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By the chimney with flair

See related story: Governor's Mansion décor reflects rosy times

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Move over, Christmas tree.

Decked in holiday finery, mantels often usurp the tree for center stage in a well-dressed room.

Anything goes in mantel décor, from simple fresh greenery, red candles and pinecones to profusions of flowers, fruits, ornaments, lights, ribbons and feathers. Some mantels hold sentimental collections of angels and Santas, while others boast opulent displays of decorative items arranged by professional designers.

Laura Wehrle combined the approaches when she spoke with Kevin Madison, of Food Among the Flowers, about decorating her historic South Hills house for the holidays. She and her family were away while their home was undergoing renovation, but wanted to return to a festive house filled with familiar Christmas items.

"She wanted me to use her things in the design. I brought garland and ribbon and worked her stuff in," said Madison, who worked some of the Wehrles' cream and gold ornaments into an elegant mantelpiece for their dining room and used the mercury glass pieces Wehrle favors in a low mantel decoration in the family room.

A flat-screen television mounted directly above the family room mantel presented a challenge common to many homeowners. Madison used a small amount of greenery, pinecones and short candleholders.

"You can't use too much material under the television or it blocks the screen," Madison said. "You could also do something under the mantel or inside the fireplace, if it isn't being used."

Craik-Patton House director Bri Jackson instructed designers who gussied up the historic house for a holiday open house to decorate in the Williamsburg style of the 19th century and to use natural materials.

Joe Walker, of Walker's Fine Flowers, choose magnolia, pine, hydrangea and feathers to create a manteltop setting for two stuffed pheasants.

Holley Price, of Holley Price Interiors, used greenery with gray and white feathers, ribbons and sprays to create a cool and soothing look over a bedroom fireplace.

Tim and Erika Bailey threw tradition out the window when they hired David Fleshman, of Food Among the Flowers, to decorate their home for Christmas. Flashy green parrots and glittery turquoise peacock feathers are the focus of their mantel, formal Christmas tree, staircase and front-door wreaths.

Erika attributes the bold selection to her husband.

"He has a pretty remarkable sense of style," said Erika, who claimed she had none. "We're very nontraditional."

Tim selected the combination because he wanted something unusual for the South Charleston home they'd purchased three years ago. He also thought the colors complemented a wood block print that hangs over the fireplace.

Glen Reed, director of events and operations at the Governor's Mansion, carried a theme of roses throughout all the public rooms in the mansion, but created different looks on the mantels in each room.

The formal receiving room mantel got the royal treatment with an extravagant display of roses. The dining room mantel holds a fun, festive display of red and white candies in clear glass jars with balls and a cone of red roses merely filling in the spaces.

A mantelpiece of unexpected purple and chartreuse draws the eye in the otherwise demure ballroom.

The mantels of these four houses usher in the holidays in a wide range of styles and designs that might inspire people to give the mantels in their homes a new look this season.

"I hope they'll look at their old things in a new way," said Reed.

Reach Julie Robinson at or 304-348-1230.


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