Nov 29, 2009

Christmas Mantle Swag Tutorial

The decorating holiday magazines are in the stores now, featuring gorgeous Christmas rooms. However, I’ve noticed most are completed spaces, without instructions how to develop a similar look for your home. I write my blog for the person interested in creating their own Stylish House, but could use some helpful hints, techniques and a dash of inspiration along the way. I’m in the process of decorating my home for the season, and if you would like to follow along I will be writing tutorials how I achieve different looks as I complete them. I’m having company for Christmas and will be hosting an open house, so will be doing major decorating this year. It will be the most season design I've done since I put my villa on the Dubai Christmas Home Tour. I'm starting with my white family room. You can change the colors to work with your rooms, but use the techniques I show to create your own version of this evergreen mantle swag.

This swag is secured in two places on each side of the mantle. It needs to stays on good and tight so it doesn't fall down. I discuss mounting ideas a few photos down. The dropped swag is created naturally by the weight of the garland. Here is a close up detail of the swag and bow, to understand exactly what this project looks like.

My swag lies in front of the urn. I did this so the visual line of the garland is not broken up, and looks more graceful and flowing. I played around with the length of the swag drop until it looked right. I didn't want it to interfere with the fire below, and wanted to have an area on each side to hang stockings from. I also have the garland hanging vertically beyond the bow. However, you could end it at the bow if you prefer. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the fireplace, the larger the garland should be. It needs to be scaled correctly, so it doesn't look skimpy. One way to check for scale is to stand in the entrance of the room and look at the fireplace from a distance, not up close. This way you see the big picture of the room as a whole.

Christmas Mantle Swag Materials

Ribbon: I prefer ribbon with wire on each side, because it can be shaped, and the wire gives it body. I look for ribbon that looks good from both sides. I save bows and ribbons from year to year, so I don't have to purchase new.

Evergreen: I use plain evergreen that doesn't have lights built in. I prefer to add my own lights, because with pre-wire, the bulbs can be changed out, but if the wire has a problem it usually can't be repaired. Either is fine, this is just my preference.

Lights: Mine are clear miniature "fairy" lights, just be sure to use a green wire so it blends into the evergreen. If you don't have an electrical plug near, use lights that operate on batteries.

Mounting Products

Here are products you can use to mount your garland to the mantle. I chose plastic suction cup hooks. I like them, because they can be reused from year to year, and do a good job holding the weight of the garland in place.

The 3m Command Hooks are for one use, and don't mar the wood. Mounting tape works for some applications, but it's not as secure. However, it comes in handy when a bow needs to be secured in a few places to make it look fuller and hang right.

I try not to put holes into mantles, but if I have to I use a small finishing nail, and place it where it does the least amount of damage.

Other Handy Helpers

Zip ties and green ribbon comes in handy when attaching the garlands together. I've used green ribbon for years, because it blends with the garland and is inexpensive. I also usually have it on hand so it's convenient.

I raised the urns up, because when I added the garland, they looked a bit dwarfed and lost their presence. I used several unused exercise videos (After New Year they will be put to good use, I promise ha, ha!) as a base. I made sure the urns on each side were level so they were equal height. These types of projects are organic in nature, and its common to improvise as you go along. Often you have to "tweak" things a bit, don't be afraid to try different things. I was careful to place the urns on something secure, because I don't want them tipping over and breaking!

With the urns raised, I added evergreen garland, mounted with suction cup hooks on each side of the mantle for the base. I played around with the length of the drop until it looked right. It didn't want it to interfere with the fire and there is enough room on the ends to add Christmas stockings. I then fluffed and shaped the evergreen to make it look full and more natural. You could use real evergreen, but I used artificial here.

I then added white floral garland on top of the evergreen base. I used green ribbon to tie the two layers together in a few places. I shaped the flowers and made sure they were pointing outward.

Clear "fairy" lights on green wire is tucked into the garland to hide it.

Bow Detail

The bow was mounted to a piece of the evergreen tied with ribbon.

Tip: Look for wire ribbon that looks nice on both sides!

I threaded gold ribbon through the length of the swag, and played around with it until it flowed nicely. I tucked the loose ends under the evergreen to hide them. I shaped the flowers and stems to give them a more natural and fuller appearance.

I chose this elegant yet simple reindeer for the centerpiece of the mantle. It's what I had on hand, and it doesn't interfere with the picture above. My family room has clean lines and this seemed to fit with the style. I may end up changing it if I run across something better as I unpack some more boxes, but it works for now.

The Finished Product

I'm not a florist, but took floral classes as part of my design program. There is probably a professional way to do this, but this worked for me and was easy. I would love to hear if you try your own version of this!

