How to Deck Out Your Mantle Like a Pro for the Holidays (A DIY…on a Cheap-Ass Budget, of course)

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In today’s blog I’m going to share the secrets of the pros for doing up your holiday mantle. I used to be a pro. I worked as a floral designer and event planner for over a decade, so I have a few industry tricks up my holiday sleeves. I’ll be showing you all kinds of holiday goodness over the next couple of weeks, but today it’s all about the mantle. (Note: I am a serious Maximalist, the Liberace of Holiday Decor. If a minimal look is what you’re into, this may not be the DIY for you.)

The Basics:

1. Theme

2. Foundation

3. Lighting

4. Balance

5. Layers

6. Details

1. THEME. For a polished, professional look always start with a theme and/or color scheme in mind, and stick to it. Usually a 2-3 color scheme works best. In keeping with a teeny tiny budget, I work with what I have. This year, because of a couple key thrift store finds, I had an abundance of gold and brown. As a bonus, this elegant color scheme goes great on our mantle. I went through all the holiday decorations and gathered up everything that was brown and gold.

2. FOUNDATION. Start with a solid foundation, something that “anchors” the look. In this case, my foundation is about 16 feet of faux garland, doubled over itself on top and draped in the front and down the sides. The Garland is firmly seated in place so it will hold what is to come. (A few of the wired bits of garland are tucked in between the mantle and the wall. If you need something to anchor to, I highly recommend those 3M removable adhesive hooks. They are a life-saver! Well, at least a wall-saver.)

  * A Note on Faux Garland. I love this stuff. It can last for decades, it’s cheap, and it’s positionable. When the garland I’ve been using inside starts to look a little shabby, I move it outside. The trick to getting this stuff to look good is “fluffing”. The little branches are all wired and get squished. You need to fluff up the garland by gently pulling up the branches and shaping the greens. I find most of my faux garland super-cheap at the thrift store, and I even found a big bag of it that one of my neighbors had thrown out. Free! Score!

3. LIGHTING. Lighting is really part of the foundation. Make sure the color of your lighting goes with your color scheme. White pretty much always works. I recommend LED lights. I know, they are more pricey, but they last longer, use less energy to light, and won’t get too hot and burn your house down. That would suck. There are two big common mistakes many people make with lighting. The first is not enough lights, and the second is messy lights, ie: wires showing and lights sticking out all over the place. No one wants unsightly lights ;-) To look like a pro, wrap your lights around the garland, tucking in any wires that show, and use a lot of lights! I used a 150 string on my mantle, and it is just barely enough, even with the added string of bubble lights.

4. BALANCE. From the foundation up, make sure your mantle is visually balanced. Find the center and place decorations evenly out from there. (Unless you are going for an asymmetrical balance, like I did for my Thanksgiving Mantle) Stand back every so often while your working and give it a good look to be sure everything is even.

5. LAYERS. Get in deep! Layers are key for a pro look. Place items tucked in the back, on all sides, in the middle, everywhere! Layering gives visual depth and fullness.

6. DETAILS. The little things count. Polish off your display by paying attention to the details. Are your cords tucked in? Are all the lights working? Stand back and give it a good looksy. Does it need a final touch of bling?

 

OK, there are the basics, let’s get started.

Foundation & Lighting. Here I have my foundation greens in place, and my white lights wrapped into the garland. (Yes, that’s dorky-ass me and my iphone reflected in the mirror, glad you can’t see that I’m in pajamas)

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Next, more lights (a string of bubble lights. I love these things. I find a place to use them every year) and a few sprigs of glittery faux eucalyptus I picked up at the thrift store last year.

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Time for a little sparkle with a bit of gold lame’ fabric tucked under the front and behind the sides. The fabric is secured in place with the wired garland branches. Lame’ is cheap! My favorite fabric source is Distinctive Fabric.

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Now we get busy with ornaments and pine cones. The pine cones I save and reuse every year. All of the ornaments came from the thrift store, collected over the years. (Even our wacky stocking was a thrift store find). Most of the brown and gold ones are from a big bucket of Martha Steward “shatter resistant” (read: plastic) ornaments I snagged at the Goodwill a couple weeks ago for $5. They were new! (retail $39) Can’t beat that with a stick.

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All the ornaments were simply secured to the garland with the wired branches. Easy peasy. Note the Balance & Layers. There are pieces at every depth and level. And for the final detail, I tucked in some pheasant feathers to the middle and either end. I use feathers for just about every holiday. Cheap, festive, unusual, and reusable. Done! Well mostly. I am looking to change out the red candles for white ones…

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There’s much more Holiday Goodness to come! FOLLOW the blog and you won’t miss a thing.

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4 thoughts on “How to Deck Out Your Mantle Like a Pro for the Holidays (A DIY…on a Cheap-Ass Budget, of course)

    • Hi Susan, thanks for your comment! I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love unusual, non-traditional, outside-the-box holiday decor (wait till you see our tree!) and I’m all about being over-the-top! I love the feathers. They look great with the mantle color scheme. I wish you could see it in person! I hope you are having a lovely Holiday season, and Happy Decorating!

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