Get tone and control or go for the gusto!

Last Saturday, we showcased a jewel-toned Highland Fling mantle (all blood red walls and a stag head) as well as an eminently lighter Blue Christmas, with fresh uplifting tones and crisp white snowflake detail.

Two radically different looks for what is essentially the same setup: toned browns and natural textures

Two radically different looks for what is essentially the same setup: toned browns and natural textures

Last Saturday, we showcased a jewel-toned Highland Fling mantle (all blood red walls and a stag head) as well as an eminently lighter Blue Christmas, with fresh uplifting tones and crisp white snowflake detail.

Today we’ve another festive twin set for your seasonal delectation; aye, we’re thrilled to cover multiple options. Don’t get us wrong — traditional red, gold and green schemes are gorgeous (we love the layered look as much as the next designer just not all the time), but isn’t it fun to experiment?

For those who simply want to whisper Christmas, we’ve assembled a tone-on-tone beige/brown mantle beset with natural elements like fruit, nuts and wicker. And for those who think ‘to hell with it’? Well, let the games begin: we’ve gone to town with a fiery fiesta that’s guaranteed to put a sting in your Christmas Tale.

Natural Christmas — Our clients delivered a strict missive that we should create a thoroughly low-key Christmas. Not for them (certainly in this room) the overt decorating statements that inspire others as the festive clock ticks forward. Their brief — minimal spend with simple esthetics — was easy to satisfy and our results work in harmony with their 1940s hearth. And what a fireplace it is! Crafted from solid toffee and beige marble it sets an elegant tone in this commodious country pile.

Detailing comes via a host of wicker and natural items, chosen by us to work alongside the hearth’s stone finish. Repositioning artwork from an unused room adds a flash of festive red and gold, while waxy red apples arranged in wooden bowls provide a touch of colour connectivity.

Subsequent layering, to add depth, comes in the shape of wicker balls filled with Christmas lights and by positioning wicker vases — in a neat threesome — to one side of the vignette. Clusters of candles seal the twinkling deal and the result, as our clients decreed, is restrained and elegant.

A Christmas Mash Up — Music isn’t the only arena that benefits from ‘mash up’ that being when two songs (often with totally different styles) are fused to make one conjoined track. Indeed, in other areas of life, mash ups happen regularly; when we’re eating, for example, courtesy of fusion food that brings various culinary styles together. Or when travelling — in search of disparate experiences — we might embark upon a dual centre holiday with a few days city bound and a weekend spent chasing the rural idyll in nearby the countryside. Hey, even in the car industry, the mash up is popular. Take the Fiat 500, for example. Sure it’s imbued with retro lines but its designers have fused these with state-of-the-art modern features to guarantee mass appeal. Guess it’s all in the mix.

And so it came to pass that, to successfully assemble our jaunty hacienda, we threw caution to the wind and mashed up touches of Mexican style with religious iconography. Our project room, pre twist, was cream, but we lavished one wall — and the fireplace it contained — with sunny yellow paint as a temporary departure from a somewhat tamer look. We imagine you might consider this labour intensive, but our vignette, in fact, took only a morning to produce and, as such, can be easily repainted when the new year rolls forward.

To install further C&J magic, we employed items less typically associated with Christmas, such as a large Mexican sun mask, red chili lights — artfully trailed across and down the hearth — as well as religious iconographic plaques, a host of orange candles and a selection of coloured glass.

Oftentimes, when it comes to festive decor — as far as we see it, certainly — folk are preoccupied with slavishly following the norm when, in actual fact, a little free-fall abandon could be much more liberating.

Over the next fortnight, fireplaces successfully lit and lavished, we’ll be looking at table centres and an artillery of last minute ‘makes’ to bring sparkle to your nest. And, as a reminder of just how crafty we actually are, here’s an allusion to one of the projects you can expect: a quirky festive mobile, fashioned, no less, from an empty tomato puree tube. And on that bombshell we’ll check out for today. We had you at ‘tomato puree,’ huh? See you next week. With bells on!

Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan are the hosts of HGTV’s Colin & Justin’s Home Heist and the authors of Colin & Justin’s Home Heist Style Guide, published by Penguin Group (Canada). Follow them on Twitter @colinjustin or on Facebook (ColinandJustin).