Holiday Decorating, Part One: Mantel Mania!

The Christmas season is a decorator's delight. There is no limit to holiday decor - from Christmas trees and tartan tabletops, to bows of garlands along the stairs. This holiday season we are going to look at one element of Christmas decor each week and break it down for you so that it's fun and easy. Decorating should be enjoyable, not overwhelming, especially during this time of year, when we all have enough to stress about.

We're starting off with the mantel. It's the perfect place to begin, as it's the dominating feature in most living rooms and dining rooms and it offers a wonderful place to start off your holiday decorating. (Plus, it gives you time to work up to the Christmas tree, which we'll talk about next week.)

In the spirit of starting out small, this first image shows Cindy Rinfret's library mantel decorated with just two simple urns with sprigs of evergreen. This is a great way to ease into the holiday spirit if you're not quite ready to go all out.

But when it comes to the holidays (and decorating in general) Cindy Rinfret is a firm believer in the "more is more" philosophy. Above, we see her same library but with the added touches of pinecones, red berries and magnolia leaves. It takes the room to a whole new level of festive.

Here's a closeup of this magnificent mantel that's got cover girl status. (It was on the cover of the Holiday 2009 issue of Traditional Home, and additionally is the online cover of this year's Traditional Home holiday feature.)

The mantel mania continues from Cindy's library to her family room, which has a gorgeous mantel that soars to cathedral ceilings and is framed by two French doors.

Bows of pine mixed with gold and silver ribbon and gilded pinecones work together to create a sophisticated look that adds to the beauty of the room.

Part of the fun of the holidays is that it's a great excuse to experiment with your decor and change up your normal look. Cindy might re-design what's on her mantel depending on her mood or to fit the vibe of a party that she's hosting.

Below is the same mantel as seen above, but instead of the red flowers that were centered above the mirror, she's chosen two mirrored vases filled with greenery and anchored them with a collection of fabulous glittery reindeer. The effect is more transitional and understated but no less festive.

Here's yet another mantel in Cindy's home (yes, she has a lot of mantels!) - this one is in her Great Room.

When you are working with a large space, it's important that your mantel decorations be substantial enough that they not get lost in the room. This gorgeous arrangement certainly does the trick. The warm tones of the magnolia leaves (a nice alternative to pine) highlight the gold ribbon and gilded pinecones. It is a holiday look that doesn't rely on the traditional red and green combo but still feels totally Christmas.

Now go look into your box of Christmas decorations and see what you can do to liven up your mantel for the holidays. And if you feel like you need more inspiration, just pop into Rinfret Home & Garden - where we are totally decked for the holidays.

Happy Holidays! Happy Decorating!