Santa red and pine green are holiday staples. But today, many are putting a fresh spin on that traditional palette, using different shades, such as berry with lime or red-orange with acid green. For her living-room fireplace (shown above), Wilcox chose a color scheme of spicy tomato red with apple green accents. "I feel a mantel should tell a story," she said. "This story was a fantasy forest." She layered different garlands to create texture, including red beaded garland with ornaments attached at the ends, then added birds and flowers with crystals, rhinestones and glitter for holiday sparkle.


"People have a lot of stuff in their homes that they don't think of using" for holiday decor, Wilcox said. For her kitchen mantel, she gathered up old picture frames, mirrors, vintage silver trophies and china pieces. "You want to build layers first; that gives the mantel some architecture," she said. She didn't even polish the old silver pieces. "People are afraid to display tarnish, but it's beautiful that way." Ribbon, ornaments and leaves are in mixed metallic hues (muted, to complement the vintage pieces) and mixed finishes, shiny with brushed, another trend. Wilcox also added a few cobalt blue accents that take their color cue from the marble of the fireplace surround.


Pantone's color of the year for 2010 is high-profile this holiday season, Wilcox said. She gave it a starring role on her library mantel, which is decorated with bright, bold turquoise ferns, glittery pine cones and, of course, peacock feathers, a popular motif this season. Wilcox accented with acid-green ornaments and ribbons, to make the turquoise pop. Her stuffed wallaby, "Walter," also is dressed for the holidays.


Ice blue and brown have been a hot color combination in home decor for several seasons. Now ice blue is coming into its own as a Christmas color. "It takes about three years for home trends to peak at the holidays," Wilcox said. She paired it with silver for the mantel in her bedroom, adding big crystal-encrusted flowers and leaves. Dramatic geometry is a big part of this look, she said. The weeping willow garland trails almost to the floor, while the glitter candles in tall silver candlesticks soar high above the other elements.


What's frugal, crafty and green all over? Turning your trash into mod-style holiday decor. Wilcox and Jim Marson, senior designer at Black, collaborated on this mantel display at his home using little more than plastic water bottles. They cut the bottles in half, then cut the tops into strips and flattened them to decorate a cardboard wreath. The bottoms were cut, flattened and attached to lights to form a garland. The "snowflakes" are made from whole bottles, arrayed around an eight-pronged piece of foam core. "For people who are handy, it's a great way to repurpose everyday disposables for a second life," Wilcox said.


Use what you have. Got a collection? Or some interesting old heirlooms? Consider incorporating them into your holiday decor. "Anything you collect, from bells to figurines, you can use as decor on the mantel," Wilcox said. One year, she decorated a mantel with photos of her daughter sitting on Santa's lap; this season, she decorated her basement mantel with her collection of santos (saint figures), topped with festive hats from the Dollar Store. "The point is to Christmas-fy things you already own."

Create visual variety. Wilcox uses at least three types of garland on a single mantel. "It gives it more texture," she said. And she's careful not to go overboard on any single element. "Don't buy too much of the same thing." For mantels, "I buy in quantities of six: six large flowers, six things of another texture."

Experiment with color. Think beyond red and green, and consider your space when creating your holiday color palette. "We're moving in the direction that holiday decor should complement the room it's in," Wilcox said. Unless red and green are already part of your color scheme, consider mixing in just one of them for the holidays. "Red and green ornaments in a peacock blue and yellow room is too much. People think all the rules are off because it's Christmas."

Use wired ribbon. "It'll do what you want," Wilcox said. "You don't have to futz with it too much, and it looks so gorgeous."