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Omaha Magazine

Holiday Mantels

Nov 01, 2022 08:10AM ● By Sandy Matson

Photos by Sarah Lemke & Bill Sitzmann

Decorating my home for the holidays is one of my favorite traditions. My living room’s three-sided fireplace mantel is a focal point, setting the tone for the rest of the holiday decor. From year to year, I mix it up, sometimes choosing to go with a very traditional mantel with touches of gold, and other times more modern. This year I chose a woodsy theme with a hint of holiday sparkle. Below are directions for recreating my mantel look. I reached out to two Omaha interior design teams to share their unique holiday mantels as well. A big thank you to Hearts & Fire and Maison MxM for lending us your expertise! I hope these looks inspire you to try something new with your holiday decor this year.  

Woodsy Holiday Mantel
  • Fresh and faux evergreen sprigs (an assortment of styles and types)
  • Fresh and faux eucalyptus
  • Long strand of white string lights (green cord) 
  • An assortment of woodsy holiday decor, trees, and ornaments
  • Faux branches (for a natural look)
  • Iron candle holders for both taper and tea light candles
  • Tapered and tea light candles
  • A large brass reindeer candelabra, or any centerpiece (consider the depth of your mantel when choosing)

Step 1: Place the candelabra at center stage. Place a smaller, complementary figure close by, then add faux trees and dark iron candlesticks to complement the scene.

Step 2: Weave a long strand of white lights through the decor, across the length of the mantel. Bundle the remaining lights at the far end, and set aside for later.

Step 3: Arrange the first layer of faux greenery/garland. This is the foundation that you will build upon. (Use the least attractive of your greenery stock).

Step 4: Weave the remaining lights back across the mantel for a second layer, taking a bit more time tucking and hiding the cord under decor. Then add another layer of greenery. 

Step 5: Add a few rustic holiday ornaments and pine cones for a more woodsy look. Then layer on more greenery and faux eucalyptus. 

Step 6: Finally, lay fresh eucalyptus and evergreen sprigs on top. This will add fragrance and an authentic look to your mantel.

Fresh evergreen and eucalyptus can be bought several days or a week prior to your holiday events. I bought mine at Trader Joe's, then placed stems in a bucket of water until I was ready to use. It looks amazing and smells even better!  

More mantel decorating tips:
  • Try mixing fresh with faux greenery for a longer-lasting, more affordable look. 
  • Shop end-of-season sales to score bargains on quality faux sprigs, garland, etc. for next year.
  • First, find a centerpiece you love, then shop for accessories that complement it well so your theme is cohesive.
  • Buy design elements of different heights and avoid lining up things in a row. You want the viewer's eye to jump up and down with visual interest.
  • Keep symmetry in mind. You don't want the arrangement to repeat exactly, but you do want it balanced.
  • Layer items as you decorate, back to front, to lend texture and depth to your arrangement.
  • Cut long decorating pieces, like garlands, into smaller sections so they're more manageable when arranging around lights and small holiday decor.
  • When it comes to accessories, there really are no limits. Be as creative as you want!  

Photos by Sarah Lemke & Bill Sitzmann

 Mark and Mikal Eckstrom, designers | Maison MxM

Our objective was to frame the fireplace wall with foliage. We purchased pre-made fresh pine garland and layered in boughs of magnolia, bays, olive, and eucalyptus for a heavier foliage effect. We then added dried orange slices, baby’s breath, white poms, red berries, and grosgrain ribbon in both Caribbean blue and russet red. The ribbons repeat the lucite swags on our vintage Grosfeld House mirror and tie the colors of our soft furnishings into the display. The mantle has contemporary reeded and chrome “trees” that feel like a trio of obelisks for a fun, modern mix. The entire tableaux makes for a cozy spot to pull up a chair with a craft cocktail that readies us to capture the holiday spirit!   

Photos by Sarah Lemke & Bill Sitzmann

 Lori Kirkpatrick & Tahnee Chedel, owners | Hearts & Fire furniture and decor boutique

We designed this mantel with a bit of whimsy and fun. We anchored the space from above, hanging our “Magic” art print as a backdrop. We layered a white faux fur pelt to add soft texture, and placed blue and frosted glass vases at one end for a bit of modernism. LED candles in the bottom of the vases lend a warm glow. Trees of varying heights, trimmed in cut beige leather, were added to create another soft effect, while tall candlesticks with vibrant blue tapers add more visual interest. Handcrafted Peruvian gold and silver mirrors were layered in at the back for the reflective factor. The sweet golden dove comes in for another dose of something unexpected. We finished it off with frosted blueberries, sparkling garlands, and hand-cut white origami garland.    

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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