3-PART SERIES: Winter Mantel Styling Guide & Tips
with Boston Photographer by Li Ward
South End wedding and pet story-teller/photographer, neighbor and better yet, friend Li Ward wanted to spruce up her mantel without over decorating it with Christmas attire. She approached me looking for ideas on how-to create easy looks that could transform her 19th-century marble fireplace into a beautiful centerpiece—lasting longer than the holidays. And instead of seeing her gorgeous golden yellow peacock wallpaper from Anthropology as a challenge, we embraced it!
Together, Li and I brainstormed pieces that blended winter nostalgia with items she had around the house or ones we could pick up in the neighborhood. With many of my projects, I like to bring in an element of unexpectedness or pieces that you would normally find in your bedroom, powder room or kitchen. Repurposing these items are an easy way to create a new look or space. We took this idea and created three winter mantel-scapes that Li could replicate starting now and give her completely different looks throughout the season!
Check out our first mantel and stay tuned for the next two!
No. 1 "Charles" Brown
Charlie is all grown up! Our interpretation of A Charlie Brown Christmas turned Charlie into a man. We're smitten over his classic West Elm enamel mug, linen-covered books (one tented for friend, Snoopy), his iconic Charlie Brown Christmas tree with the single red ornament adorning the moose's head instead, a vintage ice skate for all twirls and turns the Peanut characters made around that famous pond, and of course, cozy warm wool throws for Linus!
Here are some things to think about when you're designing this mantel:
For Charles Brown, we create four equally sized focal points:
1. Papier-Mâché Moose Head
2. Stack of books & enamel mug
3. Christmas Tree
4. Basket of wool blankets & skate
Color & Texture
Gather items that will create a cohesive color palette. In Charles Brown we used white & cream, shades of dark green and pops of red.
Don't be afraid to play with a mix of materials and surfaces. Live (tree) with metal (basket), worn (skate) with new (blankets) , and home-made (books) with machine-made (mug).
This arrangement works so well because of the even distribution of the focal points. Although they are weighted differently, their placement is key to this mantel feeling balanced . . .
Balance: Scale & Weight
In this mantel, the groupings are relatively similar in scale. Although the tree measures larger than groupings 1 and 2, because of it's style and cut, it doesn't overpower the other elements. And the linen books visually carry their own weight. The same goes for the moose head, because it's white papier mâché, it allows for the mantel to be anchored nicely by the firewood, blankets and skate. If we swopped the blankets and the books (for instance!) the top of the mantel would feel too heavy while the books would get lost below.
You can also create balance with color. The red mug (although small) is a key element. Because of it's shiny surface and bright color, it balances the size and weight of the tree. Make sure each color (especially colors that pop) are spread evenly. We didn't want to create any straight lines, so our red, white and green elements zig zag or stagger down the mantel.
Papier-Mâché Moose Head, West Elm
Red Ornament, You can find at any craft store or department store where they sell traditional ornaments
Linen-covered books, I bought old books from Salvation Army and covered them with a thin book cloth; you can also use canvas.
Color Enamel Mug in Red, West Elm
Olivewood Coasters, West Elm
Charlie Brown Tree, local nursury
Red Flannel Throw, Li's collection
Green Faribault Wool Throw, Hudson
Teal Market Basket, Hudson
Vintage Ice Skate, Sowa Vintage Market
Firewood, Warren Hardware