The winter chill has settled in and visions of Santa’s sleigh dance in our heads. The most wonderful time of the year is here again — the time to decorate our homes for Christmas. And after the tree, the mantel, where children hang their stockings and Santa makes his way down the chimney, is the best place for your seasonal creativity.

For centuries, until central heating and TV diverted our attention, the fireplace was “the heart of the home.” Today, anyone fortunate enough to have a fireplace, whether it actually provides heat or not, appreciates its historic place in family life and the wonderful opportunities for decorating that a mantel affords.

“The mantel is often the focal point of a room,” says Melissa Michaels, home décor maven at The Inspired Room and author of The New York Times bestseller “Love the Home You Have.” “A fireplace conjures up feelings of warmth from those cozy evenings gathered around the fire or memories of family traditions at Christmas.”

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Whether you are pulling out all the stops with décor in every room or going simple with just one or two areas, a beautiful Christmas mantel is an impactful place to focus your efforts.

3 Christmas mantel ideas if you don’t have a fireplace

But, then, what if you don’t have a fireplace or mantel? If that’s the case, Michaels offers three ideas for how to create a mantel-esque display for Christmas.

1. Faux fireplace

It’s amazing how real a mock fireplace can look. Consider an antique fireplace surround that is mounted to the wall, or try your hand at making one. Here is a DIY idea, using an old mirror frame.

2. Ornamental shelf or bookshelf

Use a shelf over a decorative fireplace screen to create the sense of a fireplace. Another idea is a bookshelf with adjustable shelves so you can create a large open center.

3. Console table

Look for a console table that is extra tall (the max is usually 32 inches) and decorate the top as you would a mantel.

Melissa Michaels mug

Create a sense of unity through repetition of a color like green or white or by using a collection of several similar elements like glass votive candles or stockings.

Melissa Michaels

Home décor expert and New York Times bestselling author

10 ideas for a beautiful Christmas mantel

Here’s how, with some care and creativity, you can create a Christmas mantel decor that will shine and bring joy to everyone throughout the month of December.

1. Start with a clean slate

Clear everything off your mantel, the wall above it, and any clutter around the base. Pull out the Christmas stockings and decide if you will use them again or bring in some new ones. (See tip No. 5 and consider making a statement with stockings that are all the same color or pattern.)

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2. Consider your favorite styles

Look around the living room or dining room and note the design aesthetic, and choose to either carry that out on your mantel or simply be inspired by it. Whether you lean Scandinavian, country, or elegant/traditional design, the mantel, Michaels says, is a stage where you can be totally unique.

3. Add art first

You may already have something above your mantel, such as a mirror or perennial piece of wall décor. Consider removing it for the season and replacing it with a personalized piece of Christmas art. A wreath is another perfect addition; just make sure it’s the right size for your fireplace, not too big or too small.

4. Natural greenery and florals

Greenery adds softness to your display,” Michaels says. She advises adding sprigs here and there — her favorites are cedar and holly, which she uses around the base of candles. Other pretty options are magnolia and eucalyptus. And don’t be afraid to embellish a plain garland with floral accents, ribbon, and pinecones; simply wire the elements in place with floral wire.

5. Carry through key colors or objects

Michaels suggests choosing a single thematic color or object to serve as a carry-through design. “You’ll create a sense of unity through repetition of a color like green or white or by using a collection of several similar elements like glass votive candles or stockings,” she says.

6. Vary heights

Try for a magic combination of items tall and short, large and small. “Strive to create balance rather than symmetry for an interesting composition,” Michaels recommends. “Choose a taller piece for one side of the mantel for drama, such as a vase with seasonal stems (faux or real), and then create balance with a collection of two to three candlesticks in various heights on the other side.”

7. Stocking placement

Before hanging your stockings, invest in some sturdy stocking holders. They not only add to the décor but also allow you to move your stockings around, if necessary. Stockings are most commonly spread across the entire mantel, but you might try grouping them on one side for visual interest.

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8. Add light and glow

Pine garland with a dusting of snow and twinkling lights provides a traditional Christmas feel to the mantel. Candles are perfect for adding points of light and also for their height variation. Another lovely idea is a cluster of three lanterns in differing sizes.

9. Honor family and tradition

Michaels likes to have at least one traditional element on her mantel, whether it’s an heirloom ornament passed down for generations or a cluster of four candles to count down the Advent season. The best mantels are filled with elements both old and new.

10. Showcase a collection

“Look for decorative objects, such as favorite ornaments that aren’t too small but can be layered in and tucked around the greenery,” Michaels advises.


Erika Kotite is a she shed expert and the author of three books: She Sheds: A Room of Your Own; She Sheds Style: Make Your Space Your Own; and She Sheds: A DIY Guide. She co-founded She Shed Living to help women celebrate their lives in the backyard and natural world.

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