Interior Design

2 Ways to Decorate a Holiday Mantel (Even if You Don’t Have One)

December 12, 2017

This season, we're Making Magic, bringing you a series of easy transformations to embellish already-wonderful things, from cakes to presents to trees. Today, we're dressing our mantel: Slide back and forth on the image below to see the magic happen.

Do you have a mantel in your home? If so, consider yourself lucky. It may be a grand space or just a sliver of one, but that shelf can really do wonders to transform the whole look of a room. It’s the perfect perch to line up any manner of tchotchkes and mementos to inject instant warmth and character. And for you non-mantel owners, no worries: Just clear an empty shelf or make space on a narrow console and decorate to your heart's content!

In my home (a typical New York City apartment), we don't have a mantel, but we do dedicate a couple of shelves in the living room to family photos and little trinkets we've collected from our travels. (That brass sparrow bottle opener? I have a spot for that.) During the holidays, our shelves are filled from end to end with photo holiday cards that warm our hearts well into the new year.

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It's this time of year that mantel dressing gets taken up a notch and really shine (especially around these parts). We love combining natural elements with stately accents like brass candlesticks to show visual interest with differing heights and textures. Think of it as a mini stage with a changing cast of characters, depending on the night and the company.

Slide left and right to see our two versions:

Want to recreate these looks at home? We turned to our resident goddess of visual artistry, Food52 Art Director Alexis Anthony, for her tips.

On the left, we have a more traditional holiday mantel, adorned with fragrant eucalyptus and bright winterberries. Our vintage-inspired brass candlesticks stretch the whole length, alternating between short and tall. Tapered candles in grey and bayberry, also of varying heights, make an elegant and complementary color statement with the wall and mantel themselves.

On the right, Alexis turns up the volume with fresh tones of salmon, red, and gold. Deep crimson kangaroo’s paw and red eucalyptus takes up residence in Louise vases in enamel, brass, and copper. And Italian ruscus gets the spray paint treatment in gold and copper, weaving through the same brass candlesticks, but this time holding tapered candles in terracotta and blush.

Both looks celebrate the holidays in their own beautiful ways, but you know your mantel best. Whichever style you veer towards, know that it won’t take a huge effort to make a lasting impression.

Which mantel style are you: simple or magical? Let us know your favorite mantel decorating tips below!

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Food52's Automagic Holiday Menu Maker

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Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.