For many people the fireplace, as well as the Christmas tree, plays a crucial role in Christmas celebrations.


After all, both go back to the earlier pagan Yuletide festival when a large log or, in some cases, a whole tree was burnt in an open hearth over a number of days. Today, whether we have a real fire or not, the mantel is often a focal point for festive decoration and adornment. Here we feature five such mantels, each beautifully decorated for Christmas in unique, innovative ways.

Keil Gunther is not into clutter and decoration. However, after seeing one in a London silver shop, over the years she has collected Victorian spoon warmers, silver shells, from the late nineteenth century. What, you might ask, are spoon warmers?  What are they for? Well, in Victorian times it was thought food served with cold spoons could become too cool. So decorative containers, often shell shapes crafted in silver, were filled with hot water to keep spoons and ladles warm. Today, spoon warmers are not functional anymore, but in her Christmas decorations they are a major component.

“It was [floral designer] Suzan Sickling’s idea to put flowers and berries in there for a Christmas mantel as I’ve done before for dinner parties,” she explains. “I think it’s a fun way to use and feature the shells – things we already have in the house, giving a “recycle what you have” message. Plus it’s a good way to add flowers to our holiday decor without much chance of the kids knocking them over.” She describes her house as “pretty modern with clean lines. So I have tried to make a mantel that matches the house and the way we live with kids running around and people in and out.”

The effect is simple but dramatic – the red of the berries goes beautifully with the silver shells framed by a tall glass pillar at each end of the fireplace. And a large, white shell between two more warmers inside the fireplace completes the theme.