Send me a FREE trial issue Plus a FREE gift
Old-House Online » Old-House Tips, Restoration Stories, & More » Interiors & Decor » 6 Tips for Historic Holiday Mantels

6 Tips for Historic Holiday Mantels

From simple to dramatic, here's a look at holiday mantels by period and style. By Patricia Poore

    A garland of dried bay, pine and berries on a mantel in a Greek Revival house. (Photo: Franklin & Esther Schmidt)

    The hearth has been a traditional focus for holiday decorating. Suitable for the mantel in virtually all periods are natural sprigs and boughs of fir, balsam, holly, laurel, and cedar; colorful fruits; and candles. Some period conventions follow.

    Pilgrim Era

    Keep it extremely simple: greenery and perhaps small oranges. Display “bests”—a collection of pewter or plates.

    Late Georgian to Federal

    Look for symmetry or balance. Use delicate swags of pine, strung cranberries, or beads. Display silver objects, or silver or brass candelabra. Dressed fruit was popular: clove-studded orange pomanders, waxed fruit, a pineapple on a stand.

    Holiday decorating with flowering magnolias is traditional throughout the South; this is a 19th-century house near Lafayette, Louisiana. (Photo: Franklin & Esther Schmidt)

    Greek Revival

    This style calls for a wreath. Use dramatic, larger garlands, including broadleaf evergreens. Candelabra remained popular. Add cut glass, silver, gold, or brass for sparkle and shine.

    Victorian

    By now the emphasis was on the tree. Simple decorating is fine for a folk Victorian, but in your high-ceilinged parlor, you should indulge in ostentation. Show off “curated” displays. Layer mercury glass or silver, framed art, and Santas amidst candles and greenery. Red and green are expected. Stockings were hung from mantelshelf or chimney after the 1860s.

    Bungalow Era

    Emphasize the hearth in Craftsman and Tudor Revival homes. Use lots of natural greenery. Tuck in small toys or tiny wrapped gifts, along with small family photos. Pottery vases might be left empty or filled with flowers and more greens. Arrangements were often asymmetrical.

    Old-fashioned and modern at once, this spare decorating is typical of old New England homes. (Photo: Kindra Clineff)

    Colonial Revival

    Another return to the use of natural materials, symmetry, and restraint. Glass, silver, and mirrors were popular. a Mid-century ranch: The tree was the centerpiece, rarely the hearth. Consider spare decoration using Santa figures, votive candles, wire trees, glass ball ornaments, or Christmas-themed china and glassware.

    Published in: Old-House Interiors November/December 2012



    Get your FREE Trial Issue of Old House Journal and 2 FREE gifts.
    Yes! Please send me a FREE trial issue of Old House Journal and 2 FREE gifts.
    If I like it and decide to continue, I'll get 7 more issues (8 in all) for just $24.95, a savings of 48%. If for any reason I decide not to continue,
    I'll write cancel on the invoice and owe nothing. The Free Trial Issue is mine to keep, no matter what.
     
     Full Name:
     Address 1:
     Address 2:
     City:
     State:
     Zip Code:
     Email (req):
     
    Offer valid in US only.
    Click here for Canada or here for international subscriptions

    Products & ServicesHouse ToursHistoric PlacesHouse StylesOldHouseOnline.comMagazine
    Architectual ElementsKitchen & BathsHistoric HotelsArchitectural TermsRepairs & How ToSubscribe to Old-House Journal
    BathsInterior & DécorHistoric NeighborhoodsAmerican FoursquareFree NewslettersBack Issues
    Ceilings & WallsGardens & ExteriorsHouse MuseumsBungalowSubscribe to Arts & Crafts HomesDigital Editions
    Doors & WindowsColonial RevivalOld House CommunityAdvertise
    Exterior Products & LandscapeGothicAbout Us 
    FlooringQueen AnneContact Us 
    FurnitureVictorianPrivacy Policy
    HardwareLand for Sale
    Heating & CoolingSite Map
    Home Décor
    Kitchens
    Period Lighting
    Real Estate
    Repair & Restoration
    Roofing & Siding
    Tools & Equipment

    EXPLORE OUR HOME GROUP BRANDS:
     
    Designer Sourcw e bookHistoric Home Show Logo

    Copyright © 2011-2016 Old House Online