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    Now that the superstar host is leaving prime time to run her own network, she needs a place in the New York area to call home -- or does she? Wait until you see this mega house.

    oprah housePhoto: AP

    While many are out hunting for the perfect holiday gift, billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey has been out house hunting. Even though Winfrey owns half a dozen or more swank residences - including a waterfront compound on Antigua, a palatial penthouse in Chicago and a $50 million spread in Montecito, California - it's been reported that she recently had a look-see at a couple of high-priced homes in some of the über-upscale suburbs outside New York City.

    In addition to a checking out a house in chock full o' celebrities Sneden's Landing, New York, a caravan of cars with dark windows reportedly pulled into the hoity-toity and star-studded enclave of Alpine, New Jersey. Here, Winfrey and her entourage took a tour of a recently finished mega-mansion on the market at a bone shattering $68 million. Forbes magazine consistently ranks Alpine among the top three most expensive zip codes in the country.

    The English manor style mansion, built and owned by real estate magnate Richard Kurtz, measures in at a boutique hotel sized 30,000+ square feet with a total of 12 bedrooms and 15 full and 4 half baths. One would think that it would be perfect for Oprah, her long-time man-friend Steadman and gal-pal Gail. (If she hasn't toured it, she apparently should.)

    The lavish interiors include ballroom sized formal living and dining rooms, an actual ballroom, library, conservatory, wine cellar, movie theater and massage room. There's even an indoor basketball court. Six fireplaces warm the residence and besides the double height entry with its dramatic staircase there are three additional stair halls and an elevator. Smart House technology allows the heating, cooling and security systems as well as the lights and curtains to be operated from anywhere in the world by remote via an iPhone app.

    The gated and sprawling grounds, carved out of the famous Frick estate, offer security and privacy, a carriage house, saline swimming pool and spa, pool house, tennis court, vast swathes of lawn, 300-year old trees and formal gardens. A 250-foot long heated driveway means Oprah would not ever have ask one of her live-in staff to shovel the drive.

    If the retiring high-priestess of daytime talk shows opts to bite the real estate bullet and buy the decadent digs in Jersey, she'll count among her neighbors rich and famous folks like comedian Chris Rock, music tycoon Sean Combs, tweenage singing sensations The Jonas Brothers, music icon Stevie Wonder and that wacky Lil' Kim.

    [Update: Curbed National broke the news that this may not be true at all. This morning, Oprah tweeted: "No truth to me looking for a house in Jersey. No idea who started that rumor. Been in Chicago all week working."

    Darn! Because we're sort of in awe of the house.]

    For more on celebrity homes, don't miss:
    -Fashion Designers Open Up Their Homes
    -Julia Roberts Buys Second Manhattan Apartment


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    A casual home doesn't have to be a sloppy one. Here's how to decorate in a way that's functional and fashionable.

    When you see a chic and seemingly effortlessly dressed woman, there's no doubt she spent some time cultivating her casual look: The same is true of the best casual homes. ShelterPop talked to Judith Wilson, the author of the new book "Casual Living: No-Fuss Style for a Comfortable Home" about what casual style means and how to get the look right.

    casual homeJudith Wilson, author of Casual Living, explains how to get the comfortable, casual look. Photos: Ryland Peters & Small

    "I think some people think, 'casual' means a bit chaotic and a little bit messy," says Wilson, "But in my mind, if you get the shell of your home organized and correct right at the beginning - it allows you to be relaxed and casual." Wilson's prescription for a casual comfortable home is to plan carefully to create a home that doesn't need too much day-to-day attention to leave more time for you to get on with actually living.

    What are Wilson's secrets? Read on:

    casual home living roomBoth these rooms feature ample book storage, so that every object has a home. Photos: Ryland Peters & Small

    Everything should have a place. You need to have enough storage to put everything away. Then you'll have a place for everything, and you can tidy up more easily, says Wilson.

    Start with a neutral base.
    Neutrals are always a great starting point for any room. "It makes for a tranquil, relaxed interior," says Wilson. Creating a background of neutrals makes it easy to add in colors according to your own preferences.

    Choose fuss-free textiles. Choose fabrics and upholstery with a bit of movement and a gentle crumple. "There are some curtains that are so smart they're only going to look their best if the blinds are hung at a certain angle," warns Wilson. Instead, opt for fabrics with a laidback feel.

    casual homeThis casual chic kitchen features hard-working, easy-to-care-for surfaces. Photos: Ryland Peters & Small

    Opt for easy-care surfaces. Think about the cleaning and maintenance of surfaces when decorating your home. "Acres and acres of glass in your bathroom will require daily maintenance," cautions Wilson, whereas you'll never notice a scratch in an already well-aged tabletop. If your surfaces don't need too much attention, then you can get on with living and not have to think about it.

    Incorporate vintage elements into your home. If you mix older pieces in with newer ones, the new stuff won't look so pristine and serious, says Wilson. "An old piece brings with it a sense of history," she says. "It automatically relaxes the room."

    But...know when gently worn is really just shabby.
    Something like obviously faded floral chintz is charming in its wear, where as anything that's downright ripped or stained is past the point of repair.

    Pare down your belongings. "Casual living is not about living in a sparse way," says Wilson."[However], it is about living in a careful way, so that you can enjoy the things around you." If things start to feel cluttered, put a few things away or donate them.

    casual homeWhile free of clutter, this room has several personal touches that bring it to life. Photos: Ryland Peters & Small

    Make it personal. "I am a great believer in a personal home," says Wilson. Whether it's a postcard or a small bouquet of fresh flowers, Wilson says a few personal touches bring a home to life.

    Ask some friends for help. A home is meant to make both you and your guests feel at home. For outside advice, ask a friend about your home. "If you have guests who are honest, sometimes they can give you some surprisingly helpful comments," says Wilson.

    Don't try too hard!
    Casual should be easy, says Wilson, "Follow your natural instincts."

    Craving more design inspiration? Check out our Decorating Styles 101 series:
    - Decorating Styles 101: Cowboy Chic
    - Decorating Styles 101: Equestrian Style
    - Decorating Styles 101: Modern Coastal


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  • 11/25/10--20:03: Make a Cork Wall
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    A cork wall is a great, low-cost way to customize your space.


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  • 11/25/10--20:03: Weekly Link Love
  • Kate Middleton's new digs, caring for potted plants in the winter and the chic chalet look...what we're lusting over in the blogosphere this week.

    Jonathan Adler's living room is exactly what you'd expect from this color and pattern happy designer. We love it! Photo: Jessica Antola through Hooked on Houses.

