Use the fireplace as a focal point

By Carol McGarvey The Associated Press
Friday November 16, 2001

If you have a fireplace mantel, you have the ideal spot to showcase trimmings for the year-end holidays. You also have a firebox below to add holiday glow and sparkle with a crackling fire or with the gentle twinkle of candles. 

The fireplace can be a focus spot for natural greenery to enhance other decorations that are special each year. If you use fresh flowers in your mix, use slim plastic tubes from a florist to hold the stems in water. 

Look to your own yard for natural touches, too, such as leaves, berries, pods and pine cones. For continuity, repeat the colors and textures on the mantel elsewhere in the room. 

Don’t be shy about bucking tradition. Instead of evergreen, how about fashioning a swag of eucalyptus? Work with the style that works best with your home’s design. Extend the life of fresh greens by daily misting with a spray bottle. 

If traditional red and green for Christmas doesn’t work in your room, eliminate one color. Perhaps another tone, such as burgundy, will work better. Or, just work with green. There are no steadfast rules. 

If you have a mantel with an Early American surround, play up the classic spirit. For a Williamsburg-style look, choose greenery, pineapples — the symbol of hospitality — and swags of dried apple slices and strings of cranberries. 

One word of warning: When you decorate the mantel, never have decorations below the upper surface of the mantelpiece. This is especially important when garlands or Christmas stockings hang from the mantel. Do not light a fire in the fireplace during that time. 

Yet another way to add natural glow to a firebox is with a grouping of chunky candles. Shops and catalogs offer iron or other metal candle racks or “trees” available for holding six to 12 pillar candles in staggered rows for making a sparkling statement. Again, do not light the candles if your mantel display includes materials or stockings hanging down. 

Make your own rack by resting each candle on a heatproof base of metal or glass to catch the drippings. Avoid placing candles directly on the hearth. Vary the height of the candles by propping the candle with its accompanying dish on inverted clay flower pots of varying heights. 

These tips will help keep the candle display safe: Limit the number of candles. Open the flue if your fireplace is operable, and leave the glass doors open. Otherwise, move candles toward the front of the firebox. Put a decorative metal screen or tall andirons in front of the candles. Be sure the room is adequately ventilated; candles take a surprising amount of oxygen. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand. Never leave burning candles unattended. 




“Better Homes and Gardens Fireplace Decorating and Planning Ideas” (Meredith Books, $19.95 soft cover).