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Inevitably, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care—but why stop at stockings? For Christmas decorating, says Gwynn Griffith of San Antonio, who created this incandescent room, “A mantel doesn’t have to hold just stockings and candles and Christmas cards. I wanted reverence and joy but with a sense of fun. ”

An interior designer, Griffith brought out ornaments she has been collecting for twenty years. Using a stone fireplace as her focal point, she covered the mantel with moss and rocks for a grottolike effect, then arranged atop it figurines from two Nativity scenes—a contemporary Italian papier-mâché crèche and a twenties-era Mexican clay nacimiento. (“I hid the extra infant Jesus somewhere up there,” Griffith confesses. “Sort of a holiday Waldo.”) The native Bastrop pine is trimmed with, among other things, bright orange kumquats and pale green tomatillos. Suspended from the ceiling are Griffith’s beloved angels: “When I took them out of the box, I found out that their wings had melted! So I just stuck on some green feathers instead,” she says. Finally, the decorator arranged around the hearth an eclectic assortment of eighteenth-century furniture. Italian tapestry chairs flank a Spanish tripod table, which holds decorative nut balls, an updated version of an old French craft.

In summary, says Griffith, “I was trying to create a warm, classic holiday feel without the commercial aspect and schlock you so often see—a combination of ‘Christ is born’ and ‘Let’s have fun!’ ” 

Shopping Information

The Nativity figures come from a private collection, but similar items may be found at the following stores. Austin: Eclectic, El Interior, Pecan Street Emporium, James Powell Antiques, Tesoros, Texas Memorial Museum gift shop. Dallas: Articles, Christmas Collection, For Heaven’s Sake, Jo Kelly. Houston: Bourret’s Hallmark Shop, Contemporary Arts Museum gift shop, Gambrell’s (in Spring), Surroundings. San Antonio: Milagros, San Antonio Museum of Art gift shop, Scrivener’s.