    Just looking at designer/potter/all around happy guy Jonathan Adler's NYC living room is enough to turn that frown upside down. [Hooked on Houses]

    It's finally official -- the future king of England is gettin' hitched! For the first three years of marriage, Kate Middleton and Prince William will take residence at his rented farmhouse in Northern Wales, and Middleton will have free reign to decorate as she wishes. The Stir takes a stab at what she might do. [The Stir]

    If you keep this book on your coffee table, it's pretty much guaranteed that people will think you're a sweet, nice person, no matter what you did last night. [Lemondrop]

    Jen from DIY Life tells us how care of our outdoor potted plants for winter. It's easy -- bring them inside! [DIY Life]

    Schoolhouse Electric's new line of pendant lights are perfectly industrial and of the moment. [CasaSugar]

    Check out this prime example of eco-chic decor at it's very best. [Pretty Little Things]

    For that cozy/super-luxe feel at home there's no need to fly to Aspen. Transform your own place into a chic chalet with these amazing accessories. [The Inside Source]

    Vincent Kartheiser, ake Pete Campbell from Mad Men has made several green choices in his life, including not having a car in LA (or a driver), deciding not to have children, and xeriscaping his lawn. Huh? We were confused too. [The Frisky]

    We are in love with the colors and style of photographer Erika Hokenson's jewel-toned bedroom in her tiny jewel box studio apartment in NYC. So regal. [Apartment Therapy]


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    Ian Schrager and Marriott have unveiled their new hotel collaboration, the Waikiki Edition, just in time to get us dreaming of a winter getaway.

    When Marriott announced that they'd partnered with boutique hotelier Ian Schrager back in 2007, the hotel industry took note and eagerly waited to see what would come of the pairing. More than two years after announcing the concept, the first of Marriott's "Edition" hotel group has opened in Hawaii. The Waikiki Edition will be one of many Edition hotels -- each one unique it its design -- to open over the next few years.

    waikiki-editionIt may not have beachfront property, but sunrise over the pool looks just fine to us. Photo: Nikolas Koning

    Following the creative direction of Schrager, Marriot hired architects George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg and landscape designer Deborah Nevins to create the first Edition hotel. The resulting design clearly draws its inspiration from its environment: Gorgeous, sunny Hawaii. Rooms are designed in almost pure white, quietly framing the view of the ocean beyond. References to surf culture pop up in the common spaces. Landscapes incorporate native plants like palms, jasmine, bougainvillea and banana trees.

    A trip to Hawaii may not be in the budget, but that doesn't mean we can't take a peek inside:

    waikiki-editionSurf's up in this mod-looking lobby. Photo: Nikolas Koning

    As guests enter the lobby they will find an unusual check-in desk. The carved plywood desk was crafted using the traditional techniques used to create wooden surfboards in Hawaii. Behind the curvy structure is an art installation by artist and former pro surfer Herbie Fletcher. Surfers aghast at beautiful boards broken to become wall art need not fret: These boards were all snapped while in use by pro surfers like Kelly Slater, Andy Irons (whose recent death the surfing community is mourning), Bruce Irons, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson.

    waikiki-editionA rotating bookcase divides the lobby from the bar. Photo: Nikolas Koning

    Off the main lobby, Yabu and Pushelberg have installed a moving bookcase that divides the bar from the rest of the space -- a smart way to provide both serenity and a nightlife scene for guests. The hotel intends to use the pivoting bookshelves as a rotating gallery for artists.

    waikiki-editionWho wouldn't want to wake up here? Photo: Nikolas Koning

    Rooms at the Waikiki Edition are subdued with a palette of crisp whites, neutral tones and natural woods. However, it's not all seriousness inside, the hotel boasts that it provides guests with a "tongue-in-cheek collection of fun items for enjoyment during your stay (including brightly colored sarongs, day glow ukuleles, vintage postcard covered notebooks, seashells and photographs of the horizon and ocean)" - we wonder how long it will be before guests have run off with all those neon ukuleles.

    waikiki-editionThe pool deck is a romantic spot by candlelight at night. Photo: Nikolas Koning

    Deborah Nevins, who is known for site-appropriate designs, has landscaped the outdoor areas. The resulting garden-like environment feels like the island has been allowed to go just a little bit wild, but don't be fooled: The hotel's lagoon is man-made and surrounded by sand that was trucked in to the site.

    If the Waikiki Edition is an example of what the Edition hotels currently under construction will be like, we're excited to see the rest of the work resulting form this unique partnership!

    Want to keep daydreaming of warm weather retreats? Read on:
    - Design Drool: A Return to Don Draper
    - Design Drool: Betsey Johnson's Mexican Casitas


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  • 11/25/10--20:03: Wacky Turkey Platters
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    Thanksgiving is three days away -- do you know where your turkey platter is? If you don't have one handy, allow us to suggest a few wacky alternatives. (We're joking! Well, sort of.)

    As the holiday season begins, you've probably got the holiday-themed napkins, the perfect wreath, a lovely fall table setting, and you're probably preparing to spend a day in the kitchen making Thanksgiving dinner. Picture this: Your turkey has been in the oven for hours, and you're just about to serve it when it hits you -- oh no! You never bought a turkey platter!

    turkey plattersA picture frame as a turkey platter? We bet stranger things have happened at Thanksgiving. Photo: Getty Images

    So, how are you to serve a turkey with no platter? You can't just plop it on the table... Surely, you've got something laying around the house big enough to hold a 15-pound bird?

    Let's explore some alternative (and creative!) serving options:

    turkey platters

    (Full disclosure: We've never tried any of these ideas, and we don't know if they'll work or cause a funky tasting turkey!)

    1. Framed artwork. Somewhere in the basement you have that ugly framed artwork that you inherited from your Aunt Bev. Put it to good use as the perfect host for your holiday fowl.

    2. A lap tray. These were all the rage when ottomans were the hottest alternative to the coffee table. Breakfast in bed? No, turkey in tray.

    3. Cutting board. Your cutting board is probably large enough to use for your main dish, plus it has the added benefit of being the perfect carving surface.

    4. Chalkboard. Maybe your kid has one of those small chalkboard easels or perhaps you have a lovely framed one in your kitchen that you use for making a grocery list? Pop it off the wall, clean it up and use it as the turkey tray!

    5. A mirror. Do you have a small-ish mirror hanging somewhere in your home? Take it down, give it a good cleaning and plop that baby right on top! Mirrors are a nice, smooth surface for your bird to sit on, but be careful with the carving -- you can easily scratch your mirror. Maybe it's best to carve the turkey first and then transfer to the shiny surface.

    6. World Atlas Book. Actually, any oversized hardcover coffee table book will do. I happened to choose the atlas because I know that they're often big. You know you never read it. The least you could do is make it useful! Just be sure to cover it in something to protect the turkey juices from leaking all over it.

    7. Flying saucer snow sled. Yes, I know what you're thinking...I'm crazy. But think about it: You have a big, heavy bird to carry and these saucers have handles! It would add color to your holiday table.

    8. Computer. And if you're really in a pickle you could probably try your Apple Macbook Pro 17-inch laptop although I'm not sure that your AppleCare Plan covers giblets in the keys. (This is a joke!! Do not use your Apple computer for any reason!)

    Check out the rest of ShelterPop's Thanksgiving coverage!

    Or if you're looking for more crafts,
    our sister site Holidash has a fantastic video on corn table crafts!

