The Art of a Well-Designed Holiday Mantel
Mantel styled by Elle Worsham of Gracious Garlands in Austin, Texas. Photography by Michelle Nash for Camille Styles.
During the holidays, there’s no question that the tree takes the spotlight. But second to that, is the mantel. After all, this is where you gather around a crackling fire, enjoying mugs of hot cocoa and bright spirits with friends and family. To ensure this prime focal point is properly decked, we spoke with four experts who know a thing or two about making a statement: John Mark Sharpe, designer and owner of John Mark Enterprises in Memphis, Tennessee; Elle Worsham, owner of Gracious Garlands in Austin, Texas; Carla Fonts Hrncir, owner and principal designer of Dunbar Road Design in Dallas, Texas; and Anne Buresh, owner of Anne Buresh Interior Design in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Here they share their tips on how to execute a showstopping mantel that’s certain to bemuse the big guy when he makes his big entrance.
Seek out inspiration. Even the most talented designers are always on the hunt for inspiration. For Worsham, Pinterest and Instagram serve as great muses. “There are some wildly talented international floral designers out there,” she shares. “Following hashtags like #foamfree or #floralinstallation always get my creative juices flowing.”
Allow your style and personality to shine. “The holidays are the perfect time to exhibit creativity and personality within a home,” says Buresh. But it’s also important to honor the style of your home so as not to overwhelm the space. She advises you look to the natural tones and dramatics within your abode and emulate that, in a slightly bigger way, on your mantel. If your style is more minimalist and natural, you can still make a big impact, as Wortham illustrates. And if you are more inclined to drama, as is Sharpe’s style, then this is the perfect opportunity to turn up the volume.
Choose a high-quality garland base. The garland is the anchor for your mantel design, so this is not an area where you want to skimp. If you’re going the faux route, which is perfectly acceptable with many life-like replicas available, Hrncir recommends choosing the best base you can afford. Then, over the years, you will only have to change the design accents. Wortham likes to use a mix of evergreen for an extra dramatic look. She achieves this by twisting two pieces of garland together to make it look super lush. Additionally, she recommends hiding the stem ends of the garland by taking extra pieces of greenery and wiring a bunch over the exposed stems for a consistent, unified look.
Mantel styled by Carla Fonts Hrncir of Dunbar Road Design in Dallas, Texas. Photography by Costa Christ Media.
Utilize the pro’s go-to tools. Hrncir’s secret weapon for installing a mantel swag is using Command Strip Hooks in lieu of nails that will leave unsightly holes. Likewise, Wortham uses the 5-pound hooks on each side of the mantel to hold the garland and secures it with 20-gauge floral wire. To ensure the hooks adhere to the mantel, Sharpe recommends wiping down the surface with alcohol first to remove any dust or oily residue.
Bring the outdoors in. The garland is the expected natural element, but there are other ways to embrace nature when bedecking your mantel. Buresh likes to bring in an assortment of feathers, and silver or gold-tipped berries, and pine cones. While Worsham naturally gravitates toward organic minimalism. As illustrated in the first photo, she weaved silver dollar eucalyptus into the evergreen. Citrus is also seasonally appropriate, as Hrncir illustrates with the incorporation of lemons and limes.
Level up your lighting. In order to add dimension to his creations, Sharpe uses several sources of light on his mantel. He relies on battery-and-remote-powered candles for a realistic flickering glow. Then he adds in string lights with a warm glow. If you don’t have a plug on your mantel, there are plenty of good battery-powered options. His one word of advice: if you choose LED lights, opt for the high-quality variety whose light is on the warm side of the spectrum, instead of the excessively bright, blue light the less-expensive ones impart.
TSG Tip 386 from John Mark Sharpe, designer and owner of John Mark Enterprises in Memphis, Tennessee; Elle Worsham, owner of Gracious Garlands in Austin, Texas; Carla Fonts Hrncir, owner and principal designer of Dunbar Road Design in Dallas, Texas; and Anne Buresh, owner of Anne Buresh Interior Design in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. John Mark Enterprises is featured in The Scout Guide Memphis & Oxford. Gracious Garlands is featured in The Scout Guide Austin. Dunbar Road Design is featured in The Scout Guide Dallas. Anne Buresh Interior Design is featured in The Scout Guide Jackson Hole.