Give your Christmas mantel decor its moment to shine with the best festive looks for the holidays. Second only to the Christmas tree itself, mantels are a focal point in living rooms; after all, it’s the first thing Santa will see when he emerges from the chimney – it needs to look the part!
Whether you want to edge to modern Christmas decoration ideas or a bring charm to a traditional schemes, the most eye-catching displays will truly capture the holiday spirit. From rustic garlands and classic decorations to contemporary DIY village scenes in whimsical colors, there’s something to suit every style. So what are you waiting for? Get those decs up!
Christmas mantel decor ideas that steal the show
Christmas décor is really all about tradition and personal style, so chances are you keep your mantelpiece scheme fairly similar year on year, just like Nora Mitchell, Editor in chief of Household advice (opens in new tab); ‘I believe Christmas décor should match your personality, so every year I decorate my mantel the exact same way; white ceramic houses, pinecones and cedar branches – it mirrors my minimalistic style’.
1. Keep colors cool and natural
Going back to basics is one of the most beautiful ways to decorate for the holidays, and this Christmas mantel from The Identité Collective (opens in new tab) is the perfect example. ‘The best way to recreate this look is to group the candles together very closely – track down as many different sizes as you can, and then buy 20% more! Keep things simple on the stockings; a few loosely tied velvet ribbons in monochromatic colours elevates the entire look’, says Founder, Anastasia Casey.
2. Make a scene
There’s something truly special about handmade DIY Christmas decorations, don’t you think? Talented DIYer and blogger Ariel of PMQ for two used plywood and DecoArt’s line of Americana acrylic paints (opens in new tab) and dazzling metallics (opens in new tab) to create her adorable gingerbread village, perfectly suited to a mantel display. We love the contrasting colors and informal drawing style. ‘Although this particular DIY (opens in new tab) doesn’t light up, it easily could if you wanted to drill holes, which really isn’t that hard to do’, she suggests. Kids will love it – and grown ups, too!
3. Try different positions
Who says a homemade Christmas garland must be perfectly centered? Asymmetrical positioning can add a stylish and contemporary twist to your mantel display. If you’re using a fresh garland, choose foliage in keeping with the style of your fireplace. Don’t feel obliged to go all out on traditional Christmas greenery either. Here, classic red, white and green have been sidestepped in favor of pale eucalyptus and pastel pink flowers to create an elegant festive feel perfectly in keeping with the room’s pared-back décor
4. Incorporate flea market finds
Instead of buying brand new decorations, consider browsing flea markets for vintage finds to create an eclectic display like this one from boho-inspired blog, Hey Wanderer (opens in new tab). Or even better, raid your family’s loft! Using well-loved ornaments passed down through the years is guaranteed to evoke precious memories. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about after all?
5. Pick a playful color palette
We love a bit of vintage décor, even more so when its Christmas themed. For a kitsch twist, try a row of mini bottlebrush trees in funky shades of orange and pink – and a bit of gold thrown in for good measure. ‘If you want to surprise guests with cute, unforgettable decorations go with the unexpected – choose whimsical colors and bring the scale down a notch’, advises Channa Alvarez, Interior Designer at Living Spaces (opens in new tab).
Try invisible Command hooks (opens in new tab) for an easy and neat way of hanging up stockings, too.
6. See beauty in the everyday
If you can’t be bothered to box up your year-round décor to make space for festive versions, work them into your holiday displays, instead. ‘When deciding what items should take center stage, think about something that is going to blend into your décor well while also showcasing the season’, advises Jen Stark, Founder of Happy DIY Home (opens in new tab). We’d recommend rustic ceramic jars and vases; they suit nearly every scheme and double up as the perfect vessel for seasonal cuttings and foliage.
Look created by Arada (opens in new tab).
7. Feel the love for baubles
Baubles aren’t just for your favorite Christmas tree ideas, they add a little holiday cheer to a fresh garland, too. Stagger the hanging heights and mix matte and shiny finishes to craft a considered yet eclectic festive look. ‘Scarlet and gold complement the greenery for a striking Christmas in the countryside feel, or you could inject a more glam feel with jewel shades of emerald, indigo and fuchsia’, says Abi Wilson, Celebrations Buying Manager at Habitat (opens in new tab).