    And of course no Thanksgiving is complete without KitchenDaily's amazing Thanksgiving recipes.


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    It's the holidays! So why settle for the boring old overhead bulbs you rely on 365 days a year? Try any of these six chic, easy ways to warm up and light up your home this holiday season.

    The temps may be dropping, but that doesn't mean your home's lighting has to leave you cold. Wrap your indoor spaces in a blanket of warmth (not to mention a little bit of drama) with the help of these holiday lighting tips.

    Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day; Thomas Loof for Real Simple.

    Holiday Lighting Alternative #1: Faux Tabletop Candles
    Everyone loves the look of a long table filled with family and aglow with dozens of tea lights. But with all that reaching and passing of delicious dishes, it can be a bit dangerous to be maneuvering around that many open flames. Thankfully, you can now incorporate LED lanterns and tea lights into your table setting, which create the same cozy atmosphere, without the fire hazard.

    Holiday Lighting Alternative #2: Ball of Light
    A surprising way to bring a glow to your home, a literal ball of light is also really easy to make. According to Real Simple, all you'll need is a bunch of strands of lights in any color you choose, and a dark plastic or rubber kid's ball about 12 inches in diameter. Wrap the first strand of lights around the ball as if you're winding yarn, rotating as you go. Connect the plug of the first string to the second strand of lights and keep winding. As you wrap, try to double back when you near the end of a strand so that all the cord connections are close together and easy to hide.

    Holiday Lighting Alternative #3: Strings of Light
    No longer reserved for wedding receptions and college dorm rooms, twinkle light strings are making a comeback in interior spaces, mostly in thanks to the increasing number of styles available. Some fan favorites include strings of paper lanterns, as well as more sophisticated styles like crystal and chandelier-type designs. But don't be afraid to create a dreamy look with the classic string of simple white lights, especially now that you can find them in LED styles that won't get too hot for indoor use.

    Getty Images; KLRDesigns.

    Holiday Lighting Alternative #4: Fireplace Candles
    If you're the proud owner of a non-working fireplace, you can still create a warming effect with a display of burning candles. You can purchase a candelabra designed to fit into the hearth of a fireplace, but you can also create your own candle platform from pieces of flat wood and a standard log rack. Or you can simply place candles of alternating heights directly on the floor of the fireplace. Just make sure you choose candles with wide bottoms that can stand up on their own.

    Holiday Lighting Alternative #5: Glowing Luminaries
    We know you already have your outdoor holiday covered, but why not bring the look of candle luminaries indoors? Opaque jars or votives make great holders for tiny tea lights that will instantly warm up a space. We love the look of long rows of luminaries lined up along a windowsill or mantel -- a modern (and safer) twist on the classic look of holiday candles.

    Holiday Lighting Alternative #6: Lights in a Jar
    Creating a centerpiece or focal point for your home is easy with this casual, one-step design. Simply pile strings of white holiday lights into colored glass vessels and turn them upside down on the table. Another idea: Purchase a battery operated string of lights (any color will do) and bunch them into an oversized candle hurricane or mason jar.

    Check out the rest of ShelterPop's Thanksgiving coverage!

    Or if you're looking for crafts,
    our sister site Holidash has a fantastic video on corn table crafts!

    And of course no Thanksgiving is complete without KitchenDaily's amazing Thanksgiving recipes.


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    Not enough serving dishes? Spilled wine? Can't cook? We've got your Thanksgiving problems covered.

    Thanksgiving Problem #1: You don't have enough matching plates for your table.

    First, stop stressing. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and spending time with family, not about a picture-perfect table. If you don't have enough matching plates to set the table, mix in a few plain white dishes. The trick is not to mix in the oddball plate in pairs: Try putting one at the head of the table, so that it looks like a purposeful pattern. (The same technique can be applied to napkins, silverware or stemware).

    Dry turkey? Spilled wine? We've got your Thanksgiving dilemmas solved. Photos: Left: Larry Crowe, AP Right: Corbis

    Thanksgiving Problem #2: You don't own table linens to meet the needs of your crowd.

    Don't resort to paper napkins! Buy several yards of cotton fabric and a pair of pinking shears at a craft store. Cut a piece of the cloth to size for the length of your table with the pinking shears (this will prevent fraying). Then use the pinking shears to cut 20-inch squares from the remaining cloth to make napkins.

    Thanksgiving Problem #3: There aren't enough serving dishes for all your menu items.

    First, examine your cookware: Are there any casserole dishes that could be set directly onto the buffet? Use them! Likewise an attractive enamel pot or a copper pan is a fine substitute for a formal serving dish. If guests are bringing dishes, ask them to bring serving pieces for their contributions. Lastly, get creative: Fill a large vase with dinner rolls or pile roasted vegetables into a pretty ceramic cache pot.

    Thanksgiving Problem #4: Your uncle spilled half a bottle of red white on your antique white linens.

    Don't whip the linens off the table mid-meal. Even if you let the stain sit, red wine should be relatively easy to remove. As a temporary measure, blot up excess liquid with a clean, white cloth, then cover the stained area with a clean napkin and enjoy the rest of the meal. Here, specific tips for removing a red wine stain.

    Thanksgiving Problem #5: You're a terrible cook.


    Cheat! Pick a few simple dishes you can make yourself, like mashed potatoes; then pick up pre-made versions of the rest of your sides and desserts. For the bird itself, Butterball has taken much of the guesswork out of the process. Their website, offers how-to videos for every step of the turkey cooking process for novice chefs. Still need help? They've established a turkey talk line (800-BUTTERBALL) for last-minute dilemmas.

    Thanksgiving Problem #6: Every year your turkey turns out dry.

    Hold your breath, the secret to a perfectly cooked turkey is to cut up the bird before cooking it. In a recent guide to Thanksgiving cooking, The New York Times advised, "Abandon the Norman Rockwell ideal of serving a whole turkey in its golden-roasted splendor. If your bird looks like that, [Bobby] Flay said: 'Something's wrong. Something's either overcooked or undercooked.' To achieve the correct balance, he said: 'I roast the meat until the breasts are done, and then cut off the legs and thighs. The breasts can rest, and you can cook off the legs in the drippings left in the pan.'"

    Thanksgiving Problem #7: You have more guests than guest bedrooms.

    If you'll have guests sleeping on the couch or an air mattress in the living room, be sure to make them as comfortable as possible. Don't just give them a blanket and expect them to fend for themselves. Make the makeshift bed up with sheets and a pillow and show your guest where he/she can stash them upon waking. Supply a travel alarm clock, a glass for water and a luggage rack or bench for their bags.

    8. Dilemma: Your leftovers go bad before you can eat everything.

    Thanksgiving Problem #8:
    First, don't leave the meat on the turkey carcass; instead, cut off all the meat in large pieces and store it in Tupperware or plastic bags. Then use the carcass to make stock. If you have a large quantity of a side dish leftover, freeze it. For ideal results, cool foods completely before placing them in the freezer, and remove excess air from containers whenever possible.

    Thanksgiving Problem #9: You discover candle wax has dripped all over your favorite tablecloth.

