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Creating a Beautiful Holiday Mantel: A Tutorial From Designer Stephen Saint-Onge

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Today, we’re excited to present a post from designer and dad Stephen Saint-Onge. Using a variety of Pottery Barn products as well as personal family heirlooms, he creates an effortless and beutiful holiday mantel you can accomplish quickly.

Happy Holidays everyone.  I am very excited to share this simple makeover idea with you…

As a designer and as a family man, I love this time of year.  I love how the feeling of home truly comes to life during this holiday season.  We realize, in the midst of our busy lives and the crazy world out there, that our homes are a place that can lift us up, can remind us of the good things in life again — or they can simply provide us with a foundation that allows us to do what we do everyday.  At this time of year, it’s a chance to make those home spaces better, more beautiful and more inviting for our family and friends — but also for ourselves.  We all deserve that.  My motto:  Good home design has the power to change lives.  I have seen it happen and now — more than ever — we all need that power in our lives.

I also know as a husband and father  that this time of year can be stressful and filled with many things on our to-do list, so getting our homes ready for the holidays may be one of the last things we tackle.

So with that in mind, I want to show you that you can do it all. You can make your home look beautiful and festive without taking away too much time from everything else you need to get done.

For me, it’s all about creating focal points this holiday season. You do not have to go over the top as you prep your home for guests and entertaining. Focus on areas : on the front door/entrance area, a buffet table or, in the case of what I’m sharing with you today, a mantel.  You can create simple touches in your home that can bring the holidays in by creating a mood, a visual, a warm glow in place you see everyday.

As the last week before Christmas starts playing out — don’t panic —   your home will be ready and it will be beautiful.  I’m here with Pottery Barn to help you turn an everyday space into something special : easily, creatively and right now.

I recently visited a friend’s house where I was going to tackle a mantel makeover for the holidays…

*Simple mantel.   Here is what it looked like at the start.  A great location to create a focal point.


*Remove the props and accessories to simplify your working stage.


Sometimes removing artwork or other things on the walls can help you see something in a fresh way. I wanted to create two instant looks for them, the first one being very simple.  The ther one is a bit more detailed, but still very doable.

The first look was simply done by laying out two fresh garlands across the mantel.  Anyone can do this and it looks beautiful thanks to Pottery Barn’s amazing options for the holidays….So easy – go online – find what you like and order it. Comes right to your home ready to place!  That is just what we did here.

Next, I decided to repurpose an angel they had instead of the painting.  Shopping your house for props is a great way to get a new look in your home now.  Plus, you can introduce new pieces as well, which truly drives home a stylish new look any time of year,  in any room of your home!

Then I added a simple string of white lights into the garland for a nice warm glow.

I could have easily have added some pillar candles and tapered candles along the mantel for more light… But I liked the simple look of the green garland with the white angel.

For a second look,  I removed everything and put the painting back into place. This time I used two other garlands (ones that smell amazing!) and placed them on the mantel.  These have silver ball accents that add a great sparkle to the area but also serve as an accent that I will bring in again with other props too.

*Then I added a string of white lights again for the glow. I’m all about lighting the holiday time. I always tell clients that if you cannot makeover your whole house, use lighting to your advantage.  Candles and lights on dimmers can make a home setting look beautiful easily. It can take your eye away from areas or things about a room that you do not want to accent as much. Lighting allows you to set the stage and is a great creative tool in every project I do — even in my own home!

I loved these stocking holders in silver that can be engraved for every member of the family.  I like the idea of placing photos of each family member in them.  Fun thing to bring out every year!

I found these great faux fur velvet stockings from Pottery Barn too.  I liked that I could look online and see the options easily – great way to check off the list and know that those creative tools will be coming your way quickly.  I liked the color of these stockings because they worked well with the room’s overall color scheme.  Classic style.

To complete the focal point , gather some furniture pieces for seating near the area to draw your eye in as you enter the room. Light the fire, dim the room lights, turn up the music and set the scene. Easy and doable — even in these last few days before Christmas!

I invite you to visit my Designer Dad Studio blog to see a video of me on location doing this makeover for you.

I’m all about simple ideas and things that can easily make family-focused homes better.  I’m also one that believes that change is good at any time of year — not just at holiday time. I look forward to inspiring, motivating and getting you excited about your homes again…

Happy Holidays from my family to your family!

Designer Dad Stephen Saint-Onge is a designer, photographer, artist, author of the book No Place Like Home: Tips and Techniques for Real Family-Friendly Home Design and a Contributing Home Editor for Family Circle.   Stephen is also a husband and father of two boys. 

Source: Photos courtesy Stephen Saint-Onge