of the mantel anchors the mantel for what you place between. Items in the range of 24" will usually give you enough height to make their presence known. This could be urns, topiaries, or over sized candle sticks to mention a only a few items.

Pile It On

This is Christmas and being overindulgent is vital Stuff, stuff, stuff. Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle. Magic, magic, magic. Let's play with this visual scenario. Let's say you already have a fabulous piece of art hung above the fireplace; it's the perfect composition and the size couldn't be more ideal. So what comes next? How about a pair of Christmas trees living in wonderful red ceramic pots, one for each end of the mantel. (Don't shove it clear to the end, but maybe centered between the side of the art and the edge of the mantel…right there…good!) The trees are about two-thirds the height of the artwork, which is perfect. Can you see the triangle we are creating? This sets the stage for all the other elements to fill the mantel. Just below the art, smack dab in the center, place a collection of three BIG frosted sugar cones, one pointed toward the left, one pointed to the right and the one in the center stacked a little on top of the other two, pointed generally into the room.

Love to Layer

Now start layering some greenery, such as long bough branches with berries, across the top, tucked behind the pots and maybe some drifting off the edge of the mantel. Maybe add some greenery to the top of the art to bring it into the enchantment as well. Really load the mantel with several types of evergreen, fresh or fake, your call. Stand back and think, "What else could I add?" How about some Granny Smith and Jonathan apples, bundled cinnamon sticks tied up in ribbons, how delicious! More sparkle you think? Try mixing some petit snowy pinecones along with some additional frosted sugar cones into your wonderland. Maybe add a little dusting of holiday snow and a few votives to the greenery. (If you're using real candles, make sure the flame is free and clear of anything flammable.)

Need more stuff? Most of us have boxes and boxes of holiday decorations and finding new places in your home to use some of your celebration in a box is half the fun. As the exhilaration builds with the mantel design, dig into those treasure trove of goodies! Maybe you have an extensive collection of nutcrackers that have always stood at attention on the buffet in the dining room. How about, this year, incorporating them into the mantel design?

You don't need to have a visual script in your head. Just start with a couple of key pieces to awaken your artistic talents and then build from there. As you work, be sure to take breaks to view your bedazzling holiday display from across the room as you want it to be visible from way over…………………………here! Keep working and suddenly it all starts to come together. The excitement will build and in a short manner of time you will beaming and saying, "Well done, Mantel Master!"

Hanging Stockings with Care

Adding your Christmas stockings and greenery are just the finishing touches for your magnificent mantel. Shh, here's a secret ladies, just between us: Hammer some tiny finishing nails into the top of the mantel (use the same holes year after year, it's really just a tiny bit of damage). Remember, Gorgeous MUM is the word, on the nails! Use narrow ribbon or pipe cleaners, in a color that matches the greenery, to attach your stockings. Use the same nails to attach the garland or pieces of greenery to the mantel as well with narrow ribbon or pipe cleaners. Perhaps finish off each stocking with a wonderful holiday bow. When using holiday ribbon as part of your winter wonderland use the same ribbon throughout your home! You certainly can and I even encourage you to combine a couple of delightful ribbons that coordinate well with one another. The ribbon becomes an important aspect of the color palette for your Christmas display!

DIY Mantel

If you don't have a mantel, don't despair. Shop catalogs, check out the lumberyard or custom-build a shelf to treat as a mantel. This adds a great new architectural element to your home, always a plus, while inviting new design options. Be sure that your shelf is about 12" deep to allow for enough space to showcase all sorts of wonderful treasures!

As a child we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. This tradition began because my Mom as a child experienced painful earaches on Christmas Eve. Her parents discovered that by opening the gifts on Christmas Eve Mom's earaches astonishingly disappeared. My own personal family of three girls along with two cousins piled into my Grandma Jones' car to drive around waiting for "the" signal! When the front porch light was turned on-"the" signal-Santa had been to our home. Today is my Grandma Jones' birthday-her middle name was "Starr" and in our family she was our "Star"! Happy Birthday Grandma!

This is the perfect time for you to enjoy all the overindulgence this season permits, enjoying all the wonderful moments with your family and even make new Christmas memories! After all, memories are the best gift you can give to yourself and your family, so make many this year! Memories will forever belong to you! Happy Holidays!

I will visit with you next week!

Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: jan@jcolvininteriors.com