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posted: 9/15/2013 1:00 AM

How to make a fabulous fall mantel

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  • One of the easiest -- and most powerful -- places you can trick up for autumn is your fireplace mantel.

    One of the easiest -- and most powerful -- places you can trick up for autumn is your fireplace mantel.
    Courtesy of Nell Hill's

By Mary Carol Garrity
Scripps Howard News Service

Fall is here and it's time to celebrate this glorious season in your decor. One of the easiest -- and most powerful -- places you can trick up for autumn is the fireplace mantel. Depending upon how much time or creative energy you want to invest, you can use it to make a big fall statement or just a whispered tribute to this beautiful season.

A few mantel displays to inspire you:

Gorgeous gourds

I like to build displays with gourds of all colors and shapes.

No matter what shape, size or color of gourd you pick for a mantel display, you'll need some risers to give your display a variety of visual heights. One of my favorite tricks: perching a gourd on top of a candlestick. We used beautiful etched mercury-glass pillar candlesticks in one display, but any candlestick will do. We were going for symmetry on the mantel, so we stationed one on each side. To give the space in between some movement, we added a capital. Putting a bigger gourd on top of the small capital gave us the undulating lines we needed to make this simple scene captivating.

A flash of glass and foliage

Simple glass vases can make a mantel look regal. Frame a display with gold candlesticks that have a vintage feel. Gold is back in a big way, and I'm so glad because it is a perfect pick to pair with the warm colors of fall.

We used a tight color palette of shades of gold and white for one mantel display. The interest comes in the variety of shapes and sizes of glass pieces, which range from big vases to tiny votive cups to candy dishes. An old book is an excellent riser on a fall mantel, lending a drop of charm. Plus, it's a great way to use some of those books wedged into all your bookcases. And I often use figurines in mantel displays because they bring a little unexpected surprise to viewers. One of my favorites for fall? Birds.

The key to making fall greens look wonderful is to spend a few minutes working with them. The picks are flat when they come out of the package, so it's necessary to gently pull out all the branches, twisting them a bit, pointing them up and down and out, just as they would grow in nature.

Time to celebrate the season

Have you ever thought about using an old clock in fall decorating? I just love to work in large-faced wall clocks because they are so intriguing. In Halloween displays, I poise the hands at just a few minutes before midnight, as if anticipating a visit from ghosts and ghouls.

Favorite fall-decorating tools are antique wooden dough bowls. Often we place these long, hollowed-out troughs at the center of rectangular dining tables, on hutches or over bookcases, filled with fall gourds and foliage.

• Adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at

Scripps Howard News Service

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