A WALK IN THE WOODS CHRISTMAS MANTEL

white trees on a Christmas mantel

This year’s Christmas mantel is like a walk in a magical woods! It’s white and blond and rustic and glittery and filled with tiny lights! Snow-covered tiny leaves and sparkly mercury glass ornaments fall softly on the mantel/ forest floor while tall trees tower overhead. Come see how we decorated our new mantel for Christmas!

Our mantel at Tanglewood looked like this when we moved in! Okay, but very bland!!!!

picture of neutral colored great room

And just 6 weeks later it looks like this…

fireplace at Christmas

After Christmas, I’ll show you how the transformation was made but for now, let’s enjoy the Christmas decorations!

FINDING INSPIRATION FOR A CHRISTMAS MANTEL

tall wooden candlesticks and tiny white trees on mantel

I had this idea of a walk in the woods in my mind for this year’s Christmas decorations. Trees are a favorite of mine and in recent years I’ve collected a whole forest of white and light-colored trees.

The white lit trees look a bit scraggly! And for some reason, I just love them especially when they are mixed with more refined looking trees like the paper trees trimmed in silver!

With the theme of “a walk in the white woods” in mind, I gathered up all my white trees and lots of silver ornaments. I also found bunches of pretty floral stems with teeny, tiny brown-ish leaves on them that look like they were covered with snow. And the combination of the three became the stuff of magic for the Christmas mantel this year!

white paper tree trimmed with silver glitter

I think it’s so important to have a theme or a story running through our minds when decorating! Decorating is so much easier when we have a thought or an idea to translate from our heads to a room or a mantel or a bed or a sofa or a coffee table in our homes!

This theme was the inspiration for the Christmas decor in our whole home this year! You might like…

CHRISTMAS IN THE GREAT ROOM

ALL IS CALM MASTER BEDROOM

Another very important thing to consider when decorating a mantel is a color scheme.

Always, always have a color scheme! It will give you an automatic cohesive look! And we want a cohesive look!

round mirror above a mantel decorated for Christmas

I have tons of red and green and gold and silver Christmas decor in the basement but this year I mostly brought up whites and silver with a sprinkling of gold! It was hard to leave the evergreens in the basement for another year! But I knew they would not work with this year’s look!

I’ve already planned next year’s Christmas colors and they include red and all the evergreens in the basement!

ADDING THE FIRST THING

I thought you might like a little design lesson running through this post. So I’m packing in all the why’s and how’s of making the best Christmas mantel!

I started decorating this Christmas mantel by adding a blond Christmas wreath to the center of the mirror.

blond wreath on a round mirror

I found this wreath at a local shop. You know the feeling when you find something you know will work with your decor? I usually grab it up if the price is right! I have developed a good sense of what will and won’t work in my home!

Like the white trees, the wreath is a bit unusual… but I just love it!

SETTING THE HOLIDAY MANTEL FOUNDATION

Christmas mantel filled with white trees and wooden candlesticks

After hanging the wreath I went to work setting up my stand of trees across the mantel. Balance is very important when decorating! And not the trees became the foundation of the mantel but I also added some chunky rustic candles into the tree mix!

I tried to balance the trees and candles on the left side of the mantel with the trees and candles on the right!

Balance is all about making the visual weight of one side of something, the mantel in this case, the same as the visual weight of the other side. Not matchy-matchy but balanced.

Here is a great post all about balance. It’s really worth your time to read!

THE ELEMENT OF DECOR… BALANCE

Not only are the trees and candles balanced across the mantel but they are also added so there is a variety of heights too!

trees and candlesticks on a Christmas mantel

One of the things that make what we decorate so pretty is the ability for our eye to travel from one height to another across a surface or around a room!

white bottle brush trees and small ornaments on a Christmas mantel

And our decor is seen as every so pretty if the colors are tight and repeated and things grouped together too. Phew, lots of work for just adding a layer of trees, right? But now YOU know!

side view of Christmas trees on a mantel

So you see how important that first layer of trees and candles are to the overall look of the Christmas mantel? And really once the balance, heights and color palette are laid out, the rest is fill-in or embellishment! And I am the queen of embellishment! I love to make things pretty!

ABOUT LIGHT

Just a comment about Christmas mantels and light…just do it!

A holiday mantel should be filled with sparkle and light. You can add light with…

  • strings of lights
  • lanterns
  • candles
  • fairy lights
  • votive lights

I originally took pictures with all the little lights on but they had a very funky pink cast in the images I took. In real life, they look golden and warm. So, I retook all the pictures with the lights off. But here’s just one (that I had to do a lot of editing to)!

white lit trees on a mantel for Christmas

FILLING IN THE SPACES, A SECOND LAYER

white bottle brush tree and mercury glass ornaments on a mantel

I filled in the spaces between the trees with groups of silver and mercury glass ornaments.

