In the family dining room at the Governor’s Residence, the table’s filled with glassware. Overhead, snowflakes hang from a glittering chandelier.

Yet, the mantel with greens is the piece that brings it all together.

“If you didn’t have that mantel decorated the way it is, even though the rest of the setting is beautiful, it would look very bare,” says Juli Bossert, executive residence manager. “The mantel being decorated pulls everything together.”

Whether a mantel frames a real fireplace or is something simple as a shelf, it’s a perfect spot for holiday decorating, from greens and a Nativity set to candles and critters.

Read on for four ways to decorate a mantel and tips on doing it right.

Governor mantel

This mantel design in the governor’s residence came together with what was left after decorating the home one Christmas past.

Governor’s Residence

This elegant mantel in the Governor’s Residence came together with what was left after decorating the home one Christmas past.

(This year, the house is closed to the public because of COVID-19, Bossert says. Staff are focusing on outdoor decorations instead.)

The home’s tour director and housekeeping supervisor Diann Knapp started with a base of artificial Fraser fir greens. Real cedar twigs drape from the front with crystal icicles. On top are leftover stars, snowflakes, silver candlesticks and sprigs of juniper.

Bossert’s tips:

  • Layer. Layer. Layer. “I don’t think you could ever add too much,” she says.

  • Stocking weights can pull double duty by holding the stockings and keeping the garland in place.

  • Don’t just put up a single skinny piece of garland. Mix artificial and fresh greens to add more to the mantel.

Heritage Design Interiors mantel

This woodland theme mantel from Heritage Design Interiors has winter activities and cute critters.

Heritage Design Interiors

Working in an 1830s inn with six fireplaces, Anita Yoder has plenty of experience decorating mantels. This year, for the holidays at her business, Heritage Design Interiors in New Holland, she decorated five mantels. This woodland theme starts with a pine garland.

Each accent’s connected to the woods and winter activities. There are sleighs, sleds, skis and skates. Woodland critters include feathery birds, squirrels, hedgehogs and rustic raccoons. Because the theme is woods, Yoder added silver pinecones, white berries and snowflakes.

Yoder’s tips:

  • Place a screw in each corner of the mantel and wire the garland. “You don’t want to decorate it and have it come crashing down,” she says.

  • To attach ornaments and elements securely, use 5-to 6-inch pieces of thin wire and twist around the back of the garland. “That way you can control it and make sure it’s looking the right way.”

  • With working fireplaces, be careful of the heat. Focus more on the sides of the mantel and watch what hangs down from the top.

Tudbinks mantel

This sledding theme design from Tudbinks Nursery has greens, river birch branches and more.

Tudbinks Nursery

This sledding theme design from Tudbinks Nursery starts with river birch branches as the “superstructure,” says Van Binkley, owner of the Conestoga business. These branches provide color and texture as well as supporting the arrangement. They also give plenty of places to secure greens and other elements.

Evergreen branches are pushed between the metal dividers, layered like shingles and then watered.

Next comes sleds, berries, yellow and red dogwood, seeded eucalyptus, plus a cozy scarf and a metal moose silhouette.

Binkley’s tips:

  • To keep greens fresh indoors, use plastic goat feeders as mantel-top planters that will hold water. Adding metal grids on top of the planters help keep greens in place. When filled with water, each feeder weighs about ten pounds: perfect to water the plants and stable enough to make a solid base.

  • Add lights before you add accessories and things get more complicated.

Ten Thousand Villages mantel

This mantel design from Ten Thousand Villages starts with a focal point of a wooden nativity set.

Ten Thousand Villages

Kasia Adilman’s the woman behind holiday window dressings at Ten Thousand Villages’ stores. The windows might not have working fireplaces, but a hearth brings warmth to a home and is a doorway for magical Santa visits, says the brand environment designer for the Akron company.

Adilman starts her design by choosing a focal point: a wooden Nativity set. The set is hand-carved by artisan partners in Indonesia with lots of tiny details. Then she adds décor outward from the focal point. Here, that includes simple greens and fairy lights.

Adilman’s tips:

  • Limit your color palette to three colors. Make sure your mantel style complements the other holiday decorations in that room.

  • Choose battery-operated lights to keep cords out of the way of the design. Fairy lights are lightweight and perfect for winding through greenery. Battery-operated tea lights are a safer option than open flames for casting a warm glow.

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