Leanne Ford’s Holiday Mantel Decorating Trick Doesn’t Involve Any Stuff at All

Just some charcoal and a blank wall.
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Our fireplace mantels have our undivided attention. Come December 1, we’ll load as many bottlebrush trees, bits of garland, and pillar candles on top of the 5-or-so-inch-thick shelf as we can until we reach peak holiday spirit. But what if your mantel is so skinny it can barely hold a branch? If you asked Leanne Ford this question, she’d tell you to draw on the wall, of course! 

The interior designer recently posted a glimpse of a client’s living room where sketches adorn the empty space above the mantel—not potted plants or taper candles. The sweet illustration isn’t a DIY but rather the work of Bay Area–based watercolor painter, illustrator, and printmaker Carolyn Kelly. Also in true Ford fashion, the designer salvaged the stone for the fireplace from a wall in her own house. 

stone fireplace
Photography by Erin Kelly and Hilary Robertson for Feel Free Magazine | Ford completed the scene with a vintage pendant light and a side chair from her Crate & Barrel collaboration.

Using charcoal, Kelly chose to depict fitting details like jugs and a bowl of fruit for the homeowner, Michaela Blaney, the owner of micro-grocery store and restaurant Mic’s. On her own Instagram feed, the artist noted that she was particularly inspired by still life paintings and imagining objects stripped down to the fewest lines possible. To ensure the creation lasts, they sprayed canvas sealer on the wall to seal it. “The best part is, when you’re ready to redecorate it’s a paintbrush away,” Ford tells Domino.

While Blaney’s display is the work of a professional, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t try something similar on your own after a trip to the art store. When you’re decorating in 2D, anything is possible. 

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.