In our latest stylist’s challenge, we asked our talented team to give us their take on a mantelpiece vignette that avoids the Christmas cliches for an original take on party season decorating. Shop each of their looks here.
CLASSIC ELEGANCE – Jessica Bellef, Head of Styling
About Jess’s theme: Chinoiserie prints, coral and polished brass were on my sourcing hit list. The colour palette of white, blue and orange is fresh and clean, perfect for a summer soiree. The extra decorating mile I took was to pull a few delicate vines from my garden and arrange them loosely on the mantle. The greenery acts like festive bunting, an unexpected element that costs nothing but shows that some thought has been put into the display.
On the mantelpiece: I wanted to play with symmetry in my arrangement, as a symmetrical display feels the most formal. A statement mirror is flanked by two tall candlesticks, making the mantel feel more grand. My elephant and coral are the white pieces in the lot that add texture to the arrangement without complicating the colour scheme. The classic blue of the Chinoiserie vase complements the orange of the decorative apple and pear. Other than the candlesticks, I chose pieces that were all slightly different in shape and size, so the arrangement had a pleasing mix of forms.
Best tips for styling a mantelpiece? I like to group elements and leave some surface area unadorned to allow each individual piece to shine. And mantelpieces are generally narrower than a sideboard or console, so consider the width of your decor, especially if you want to layer the arrangement.
Your approach to original party season decorating? Don’t shop in the party decorations aisle, work with pieces that will be useful once the season’s over. You could cluster vases filled with big blooms, or lay small colourful rag rugs on your outdoor chairs to brighten your deck. Whip up some quick and easy DIY in the form of bunting made of patterned paper triangles stapled onto twine, or spray glitter onto jam jars for tea light holders with extra sparkle.
How do you set the mood for the party season at your place? The courtyard gets a sweep and hose down, we stock up on cheese and crackers and pull out the serving platters, extra glassware and candles. Music is vital at our place and playlists will usually feature Roy Ayers, Alabama Shakes and Nineties Hip Hop. I also put a basket of extra towels at the front door, for any guests who feel the urge to jump off the jetty.
ARTIST IN RESIDENCE – Jonathan Fleming, Senior Stylist
About Jono’s theme: I wanted to try something really summery inspired by one of my favourite artists, Frida Kahlo, and her love for colour, flowers and decorative flair.
On the mantelpiece: I started with a large Florentine tray as my focal point. Its faded oranges and textural tones helped guide the rest of the look. I then started layering with some larger vessels – the distressed ornamental bottle with its purple hues, and the patterned cement planter picked up on the stone textures and patterns of the tray. To soften the effect I added a white geranium and a few cactuses from a local nursery. The terracotta tones enhance the Mexican desert vibe. To add a final punch of colour, The turquoise cross and ceramic heart add a punch of colour and cultural cues, while the wall art adds a handmade element. Finally, pillar candles melting onto the mantel add festive drama.
Best tips for styling a mantelpiece? The fireplace is often the focal point or anchor in a room, it can’t be moved so you have to make sure it ties the room together. Start by deciding what style best suits your home – are you more symmetrical and traditional, or looser and more informal? Art or a mirror as a focal point will help draw the eye and the decor will help accentuate the theme.
Your approach to festive decorating? Do as much or as little as you want! The holiday season should be all about relaxing and hanging out with family and friends, and if that means going all out, then go crazy but the most important thing is to have a good time.
How do you set the mood for the party season at your place? I keep the decorating simple because I normally head to the kitchen, crack out a couple of good tunes and cook and feed my family and friends till they can’t move! Nothing brings people together better than a big feast at the table.
RETRO COLOUR – Allira Bell, Stylist
About Allira’s theme: The coloured glass catches the light while beautiful palms inject summer greenery. I focused on balancing warm, lively amber tones with blue accents, and draped a homemade garland for a festive but relaxed feel.
On the mantelpiece: I focused on one medium – glass – for cohesiveness, but in a range of colours. I began with the blue glass platter, placed asymmetrically and layered with the contrasting brown and amber vase to break up the round shape. The amber tea light holder also provides an interesting silhouette. My secondary cluster features more transparent shades of glass and with vases of different heights, like the blue groove glass vase and amber Deco vase. The porcelain dimple mug adds texture and solidity to the display, while the dark amber tea light holder brings balance. I also handmade a very quick and easy garland, using leather for a luxe but fun element. The greenery projects the eye upward into the negative space of the wall.
Best tips for styling a mantelpiece vignette? Create different heights – my vases were actually similar in height, so adding greenery changed the overall shape of the vignette and helped to create an asymmetrical display. Because a mantelpiece is generally at eye height, it’s an optimum zone for creating a vignette. Be creative, like leaning a platter up against the wall instead of artwork or a mirror.
Any other spots where this look would work? It’s all about experimenting with colour and shape. I love the way coloured glass catches the light, particularly when clustered together – so try this vignette on a window ledge or table in a bright corner.
Your approach to original festive season decorating? It’s a wonderful opportunity to have fun and experiment with different styles as it’s only temporary. I always try to incorporate a handmade element, as it adds a sense of love and thoughtfulness.
How do you set the mood for the party season at your place? By hanging festoon lights and stringing up handmade garlands. I also tend to add more colour to my home over summer via well-placed vases and throw cushions.