Design experts offer style tips worth celebrating all winter long
When January arrives, even Christmas-loving homeowners might be happy to put away Santa and his reindeer. But the post-holiday mantel and fireplace can look strangely bare.
The days are still short and the weather chilly, so "the key word after the holidays is cozy," says Pittsburgh-based interior designer Cathy Davin.
A well-decorated fireplace — even without a wood-burning fire inside — can be the perfect source of cheerful style and warm glow throughout the first weeks of the new year.
Here, Davin and two other designers — HGTV stylist Meg Allan Cole and Atlanta-based interior designer Mallory Mathison — offer four ideas for making the most of your mantel and fireplace throughout the post-holiday season:
Keep winter theme
Davin believes in celebrating winter even after the holidays are over. She removes red poinsettias, but keeps white ones and white cyclamen around her fireplace. And she continues lighting white and gold candles on the mantel.
She also encourages clients to keep tiny white lights in their living space for a warm glow throughout January.
Cole agrees: White lights "can absolutely stay up all winter long," she says. "They yell, 'Warm and festive! Come on inside! Get out of the cold!'"
Alongside traditional lights, she recommends using LED copper strips on the mantel. "Copper is really on-trend right now," Cole says. And these strips of lights are battery-operated, so there are no wires snaking away.
Layer your favorites
A clean, classic mantel with just a pair of vases or hurricane lamps flanking one large painting can look lovely year-round. It's the perfect way to highlight a piece of art, and this sparse approach can be a nice break after busy holiday decorations.
Another approach "is to layer pieces on a mantel by propping up different sizes of art, mirrors and objects" in an asymmetrical arrangement, Mathison says.
This casual look is a great way to display a collection of items — perhaps small, framed prints in various sizes, Mathison says, or a collection of tea cups. This vibrant approach can make a post-holiday mantel seem a little less stark and empty.
To keep the winter vibe going on a layered mantel, Cole suggests using a collection of small animal figurines like deer and other woodland animals. Paint them silver or gold, she says, then drape tiny white lights around them and perhaps even add little wreaths around their necks.
This winter-inspired layered mantel can include any color palette, even cool pastels that hint at spring's eventual arrival. We're "letting go of some of those seasonal rules," Cole says.
If you're not using your fireplace for a fire, use that space decoratively by filling it with candles or other items. Just remember to keep things looking reasonably natural.
"The 'go-to' is a bundle of clean, pretty birch logs that are arranged as if they are waiting to be lit," Mathison says. "I love to use andirons and then stack the birch logs in a pyramid."
Some designers fill the firebox area with small bookshelves or other unexpected items. Mathison prefers not to: She thinks using decorative items that aren't made to be in a fireplace can "feel forced and contrived."
Davin agrees: "I don't like to see a plant pushed back into the firebox area" where it doesn't get light, she says. "One or two plants sitting around the hearth, where they can actually get natural light" can look lovely, however.
Your mantel is the perfect place to get creative. Davin suggests exploring Pinterest for DIY mantel decorations. You'll also find ideas on Cole's Youtube channel.
One favorite of hers: Buy inexpensive cardboard cones that look like little mountains, then spray paint them in a mix of pastels with a bit of gold or white. Cluster them together with white lights, and then top them with a glass dome.
"A glass dome over anything screams design," Cole says, and it can cost as little as $10 at a craft store.
Cole also suggests seeking out craft projects that use votive candles (she offers some ideas at hgtv.com).
Don't forget to get creative under your mantel, too: Add tiny hooks if you don't already have them for holiday stockings, then suspend little glass orbs with LED tea lights inside. They'll provide a warm glow without the work of lighting a real fire.
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