9 Christmas party essentials that make hosting a breeze
First things first: Invitations. Sure, you can send out a text or email to let friends and family know the details of your gathering, but we think that paper invitations that arrive in the mail the traditional way are much more charming. Minted offers a large selection of gorgeously designed invitations that are guaranteed to set the mood for your holiday party. Gilded Botanicals Holiday Party Invitations, Minted, prices vary.
We admit, we’re not fans of the sickly sweet fragrances emitted by many a scented candle, but choose carefully and you can infuse your home with an aroma that truly enhances the atmosphere of your party. This candle is not only a beautiful display item but it also gives off the subtle but authentic smell of a fresh Frasier fir. If you aren’t putting up a real tree in your home, just fake it! Thymes Frasier Fir Poured Candle with Pine Needle Motif, Indigo, $32.
If most of your holiday music is digitally stored on your phone, then you’ll need a speaker to fill your home with the joyful carols of the season. This moderately-priced option is sleek and lightweight and produces high-quality sound. It has a seven-hour rechargeable battery and easily pairs to any Bluetooth-enabled iOS device. Beats by Dr. Dre Pill Speaker, Apple Store, $219.95.
While you want your guests to eat, drink and be merry, you don’t want to find impossible-to-remove water rings or red wine stains on your travertine coffee table the next morning! Help your guests help you keep your home stain-free by making sure everyone has a coaster upon which to place their drink. These leather reindeer coasters are just the thing to add a festive touch to your soiree. Forest Merriment Coasters, Anthropologie, $32 (set of 4).
Your guests will need a napkin or two over the course of the evening, especially if you’re serving finger foods. Skip the boring white napkins and instead, opt for ones that are Christmas-themed. These 12 Days of Christmas paper napkins are perfect for a casual gathering and will add a touch of whimsy to a more formal one. 12 Days of Christmas Napkins, Amazon, $4.19 (package of 20.
Take a more modern approach to champagne this holiday season. Instead of traditional stemmed flutes, serve your bubbly in these stemless glasses, gilded with gold. Each is inscribed with the word ‘Cheers’, making them suitable for year-round use, but they’re particularly perfect for the holiday season. Stemless Champagne Glasses, Indigo, $39.50 (set of 4).
You don’t have to be Tom Cruise to mix a cocktail like a boss. This eight-piece set will turn you into a pro in no time. Complete with all the essentials you’ll need, you may be ready to start moonlighting before the night is out. This set includes a one-quart Mason jar, stainless steel strainer, double jigger, hardwood muddler, ice tongs, a stir spoon and two pour spouts. MakersKit Classic Cocktail Kit, West Elm, $28.
Sometimes it’s the smallest details that are the most impactful and memorable. Dress up your holiday table with these beautiful napkin rings, which are made with gold beads and sequins. Flurry Beaded Napkin Rings, Crate & Barrel, $4.76.
A selection of fine cheeses and gourmet crackers are always a hit at a party. And since cheese stays cooler on marble than most other surfaces, this is a great option. Plus, it also comes with a wire slicer that can easily cut through most soft and hard cheeses. Marble Cheese Board and Slicer, Sur La Table, $11.96.
Celeb home tour: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's Bel Air mansion
Take a look inside celebrity couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's Bel Air estate in LA., California.
It would have been Bel Air living for Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West, but after multiple unsuccessful renovation projects it seems they've finally listed their 9,000 square-feet unfinished home.
When the couple purchased their first home together in 2013 for $9 million, plans of completely renovating the property - like adding 4,000 square-feet, taking entire walls down, and changing the Mediterranean-style home into an Italian-villa - were in the works. Proving to be too difficult to complete, the pair then bought a second move-in ready French country-style home in Hidden Hills, L.A., tailored to their liking.
Although the interior is a blank canvas now, the original modern-meets-traditional layout was designed by architect Ron Firestone and included a library, hallway balcony, elevator, gourmet kitchen, master bath with a massage area, and large backyard with tons of outdoor space and patio. This 3/4-acre gated property could be your next project for a listed price of $11 million.
- Two-storey living room
- 5 bedrooms
- Massage room
- Gourmet kitchen
- Spa tub
Find out more and check out the listing here.
Welcome to Kimye's Bel Air estate, where curb appeal speaks for itself at this Mediterranean-style home.
The house is in a gated Bel Air neighbourhood, known as Bel Air Crest. It seems like the gated front door was the inspiration for the Georgian-style design of the interior, and candelabra chandelier, making a bold statement in this first sneak peak of the home.
Dark walnut flooring is added throughout the main floor of the two-storey house, as well as on the stairs and of course white interior columns, for a grand entryway.
Although the couple may not have kept the interior the same, this neutral design with a touch of colour brings out the Tuscan stone fireplace as the focal point of the room. Above it, a snippet of a Romeo-style balcony, fit for rap mogul, Kanye.
