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By the chimney with flair

Kenny Kemp
Cream and gold ornaments, pinecones and ribbon interspersed with greenery create an elegant look on the dining room mantel of Steve and Laura Wehrle's historic house in South Hills.
Kenny Kemp Apothecary jars filled with layers of red candies, peppermint and balls, ribbons and white marshmallows lighten the formality of red roses on a dining room mantel in the Governor's Mansion.
Kenny Kemp Chartreuse parrots, natural peacock feathers and other feathers coated in turquoise brighten the black mantel in Tim and Erika Bailey's South Charleston home. A wood block print by Aline Feldman hangs over the mantel.
Lawrence Pierce Joe Walker's design for a mantel in the Craik-Patton House reflects the Williamsburg style of the 19th century.
Kenny Kemp Glen Reed, director of events and operations at the Governor's Mansion, wove ribbon into the greenery above the ballroom fireplace in the mansion, then built the design from there. She used purple-berried branches, purple roses and ornaments and chartreuse roses.
Kenny Kemp Kevin Madison arranged low-lying sprays of greenery and mercury glass balls, cups and candleholders to decorate a family room mantel in the Wehrles' home without obstructing the view (or remote control access) of the flat-screen television hanging above it.
Kenny Kemp Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was so enamored of the wreath hanging over the receiving room's mantel that he suggested it be lighted.

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 julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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