    In her book Home Comforts, Cheryl Mendelson recommends the following technique, "Harden with ice, then remove surface wax with a dull knife. Place wax stain between clean paper towels and press with a warm iron. Replace paper towels regularly to absorb more wax and to prevent transferring the stain. Place stain face down on clean paper towels. Sponge remaining stain with a pre-wash stain remover or dry-cleaning fluid; blot with paper towels. Let dry, then launder."

    Our fearless cleaning writer Allison Lind tested the method -- to great success. See her tips here.

    And if you haven't already seen our sister site's guide to last minute Thanksgiving fixes (we're talking unsticking doors, removing mattress stains and all that good stuff) go find out how to fix your house for the holidays!

    Check out the rest of ShelterPop's Thanksgiving coverage!

    Or if you're looking for crafts,
    our sister site Holidash has a fantastic video on corn table crafts!

    And of course no Thanksgiving is complete without KitchenDaily's amazing Thanksgiving recipes.


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    What's better looking than Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal? The interiors in Love and Other Drugs.

    Check out this great story from our friends at CasaSugar!

    I have a soft spot for rom-coms, and since two of my favorite actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, are the stars of Love and Other Drugs, I'll definitely be taking in a matinee over the Thanksgiving weekend. In the previews, I was struck by the expansive loft that Maggie, Anne Hathaway's character, calls home. Luckily, I was able to track down some set design photos of the space, along with film stills that showcase the loft. Let's take a tour!

    Here's the bathtub in action. I love the angled vintage mirror above the bath. It gives the unfinished room a needed touch of romance.

    Open shelving, an ancient '50s fridge, and a green industrial pendant define the kitchen area. Maggie obviously isn't the most dedicated cook or cleaner, but then again, why bother? She's got a lot of other things on her plate, including hooking up with a handsome pharmaceutical company rep. Maggie is a free-spirited and talented artist, and has the loft to match. There's a devil-may-care approach to interior decorating here that cultivates a convincingly lived-in feel.

    The loft's expansive windows let in lots of natural light, which can make even the most discombobulated spaces look lovely.

    Want to see the rest of the house tour? Check it out at CasaSugar.

    And for more CasaSugar goodies...
    Roundup: Ottomans
    Open House: What Are Your Favorite Color Combinations to Decorate With?


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    Photo: PA Photos / Landov

    Thanks to their company, Party Pieces, Kate Middleton's parents will bring party planning know-how -- and perhaps some paper plates? -- to the upcoming royal wedding.

    Any member of a royal family ought to know how to put on a fab party. Lucky for Kate Middleton, who recently announced her engagement to Prince William of Wales, her parents know quite a thing or two about entertaining. They own and operate a party company. And while the goods may not bring a smile to the Queen's face -- no fine china here -- they certainly made us happy.

    The Middleton's mail-order company, Party Pieces, based in England, touts 60 different party themes for kids as shown in paper or plastic plates, napkins, party bags, streamers, centerpieces, etc. It also offers a mix of classy and funky party goods for adults. Much of it is disposable, so you won't have to slave over the dishes after everyone has gone home. They also sell unique gifts and baking essentials.

    We took a tour of the site. Our verdict? They are tapped into the logos and designs that we love, whether it's for one-year-old babe (seriously, there is an entire section on the site devoted to this age group) or for grown-ups.

    Would we use the site to buy party goods? Actually, we would, but not when you consider the awful exchange rate right now.

    Still, here are a few "grown-up novelty gifts" you can give as pressies -- British slang for presents.

    Photos:Party Pieces

    Here are our top 10 wants!

    1. Gold Lacquered Party Platter
    If you have to use paper or plastic plates, fine. But don't look cheap! This "gold lacquer" rectangular platter, measuring seven inches by 10 inches, would easily hold crackers and hard already-cut slivers of cheese or cookies. And under dim lighting the gold surface will glimmer.

    2. Camper Van Alarm Clock
    Yes, the '70s are over. But the VW-van icon lives. This would be cute and groovy on a nightstand or packed into your suitcase for vacation. Which leads to this question: Do you think Kate brought this with her to the luxury log cabin in Kenya where Prince William proposed?

    3. Chocolate Cake Candle
    We all love the smell of cake baking in the oven, but on some days that just isn't going to happen. Life gets in the way. That's when you can fire up a few chocolate-cake scented candles, and take in the sweet smell. Light a few just before guests arrive, too, and no doubt they will be in a good mood.

    4. Vintage Football Plates and Cups
    The World Cup may have come and gone, but for a new take on a sports-themed party, dump an NFL match-up and instead, invite friends over to watch what Europeans call "football." These vintage-look plates and cups are perfect for folks who adore mid-century mod designs. (Note: the Brits might want to pick up Liverpool, Manchester, Chelsea or Arsenal party packs, which Party Pieces thoughtfully offers.)

    5. Eco-Friendly Sky Lantern
    Non-flammable, bio-degradable, wire-free and farmer-friendly (um, we're not sure what that means either), these lightweight lanterns float up into the sky as an ode to your party -- or to a personal celebration. An ancient Chinese tradition, this might be a fun way to close out the night.

    6. Pink Cadillac Party Food Tray
    Have you ever seen a cuter personal-sized serving tray? Even boring potato chips or chopped celery is going to look good on top of this pink Cadillac. We think you might even be able to insert a plastic flute into the cup holder ...

    7. Pink Lace Cupcake Wrappers
    Inject some fancy into your next batch of cupcakes by wrapping each little sugar-y treat into one of these. (Note: also comes in ivory.)

    8. Hen Party Invitations
    A Hen Party is what the English call a bachelorette party and, of course, that's the kind of bash Kate's going to be the guest of honor at soon. We think she should ask her gal pals to load up on these Hen Party invites.

    9. Mini Cake Plates
    Categorized under a girl's-party theme (Truly Scrumptious Tea & Cake Party), three Shabby Chic-type designs for a smaller-size paper plate come in one pack. Mix and match for a wine-and-cake night or your own take on afternoon tea.

    10. Red Reindeer Plates
    We would be remiss to not include a product we could use this Christmas. Our eyes fell onto this red-and-white reindeer design, a reminder of the traditional holiday and Santa Claus, but with a modern twist.

    Looking for updates on the upcoming nuptials? Our sister site AisleDash has it covered! Check out details on the wedding venue, the dress and more details about the royal wedding.

    Want to read more about throwing an awesome party?
    Entertaining tips from Shelterpop & Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams' Party
    The New Rules of Entertaining


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  • 11/25/10--20:03: Designing In...Brazil
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    If you lived on the other side of the world, would you decorate your home differently? In our column, "Designing In," we investigate home trends in far-flung locales, from Paris to Istanbul. Last time we talked to a London-based designer, and this time we're headed to South America to talk about Brazilian design.

    There is no doubt that when I say Brazil or Brazilian design, you probably picture an almost-nude bronzed goddess on a beach or all-white furniture situated in a breezy outdoor room surrounded by Brazilian cherry or teak.

