How to style a stylin’ mantle: The sequel

One of the most popular posts on this here blog was an inaugural mantle-styling how-to, starring James putting up some garland while I stood on the couch on the other side of the room and barked orders at him. He is a really great helper, and we loved that mantle setup so much, we didn’t change it until we moved and put all the crap into boxes.

Well, guess what? We’re done moving. It’s time to decorate the mantle in the new digs using the same layering technique we used in the first post. Also heavily relying on a technique I like to call “Put stuff where the cat can’t get it,” and so far, this technique works, because she has yet to jump up on the mantle and stick her paw in a jar full of marbles.

Enough of my yammering. LET’S DO THIS!

STEP 1: Start with the Big Stuff … and an empty mantle.

In this case, I started with three framed Dolan Geiman prints, which you might have seen before. They’re kind of crooked, but life goes on. Also, those cool reclaimed wood-lookin’ frames? HOMEGOODS. SO CHEAP. Find me one person who can’t find a treasure at HomeGoods and I will make that person my enemy.

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STEP 2: Add something soft-looking to balance the hard edges of larger items.

It should come as no shock to you that I’m choosing (AGAIN) to incorporate what some may consider Christmas-y decor, but greenery always has the green light in my book. If you think otherwise, throw up a cool berry swag or some really pretty magnolia leaf garland here. The options! They’re endless!

fancykins mantle 13 fancykins mantle 14Also in soft-ish looking things, I added a yellow basket smack-dab in the middle of the fireplace to make the whole thing look more purposeful, thanks to the yellow fireplace tiles and yellow elements in the hanging art. Also, I just really like the basket.

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STEP 3: Anchor your corners.

Making a second mantle appearance (!!!) is this silver candelabra, dug out from a box of Halloween decorations, opposite a tall lantern with a Luminara LED candle inside. Also, that candle? I’m obsessed with it. It’s quite possibly the star of the mantle … and our entire home. LED candles have come a long way, people.

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STEP 4: Finish it off with random knickknacks.

Obviously the best part of the whole thing … unless you’re drinking while decorating, in which case this is the SECOND most fun part. I was feeling saucy – thanks in part to a baby who refuses to let me sleep for more than a few hours straight each night – so I threw knickknacks on in a few stages: large, medium, small. SO CLEVER, I’M AWARE.

First up, we have the big guys, AKA some jars I didn’t have room for anywhere else in the house. One of them is empty, and I didn’t care because I’m lazy and sleep deprivation is a real thing.

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Next, we have medium, AKA a few candle holder things, which hold candles I will probably never light.

fancykins mantle 18 fancykins mantle 9And, finally, we have tiny things, AKA a small bird that the cat thinks is a toy, and a tin cup with a candle inside … that I also probably will never light.

fancykins mantle 17 fancykins mantle 8BAM. Done.

Behold the finished product, complete with a second lantern and Luminara candle (obsessed, really), a wood block of votive candles, and a crock of blankets. Also (accidentally) pictured are a bag of almonds and a basket of breast pump parts. KEEPING IT CLASSY PER USUAL.

fancykins mantle 2 fancykins mantle 7 fancykins mantle 6 fancykins mantle 5 fancykins mantle 4And, for the sake of keeping it real and all that jazz, here’s what the living room looks like ALL THE TIME NOW. Baby gear up the wazoo.

fancykins mantle 1There’s Wilder taking a quick morning snooze in the Snugapuppy Rock ‘n Play, which we resisited buying because I thought it was obnoxious and unnecessary, but then finally caved and bought it and OH MY GOD, GREATEST NAPTIME PURCHASE EVER. Buy this thing, and you will be able to pee and shower and cook dinner and do laundry and anything else you could possibly dream of.

Sigh. If only adulting was as fun as mantle decorating.

What fun stuff are YOU guys up to lately?

How to style a stylin’ mantle in 4 easy steps

One of my favorite parts of our vintage apartment is the fireplace, despite the fact that it doesn’t work and (probably) has a bunch of spider nests inside the grate, which I refuse to take off and clean out because SPIDERS. It’s a major focal point in the living room, and instead of taking the easy way out and slapping our TV up on the mantle, I decorate and redecorate it constantly throughout the year with themed crap I find in other parts of our house.

