Cristal's Blog


October 27, 2022

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Just because we enjoy year-round Mediterranean weather, Santa Barbara homeowners can still celebrate the changing seasons. Bringing out the things you’ve collected over the years, designed to make nesting inside more enticing, adds to the splendor of the fall season. Enter the fireplace and a chance for some mantel magic. Not only is it the perfect place to entertain around or to spend a quiet night at home with loved ones or a good book, but tasteful fireplace décor can also set the stage for delightful autumn festivities.

Here are 5 mantel décor ideas to inspire your Santa Barbara interiors this fall:

A cozy white living room with a large grey sofa in the foreground a modern grey stone fireplace in the background
  • Use Decorative Objects to Reflect Your Color Scheme
    Creating a vignette of curated decorative pieces, like the image above featuring the living room of my Rare Iconic Miramar Beach House listing, can enhance the overall direction of the room. A mantel is a tempting place to display an array of smaller items as long as they highlight the space's overall color scheme and style.

    Keep it interesting with unexpected elements but ensure they all work well together to create a cohesive whole. Besides the artwork, vases, and bottles featured above, picture frames casually propped up on the mantel or leaning against the wall can create a more lived-in, relaxed vibe. Now, that's true in Santa Barbara style: the kind of environment that fits so well with our architecture and lifestyle.
  • Display Indoor Plants
    You may prefer to create an effect of green mantel magic for a look that is both laidback and current. Fresh plants enliven any space and give it more character. Just display your favorite indoor smaller plants and flowers on your mantel, grouping them together. That green touch will complement any room's comfortable, organic feel, whether in a living room or the primary bedroom. If you don't have a green thumb, opt for a succulent. There are many beautiful varieties that are low-maintenance and offer a longer shelf-life.

    Decorating with plants offers several health benefits, too, from eliminating toxins in the air to decreasing anxiety by reducing stress and boosting your mood. When added to a collection of your beloved avant-garde objects, voila! A masterpiece of fireplace decor is born

    A warm, spacious living room, beautifully furnished and with a stone fireplace and ocean view windows.
  • Keep it Simple
    The owners of my Distinctive Toro Canyon Home listing pictured above know that less is more. That sentiment is especially worth following if the design of your fireplace itself is striking. If that's the case, let the details show, and don't go overboard on your mantel décor. This will ensure a clean, sophisticated aesthetic while keeping the focus on other statement pieces strategically placed throughout the room. Think wall art and lighting, or allow one of our amazing Santa Barbara ocean or mountain views to be the focal point. Perhaps your fireplace doesn't even have a mantel. If so, try hanging a bold piece of art above it to frame your fireplace in style, and use your coffee table or side table for your decorative elements.

    A formal living with blue velvet couches, a grand piano, multiple windows and French doors, and fire in the fireplace

  • Large-Scale Artwork and Mirrors
    As you can see in the image above featuring inside one of my recent sales, Santa Barbara spaces with gorgeous architectural bones practically scream for large-scale artwork, especially when hung above a classic fireplace. Leading interior decorators prefer one big statement piece over clusters of decorative objects. Many also recommend adding an adjacent sky-high indoor plant, allowing it to casually hug a wall near the fireplace. This creates a neat look that, for purely aesthetic reasons, can create the illusion of a bigger space. That can add to the creation of an airier, more open environment. Another fireplace decor idea is to display firewood in an open storage unit, transforming it into makeshift art.
  • Why You Shouldn’t Use A Wood Burning Fireplace
    Not all homeowners want to use their wood-burning fireplaces because they can cause significant pollution in our air quality across California. This is especially true over the holiday season. That’s when homeowners want to cozy up to a warm fire on our cool Santa Barbara nights. Experts warn that fine-particle pollution or soot reaches unhealthy levels across the region every year, according to the state Air Resources Board. Some California communities go so far as prohibiting burning wood or manufactured fire logs in fireplaces and outdoor fire pits as well. The ban on wood-burning is intended to curb this fine-particle pollution, which can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.

    Gas fireplaces are not subject to the ban. But locals concerned about air quality can still cozy up to a fire. Just make sure yours is a clean-burning bioethanol burner. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you might want to get creative by adding a cluster of large candles where the logs typically go. This small addition will give your living room a cozier feel and reduce air pollution.

Fireplace décor with mantel magic in mind is one way to celebrate the fall season, or any time of the year for that matter. If you’re considering buying or selling a home in the area, give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch