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Wrap up mantel makeover with ease

Garland, such as this one of live magnolia leaves, can add a touch of Southern flair to a fireplace mantel during the holidays.

Pottery Barn

Garland, such as this one of live magnolia leaves, can add a touch of Southern flair to a fireplace mantel during the holidays.

You'd think the thin strips of wood above our fireplaces were gangplanks the way they make us quake at the knees when it's time to dress them up for the holidays. Even those who love to decorate for the season pause when it comes to tackling mantels. But I've got a secret for you: Creating a marvelous look on your mantel is simple when you follow one of these two strategies.

Add tiny touches

Adding just a few seasonal tweaks to your existing year-round display is the simplest, and sometimes most effective, way to spice up your mantel for the holidays. This year, I'm going to keep everything exactly where it is and just add a bit of greenery and a touch or two of glitz.

Arm yourself with some greens and play around a bit. Tuck an evergreen pick or strand of pine garland behind the artwork above your mantel, letting the branches cascade over one corner. If you want, hang a few ornaments from the branches.

Spruce up your mantel display itself by adding a bit of greenery here and a few holiday accents there. Tuck a few picks behind the large objects, like urns or vases. Fill an apothecary jar or hurricane glass with pinecones or pomegranates, or dress up a vase with a bouquet of wintergreens and berries. If you have a piece of statuary or a figurine on your mantel, give it a playful holiday touch. Hang a tiny ornament, suspended from a ribbon, from its hand, or crown its head with a wreath of evergreens.

Do a complete remake

If you're raring to reinvent your mantel for the holidays, ask a few questions before you start. Should the display be formal or informal? It needs to match the style of the room. Would you rather have a symmetrical or asymmetrical look? Are you in the mood for a display that's simple and streamlined, or over the top?

One more tip before you get started: Top your mantel with a piece of plywood painted or stained to match. That way, you can pound in nails to secure the greenery without hurting your mantel.

If you're going for a no-holds-barred display, have fun. Your mantel is one spot where you can go a bit wild for the holidays. To create drama, focus on making one big statement. For instance, fill a large urn with branches you've spray-painted gold or silver. Or you could drape a long cord of showy pine garland up and over the mantel, letting it pool onto the floor on each side.

If you're itching to get some new holiday decor on your mantel, check out the glitzy trees that are hot this season. Get a trio of trees in graduated sizes and cluster them at the mantel's center, filling in with a few glittered deer figurines so the overall grouping is shaped like a triangle. Or group a cluster of trees and deer on either side of the mantel, creating two pyramid-shaped displays.

If you already have more holiday decor than you can pack into your storage boxes but you're still yearning for something new this year, invest in one or two key decorating tools you can not only use in your holiday decor but also in year-round decorating.

Mary Carol Garrity is the proprietor of three successful home-furnishings stores and is the author of several bestselling books on home decorating.

if you go

Holiday home tours

Ready to decorate but need some ideas? Check out these area homes that are decked out for the holidays:

Hyde Park

Preservation Inc.

Holiday Home Tour

What: Six homes on S Newport Avenue in the historic Hyde Park area of Tampa.

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5.

Tickets: Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the event. Mail requests by Tuesday to 805 S Willow Ave., Tampa, FL 33606 with a check made payable to HPPI. Tickets will be held at a will-call table at the corner of Swann Avenue and Newport Avenue. Day-of tickets will be sold there as well.

For more: Contact Camille Collier, (813) 728-3759,

Mann Residence

Open House

What: This 1922 Mediterranean Revival home at 313 Sleepy Hollow Drive in Temple Terrace was once owned by Cody Fowler, a member of the family for which Tampa's avenue is named.

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 13.

Tickets: Tickets are $5 and benefit the Temple Terrace Preservation Society and the Bat Tower Project. They can be purchased at the door, or e-mail Leitha Bowles at

Old Northeast


Tour of Homes

What: Tour eight historic homes of varying architectural styles in St. Petersburg's Old Northeast neighborhood.

When: 3 to 8 p.m. Dec. 13.

Tickets: Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the tour. Find local retailers selling the tickets at the neighborhood Web site listed below, or buy them on the site. Day-of tickets will be sold from 2 to 7 p.m.

at Westminster Palms, 830 North Shore Drive NE. Shuttles are available and proceeds benefit charity and the historic district.

For more: (727) 895-4443,

Wrap up mantel makeover with ease 11/27/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 7:40pm]
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