Mantles and Door Scaping Beginners’ Series: Part One

By Alisa Murray –

It’s looking a lot like Christmas already! If you go to the decorator showrooms as early as mid-July, you will begin to see the holiday season creeping in. As designers it seems totally normal, but recently, I read on a Facebook feed some of my friends ranting about how could we possibly think about decorating in July? I believe  everyone should have a year’s supply of good and meaningful items that at bare minimum they can embellish at least two of the four most recognizable spaces in their homes year-round. In designer lingo, this is called “scaping,” as in “table scaping,” a term used to describe an elaborate decoration at the dining table.

It’s true that having a decorated home is more heavily weighted in the fall months, as we have multiple opportunities for early harvest, Thanksgiving and of course, Christmas, to warm our homes and hearths and welcome friends and family. However, I have over the years mastered the transition with the use of a base and then adding in various “extras” as we move through the months, making it easy to create a decorated home all the time. I recommend you keep a little space in the hall closet to store in a tub everything you’ll need from January to December to “scape.”

Defining the “Scape” Areas


You really only have four main areas that must be addressed, and if you will follow my rules on embellishing them, each visitor will notice and likely compliment your décor. Some years you may choose to not decorate all four areas, but even in the months that don’t really have a special holiday, consider adding a little something here or there. Start collecting these décor items when you see them, because like trying to find something special on Christmas Eve, it’s not going to happen as you will be picking through seasonal leftovers.

The four areas I like to consider are the mantle, the staircase, the dining room table and the front door.  As with most things, there are basic beginners and more advanced decorating techniques. This month, we will focus on the basics addressing the mantle and the front door. Next month, we will you all fixed up for the top two biggies – Thanksgiving and Christmas!

The Mantle

The mantle can be a barren place where often all one sees are a few lonesome candlesticks and perhaps a small family portrait or two.  I simply do not believe in small portraits – that’s the artist and photographer perspective, of course, but everyone really should have a large family portrait hanging over their mantle.

I recommend placing greenery across the mantle, and as September rolls around, add a little strand of orange lights. By the end of September, add into this mix a few Hallo-

ween ornaments. Once Halloween has passed, simply remove the ornaments and replace them with feather sprays, pumpkins and gourds. Let that sit right there all sparkly through Thanksgiving, and the moment you have cleared your table of the turkey and sides, commence pulling the fall and removing the golden lights to quickly be replaced with pine greenery and white lights.  Unroll a beautiful ribbon over the top for a simple statement, or add little elves or ornaments building upon whatever theme strikes your fancy.

My mantle stays decorated all year long transitioning from Christmas right into Valentines by adding back the ivy and red lights and a few hearts. In March, the lights go to green with little shamrocks and then back to white or sometimes pink with bunnies for Easter.

The Front Door

Your front door is without question where you indicate to the world what it is like to be inside your castle. The wreath hanging there should be filled with things that you love and perhaps a Bible scripture from time to time. I start out with exactly the same concept as I do for the mantle:  there’s always a green base. During the fall, just as the mantle is dressed in appropriate lighting and special items, the wreath receives the same attention. Keeping things simple keeps things elegant. Remember that tip so that it’s easy to interchange and a doable task.

The mantle and door is a rotating work of art marking each season, and as each guest enters your home, it shows a special decorator touch to have it dressed just as you would see in any Bergdorf Goodman window display. Sure, you can go to a decorators’ showroom and spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on these items already done, but why should you?  You can create a space that is unforgettably you by simply being organized and looking out for the perfect little touches that make your home yours!