When the holidays roll around, I always love decorating my mantel for the season. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always satisfying to admire a Christmas tree glimmering with lights and ornaments, but it feels like there’s so much legwork involved in trimming the tree. Mantel styling, on the other hand, is much simpler, and it’s an excellent alternative for apartment dwellers like me, who don’t really have space to display a full-on tree!

When decorating my mantel, I always make sure to outfit it with a few staples: some garland (real or faux will do, the choice is yours), candles, Christmas tree-shaped accents, and mini ceramic houses. All of these items play nicely together and result in a mantel that is classic looking and ultra festive. More details below on how I style everything—first, I’ve gotta show you the goods! 

This year, since I wanted to get my mantel styling done a bit early, I opted for faux garland. This is always a smart option if you plan to keep your holiday decor up for weeks or even months on end. I’ve purchased real garland in the past and have found that it dries out very quickly! While browsing Marshall’s, I found a realistic-looking piece of garland that spoke to me—I love the little pine cones attached! Along with that, I grabbed a bedazzled Christmas tree, a simple white and gold tree, and three candlesticks in varying heights. These candlesticks look vintage, which is why I liked them so much. They’ll also be great to display on my mantel even when the holidays are over, because they don’t scream “Christmas.” 

Next, I paid a visit to HomeSense, where I was enamored by all of the amazing holiday items on display but made myself narrow my focus on pieces that would look particularly nice on my mantel! (As an aside, I find that stores like Marshall’s, HomeGoods/HomeSense, and TJ Maxx really know what they’re doing during the holiday season. They’re always chock full of affordable, stylish wintry items; it’s hard to stay focused and stick to a predetermined shopping list!). When I got to HomeSense, I knew that I wanted to grab some chic candles for the candlesticks I found at Marshall’s and was excited to come across some red pillar candles that smell like peppermint! I don’t think I’ve seen many scented pillar candles before, so these were a fun discovery—and they really do smell great to boot. Near the checkout line, I came across two small LED-lit houses that I couldn’t resist either. Ceramic houses are a Christmas staple!

While I’ll definitely light the pillar candles when I have guests over, I’ll mostly be admiring my decked-out mantel while lounging in my bedroom and working from home. As a result, I wanted to grab an everyday candle to enjoy, and when I came across an amazing evergreen scent at Paper Source, I was immediately sold. The candle sits on my mantel as well and will last me all season long.

When decorating a mantel with accents like these, I always find it helpful to set out my garland first and then play around with accessory arrangements. I suggest opting for an even pairing of two items (in this case, the two trees) on one side and an odd pairing of three (the candlesticks) on the other side. Any other smaller items (such as the evergreen candle and ceramic houses) can be artfully scattered in as you see fit. 

I couldn’t be happier with this setup and am excited to enjoy it all season long. Happy decorating!

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Sarah Lyon is a freelance writer and interior design enthusiast who currently lives in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared on websites including Apartment Therapy, Architectural Digest Clever, Lonny, and MyDomaine. Additionally, Sarah’s own spaces have appeared on Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, Houzz, and Her Dupont Circle apartment was featured in both the spring 2019 print edition of Small Space Decorating and the January 2019 print edition of Washingtonian Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @sarahlyon9.