Shortcuts for Holiday Decorating
With the first frost, turn your attention to the home's most engaging focal point, the fireplace. Style the mantel, hearth, and its surroundings to look beautiful starting in November and lasting to the New Year.
Think of it as a decorative work in progress. Set up a simple mantel arrangement of grapevine, lights, and containers (we used lanterns, twinkle lights, and copper flower buckets) that stays in place. Every week or so, take 30 minutes to embellish the basic arrangement with decorations that reflect the season.
By following these suggestions and our handy time line, you'll be sipping hot chocolate while everyone else is still decorating.
The Starting Point
Keep these basics in mind when creating your arrangement. Measure your mantel. On our small one (14 inches deep x 63 inches wide), there's not much space for large items. The only way to go was up. Long-stemmed blossoms in the pots did the trick. Remember that less is more and bold is better.
Don't feel like you have to use one long piece of grapevine across the mantel. It is much easier to cut segments from a wreath and arrange them individually. Allow curled pieces to drape off the sides, but for safety, keep them well above the firebox. If desired, cover the mantel surface with fabric or felt to prevent scratches.
Candles positioned low near the grapevine must be enclosed in lanterns or glass holders. Place containers on tiles, cork coasters, or trivets to protect the mantel from heat. (If you have some great tall candlesticks, arrange them at the ends. Stagger small flowerpots along the mantel between the tall candlesticks.)
Here's a quick schedule as well as some ideas for add-on decorations.
Early November: Tuck small pumpkins, winter squash, or gourds into the curls of grapevine. Scatter brilliantly colored leaves along the mantel. Fill flowerpots with branches of leaves, potted mums, or seed balls.
The week of Thanksgiving: Nestle pears, apples, and kumquats near the lanterns. Splurge on arrangements of sunflowers and montbretia in the pots.
Early December: Replace fall produce with ornaments or small gift wrapped packages. Remove leaves, and add colorful ribbons, beaded garland, snips of holiday greenery, or magnolia leaves. Potted amaryllis, paperwhites, or ivy topiaries look glorious in the pots for everyday.
Special December parties: Follow the same instructions for the Thanksgiving flower arrangement, but use long-stemmed ruffled-petal red and yellow parrot tulips instead of sunflowers. Or substitute calla lilies or roses for the tulips. These flowers will have a stiff look, so use more montbretia to soften the arrangement.
One Arrangement, Two Looks
For a casual Thanksgiving, push sunflower and montbretia stems into water-soaked florist foam that has been cut to fit the container.
For fancy December celebrations, use montbretia and tulips.
Here's a trick for a narrow mantel: Arrange flowers about two-thirds of the way around the container, decorating the front and sides. The undecorated portion will face the wall.