    Brazil has made its mark in our collective psyche as being a rhythmic, sexy yet natural and relaxing place. I wanted to talk to someone who actually lives and works in Brazil with average Brazilian homeowners to find out if my idea of Brazil is anything like the reality.

    brazilian design style interior Anderson Sampê (left) and an example of Brazil design (right). Photos: Anderson Sampê

    Anderson G. Sampê -- an architect, urbanist and interior designer -- is based out of Pocos de Caldas, a city in the southeast of Brazil, about 21/2 hours from São Paulo. Since 1997 Anderson has worked in the design field starting as an intern at an architecture firm. In 1999, he went out on his own. Having spent some time working in New York City, Anderson now focuses primarily on architecture and interior design for homeowners in residential properties with some commercial space work.

    Defining Brazilian Style
    Is it really all white and wood? What is it really like to live in Brazil?

    Sampê says that Brazilian style can be summarized in a few simple words: "natural, eclectic, comfortable and cool sophisticated."

    "Brazil is a very rich country in variety of woods and stones," Sampê notes. Well, that explains all those wood and stone-filled pictures in my head. In the 1980s, mahogany and cherry wood were very popular and then in the 1990s, there was a shift to light woods -- blond and even ivory. However as of late, Brazilians have been leaning more toward the darker woods and those with simple, natural finishes. The days of lacquer and gloss are over.

    brazilian design styleBathroom with glass mosaic tiles from Vidrotil (left) and a bathroom with natural coconut tiles (right). Photos: Anderson Sampê

    Nature is a crucial element to true Brazilian style. Beyond wood, Brazil has a vast selection of natural Brazilian marbles and granites, so the locals have a great selection of locally-sourced natural materials. Often times, these materials in Brazil are much more inexpensive than man-made materials like Silestone or Corian, which are cheaper and more commonplace here in the US. Deep, black granite is very popular. Another material sometimes used is Brazilian quartzite, a sandstone that is abundant in Brazil. Coconut tiles are frequently used in bathrooms.

    brazilian design styleKitchen with a mixture of materials including a black granite countertop (left) and a bathroom with coconut floor tiles (right). Photos: Anderson Sampê

    Italian marble is also used, but mostly in high-end residences. The most sought after marble is called White Thassos, which is all white with almost no veins -- and very expensive.

    I asked Sampê to direct me to products in shops that he often sees purchased by homeowners. He politely explained, "What we have that is very Brazilian are handcrafted objects of decor that are made from very small, and sometimes home-based stores, that don't have websites. Those kind of surprises you only get to see when you come to Brazil to visit!"

    brazilian design styleDetail of Brazilian quartzite mixed with imperial brown marble cut in mosaic tiles (left) and white marble, glass tiles and coconut shell tiles dyed red (right). Photos: Anderson Sampê

    However, he did direct me to some materials manufacturers that are popular in Brazil: Vidrotil, maker of glass mosaic tiles, and Lepri, maker of ceramic tiles.

    The Trends
    Global is in. "Every day we are getting closer to a global architecture -- that is, the contemporary architecture seen all over the world," says Sampê. "Here, it is still called by most people, 'modern' architecture." He defines it as: Clean, straight lines, cubic-like buildings, fluid spaces, a lot of glass. "White, transparency, concrete, wood and stone are being used very often, inside and out residential projects," he says.

    Thanks to the internet, most people now have access to the trends and modern design, whereas previously only the wealthy were abreast on all of the new trends.

    In furniture, sofa sectionals are definitely in. Anderson notes that there's a lot of colored glass too -- in walls, table tops; black glass table tops are very stylish.

    brazilian design styleA bench made of old wood, a popular Brazilian practice. Photo: Anderson Sampê

    In textiles, linen is popular and floral prints are often seen. "Solely Brazilian, we have some baskets and bowls made from natural fibers -- like straw -- that are coming back. Some ceramics (vases and bowls) from northern and northeastern region of Brazil too," Sampê says of some of the local trends.

    From Brazil to Your Home
    Although the world of design is truly shrinking because of the Internet, Sampê explains that true Brazilian style is still very much local. If you happen to be in Brazil, or you need to source some authentic Brazilian furnishings, be sure to check out these companies:

    - Tok & Stok: "Very popular for the middle-class crowd. Offers a good design/quality balance with reasonable prices."

    - ETNA: "ETNA is similar to IKEA, with good design, reasonable prices (not as low as IKEA, though) and huge superstores where you can find everything, from furniture, linens, decor, pillows, candles, vases, rugs, lighting etc."

    - Artefacto: "Artefacto has beautiful, good quality furniture on the higher end and is expanding internationally."

    - Saccaro: "Great outdoor furniture."

    - Brentwood: "Beautiful furniture, with a more sober appeal."

    Additionally, Anderson recommends that many great shops can be found in the World Trade Center in São Paulo.

    More design from around the globe:
    - The Best Flea Markets in the World
    - A Medieval Castle in France
    - Design Drool: Arabian Delights


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    Art collector Maria Brito treats ShelterPop to a tour of her New York City apartment -- where a fine art painting sits on a wall above a thrift store table and a stool from West Elm. We love this woman.

    Maria Brito has created a memorable apartment by making bold choices when it comes to color and art. However, Brito doesn't describe herself as a decorator or designer (though she is both), but rather as a "life styler." While I was dubious of this unusual title, speaking to Brito I came to realize that while her approach to decorating is unique, it makes a lot of sense.

    Maria Brito art at home Maria Brito in her home office, and a view of her living room. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    The usual descriptors didn't quite fit her services: In addition to traditional interior design services, Brito also works with clients to build art collections and even offers advice on purchasing and investing in wine. Says Brito of her work, "It's about making your life a little more stylish -- a little better" -- whether it's through a beautiful piece of art, a well-dressed home or a killer bottle of wine.

    Here's how Maria Brito combined art, decor and style to create her happy home.

    Maria Brito art at home living roomNote that Brito's art hangs low at a comfortable eye level. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    In Brito's living-dining space, she has mixed and matched her furnishings boldly. You don't need to buy your furniture in sets of perfectly matching wood, but Brito notes that a room will look more pulled together if you select wood furniture whose tones relate to one another, as she has done in her own living room.

    Throughout Brito's home walls hung with art are either white or off-white. Brito notes, "If you change the color of the background, you change the perception of the color. I believe in respecting the artist's point of view." Likewise, Brito advises people to hang art at a level that is comfortable for the eye and invest in frames that show off your artwork to maximum effect. If you've bought a piece of art, but are unsure of how to frame it, ask the gallery or artist for advice, says Brito. "No one knows a piece as well as the artist."

    Maria Brito art at home kitchenFrosted glass panels add lightness, but still hide the cabinets' contents. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    Having a kitchen open to her living space means Brito is extra careful to keep everything neat and tidy. Following her rule that woods should relate to one another, the cabinets of her kitchen are in palette with the wood of her dining table and chairs nearby.

