the great mantel manifesto

{part two in a three-part mini-series...if you'd like to catch up on the other posts, find them here and here.}

like i said yesterday, decorating my mantel for the changing months and seasons is something from which i get a little thrill.
i'm back today with some helpful tips and pointers to make your mantel-decorating experience so much fun.
i'm not a professional decorator, by any stretch of the term and i lack knowledge of the correct technical words for much of what i'll try to convey...
but what i lack in professional lingo, i promise i'll more than make up for in enthusiasm and geekery ;)

on that note, let's dive right in!

1.  choose decor items that are versatile
look closely at the four mantel photos above...
used in all four, you'll find...
~white and black H's {two separate H's that i thrifted at two separate times...i like to use them together for the "shadowing" effect}
~white milk glass bottle {by reindeer's legs in photo 1}
~tall narrow birdhouse {i have a "bird thing," remember?}
~and the antlers, of course

used in three of the four, you'll find...
~squatty white candle pedestal {used for plant in photos 2&3, for bird in photo 4}
~antique yellow plant pot
~three antique wooden architectural pieces
~antique small pitcher/saucer set {they were my mimi's when she was a child}
~green pom-pom trim

you'll also notice that i used the same tall white vase in photos 1&2, and the same yellow basket-weave vase in photos 3&4.
in photos 1&4, i used the same white and forest "welcome" stitchery.

why am i taking the time to point out all these things?
because many of us are limited on storage space.  we can't buy complete mantel-settings for each and every holiday, season, or occasion.  but if we start a foundation collection of items that we love...items that we love to see and that we love to display, it will be easy to build our seasonal decor around those items.

2.  shop the other rooms of your house.
as i mentioned in #1, most of us don't have unlimited storage space for oodles of kitschy items.
for 11 out of 12 months of the year, several of these boy/girl figures are used in my little girls' room for decor.
but guess what?  each february, they take a vacation to the living room for a month where they grace my little love-themed valentines mantel.

the hand-knit mittens and woolen toboggan that you'll see on my current mantel {in tomorrow's post} were unearthed from our outerwear bin.
nothing is safe around here!

3.  make things into what you need them to be.
look at the first photo above...
see that fab hanging milk glass basket?
first of all, it isn't glass.  it's plastic.  and it's a half-basket...the back of it is cardboard.
but when i saw it at the thrift, i knew it was destined for my mantel.
only one slight problem.  artificial greenery gives me the heeeby-jeebies.
so i improvised.  i carefully taped a deep ziploc bag to the inside of the "basket", filled the bag with water, and put some clippings from a houseplant in there.
problem solved!

second photo...that cool reindeer?  he was gold back before gold was en vogue.  
he never quite fit in with my christmas mantel, and i needed him for my new years/winter mantel...a coat or two of white spray paint and he stands guard quite regally, i do say.

oh!  and look back up there at the valentines mantel...
see that cute white heart atop the VW bug??
it's styrofoam packaging material from a set of speakers!!!

people! be creative!!  make things work for you by improvising and turning them into what you want!

4.  think outside the "mantel-decorating box."
all sorts of things have been turned into mantel decor around these parts!!!
vintage thermoses hold christmas angels, old lunch pails are filled with pumpkins, antique safety deposit boxes are perches for owls and cars {there's another versatile item used more than once!}...
small paintings, metal cups, vintage toys, colorful books!!!...
really, anything and everything could be a possible candidate.


but maybe you're saying, "all of this is great information, but where do i even begin??"
i'm so glad you asked.
here's what i want you to do...

1. determine a general "theme" for your mantel.
don't go getting twitchy on me...i'm not talking mid 90's apple-border kitchen theme.  
i'm saying determine a general direction you'd like your mantel to go.
are you craving neutrals and soothing tones after the crazy-color-filled holidays? 
maybe you'd like to throw some gold in there...good!  keep that in mind.
want to get a head-start on valentines?  perfect!  reds and pinks?  or maybe you have non-traditional valentines colors in mind.  that's fine, too.
here's what you're not allowed to do.  you're not allowed to come up with a theme and then dismiss it because "i don't have anything in my house that will go with that."
that's not allowed.  don't go there.  figure out how you want to decorate your mantel.  that's all.  

2.  grab an empty box {preferably one of those big "tray" boxes from ALDI--you DO shop at ALDI, right??}, 
put on your "shopper's glasses" and walk through your house, you hunter-gatherer you.
you're gathering possible candidates for your mantel.
you wanted touches of gold on your new years mantel?
grab that vintage white porcelain glove form and your widest gold bangles...those are possibilities.
sure, you may not end up using them...then again, they might come in handy!
remember, brass is gold-toned...grab those antique candlesticks that aunt gertrude gave you for your wedding.  
you may finally use them!
you're gathering pink and red for valentines?  don't forget your old care bears lunch box that you saved from fourth grade...
this might be just the time to show it off.  

are you starting to see what i mean?  
don't look at your house through the eyes of someone who sees those items every day.  
gather up ANYthing that could possibly be used in keeping with your theme. 

3.  decorate that mantel.
just do it.
it won't be perfect.
but it'll get better with time. {see exhibit A above...summer 2013 mantel...summer 2014 mantel.  case in point.}
it'll get easier with time.
you'll develop your collection of mantel-decor stand-by's, and before long, most of your mantels will just be filling in with some updated pieces or new favorites.

a few quick notes:
~99% of my mantel decor is thrifted...think resale shops, garage sales, you-name-it...i buy nothing brand new.  well, basically.
~i don't have a ton of storage space.  i do have some fab built-in shelves that make the most out of mostly-unusable space down in my furnace room.  that's where all my mantel stuff lives when it's not on display making me happy.
~i purge constantly.  pretty much, if i don't love it, it's gone.  still, though, i find i love too much.

i could go on and on...
this is something that's reeeeeeeeeally fun for me to write about.
tomorrow you'll get to see my current mantel...
and i *pinky-promise* to share some ideas for those of you who don't even have a mantel!!!

can't wait!  xo

p.s. pretty please, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.  i'd love to help out in any way i can...and your questions may even help with another post!
you can always contact me on IG {i'm @tweetpotatopie on there, too}, or by leaving a comment below {check back for my responses!}, or by emailing me through the link in my sidebar! xxx

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