Fireplace mantles were invented so we could put stuff on them, right? I do have clients with contemporary homes that do away with the frivolity of a mantle, but I like them for what I can do with them. More than most architectural features, a fireplace is a visual representation of the idea of home-a place around which to gather, be warm, and be safe. A mantle can be home to a revolving collection of objects during the year; their height makes them perfect for displaying those small personal things that benefit from a placement at eye level. But a mantle is never more in its glory than it is at the holidays. Traditionally, gardeners drag all sorts of materials in from outdoors, and custom construct a holiday coat that dresses up that shelf over the fireplace. This mantle began with a natural garland, to which Jeffrey pine cones, nests, cardinals, holly and berry picks were added. Very warm and cozy.
I like a garland centerpiece. In this case, a small wreath constructed of individual pine cone bits identifies the center. The feathered red birds, a symbol of the wildlife so precious in a garden, are nesting here and there. A natural garland may dry quickly indoors, but the smell of fresh greens in season is a little bit of heaven at home.
Armoires, cabinets and the like can be dressed up with garland as well. This antique china cabinet has a gorgeous spiky hat of faux pine and giant cones. A stately and quiet nod to the season.
Formal fireplaces adapt to dressing just fine. White berry garlands, clear creamy snowflakes and ornately carved ornaments are appropriate to the limestone, silver, and formal furnishings in the room.
If I use ornament on a mantle, I like to hang some over the edge. This can be a construction problem, if the mantle is shallow, and the garland heavy. In this case, I loaned my client lead pot feet, which I wired to the garland. These keeps everything securely on top, even though the display spills over the front edge. Some garland I attach to a bamboo pole that runs the entire length of the mantle. Once the heaviest element is stabilized, I can add on.
This garland is woven with large old fashioned white lights, and red LED berry clusters. The garland is wired to a heavy iron candelabra. As this fireplace is in the family room, and host to gathering involving grandkids, all the ornament is plastic. Kids so like to touch things-and why shouldn’t they?
A holiday mantle can be glamorous. The relationship of the large pearly ornaments and birch tubes is an interesting one. I cannot imagine how the bark is removed intact from a birch log, but here they are. The light weight makes them perfect for hanging over the edge of the mantle. White at the holidays is beautiful.
A pair of tall cone shaped topiaries are finished in off-white double faced satin. This ribbon is a sumptuous material that shines softly. This treatment over a cone form is so fast and easy, it can be changed out for other seasons.
There is ornament designed specifically for mantles; they are usually narrow and quite heavy. Close to Christmas, the children’s stockings will be hung from them. An artificial pine garland is augmented with fresh noble fir; if artificial greens are the order of the day, adding some natural greens greatly improve the overall appearance.
Glass ornaments in wine red and chocolate complete the look. The faux white pine has pleasingly overscaled needles that give this mantle a very festive look. I like bringing the feeling of the outdoors inside.