    Maria Brito art at homeIn a New York City apartment, each and every inch counts. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    Living in an apartment, Brito has made the most of every nook and cranny in the space. For example, one corner shows off Brito's knack for mixing cheap-chic finds with pricey purchases: A fine art painting sits on a wall above a thrift store demi-lune table and a ceramic stool from West Elm. "The whole mix is what makes it home," says Brito. "It's not about buying everything in one store; it's about buying the most creative stuff."

    A true wine connoisseur, Brito and her husband wanted a place to store their vino in their apartment. A traditional wine cellar was out of the question, so Brito converted a closet into a wine storage unit with insulation, a cooling system and wooden racks purchased in Napa Valley. The resulting "cellar" has struck a chord with friends and acquaintances and Brito has created similar units for other city-dwelling wine lovers.

    Maria Brito art at home denBelieve it or not, this chic, white space is the family's den and a room the children play in often. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    With two small children, Brito has both her sofas upholstered in kid-friendly fabrics: The Italian sofa in the living room (at top) is an easy-to-clean ultra-suede and the den's sleek settee is covered in vinyl. Brito advises that families should reserve special fabrics, like the Missoni fabric on two of Brito's side chairs (also at top), for pieces your kids won't be climbing all over day in and day out.

    Maria Brito art at home bathroomNot one to let a chance to decorate escape, Brito gave this tiny bathroom some punch with an unusual wall covering. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    Unafraid of risks, Brito wallpapered her powder room in a daring Fornasetti wallpaper -- the results are a playful and unusual surprise for visitors.

    Maria Brito art at home bedroomWallpaper an accent wall as an alternative to hanging art. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    Wallpaper also makes an appearance in the master bedroom. Note: Brito does not hang art on top of wallpaper, as she thinks the two would compete with one another. For clients who are just starting out, Brito often will use wallpaper to cover bare walls. "When wallpaper is extraordinarily beautiful, you don't need art [in a room]," says Brito -- as long as you have art somewhere else in the home.

    Maria Brito art at home kids roomEasy to install and easy to remove, carpet tiles are a great way to make a kid's room cozy. Photo: David Lewis Taylor

    Walking into Brito's chic living room, you'd never guess that she is the mother of two young boys. Brito is a firm believer that children's playthings should stay in their own bedrooms or play rooms and not take over the entire house. Brito says the key is to get organized and make a place for everything. For example, in the cheery yellow bedroom above there's a place for every toy.

    If you love taking virtual tours of stylish homes, check out these posts:
    - Coastal Living magazine's Ultimate Beach House
    - Lifestyle blogger Joanna Goddard's West Village apartment


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  • 11/25/10--20:03: Happy Thanksgiving!
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    What do Alexander McQueen, DwellStudio, Victoria Hagan, Charlotte Moss and Amy Butler have in common? They've all recently introduced new designer rug collections.

    Rugs have come a long way. In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, Christopher Sharp, co-founder of The Rug Company predicted, "In 50 years, we will look back on this as an iconic time in rug design, and people will be buying them at auctions. I honestly believe that," he says.

    So next time that you're thinking of buying a rug, remember: It's an investment. "When you combine ... craftsmanship with a brilliant designer, it's really a wonderful and an unusual opportunity," says Sharp.

    Introduced by big name designers, these rugs may just become collector's items.

    designer-rugs Alexander McQueenMcQueen's signature skulls appear on the Skull rug above and the Military Brocade was inspired by a 2001 McQueen design. Photos: The Rug Company

    Alexander McQueen
    We can thank The Rug Company for bringing the world Alexander McQueen rugs. The Rug Company is arguably the initiator of the designer-name rug phenomena (they've collaborated with many well-known names in the past, including Paul Smith, Diane Von Furstenberg and Lulu Guiness, to name a few). Once again the company delivers carpets that uniquely capture the spirit of their designer: Decorated with skulls and snakes, who else could have designed these almost Gothic rugs but Mr. McQueen?

    designer-rugs Dwell Studio rugBeloved patterns by DwellStudio have been transformed into flat-woven rugs. Photo: DwellStudio

    The team behind DwellStudio has expanded into yet another new category with their first line of rugs. Like their bedding, Dwell's new floor coverings are contemporary and graphic. The three patterns are available in multiple colorways and both 5' x 8' and 8' x 10' sizes. Seeing Dwell's signature Draper Stripe translated into a rug, we wonder why the company waited so long to get into the carpet business!

    designer-rugs amy butler rugsIf you love big, bold pattern, Amy Butler's new rugs are sure to please. Photos: Amy Butler

    Amy Butler
    Another brand that seems to be constantly expanding into new categories is the Amy Butler empire. The textile designer's latest product introduction lies underfoot. The 16 Amy Butler designs for Chandra are all based on her signature playful patterns, including the cheerful Lacework and Caracas (both above), and are available in 5' x 7' 6" and 7' 9" x 10' 6" sizes.

    designer-rugs Victoria Hagan rugsVictoria Hagan lets you choose between graphic and nature-inspired patterns in her new collection. Photos: Mansour Modern.

    Victoria Hagan
    Interior designer Victoria Hagan has partnered with Mansour Modern for a collection of area rugs. The designs echo Hagan's chic, old-meets-new aesthetic. Made from silk, linen and mohair, these rugs don't just look good, they're luxurious underfoot, as well. The Kelly rug (above left) has an equestrian feel, while the Shagreen pattern (above right) is a fresh interpretation of a pattern not usually seen in flooring.

    designer-rugs Charlotte Moss rugsThe color combinations of the traditional patterns reveal the rich hues of a foreign bazaar. Photos: Charlotte Moss for Stark Carpet

    Charlotte Moss
    Charlotte Moss is another decorator to enter the rug category this fall. Moss has teamed up with the esteemed Stark Carpet to create what she calls "The Passport Collection," which is inspired by her travels. Moss has taken traditional ikat patterns and translated them into hand-knotted, wool rugs. With the current craze for all things ikat, Moss's timing couldn't be better.


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  • 11/26/10--07:23: Decor-Inspired Fashion
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    The interior design world has always taken cues from fashion -- but it's hardly a one-way street. Inspired by an auction of Oscar de la Renta ball skirts made from home fabrics, we're rounding up some favorite decor-inspired fashion moments.

    We already know fashionistas are decor obsessed -- just look at Diane von Furstenburg's home designs, Lela Rose's table-turned-runway and the stunning homes of designers. But we have a special place in our hearts for fashion that pays tribute to great home design.

    decor inspired fashionLee Jofa

    So when we heard that Lee Jofa was auctioning nine custom skirts designed by Oscar de la Renta -- made out of the designer's line of home fabrics -- not regular ones! -- we got pretty excited. The skirts (and one caftan) are a size 4, but they can be altered at the waist to fit those of us who aren't a sample size. And if you're looking to justify a purchase of a one-of-a-kind creation, remember this: Proceeds will go to Casa de Niño, de la Renta's 18-year-old charity that helps underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic. If you're interested, you can get more information or place a bid here up until November 30, 2010.