8. Bring the outdoors in
Not all mantel decorating ideas have to scream Christmas – a more subtle approach means you can leave it up all winter long. Scour your backyard for branches, twigs, trimmings and snowberries, then arrange them all beautifully on your mantel for a seasonal display reminiscent of a winter forest floor.
9. Bring in all the presents
Not sure what to do with those wrapping paper cut offs? Transform them into a string of colorful Christmas gifts and dress up a plain leafy garland of course! ‘Incorporating the colors, patterns and styles in your Christmas scheme can be somewhat of an art form, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. The colors build on themselves and ground the traditional in a more eclectic and whimsical feel’, says Ariel of PMQ for Two (opens in new tab). Make the most of the space above and continue the theme with vintage accessories and a bold red wreath.
10. Reuse and rejoice
Your local junk yard can be a great source for unique Christmas mantel piece, from wooden frames and burnished mirrors to vintage bottles and old tins. A distressed pair of shutters makes an ideal place to display Christmas cards and will look awesome propped up on a mantelpiece. Other ideas include using old tart tins and baking trays for displaying candles, decorations and foraged finds, making hanging wreathes out of wooden embroidery hoops and fashioning candle holders out of old glass bottles. Be as creative as you like!
11. Take a minimalist approach
If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace as beautiful as this one, there’s no need to go all out. ‘One of the most common Christmas decorating mistakes is going overboard, too much of a good thing is exactly that. You want Christmas spirit to be part of your home… not overtake it’, says Andi Morse, Interior Designer and founder of Morse Design (opens in new tab). With that in mind, stick to green foliage and understated white stockings, then add interest with loosely tied velvet bows for sophisticated mantel décor that’s just the right side of festive.
12. Channel cozy cabin vibes
Love the winter woodland look? Opt for a white and blue Christmas color combination; reminiscent of sparkling snow-topped forests, it evokes warm and cozy log cabin vibes. A well-placed mirror reflects twinkling fairy lights for added atmosphere, while rustic logs in the hearth complete the fireplace arrangement from top to bottom. If it’s a coordinated scheme you’re after, decorate your mantel with garlands and décor that complement those on your Christmas tree.
Look created by UK-based Garden Trading (opens in new tab).
13. Say it like you mean it
Really drive the message home with light-up monogram letters set along the mantel. ‘I love to make my room festive and bright with an abundance of color and lights – I purchased this MERRY sign to match my initial letter B that sits year-round in our hearth’, says blogger Amie of Meme Hill (opens in new tab). You can find her full tutorial on how to create this look on @MemeHillStudio (opens in new tab). If you don’t have a working fireplace, or choose not to light it, consider filling the hearth with festive décor to continue the look across the whole fireplace. Ideas include wrapped up presents, pillar candles or lodge-inspired lanterns.
14. Play with height
Who says a Christmas wreath is just for the front door? Draw the eye up by hanging one directly above your mantel and surround it with matching greenery. A variety of evergreens, pines and eucalyptus interspersed with romantic mistletoe and snowberries compliments this rustic, all-white living room scheme. If you’ve opted for real foliage rather than faux, be sure to mist with water daily to stop it from fading before the season’s out.
15. Mix and match materials
For an industrial-style take on a traditional mantel arrangement, assemble a group of stylish metal stars. ‘Don’t decorate with even numbers – use odd numbers instead and be asymmetrical in scale’, advises Channa Alvarez of Living Spaces (opens in new tab). We love how the metallic contrasts with warm candlelight and a string of soft felt stars – it works beautifully.
16. Champion beautiful craftsmanship
Bring an artisan feel to the season with heirloom stockings, beautifully crafted from organic cotton and natural dyes from The Citizenry’s wintertime collection (opens in new tab). Candles are one of the simplest ways to add interest – and atmosphere. Create different heights with wooden candle holders (opens in new tab) in various sizes for a look as stylish during the day as it is when lit up of an evening. Compliment the scheme with rustic woven baskets and relaxed linens.
Look created by The Citizenry (opens in new tab).
17. Get crafty
Discover your inner creative and have a go at making your own Christmas crafts like hanging decs from well-loved festive fabrics. Bring them out year on year and embrace the nostalgia. Continue to go low on cost but big on impact by using seasonal stems, branches and berries sourced from the great outdoors, and arranging it in makeshift votives from around the house. These rustic biscuit jars bring a homely Christmas baking vibe – handy if your fireplace happens to live in your kitchen!