Oh, don’t forget to layer! Another important design element!

You can read all about layering here…

HOW TO LAYER DECOR LIKE A PRO

And there’s a video in the layering post too! Layering decor on your mantel is no different than layering decor in a room! Just on a smaller scale!

mercury glass ornaments on a mantel

ADDING FLUFF

close-up of a mercury glass ornament on a Christmas mantel

After the pretty ornaments were grouped across the Christmas mantel, it was time to add just the lightest layer of what I call “fluff”. It’s something, usually organic-ish that is light and airy and will blur the sharp lines of anything it is put against.

tiny leaves covered with snow on a Christmas mantel

Don’t forget to add the fluff! It could be…

  • small sprigs of evergreen, especially pine
  • tiny springs of berries
  • fairy lights
  • bead garland
  • seeded eucalyptus
  • cedar boughs

I cut apart big stems of these tiny leaves and added them under, over and tucked them in next to sparkly ornaments!

ornaments and leaves covered with snow


Adding that last layer to anything you decorate is when the magic really begins! I can lay a good foundation, fill in the spaces with that all-important second layer but when I add fluff… Oh, I can almost instantly see my decor transform.

When I laid down those first couple sprigs of tiny leaves, MAGIC! This is my FAVORITE part of decorating!

DON’T LET YOU MANTEL STAND ALONE

Christmas mantel with trees and candles

One of the biggest decorating mistakes I see is lovely decor standing alone!

So I would never let my mantel stand up there alone without adding some repeated element to the hearth or floor around the mantel. I don’t want to keep my eyes or your eyes stuck up on the mantel so I need to give them a little help down!

And we do that by adding like elements of the sides and hearth and floor around the mantel. It does not need to be much. Just a taddy bit or hint of what’s on the mantel.

This will help our eye climb down off the mantel and be able to look around the rest of your room. Remember, your mantel is probably the focal point of your room so our eyes will go to it first!

I use this saying to remind me to add a bit of what’s on my mantel around it…

THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE

Remember the children’s nursery song, The Farmer In The Dell? Do not let your mantel be the cheese! The farmer takes a wife and the wife takes a child and the child take s a dog…

Christmas mantel with trees and chunky candlesticks

Make sure your mantel has a partner! We don’t want it to be like the cheese. LOL! Get it? I knew you would!

YOU’RE NOT DONE YET

tall blond Christmas tree covered with snow

One of the things I do when the initial Christmas mantel decorating is over is to stand back and look at the design.

Is it beautiful? Does it convey my theme? Is it balanced? Is the color scheme cohesive? Did I vary enough heights? Is there enough lighting? Does my eye travel from one thing to another? Do I need to edit? Or add?

This is when I make those corrections. This is when I’m looking specifically for ways to make the mantel better.

close up of tiny blond bottlebrush tree covered with snow

Looking at your beautiful mantel with a critic’s (not critical) eye will really help…

  1. train you design eye
  2. help you rework areas that could use a bit of help and
  3. give you the biggest sense of accomplishment!

THE IMPORTANT LAST THING

trees, ornaments and filler on a Christmas mantel

Many years ago I took up painting. I love painting! And took lots of classes. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination! And I’m not being modest! Believe me!

Anyway, I was the happiest artist in my classes. My expectations were so low! I really did not fuss or want to rumple up my watercolor and toss it away.

I was seriously the best student. Not in ability, but attitude!

I knew a little secret. I knew of “trunk magic”! You see no matter how bad my creations looked compared to my classmates I knew if I put my drawings and paintings into the trunk of my car and drove home and waiting till the next morning to pull out my masterpieces something magical would happen!

When I took my creations out of the trunk they would look AMAZING!!!! Something happened in the trunk overnight and I would say to myself,
“You are a genius! A master artist! Your work is beautiful!”

You see (remember how low my expectations were) when I got away from all the truly gifted artists and saw my paintings with a little distance from actually painting them I could really appreciate them!

So I use “trunk magic” when I decorate.

After I have used my critic’s eye to evaluate my mantel. I walk away. And if I can I stay away from it for a few hours.

Then I turn on some Christmas music and revisit my mantel. And usually when I see it with “fresh eyes” (and Christmas music) trunk magic happens!

