Decorating Ideas & Safety Tips for The Holiday Hearth, from Walton Gas

Ready to deck the halls for the holidays? Don’t forget the mantle or hearth around your natural gas fireplace. A cozy, charming fire is the perfect place to gather, so your fireplace is likely to take center stage in this month’s celebrations and family gatherings.

To help you make this space special, Walton Gas asked Dean Pannell, owner of Pannell Designs and Events in Bogart, to provide some tips for decorating your holiday hearth.

Georgia Master Florist Dean Pannell provides tips for decorating your holiday hearth below.

But before we get to the garland and lights, review these safety precautions to ensure the season isn’t spoiled by an accident.

Safety Tips

Gas fireplaces are far safer than their wood-burning counterparts — no matches, no smoke, no sparks, no backdrafts, no soot — but that doesn’t mean you should ignore basic precautions. Here are a few things you can do to keep you and your family safe when enjoying time around the fire this holiday season.

  • Schedule a checkup – Modern gas fireplaces require far less maintenance than their wood-burning masonry cousins, but it’s still a good idea to schedule an annual maintenance inspection before you light the fire for the first time this winter.
  • Test alarms – Before using your fireplace, check all of your home’s life-saving safety devices, including carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms for functionality, and to ensure batteries are still working.
  • Beat the heat – The glass in front of a burning gas fireplace can get very hot — hot enough to cause severe burns. Consider adding a fireplace safety gate or screen to ensure children and pets remain at a safe distance. Remember: Even after you turn off the flame, it may take up to an hour for the protective glass and nearby metal to cool.
  • Hang the stockings with care – Many holiday items and materials are combustible, so place all gifts, trees and holiday décor a safe distance from the fireplace.
  • Have ‘the talk’ – Have a safety talk with any young holiday guests. Establish a “no-go zone” —about one or two feet in front of the fireplace — where they aren’t allowed to play when the flame is burning.

Pannell’s Pointers

Once you’ve taken care of the safety checklist, it’s time to dress up your hearth for the holidays. Georgia Master Florist Dean Pannell shares these ideas for festive and safe decorations:

  • Go flameless – Old-fashioned wax candles with real flames are a safety hazard on a decorated mantle. Opt instead for battery-operated, flameless candles. “They look so real that your guests won’t know the difference,” Pannell said.
  • Be unbalanced – Work for an asymmetrical design when grouping items on the mantle. “Make the elements on one end of the mantle higher than on the other end,” the florist suggested.
  • Get green – Drape a 9-foot evergreen garland across the mantle, being careful to keep it clear of the heat from the natural gas fireplace. The garland should drape about halfway down the side of the fireplace. Anchor each end with a large ornament to finish the look.
  • Freshen it – Put a fresh twist on your mantle décor by weaving fresh evergreens into a silk garland. Mist the live greenery to keep it fresh. “The smell of the fresh-cut evergreens is inviting,” Pannell said.
  • Tie it together – Be sure the ribbon used in your mantle garland matches what’s on your Christmas tree. Do not allow ribbon to hang too near the fireplace. The wire in ribbon can heat up and potentially cause a fire.
  • Add finishing touches – If you have a mirror above the mantle, hang a wreath on it. Complete your holiday hearth by adding a pair of topiaries or large, glass vases filled with colorful ornaments. Add a bit of sparkle with a string of battery-operated, LED lights. Be sure to keep hearth décor a safe distance from the heat of the fireplace.