Holiday Mantels: 3 Looks to Inspire


I have something shocking to tell you: Christmas is just over eight weeks away! But at Nell Hill’s, it feels like it’s just around the corner. We are filling the store with one lush and lavish display after another, creating a winter wonderland that delights all the senses. (I can’t wait for you to see it during our Holiday Open House Nov. 11 & 12.)

This holiday season will be especially joyful for me, because all of us will be together again in one store, under one roof: The Nell Hill’s team and you! To celebrate, we’re doing the holidays up big, big, big. We’re starting with a series of holiday decorating blogs, where my team and I will share inspiration and ideas for making your own home merry and bright for the season. First up? Holiday mantel decorating tips from Bruce, our marketing and visual manager. Here are a few dramatic mantels he and the team created to inspire you …


Blue Christmas


I’m pretty crazy about anything that’s blue and white. But blue and white pottery, in particular, makes my heart hammer hard. So we created a holiday treatment on this mantel at Nell Hill’s that’s an ode to my lifelong color crush. Our focal points are these classic urns that feature a fresh, contemporary vine pattern. Since dramatic mantel displays have a variation in height, we flanked the urns with a pair of boxwood topiary. Bruce likes to include some element of light in his holiday mantel displays, whether it’s a strand of lights or a single candle, so he added a string of large white bulbs and this beautiful etched glass hurricane lamp.

STYLING TIP: “Fit your holiday décor to your room, not the other way around,” Bruce advises. What colors are featured predominantly in your home? Use that palette to inspire your seasonal displays, so your holiday décor does not clash with the rest of your home.


My favorite mantel displays include layers of greenery. On this inspiration mantel at Nell Hill’s, our base layer is a classic evergreen garland, swagged in the center and cascading off each end. Next, we added a host of picks and ribbon to give the mantel this full, rich, finished look. While we stayed within a tight bouquet of colors – blue, white and green – the overall display is beguiling because of all the different textures and finishes, from the glistening lime green berries to the frosty silver leaves.

STYLING TIP: Make sure your greens don’t go crashing to the floor, taking all your pretty breakable accents with them. To keep that from happening at Nell Hill’s, we anchor our heavy greenery displays to the wall. We place screws on the right and left side of the mantel, where it meets the wall, then use florist wire to secure the garland to the screws. To keep the breakable ornaments from falling, we cinch them to the greenery using plastic zip ties.


Merry and Bright


This room at Nell Hill’s, with its peony colored ceiling, is the place we get to experiment with bright, bold, saturated color. And, oh my, did we have fun with this mantel! A wonderful modern painting and a pair of floral chairs got us started on this scene that proves holiday décor can be effervescent and overflowing with energy.


When designing mantels, Bruce creates a visual pyramid that draws the eye to the center. In this asymmetrical display, the towering glass candlestick is our apex. The footed bowl filled with ornaments and the etched glass hurricane follow the visual lines, repeating the sparkle of the dazzling garland treatment.


The rope of garland dips dramatically at the mantel’s center, then finishes with a flourish on each side. Check out how we transformed this traditional evergreen garland, amping it up just by weaving in splashy white leaf picks. To finish, we picked out a rainbow of super fun, over-sized tree ornaments in a variety of shapes. Some are wired snug to the garland while others dangle below, adding to the whimsy of the mantel.

STYLING TIP: Decide on one look for your holiday displays, then repeat it throughout your home. “Your mantel should reflect your tree, which should reflect your table setting, and so on,” Bruce advises. “Then, all of a sudden, it’s a great, beautiful story that envelops your home.”


Holiday Traditions


We wanted to celebrate tradition in this mantel display. But not just the timeless red and green tones beloved through the ages. Or the icons we adore, like Santa and the reindeer. But your traditions. All of us have holiday traditions we hold dear, the things that make this time of year extra special. Maybe it’s leaving cookies and milk for Santa. Or reading the Christmas story. Hanging your stockings. Or singing Christmas carols.


Why not feature your favorite things in your mantel display? In this mantel, Santa gazes over the room. To his right, a vase holds a robust holiday bouquet of clipped birch branches and picks. Check out how we made a little stage, upon which we placed a reindeer vase. Bruce suggests this little platform could hold something special to you: a pair of white leather skates you used as a child, or a family holiday keepsake. Adding a piece of your treasured heritage makes your displays uniquely yours.

STYLING TIP: Professional-looking holiday displays are lovely and dramatic, but the heart of the holidays is your time-honored traditions and favorite holiday memories. So fashion a mantel that celebrates the people and things you hold close, Bruce suggests. Maybe it’s a family heirloom – a cookie jar your grandma always had filled, or a copy of A Christmas Carol your family read every year. Work these mementos into your displays to make it a tribute to tradition.

Next Week … We’ll share Bev’s tips for trimming your tree.