Oh, I LOVE trunk magic! Now is the time to be thankful for your talents and to take a mental or physical victory lap to Angels We Have Heard On High… because you probably did !!!!

MY CHRISTMAS MANTEL WISH FOR YOU

white trees, candlesticks and mercury glass ornaments on a Christmas mantel

Yes, for me this year’s Christmas mantel has trunk magic!

And I hope I’ve helped you a bit today to demystify the design that goes into creating a Christmas mantel and have given you a few memorable phrases to remind yourself YOU CAN DECORATE!

Enjoy the process and believe in the magic of Christmas and your trunk!

white 3D paper tree

28 Comments

  1. Loved this post – I remember reading about “the fresh eye” in one of your post a few years ago and it is so true! Sometimes it also helps in knowing when something is just not right and I might need to adjust somethings . I find myself referring to you r blog when I want the height balances too. I love the way you balance that with out doing a mirror image of things on both sides,it’s just so easy on eye. Thanks for sharing

    1. I’m so glad StoneGable is helping Marilyn! One of my main goals with this blog is teach, show and share my decorating tips! And for my readers to enjoy, be inspired and learn to decorate thier homes like a pro!

      You are right about knowing when adjustments are needed. If something isn’t working I stop immediately and evaluate. Sometimes I’ll even scrap the whole idea and start over. Great comment ,Marilyn!

  2. I love the mantle…it is so beautiful… As is the rest of your home! My question is how do I decorate the piano which sits next to the fireplace both for Christmas and year round? Any ideas?

    1. Great question, Nancy. Actually you could have two competing focal points! However, the solution is easy! Decorate your mantel and think of the top of the piano as an extension of your mantel. Add something to the top of the piano that reflects the decor on the mantel. Don’t decorate the whole top of the piano but jus the corner closest to the mantel. How fun! You’ve got this now! Hope I helped!

  3. This is so pretty. I grew tired of “in your face Christmas” decorating a couple of years ago, and instead went with a more winter wonderland theme. By using the soft whites, and a more natural look I am able to keep the mantel decorated throughout the winter. I guess it’s more seasonal decorating rather than for a specific holiday. With the soft whites, natural wood colors it’s easy to add items every year that work together. To give more of a glow we have added battery candles. It has made me love Christmas all over again!

  4. Just beautiful and magical! I love how you are always on trend, but always classic. Your design clients are very lucky I’m sure! How many jobs do you take in any given year? You talk about that aspect of your life very little, and that’s okay.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and I hope your new home is filled with many new and happy memories for you to cherish!!

  5. Where do you find such pretty white trees. Been looking for some with no luck for years that aren’t too white & have that vintage look. Beautiful mantel by the way!

    1. I just keep my eye out for them. We have a couple of nice decorating shops locally that have beautiful things at reasonable prices. I found the white paper trees at West Elm last year on sale. And ordered the bottlebrush trees from Amazon.

  6. Beautiful ! Could you please share where you got your small Gold, slim trees…I’ve been looking forever for some like that!

    1. Hi Kimberly,
      I’ve collected these trees over the years and the gold trees are from a local design shop called The Old Millhouse Shoppes. I think they have a facebook page and are online. Hope this helps.

  7. So pretty, love the neutral color scheme.I do miss my mantel and fireplace from my previous home, wish I had one in this house.I would love to find an antique surround with a mantle to decorate.

  8. Beautiful mantel! I have so many ideas in my head…can’t wait to get started! After reading this post and examining your wonderful photos, I have a few more! Great tips. Starting this weekend upstairs to decorate. Excitedly looking forward to it!

  9. Never thought to call it trunk magic but have used the turm walk-a-way from it for awhile like your turn so much better very nice love your decor always

  10. So Lovely Yvonne, love decorating with nature inspired delights, especially the tiny leaves. I will hunt around for those to add to my mantle. Also I made some bows last night from your tutorial!! Your messages each morning with my coffee are a breath of fresh air. Thank You. All of God’s blessings to you and yours this Christmas season.

    1. Hi Cindy, I found these pretty trees at West Elm. I don’t see them this year. One of the things on my Christmas to-do list for next year is to learn how to make them and post about it.

    1. Thank you, Deb. They were a garland that I broke apart. I call this type of little organics “bits and pieces”. And I store them in a clear shoebox style container. So easy to see and use for other decor too.

  11. Yvonne, your mantel is just gorgeous! In fact your entire Christmas home is beautiful and so elegant. Would you mind telling me where you purchased the beautiful paper snowflakes you hung in your foyer and scattered around your rooms. I’ve been hunting for them everywhere. Thank you!

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