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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

French Christmas Mantel

Friday, December 12, 2014

Over time more and more French design elements 
have been added to my house. 
What began as a house in the country has 
slowly taken on more French Country, 
none more dramatically than the living room fireplace.  

And no time more completely than this Christmas 
with the design emphasis on natural greenery and gray cement. 

The wood carved mantel was added first, 
just a little over a year after the house was built. 
Prior to the carved mantel there was only a makeshift thin pine board 
set atop the massive beam supports built into the stonework 
while the search for a permanent mantel took place.  

That began the transformation from American Country to 
French Country 
 which set the stage for this year's Christmas mantel, 
a French Christmas Mantel

For over twenty-five years, various framed prints hung over the mantel. 
When I saw this mirror in a French Country design book 
I fell in love with it. 
Much to my delight, I stumbled upon it at a local shop about two years 
after I first saw it and bookmarked the page on which it appeared. 
How fast did I find the sales person to help me move it 
to the checkout counter? 
Faster than a New York minute! 

This is my favorite Christmas decorated mantel. 
The mirror, the boxwood wreath and boxwood bouquets, 
the gray floral-swag decorated vases, the cement rose bundles, 
and the hand-painted blue NOËL sign remind me of FRANCE. 

The hand-painted NOËL sign was made a few years ago, 
one of many joint projects completed over the years by my husband and me.  
So, seeing it every Christmas brings back all the 
special memories associated with making it and other projects. 

My husband routed the edges of a simple pine board. 
Then I painted the board white, flecked it with gold, painted 
the edges with a matching gold, and hand-painted the blue NOËL 
using a pattern made from a computer-generated font.  

Squint your eyes so you only see the Christmas mantel laden with fresh greenery, 
and perhaps, just perhaps, you could be in a PARIS apartment. 

An apartment in which fresh flowers adorn the mantel routinely...  
Roses in a vase echoing the wood carving on the mirror... 

An apartment in which only fresh greens adorn the mantel at Christmas time,  
releasing crisp evergreen scents that fill the rooms with their fragrance, 
providing the magical Christmas feeling just by their aroma... 

More freshness on the coffee table... 
An evergreen wreath sitting on top a concrete urn 
is a nest for a very large partridge. 

A carved wooden pedestal holding a candle could be part of 
a column in a PARIS apartment built in the 1800s. 
Squint your eyes once more to see the column. 

Soft candlelight aids in imagining the old PARIS apartment. 

Flickering candlelight provides light as the sun sets on 

a French Christmas Mantel. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...




  1. Joyeux Noël chère Judith!!!

    It has taken me several years of experimentation out in my garden and inside my home to capture that, "Je ne sais quoi" but I finally got it. And for the holidays, you just said it: NATURAL GREENERY AND STONE. This year, we bought our first REAL Christmas tree, and though small and sparse, that alone has changed the tone in our great room. Then the real surprise happened in there....I have fireplace in my studio, but not in the new great room, however, in order to hide my husband's HUGE large-screen TV, he constructed a type of cornice over it from which a drape hangs in order to hide it. It looks great, somewhat like a PUPPET THEATRE! But....the French Christmas magic happened when I put real greenery as a garland and brass candlesticks on each side of the "mantle." OH LÀ LÀ has the feel of one of those fabulous and huge French Country mantles. We both can't stop looking at it at night with the battery tapers all aglow. We are going to paint our beams a white-wash in the next few weeks, so I'm looking forward to it. But "le look" is coming...all it took was fresh greens.

    GORGEOUS MANTLE and your home - elle me coupe le souffle!! Anita

  2. Just stunning, Judith. LOVE all the fresh greens and cement pieces. I was just googling around yesterday for French florists - so many beautiful ideas!!! Clearly, my heart is in France. :)

  3. Judith your French Christmas is absolutely gorgeous, not overdone and beautifully thought out. I too do boxwood wreaths and greens too. I appreciate how at night with candles burning the warmth will re-release the wonderful fragrance of the fresh greens. Enjoy.

  4. hallo, judith, danke für die tollen bilder und inspirationen, liebe grüße und einen schönen freitag von angie

  5. Perfect depiction Judith. So pretty and very well done.

  6. Lovely!
    My sister decorates in a French theme and I have always loved it.

    Enjoy each day of Christmas!

  7. Just beautiful, and I so hear you on the greenery. I have cypress and boxwood and it brings all the joyeux Noël one coule imagine to one's room and space.

    Love, your mantel, I could sit in this room and admire it for hours.

    Joyeux Noël



  8. Judith,
    C'est magnifique!
    I can see the Paris Apartment, dear one!!!

  9. I want that mirror! Gorgeous with the greenery.

  10. This is just beautiful Judith. Thank you for sharing at HSH! Have a very Merry Christmas!

  11. All I can say is ditto to all the above comments. The mantle is breathtaking Judith! I love greenery in the ways that you have used it. It's highly varied in style and texture, which is so interesting and unpredictable. Yes, the room looks like a Paris apartment indeed. I would love to sit and sip tea and just admire it up close... Thanks for the great photos!

  12. It is just beautiful! :) Merry Christmas to you and your family :)

  13. Tres Jolie indeed! Very beautiful and a real standout to great taste and restrained decorating. I love everything about it. Merry Christmas to all!


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