The dining room may be small, but the tray ceiling design and deep peach colour helps the room appear broader, and gives an eclectic feel.
Outlined by dark wood beams, windowsills and flooring, this eating nook has a great colour contrast and warm feel, perfect for breakfast and brunch.
With an opening to the backyard, new traditional interior and rich wood flooring, this gourmet kitchen can fit any large family, even the Kardashians.
Full of mahogany and chevron flooring, this warm home library is customized with French doors, making it easy to access the outdoor patio. While you're there, enjoy reading a good book in privacy, made possible by the contemporary style arched doorway.
Need a lift? Let this customized elevator give you a hand, with its rich combination of texturized wood interior.
We all know how fashion conscious the West duo is, so this large walk-in closet was exactly what they needed. Rows of built-in storage, wooden shelves and racks perfectly line the walls, as several can spotlights shine down, accentuating the trendy fashion labels the couple wears.
A fireplace in the master suite, seating area, and a spot to change, would give the couple plenty of room to lounge, along with tons of natural to brighten up the space.
For a night out on the town, the Wests need some extra time getting ready, and this lavish master bath delivers. Equipped with an impressive steam shower, spa tub and massage area, the Wests could have been pampered all day.
This spa tub is definitely soothing, with a cultured marble deck, steps and even an arched window for a view to the luscious outdoors.
To escape their busy lives and paparazzi, Kim and Kanye most certainly need a personal retreat. This balcony, off the master suite, offers tranquility with a seating area perfect for two.
No Mediterranean-style home would be complete without a grand pergola. This elegant pergola is elongated for outdoor dining under massive canopy pillars, and is situated in the grassy area at the back of the property, next to the swimming pool.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
A bright and welcoming sunroom is spruced up for the holidays.
With the holiday season is upon us, make the most of this month by tackling these tasks.
As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year – and it only lasts a few weeks. Avoid seasonal stress by staying organized and having realistic expectations of what you can achieve. To help you make the most of the holiday season, here are 10 things to do this December.
1 Clean out the freezer
It's all too easy to let food accumulate in the freezer – and before long, not only is it too crowded to make room for more, but there are items in the back that should probably be thrown away. Set aside some time to organize your freezer – you may be amazed at what you'll find in there.
2 Make a wreath
Not only is a wreath on the front door inviting, but it really makes a house look like a home. If you've got the time, add a personal touch to your outdoor decor by making your own instead of buying one. And if you're really feeling inspired, make two and give the second to a friend as an early Christmas gift.
3 Get organized for gift wrapping
To save time during the hectic Christmas shopping season, set up a gift-wrapping station in an out-of-the-way spot in your home -- it will make it easy to wrap gifts as you buy them, and you won't be hunting around the house for the scissors, silver ribbon or gift tags. If you haven't got the space for a separate gift-wrapping table, put all your supplies in a couple of wicker baskets in the closet or under the bed for easy access.
4 Decorate the kitchen
Don't limit your holiday accents to the living room and entryway -- think about ways you can bring the spirit of the season into every room, including the kitchen. Try decorating the windowsill with candles and cedar boughs, putting a miniature Christmas tree on a shelf or draping doorways with garlands. For a finishing touch, simmer spices in water on the back of the stove to infuse your home with the comforting scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
5 Cook up some appetizers
Get ready for guests – whether expected or impromptu – by preparing a selection of appetizers ahead of time. Just pick recipes that can be made in advance and frozen, and you could have a season's worth of hors d'oeuvres ready in an afternoon.
6 Host a cookie exchange
Rather than devoting hours of free time to baking each of your favourite holiday treats, arrange an exchange with friends and family. Organize it so that each person bakes a different type of cookie, enough to share around with everyone in the group. Don't forget to make a few extras to serve while everyone's exchanging the goods!
7 Hang some mistletoe
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is said to come from an ancient Scandinavian tradition that when enemies met in the forest under mistletoe, they were to lay down their arms and observe a truce for the following day. Continue the tradition by hanging mistletoe in your home during the holiday season – and spread peace and goodwill among your guests.
8 Donate to the food bank
During this season of feasting, remember those who are less fortunate by bringing non-perishable food items or a monetary donation to your local food bank. Consider offering your time, as well, to help sort donations or perform other necessary tasks.
9 Let in the fresh air
It may be getting chilly outside, but that's no reason to keep the windows locked tight. Shutting up the house lets indoor pollutants accumulate, especially if it's fairly new and therefore airtight. Let in the cool, crisp air of early winter by opening the windows for a few minutes daily – longer if the weather is cooperating – and enjoy the fresh scent of a well-aired home.
10 Make homemade eggnog
Eggnog is so rich and sinfully delicious, it's probably a good thing we don't drink it all year round. So don't settle for nog in a carton – it's easy to make your own, and the results are well worth the time spent.