When I was a child, my father built a 12-foot-long stone fireplace in the centre of our living room. Little did I know, at the time, that this fireplace would become the special place where we would display family mementos and treasured holiday collectibles, creating lasting memories for generations.

In many homes, the mantelpiece tops the list for favourite and creative places to decorate for the holiday season.

Here are a few classic style tips for decorating your mantel:

First, start with a clean slate. Depending on the surface of your fireplace, protect it with a felt runner or cloth. If you are decorating with fresh flowers and greenery you may wish to choose a waterproof fabric.

Start with a base of evergreen foliage.

Since most fresh evergreens last only a week or two indoors, I generally work my favourite fresh greens, such as magnolia leaves, fresh cedar and seeded eucalyptus tips, into an artificial garland base.

Mist fresh greenery with cool water to draw out the rich fragrances and to extend longevity. The variety of colour, texture and natural fragrance not only combines beautifully, but it also dries naturally, allowing them to look great throughout the festive season. Allow the garland to flow over the ends of the mantelpiece.

When making a garland, try to incorporate natural elements such as twigs, pinecones and berries into the design. Shape the garland to look as natural as possible, as if it were just cut from your own backyard. To add a warm glow, intertwine white lights throughout the garland of greenery.

Next, choose a theme for your mantel.

It’s fun to change the theme from year to year while still incorporating favourite family photos and collectibles. Whether you prefer a contemporary design or a classic old-fashioned Christmas one, it’s always fun to change your style year after year.

When designing a mantelpiece, vary the height of mantle accessories and ornaments. Begin with the tallest elements: candlesticks, glass vases filled with ornaments, boxwood topiaries or potted amaryllis. Starting at the back of the mantle, build the design forward, varying the texture and pattern of objects to draw the eye inward.

Look for attractive all-season accessories that you may already have in your home: vases, candlesticks, statues, crystal, framed photographs and treasured family mementos. Be sure to leave room to hang the revered Christmas stockings.

Complete the look by massing candles together, using various sizes and shapes. Be sure to take a photo of your finished design to reflect upon for future Christmases.

The fireplace is often the centrepiece of the coziest room in the home. This holiday season, reflect upon the year that has passed and take time to add treasured family memories along with some yuletide style added into your holiday mantelpiece.