    This auction made us think about all the other creative ways fashion designers have mined their home for inspiration -- here are a few of some lovely, genius and even wacky designs!,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=951449&pid=951448&uts=1290628173

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    In 2000, designer Hussein Chalayan sent a model down the runway in a table that turns into a skirt. We can't say how comfortable this would be for walking or sitting but we do like the idea of always having a spot to place your drink.

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    A more personal moment here: Marcy Russ, the beautiful bride here, was previewing the new Pollack fabrics collection when the Silk Pleats fabric caught her eye. "She asked if she could buy a yard for a wrap or jacket for her wedding dress. We sent a few yards as a wedding present, and her magical mom was able to sew it into an elegant, simple, beautiful dress," says Susan Sullivan, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Pollack.

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    We don't know for sure if Scarlett O'Hara started the decor-as-fashion trend with her famous curtain dress but it's safe to say she put it on the map. Even more amazing than her ingenuity: The passion of the Harry Ranson Center in Austin, Texas, that's restoring the original dress!

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    In 2005, avant-garde designers Viktor & Rolf sent deliciously comfy (but not exactly practical) dresses down the runway. Three years later, classic Carolina Herrera brought the furniture look into her collection in a lighter way: A chair-printed jumpsuit.

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    Shoe designer Kobi Levi took the clean lines and curves from modern chairs and made them into seats for your feet.

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    Would you wear your love for the Eames rocker on your sleeve? What about across your chest? Feeding Birds Boutique would, and encourages you to do the same.

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    And there are those Oscar de la Renta/Lee Jofa skirts again! if you're bidding on these beauties -- good luck!

    Decor Inspired Fashion

    Would you wear any of these decor-inspired fashions? Let us know in the comments! If you're craving more fashion goodies, check out our sister site StyleList!


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    Turn ordinary children's doodles into extraordinary custom rugs.

    When you think about it, tacking children's art onto one's fridge with a magnet is a classic way to display your little one's masterpieces. But if you have bigger plans for those crayon scribbles and watercolor blobs, we've got an idea for you.

    custom rugsA new way to display kids' art -- and cover your floor. Photo: Carpetzz has the perfect solution for today's style-conscious folks who want to link function with art. The result is hand-tufted rugs made from New Zealand wool that incorporate handmade art. This could be something you did as a tyke or the work of your own children. On Carpetzz's web site is a claim that all carpets are free of child labor and certified as such by RugMark International.

    How does it work? Simply send along an image of the art to either via an online order form or through the mail to the company headquarters in Germany.

    About 10 weeks later the rug arrives at your doorstep. The price depends on the rug size, although according to the company it costs 150 euros per square meter, plus postage (that cost depending on the rug's weight and size). Rugs will ship to the U.S.

    So next time you're about to toss one of your kid's beloved finger paintings, take a second look: Could this little Jackson Pollack be ready to have his art turned into home decor?

    You might also like:

    Great Walls Without the Paint

    A Rug that's a Jigsaw Puzzle: No Kidding!


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    There's nothing worse than a cold bedroom in winter, so we asked four ice hotels to share their secrets to a cozy sleep space.

    During the long, dark days of winter -- and nights too! -- it can be difficult to sleep in a bedroom that is drafty or cold. It might lack a proper heating vent. Or you might be trying to save some dough by cranking down the heat at night.

    Fortunately, there are ways to cope with undesirable temperatures in the bedroom.

    And what better source of inspiration than from a seasoned pro -- a hotel constructed from blocks of ice or mounds of snow?

    Four hotels around the world offer accommodations like this -- Hôtel de Glace in Quebec; Kirkenes SnowHotel in Norway; a property aptly named Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden; and Finland's SnowVillage. We polled each of the hotels for tips on what to wear to bed -- and the warmest, coziest types of bedding -- to help make your bedroom a blissful refuge during winter.

    "Clients from whom we have received negative feedback have said that it was too warm to sleep," says Heini Korvenkangas of SnowVillage.

    Ice Hotel Keep Warm in Cold Bedroom SnowVillage
    Layers is the name of the game when trying to keep warm. Photo: Kirkenes SnowHotel

    Learn To Sleep In Layers
    SnowHotel in Norway injects humor into the idea of sleeping overnight in a hotel made out of snow. "Remember, we are in the Arctic climate," reads a letter of introduction to all guests. "Take extra layers to keep yourself warm. This is not a fashion show; the purpose is to keep yourself warm!"

    Not just for outdoor hikes and while downhill or cross-country skiing, thermal underwear is a blessing any time it's cold. Why is it a godsend? Simply put, it traps warm air from escaping your body. Go with not only long underwear but a long-sleeve top too. Add flannel pajamas on top and a tank top underneath, and you are all set to catch some zzzs.

    Hôtel de Glace in Quebec coaches guests ahead of time on what to pack in preparation for a night sleeping on a block of ice. Three layers should be worn, with the exterior layer's goal to "shield wind and humidity;" the middle layer of wool, flannel or polar-fleece garments designed to isolate air and control humidity; and an interior layer of undergarments. And not necessarily the undies or undershirts you wear year-round. These should be a mix of wool or synthetic fabric and ideally not cotton. Cotton retains the humidity and then you have a new problem you did not anticipate: sweating. Also, shop for wool socks and a wool cap that fits tightly over your head (you'd be surprised how quickly it can fall off while you toss and turn -- or allow a draft to slip through). At SnowVillage in Norway each guest is provided with not only a sleeping bag but a wool hat and a pair of wool socks too.

    And while we know how tempting it is to sleep in the clothes you wore during the day, try not to. The reason is that dry clothing -- garments you've not worn yet that day -- lacks humidity that can actually make you feel cool. Stick with dry layers, and you won't have this problem.

    Snuggle Into A Sleeping Bag
    Because the beds at all of these hotels are constructed from raw, natural materials (snow and ice) that couldn't be any colder, guests are provided with fleece-lined sleeping bags. Now even though you have a base that includes a mattress, mattress pad and bed sheets, it can't hurt to add another layer next to your skin. Search for a sleeping bag that clearly states the outdoor temperatures it is guaranteed to succumb to. Ideally, that should be below freezing temperatures, because that's how cold it can feel at night, yes?

    "Each guest is supplied with a sleeping bag meant for outdoor conditions," explains Korvenkangas. "These sleeping bags can handle up to -25 to -35 degrees Celsius. Yet it's never that cold at SnowVillage."

    Take it to the next level -- if your bedroom is really cold -- and invest in a fleece inner sleeping bag, which is what SnowVillage guests also receive. You can either use it in conjunction with the sleeping bag or solo -- your choice and depending on your body's need for warmth.

    Ice Hotel Stay Warm in Cold Bedroom ice hotel
    Photo: Big Ben Productions for Ice Hotel

    Think Exotic
    If ever there was a reason to invest in high-quality, exotic materials for bedding, it's the fact that you cannot sleep because it is too cold. At Ice Hotel, reindeer skins are laid between the blocks of ice (that serve as beds) and sleeping bags for a cozy middle layer that traps heat and won't allow it to escape. Large pieces of animal skins are warm. So are leather and sheepskin. Take the problem of having a cold bedroom, and turn it into a positive by splurging on an exotic animal skin!

