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

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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!

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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).

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Arrangement
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. 

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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 HeadWest 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

Snoopy's house.

Snoopy's house.

Lights make it a bit more festive and fun!

Lights make it a bit more festive and fun!

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Other ideas . . .

The mini Glass bird ornaments from Neatly Nested Design & Decor add a little sparkle to your Charlie Brown Christmas tree. And in our case, went nicely with Li's wallpaper.

The mini Glass bird ornaments from Neatly Nested Design & Decor add a little sparkle to your Charlie Brown Christmas tree. And in our case, went nicely with Li's wallpaper.

Black candles looked so chic against the black detail in the wallpaper. Gold and rose gold candles disappeared. The glass votives & candle holders are from West Elm, and the white silver-lined votive in the middle is from Hudson. Olivewood coasters is also from West Elm.

Black candles looked so chic against the black detail in the wallpaper. Gold and rose gold candles disappeared. The glass votives & candle holders are from West Elm, and the white silver-lined votive in the middle is from Hudson. Olivewood coasters is also from West Elm.

Tie a simple bow to your vintage pieces for that pop of velvety red. Owl ornament is from West Elm.

Tie a simple bow to your vintage pieces for that pop of velvety red. Owl ornament is from West Elm.

This Faribault blanket from West Elm is must. It's neutral with a stripe of color, cozy and can be styled like a log in the fireplace—especially if you have a non-working one!

This Faribault blanket from West Elm is must. It's neutral with a stripe of color, cozy and can be styled like a log in the fireplace—especially if you have a non-working one!

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