Whimsical Christmas Mantel With Natural and Coastal Touches

Happy Christmas in October! The chance to craft a mantel for the HGTV Holiday House was something like tasting ginger lime popsicles for the first time: unexpected, thoroughly delightful, and resulting in lots of giddy glee. (Am I the only adult who still LOVES popsicles?) The fact that the project was part of a Blogger Challenge with Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores made it even more spectacularly enjoyable, considering the fact that I’m already on a first name basis with most of the lovely ladies of my local store. Because I’m in there ALL THE TIME, the moment I saw the HGTV mantel inspiration board, I knew exactly what items I wanted to incorporate into my mantel design. The look was so perfectly matched with my own tastes that I immediately went into high gear and started thinking about the ideas I’d been stashing away for our house this coming holiday season.

You can see all the photos of my mantel design here, then read on to learn how I put it all together.

Using a palette of weathered, nature-based colors and a blend of clean, modern design combined with rustic elements, I worked to create a mantel that stands apart from the traditional holiday aesthetic, but still evokes the spirit of the season. I knew I wanted to incorporate some scavenged natural pieces, such as the driftwood, evergreen, and birch log fireplace screen, along with some DIY projects made to look weathered and textured, such as the pine crate stained in soft gray wash, and the paper letters filled with moss. I also wanted to include some unexpected pieces of whimsy, like the parchment paper garlands, made out of a material that might not naturally lend itself to home décor, but that I find beautiful when layered. I loved incorporating some more masculine textures through the use of the galvanized tin buckets and rustic burlap stockings.

I’d been eyeing the silver polka dotted burlap at my local store for a few weeks, and knew immediately that this was the project I’d been waiting for. You can find the instructions for these moss-trimmed stockings in my how-to post.

The rustic-meets-modern look of this holiday mantle is so appealing to me, and I love the juxtaposition of the rough-hewn elements next to the softer feminine touches, like the collection of pine cones arranged in a glass vase I had on hand with a few ethereal white feathers. Similarly, the bold, clean lines of the vases I spray-painted chrome are a nice contrast to the graceful curves of the willow branches.

I kept the wrapping on my “presents” (I knew I was saving those empty shoe boxes for a good reason …) very simple, stealing a length of the white butcher paper we use for my daughter’s art projects, and some twine tied in geometric patterns. When it comes to wrapping presents, there are many who can perform feats of intricate magic, but I’m always a sucker for simple and interesting, rather than elaborate and overdone.

Once I had all of my elements assembled, it was time to clear out the toddler debris from our bookshelves and stage the mantel. I pulled in a few items from around our house to fill out the bookshelves and bring the whole scene together, but really, the pieces on the bookshelves are easily interchangeable, depending on the actual mantel in the HGTV Holiday House. I have my fingers crossed that my design checks off all the right boxes and gets the vote, but even if another design is chosen, I still win — I’ve already got Christmas décor covered for the year!

Here are step-by-step details on how I assembled the projects you see featured on and around the mantel. And don’t forget to check out my how-to post for the moss-trimmed Christmas stocking.

Mantel Decoration How-to Details

Here’s my collection of supplies from my local Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store. I may or may not have looked like a cross between a contestant on Supermarket Sweep and a kid let loose in a candy store. I even arranged it so that my visit could be a child-free pilgrimage to the mecca of crafting. It was GOOD. Here’s a full list of the materials and tools I used.

  • Birch logs
  • Krylon Original Chrome
  • White feathers
  • Moss ribbon roll
  • 2 glass cylinders
  • Paper mache letters
  • 2 galvanized round buckets
  • 1 galvanized rectangle bucket
  • pinecones
  • parchment paper
  • Curly willow branches
  • driftwood
  • evergreen branches
  • pine crate
  • Minwax Classic Gray stain
  • Reindeer moss
  • Silver polka dotted burlap
  • white felt
  • glass votive candles
  • glue gun
  • circular saw
  • sewing machine

Moss Letters

I love these paper mache letters. I’ve used them in our home, as well as several events and parties over the past year or two. This time, I wanted to add an extra textural element to them with some reindeer moss that was the perfect khaki color. I cut the front off of each letter with a craft knife and got ready to paint my letters a crisp white.

Once my letters were painted, it was time to hot glue the reindeer moss into place, piece by piece. Once the letters were finished, I attached them to the front of my mantel using a few 3M velcro strips I had in my tool kit.

Weathered-Stained Crates

I’d been thinking about grabbing a few of these pine crates to organize some of the supplies in my studio, but this project gave me the perfect opportunity to take one for a test drive. They remind me of the kind of vegetable crate you can sometimes (if you’re very lucky) find in flea markets and antique stores. I knew I could give them a beautiful, well-worn look with a little work and some stain.

We had some soft gray stain on hand from another project, and I knew it would give the crate the perfect vintage patina I had in my mind. The crate took the stain perfectly, and I had my weathered wood crate drying in the sun in less than 30 minutes.

Birch Log Fireplace Screen

My father-in-law was kind enough to humor my request for birch logs and delivered this lot of birch beauty to us already pre-cut. To start, I gave each log a good power washing with the hose to knock off any debris, dirt and loose moss. As you can see, left side = clean, right side = not so much.

Once the birch sections were clean and dry, I did an initial layout to get them to fit together perfectly. It took a bit of Tetris, but they all came together nicely. Once I had the layout I wanted, my fantastic husband stepped in to help out. I handed off my plans and measurements, and he cut each to section to the right length. Once we had all of the sections cut, we used two pieces of aluminum at each end, drilling holes and screwing through the aluminum into the end of each log, so that all of the pieces were held together without any visible brackets to ruin the clean lines.

Pinstriped Glass Vases

I saw these glass cylinders and knew they’d be the perfect height and diameter to sit at each end of my mantel. I wanted to add a metallic touch to the mantel, so I grabbed a can of Krylon Original Chrome, too. Before I spray painted the cylinders, I taped off a pinstripe detail on each cylinder using some skinny pattern tape I had in my craft drawer.

With my glass cylinders taped, I collected my spray paint and took the whole thing outside and gave both cylinders a coat of shiny silver chrome. Once the paint was dry, I peeled off the pattern tape to reveal my pretty little pinstripes and filled the cylinders with trimmed curly willow branches.

Parchment Paper Garland Streamers

Parchment paper is one of my favorite supplies — for baking, for wrapping, and for decorating. I’ve made plenty of paper garlands using cardstock and tissue paper, but for this project, I wanted to pull in the soft sheerness of the parchment paper for some garlands that evoked the soft light of falling snow in winter. I cut out both circles and small, skinny strips, and then sewed the garlands using my trusty sewing machine. The parchment paper sews beautifully, and these parchment garlands have become one of my favorite elements of this project.

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

8 Responses

  1. 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 HGTV.com: http://www.hgtv.com/handmade/one-mantel-styled-th… and here: http://www.hgtv.com/handmade/10-rustic-chic-holid

  2. Sandy Briggs says:

    Love the birch logs- great if you do not use the fireplace much anyhow. You can always take them out to have a fire.

  3. cpe says:

    Just enough going on here. A beach girls myself, I love the coastal vibe. The garlands are my favorite component. So festive!

  4. Soto says:

    Perfect balance of form, color and texture. Piece of JOY Art :)

  5. Valli says:

    This design seems the most complete. The colors are fun, it looks wintery, and I love all the natural elements

  6. Kelly O. says:

    I love your use of the Joy letters! and that burlap is sooooo cute and fun!


About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

More About Ellen Foord