This season’s unintentional theme is RED STUFF and features everything from our elopement bunting to a Halloween-y candlabra, a vintage Valentine’s Day candy box, and some greenery left over from Christmas. (It’s still technically winter, you guys. Greens are still A-OK.)

When I decorate the mantle, no matter the theme, I use a series of tried-and-true steps – layers, really. Follow the transformation from boring fireplace to so-full-the-cat-can’t-even-jump-up-there mantle in four easy steps.

Step 1: Start with the big stuff.

I gathered three large items – a framed Hermes scarf, a vintage doily stretcher, and a red mirror I stole from my dining room gallery wall – and layered them for a multidimensional effect. It just looks better that way, I guess.

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Step 2: Add something soft-looking to balance the hard edges of larger items.

In this case, we used an evergreen garland, but other suitable items could include a wreath of some sort, sprigs of flowers or greens tucked in the nooks between frames, bittersweet or willow garland … seriously, go bananas here.

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Step 3: Anchor your corners.

I just think it looks better this way, I guess. Here, we’ve used a silver candelabra, dug out of a box of Halloween decorations, and a milk glass vase of red berry sprigs that can’t go anywhere else because the cat wants to chew ‘em.

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Step 4: Finish it off with random knickknacks.

This part is the most fun, of course. For our RED STUFF theme, we added Russian nesting dolls, a map-covered letter from Urban Outfitters, and a vintage Valentine’s Day candy box. Would have added more if the mantle was a wee big larger.fancykins mantle styling how to 4 fancykins mantle styling how to 2 fancykins mantle styling how to 3 fancykins mantle styling how to 9

BONUS Step 5: Add a hanging detail, like bunting you used in your wedding photos.

You didn’t think I’d pay $20 for a wedding prop and then never use it again, did you?
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And there you have it! Easy-peasy, and way more appealing than some bare-bones mantle, if I do say so myself.

I don’t know about you guys, but Chicago’s first heatwave of 2015 has me hankering for some springtime decor. The high today is 70 degrees, for crying out loud. Have you taken down your wintertime decor yet? Any cool plans or projects up you sleeve this spring?

3 things I learned taking my first Skype selfie

Chances are, you’ve used Skype or Google Hangouts before, we means you are automatically light-years more technologically advanced than yours truly. I just participated in my first video chat interview one measly month ago, and I was seriously nervous – OK, sweating – the entire time.

But the feedback was great. Sure, the freelance opportunity I interviewed for wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, and yeah, I kind of effed up the sound for a hot second before the person told me they couldn’t hear me, but otherwise? Not too shabby, and I got a pretty kick-ass Instagram shot out of the whole deal, because that is obviously how you measure life’s greatness.

So, without further ado, here are three things I learned while taking my first Skype selfie:

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No. 1. Basically wear stage makeup and know that pants don’t matter

I wore more makeup than a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and I’m only partly ashamed to admit I wished I’d had fake lashes to top off my look. The shirt I’m wearing is ill-fitting in real life, but who cares on Skype?

The result:

The person interviewing told me I was very animated, which I will credit to the gallons of liquid eyeliner and lipstick I slathered on. For all you non-thespians, this is how audiences are able to see actors’ facial expressions under stage lights, which is essentially how nervous I felt during this interview.

But, I mean, I was wearing SWEATPANTS, so bonus.

No. 2. Position yourself in front of the cutest – and cleanest – part of your house

Naturally, I sat in front of my dining room’s gallery wall, not in the dark bedroom with mismatched curtains and the mountain of laundry I keep putting off. This also means you only have to clean one corner of your house, hooray!

The result:

The person on the other end can’t see the empty pizza box on my coffee table, so they don’t question me when I say just how much I looooooove to work out.

No. 3. Practice with selfies

A dear friend told me that before she video chats with her clients, she always, always practices with a selfie. Not only does it remind her that she is a fierce and fabulous woman – we should probably all remind ourselves of this more often – it also shows her when her hair looks stupid. Or when the lighting in her apartment is bogus. Or when she has lipstick on her teeth because she, too, slathered it on (secret’s out – she also gave me that advice).

The result:

You look as fierce and fabulous as you feel, and you know it.

An optional (but encouraged) No. 4: Post the best selfie on social media to commemorate the event

Or am I the only one who felt that need?

Any other tips to add to this list? Do you follow these three golden rules, too? GIVE ME ALL YOUR SKYPE SECRETS, stat!

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