I'm off to decorate my gold and white tree with feathers! Enjoy, Cathy


  1. Great tutorial, Cathy! I need one on staircases!

  2. Hi Cathy! Great tutorial! Love those Command hooks! I love that you have raised the urns on your mantel with exercise videos! I covered my diet books with toile paper for display several months back! lol I will be following along with your series. Happy weekend...Debbie

  3. Wonderful tutorial, Cathy! I am working on the hearth room mantel today. Yours is gorgeous!

  4. Cathy, this is just gorgeous, and such a great tutorial. I don't have a mantel (no fireplace) but I will try something similar on the china cabinet. I appreciate the tips. Hugs, Marty

  5. Thanks for the tutorial! I only wish I had a mantle!! I'm sure I can find somewhere to put this lesson to good use!

  6. It's beautiful! If only I had a fireplace and mantle to try it on. I really liked the tutorial and am looking forward to more.

  7. What a beautiful preview if you know what I
    mean .... your company had better appreciate
    your artistic expertise this holiday time.
    The tutorial gave me an idea for a perfect swag
    for our mantel...we will not be home for
    Christmas but the home needs to be in a holiday
    mode anyway. Hugs and have a very Merry

  8. Hi Cathy,
    I decorated two weeks ago for Christmas, as I was going to throw an early party for my girlfriends... then hubby and I got the bug...ah, ah choo... so today I pulled most of it down, go figure. Yours is beautiful, mine was claustrophobic. Ha! Started over from scratch... gotta do a total over hall, looked at the same stuff for too many years. So, this year I am going back wards. Story of my life.
    I love what you did to your mantel and the urns are fab. I recognize the art but can't put my finger on it. Looks great and I am anticipating more ideas... have a great week, sniffle will this #%&*@ ever leave?
    Your dragging around buddy. Lee

  9. Hi Lee,
    The painting over the fireplace is called Delphic Sibyl the artist is one of my favorites Michelangelo. He painted it on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling. I went to Vatican City and saw it in person, and was inspired so bought a print and had it framed.

  10. Awesome! Thanks for sharing! Hope you get a chance to stop over at my blog to see my christimas tree. Hugs from Conroe, TX!

  11. Very beautiful and how wonderful that you explain how it is done. Thank you for all of the time and effort you put into that. Your creation is truly gorgeous. Hugs, Cindy S.

  12. Cathy, it's funny that you used videos because I did the same thing on top of a wardrobe where I had stored some baskets. I wanted them up higher because they were sitting inside of a well type area.

    I have not tried the suction cup hooks. That's a great idea! I usually use heavy urns on the ends and anchor the greenery there and also under a heavy marble clock I have. I use that sticky floral gum, too. But this makes a lot more sense! Thanks for that tip!

    Pretty mantle, and I so agree about the ribbon. I noticed that about one of my favorite ribbons the other day and wished I had noticed it in the store before I bought it.


    Sheila :-)

  13. Cathy....Great tutorial on decorating mantels for the holidays! Yours looks gorgeous!~Patti

  14. Lovely tutorial - the gold and cream look beautiful against the greenery.

  15. Very nice job on the tutorial-- I am always using those command hooks -- the perfect holder when you dont want a permanent hole.

    If you get a chance I would love for you to stop by as well.

    TTFN~~Claudia ♥ ♥

  16. That mantle looks gorgeous! If I had a mantle, that is a project I would totally try! HA
    Great blog, BTW =]


  17. ooh wow I love it especially the ribbon! love the tute


  18. I envy you, you are so thorough!

  19. What a beautiful elegant holiday mantel! I love your style. Another great tutorial too!

    Thanks so much for adding your inspiration and creativity to the holiday party! :)


  20. Great tutorial and your finished project is lovely.

  21. Cathy, Your tutorial was very detailed, creative and easy to understand. And the swag was just beautiful. I am putting up my swag tomorrow so I'm glad I found your blog- just wonderful.

  22. Yvonne,
    Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you found this tutorial helpful. Check back, because I will be showing how to decorate a staircase soon!

  23. Cathy you are so talented! I really love this! True elegance and the swag shape is beautiful. The evergreen just pops against your lovely fireplace. Great job! :)

  24. Just beautiful! You are SO good at this. I had to scroll down to see all the details...:) What fun!

  25. What a gorgeous home you have! SO elegant!!
    Now back to the tutorial... :)

  26. Thank you sooo much, you are truly a gift, to be so kind and post step by step the way you do. I am ever thankful.

  27. Thank you for the tutorial. I will do this next year!


  28. delphic sybil is one of my favorite paintings...i oftened wondered if she is the one on front of the pearl sure looks like her.
    thank you for the beautiful tutorial...loved it....and you could just watch the mantle come to life. your house is so very beautiful. it is a break away from the craziness. my daughter and i always shared decorating each others' house. it is sad to be is surely an emptiness. but she is safe and having fun in heaven.
    hugs and loves
    simply debbie

  29. Cathy, I just revisited part of where we spent
    our most ejnoyable Christmas last year (I am her
    MIL) and we got to enjoy in person the most
    beautiful home f9r Christmas. The effort that
    it takes to to accomplish such marvelous decor
    through your home is awesome. With all of the
    events of this past year, I am sure that you
    will take it easy this year...we do have all of
    your holiday postings to put us in the holiday
    mood...and a great holiday it will be and we
    are all grateful that it will be the best holiday ever. There is so much to celebrate
    this Christmas season. Love and Hugs, Myke


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