    Ice Hotel Stay Warm in Cold Bedroom snowvillage
    Photo: SnowVillage

    Wake Up to Hot Beverages

    Ice Hotel guests are provided with a small glass of "hot lingonberry juice" at their bedside. And at Hôtel de Glace you are greeted with warm beverages.

    Think about how you can get hot tea or coffee going quickly in the morning by doing prep-work the night before. This might be as simple as grinding the coffee beans or cleaning out the coffee pot. If you are lucky enough to have a programmable coffee pot, put that high-tech function to good use so that you can wake up to the smell of brewing coffee.

    Or, rummage through your cabinets before bed and lay out on the kitchen counter your favorite tea, a beloved mug and any kind of brewing tools that get the hot tea going. Then lay in bed sipping your tea to toast you up.

    Want to read more about bedroom decor?
    How to Green and Detox Your Bedroom
    Solid Bedding: Making It Work
    Bedroom Makeover: Make It Sexy & Tasteful


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    From modern to traditional, designer Thomas Jayne hunts down the finest rooms in America for a new book. Here, he shares his favorite five. (Surprise: Some are pretty modest!)

    Titling a book The Finest Rooms in America is an ambitious proclamation, but Thomas Jayne delivers a thorough and satisfying portrait of some of the most striking American interiors in this new book. Jayne sought out many qualities in these interiors from the 18th century to the present, including originality, inventiveness, craftsmanship, authenticity and of course, comfort.

    While Jayne labored to narrow his choices down to just 50 interiors for the book, ShelterPop asked him to whittle his list down even further and share his five favorite rooms in America. Though he says every room in the book is a favorite, Jayne obliged; here are his picks.

    best-rooms Thomas Jayne finest rooms in americaTwo very different dining rooms: Both of them quite beautiful. Photo: Monacelli Press

    Dining Room, Magnolia Mound, Baton Rouge, LA (left)
    Jayne selected the dining room at the Magnolia Mound Plantation, a lesser known southern home that is a rare example of French and West Indian architecture of the period, for it's simple Neoclassical approach. He also chose it to drive home the point that "scale does not preclude great decorating." In other words, small rooms are beautiful too. While much of the furnishings in the room are original, the Reveillon wallpaper is a replica by Brunschwig & Fils, which was put up in the 1990s.

    Dining Room, Mary Cooper,
    New Orleans, LA (right)
    Proof that many different styles can be considered "fine," Jayne selected a decidedly more humble dining space: The dining room of Mary Cooper. The 1830s New Orleans house, which was featured in the now-defunct Cottage Living magazine, is furnished with clean, minimal pieces, like the ladder-back chairs and farm table (shown above).

    "This house is definite proof that you don't need a great deal of money to make a beautiful room," says Jayne, who hopes it, "encourages people to seek refinement at all financial levels." Jayne says that he admires Cooper and her partner Tomio Thomann for, "making a conscious decision to live a certain way, and then thoughtfully reflecting it in their home."

    best-rooms Thomas Jayne finest rooms in americaJayne credits Stanford White with a genius mix of colors, patterns and textures in this room. Photo: Monacelli Press

    Dining Room, Kingscote, Newport, RI
    The third dining room on Jayne's list is by far the most well-known, The dining room above is part of a renovation of the Kingscote mansion by the legendary firm of McKim Mead and White. Jayne notes that the room is "prime example of Stanford White's handiwork, who was as much a decorator as architect." Most notable perhaps is the wall of decorative glass, which was an entirely innovative and novel touch at the time. Says Jayne, "The photographs only hint at its sublime qualities. In person it is luminous and water-like... It retains its power to draw and move visitors with its beauty, artistry and originality."

    best-rooms Thomas Jayne finest rooms in americaWhile a bath like this is out of reach for most, it sure is beautiful. Photo: Monacelli Press

    Dressing Room, Vizcaya, Miami, FL
    A true slice of luxury, the Vizcaya villa was built as the summer home for industry titan James Deering. The dressing room was created with the help of Paul Chalfin, a New York artist, who Jayne notes learned his trade from Elsie de Wolfe. Of the many candidates for the book, Jayne says that this particular room has "a sense of balance and refinement that went into combining a selection of materials that by themselves would seem overwhelming were they not so deftly handled."

    Despite the luxurious marble, silver and embroidered details, the room doesn't feel overdone. However, Jayne suspects it's true draw lies in the "subconscious attraction" of a perfect square with a canopy. "There is some kind of vestigial ancestral comfort derived from feeling like you are enclosed within the safety of a tent," says Jayne.

    best-rooms Thomas Jayne finest rooms in americaThe gilt framed turquoise wall is a beautiful and DIY-able detail in this sitting room. Photo: Monacelli Press

    Sitting Room, Albert Hadley Apartment, New York, NY
    While Jayne considered the sitting room of the dean of American decorating, Albert Hadley, to be one of the finest rooms, he reveals that Hadley himself was hesitant to include it because he felt it wasn't grand enough. Thankfully, Jayne persuaded Hadley, as this room is a true gem. "While Mary Cooper exhibited the idea that refinement is not about money, Albert's room shows that it is not about grandness of scale," says Jayne. "It is relatively simple, so much so that it inspires people to try their own hand at achieving such results. Of course, Albert did it with incredible dexterity and greater ease than any of us could ever expect."

    Fun Fact: The red dots on the spines of books (above left) connote that work by Hadley is featured within.

    All images from The Finest Rooms in America: 50 Influential Interiors from the 18th Century to the Present by Thomas Jayne (The Monacelli Press, 2010)

    best-rooms Thomas Jayne finest rooms in americaDecorator Thomas Jayne's new book chronicles the loveliest rooms in America. Photo: Monacelli Press

    For more great decorating ideas, don't miss:
    - Say Aloha To Hawaiian Design
    - Decorating Styles 101: Comfy and Casual
    - Best Colors to Paint Kids Rooms


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  • 11/29/10--17:07: Design Students, Listen Up!
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    The deadline to apply for Design*Sponge's 2010 scholarship is approaching!

    Julia Rothman, Design*Sponge

    It's no secret that we adore Design*Sponge (have you seen our "My Favorite Room" video with Grace Bonney?). So we're delighted to urge all you talented design students to apply for the 2010 Design*Sponge Scholarship. They're awarding $10,000 in financial rewards to undergraduate and graduate students, thanks to their sponsors Glos and Room & Board.

    Not in school for design? Pass this on to your favorite design student (or proud parent). The deadline is December 8th, so get cracking! You can find the application and more details over at Design*Sponge.


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  • 11/29/10--17:07: Accessorize Your Living Room
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    Picking out big pieces of furniture -- that's the easy part. Accessorizing your living room can be challenging, but also fun. Try these tips for a well-accessorized home.


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