The soft, orange glow of a flickering hearth fire during the colder months can create an ambiance of warmth that draws families and friends together. During the holidays, decorating a mantle to reflect the holiday spirit can create an even more enjoyable focal point for the entire house. Marcie Culpepper, a veteran interior designer and owner of M-Design in Blairsville, Georgia, has decorated hundreds of fireplaces through the years using four distinctive themes: sophisticated, homey, simple, and rustic.
One way to create a sophisticated fireplace is to place greenery intertwined with lights and ribbon on the mantel. Culpepper did just that for a Blairsville client, using lime green ribbon for a pop of color. Incorporating the pieces already on the mantel such as vases and urns, she pulled the holiday spirit in by adding balls in red and lime to the clear vases. Placing candlesticks on the far ends of the mantel created an eye-catching glow. Culpepper typically uses timed mechanical candles instead of real ones, effectively eliminating the fire hazard. Poinsettias with a copper tray and three small aspen logs tied together with red and lime ribbon were placed on the hearth. “To have an effective presentation use high quality ribbon with wire edges and don’t skimp on the amount. I had four to five yards in this bow and streamers,” she said.
It’s possible to blend themes as well. In this instance, the fireplace was double sided, so Culpepper counter-balanced the sophistication by creating a homey look on the opposite side. On the mantel, she used combinations of green pines and apples, popcorn orbs and raffia, and garlands of popcorn and cranberries throughout the display. A small tree was placed on the hearth next to old-fashioned gift boxes tied with the same raffia. The existing vases, jars, and urns were filled with candy canes and apples. Children’s mittens were laid amongst the greenery and Christmas stockings were hung on the mantel.
Simple yet impressive fireplace décor can be achieved by laying spruce, magnolias, and pine branches on the mantle and highlighting all the greenery with realistic fake snow made out of shards of plastic foam. “If you wish to use Christmas lights, bury them deep in the greens to keep this look from being artificial,” Culpepper said. She also suggested using timed candles to add light and replacing existing art on the mantel with a large mirror.
Skip the fake greens and instead use natural branches and foliage with red lanterns for a rustic look. The lanterns will add a pop of color, which can be carried out around the fireplace with red and black buffalo plaid ribbon and red berries. Adding small presents wrapped in simple brown paper will tie the rustic look together.
“Snuggling by the warm fire, smelling the logs burning, and watching the flames shimmer and glow is a picture I hold dear for this special season,” Culpepper said. However, unused fireplaces in any theme can also be made cozy by inserting a light in the chimney to shine down on white aspen branches. Another option is to place a tension rod in the chimney and hang lanterns with timed candles from the rod. To add a nice touch to any design, replace family photos with ones from past holidays and display them in silver frames with red matting.
“If the home owner has pieces that are displayed on the mantel, I try to adapt what is already available and simply create a festive feeling around these items,” Culpepper said.
Visit the Union County Community Center’s upper level ballroom fireplace starting the week after Thanksgiving to see more fireplace inspiration by Culpepper.
For more information visit www.marcieculpepper.com