When Christmastime rolls around each year, there are key places around the house that serve as architectural holiday icons. There’s the front door. It welcomes with the dazzle of a wreath and the fresh scent of winter greens. The front window is another. As it frames the flicker of dancing lights that coil around the tree, passersby are reminded of the season’s joy. But one interior spot emits warmth, the sound of crackling flames, and is the threshold for wishes, and that’s the fireplace. As Santa makes his entry each year, the fireplace is where so many Christmas dreams come true.

While the fireplace itself charms with fire and comfort, its mantel is the place that shows off beauty. At our home in the Catskills, there is so much decorative activity happening on the fireplace, especially when no fire is lit. The mantel, built around 1886, is simple, two-tiered and painted classic white, so it makes a perfect foundation to be embellished.

This year, I went for a simple look since the space in front of the fireplace is bustling with goodies. A pair of tufted-and-patterned slipper chairs serves as a comfy perch where gifts for loved ones are stacked and ready for exchange (In our house, I always jump at the chance to assume the role of gift distributor after Santa vacates our home for other deliveries). Appliqué totes from Mark & Graham are excellent carryalls for gifts, blankets, and anything else that requires transport. These are emblazoned with oversized, tartan plaid block letters in my sons’ initials.

An avid art collector, I display a trio of paintings on the mantel throughout the year. During the holidays, I add seasonal flair. Ornaments, pinecones, and sparkly mercury glass Mark and Graham votive candles mingle among the paintings. I fashioned a garland of apples and greenery that rests on its top tier. A longer garland swags underneath the bottom layer.

I look at the mantel as a canvas for creativity. It’s relatively small, and a great spot to style, rethink, and style again as I change my mind and imagine something different. So as you decorate for Christmas this year, give Santa something fun to see as he makes his entrance and moves onto other homes. Then let it extend the spirit of the season until decorations are stowed away for next year.