Natural and Sophisticated Holiday Mantel

Modern and natural mantle display for JoAnn and HGTV Holiday Home.

Depending on how you use your home’s features during the holidays, mantel design can become a big deal. It’s the centerpiece to your holiday decor, the stage for your Christmas stockings, the palette that sets the mood for your tree or other home accents. No pressure. It’s the kind of project I like to brew over beginning at Halloween, when new products and inspiration hit the stores, and this year, with Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, I concepted a holiday mantel arrangement for HGTV Holiday House that is undeniably adaptable and neutral, like a fresh blanket of snow in your ‘hood.

It’s a classic yet modern design, riddled with warm and neutral details that I like to think makes it a bit Scandinavian-Meets-Rustic-Cabin, complemented with lots of light, natural wood and a limited palette of colors infused through candles and subtle details, and therefore suitable for any number of home styles. Its elements can be scaled in any number of orientations and built to size to accommodate your own home (and your budget). Flip through this photo gallery to see all the details of my mantel design.

Many of the elements shown in the photos were bought and handmade using materials purchased at my local Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, though I did include some log accents to enhance the organic elements of the scene. Sometimes what you need to get in the mood is right in your own backyard. The bark-covered branches were used in a functional manner, serving for the most part as candle holders and custom candlesticks. I bought a set of green tapers to add color to what I knew would be a neutral design, as well as a few short pillar candles (both the wick and electronic flicker varieties), but regardless of the colors, the wooden details helped pull the theme together.

Log Candlesticks

If you have access to cut wood at home, carefully use a chop saw to cut your logs to length with straight ends, and then drill into the end of each log using a power drill and a paddle bit that is the same size — or slightly smaller than — your purchased tapers. You should be able to gently wedge the tapers into the holes you made, but secure them with hot glue if they feel a little loose.

Using wooden logs from your backyard and making candlesticks for your holiday displays.

Wooden Trees

The wooden trees used in my mantel design are my most favorite of the handmade details, made entirely of cut poplar and birch craft boards. On the mantel, surrounded by earthy-colored candlesticks and towering over birdhouses, the trees add a lot of character to the display. See my wooden Christmas trees how-to post for complete step-by-step instructions.

wooden christmas trees

White Wool Yarn Poofy

As a base to help tie the trees in with the rest of the mantel design (and to help the trees stand upright!), I bore 1/2″ holes through cut logs (holes that were the same diameter as the dowel), and hot-glued each tree trunk into a base. I also topped each tree off with a handmade white wool yarn poofy and hot-glued it to disguise the top of each dowel.

A handmade pouf to sit atop a wooden Christmas tree.

Kraft-Wrapped Gifts

Using Kraft paper, white yarn, and cuttings from the pine tree in my own backyard, I made decorative gifts by wrapping empty boxes to tie in natural elements and textures on a mantle display. A whole stack of wrapped packages all by itself would be a fun and easy way to decorate your own space on a budget.

Pine branch accents on holiday wrapping.

Tassel Garland

I made a tassel garland to accent the mantel using Kraft paper, scissors, hot glue, and white wool yarn.

I started by cutting 6″ x 15″ strips of Kraft paper, folding it, and then cutting tassels into the paper lengthwise. Once the tassels were cut, I folded up the paper more, and hot glued a small strip of Kraft paper sized 1/2″ x 2″ around the top of the tassel to finish each piece. When I had assembled enough tassels, I laid out a 9-foot piece of yarn and spaced out the finished tassels along it. Finally, I attached the tassels to the yarn with the hot glue gun.

Kraft paper garland DIY project for the holidays.

I taped the finished garland to the mantel with Scotch tape, though evenly spread brad nails would have also worked without causing much damage.

How to make a kraft paper tassel garland for your mantle.

Natural Wildlife

You’ve probably noticed the wildlife scattered through the mantel display. For $25, I splurged on several birds and a small animal, which is either a porcupine or a hedgehog, all made of natural fibers, adding to the natural aesthetic of the overall mantel.

How to use animals and birds in holiday decor.

I really liked these pieces from the fall collection, and thought they carried over well into a wintertime theme.

Fake birds used in a holiday mantle display.

Wooden Bird Houses

For the birds, wooden bird houses (costing $1-$6) were used as accents. They are sold as solid wood and are the perfect canvas for painting, even though I chose to keep mine very simple, only adding a few subtle metallic gold details to the windowsill, base, and perch on each house to let the light wood itself add to the natural aesthetic of the mantel design.

As a finishing touch, I applied spray snow from the can directly down on the houses, as though they were being buried by a natural snowfall.

Using deluxe snow spray in your holiday accents.

The effect is subtle from afar, but really great when you’re observing the details up-close in the mantel display.

Holiday mantle with birdhouses and faux-snow.

The finished mantel is something that would hold its own in the same way in a neutral or colored room. Its elements are light and seasonal, though it could easily be left displayed from Thanksgiving through New Year’s to give a refreshing boost to a mantel during the holidays.

What do you think? Would you replicate or include any elements from my mantel design in your own home?

DIY Mantle Design.

Brought to you by Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, where ideas and inspiration come together for a Simply Creative Christmas.

8 Responses

  1. G Cummins says:

    I like the wood candle holders…in fact I had my husband make some for me about 4 yrs ago out of a birch log. I also had him drill holes in a birch log and cut the opposite side flat and added a piece of felt and decorated for the mantel on Christmas…adding the birdhouses and wooden trees were great. Looks like something I will use again. Thanks

  2. Charolette says:

    a little better than the actual winner but kinda boring!!!!

  3. Kelly Smith Trimble says:

    Thanks for all your great comments about this mantel design! You can now see the winning mantel design and projects from all our fabulous designers from the Jo-Ann Blogger Challenge here on… and here:

  4. Colleen says:

    Emily’s Natural and Sophisticated Mantel is the best by far. Perfect balance of enhanced décor and expressing seasonal joy without being too Spartan or too over-the-top.

  5. Mea says:

    Liked the tropical green candles and use of the cute animals celebrating

  6. Fran says:

    Love the simple elegance…..
    my favorite of all

  7. Colleen says:


  8. Kelly O. says:

    Love those candle stick holders!


About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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