18. Adorn your mantel with colorful candlesticks
We can't get enough of decorative candlesticks at the moment, but don't let them be the reserve of your Christmas dining table decor. Display a collection on your mantelpiece like this, making sure to combine various heights, colors and candlestick holders. These shapely holders are pieces of artwork in themselves and stood proudly on this fireplace, they can be adored by all.
19. Go contemporary with neon signs and vibrant paper decorations
If you've gone for modern Christmas decor, bright neon signs and funky paper decorations are the way to go. These colorful decorations fold up completely, making them so easy for storing and taking out for parties. We bet you've noticed that gold disco ball too – this created quite a stir at Real Homes HQ and it's a great way to bring instant pizzazz.
20. Mix materials and an earthy color palette
Bring the outdoors in and create a nature inspired, more traditional Christmas mantel for a fresh and calming centrepiece to your room. Go foraging in your garden for fallen twigs or leaves and have fun with positioning them artfully as shown here. We're loving the eucalyptus stems in glass jars, and the ferns bringing a wistful and organic edge.
21. Give ornaments pride of place
Position your baubles center stage by hanging them delicately from your mantelpiece mirror. All you need to do it tie your baubles to long lengths of decorative ribbon, and use tape to attach them to to back of your mirror. It's a simple yet effective idea that screams elegance and creativity.
22. Create a focal point with a huge, light-up, sparkling star
If you're looking for festive mantel ideas that add a little extra magic this year, a large luminous stars and more in the way of Christmas lighting is your answer. Position on the center of your mantel for the highest impact and style up as you please. Be it modern and colorful, traditional golds or simple foliage like this, there's room for a statement star in any holiday decorating scheme.
What do you put on a mantelpiece for Christmas?
Alvarez shares her top tip for placement; ‘Don’t decorate your mantel in even numbers – use odd numbers instead and be asymmetrical in scale. For example, set three tall candle sticks to one side of your main focal point (a mirror perhaps, or a seasonal artwork) and something small on the other – small gifts wrapped in fabric or a stack of Christmas books are nice options. Add in one natural element throughout, like an evergreen garland, to keep the look consistent’.
Don’t feel like you have to discard your existing décor; take advantage of it! Neutral vases and clear jars are great for displaying festive foliage, while books, boxes and other flat surfaces offer perfect places to show off festive ornaments. In fact, you don’t have to change your existing display at all if you don’t want to – simply stringing lights through what you have or strategically placing pinecones, branches and other foraged finds is enough to add a subtle touch of merriment!
What are the best Christmas colors for a mantel?
Whether they relate to tradition, significance, or just simple preference, Christmas colors can vary wildly from one house to the next. For that reason, there aren’t ‘best’ colours, just different ones!
Red and green will always be classic, but this season sees more whimsical colors taking the lead. ‘Sugarplum shades of lavender, pink and mint combined with snowy white will create a dreamy mantel display that’s unexpected but aesthetically pleasing – a great talking point for guests!’, says Alvarez.
Casey says: ‘the holidays to me are about gratitude for the abundance we experience throughout the year, so I tend to keep things very natural when I decorate. I steer towards slightly ‘off’ colors, faded mustards, dusty heathers, deep cobalts… you don’t necessarily need sparkles to make it feel festive, a simple satin or velvet ribbon works equally well’.
How do you decorate a mantel with garlands?
Lewis Puleo, Vice President of the oldest artificial tree company in the US Puleo International (opens in new tab) says; For a naturally festive feel, I’d recommend decorating a garland with seasonal foraged finds from the great outdoors; pinecones, wintry sprigs and red or white berries, depending on your color scheme. If you wanted to add a bit of a ‘pop’, you could introduce bows, baubles and decorations, too.
It’s not all about looks – the best garlands full of fragrance can make all the difference to your festive feels – whether real or faux. For this reason, it’s worth considering real greenery over faux to achieve that sought-after evergreen scent. ‘I love to string dried oranges onto twine and incorporate them into a leafy green garland – adding a few drops of citrus essential oil boosts their natural scent and makes the whole room smell amazing’, says Mitchell.