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(Alsip, IL) December 13, 2005 — Looking for the perfect holiday gift is always a challenge, and the closer to the holidays, the harder it gets. Lisa Brandau, the cofounder of AtHome America, has some advice for last-minute shoppers looking for this year’s hottest gifts.

“One of the best gifts that is sure to be welcomed in every home is candles and candle accessories,” Brandau reports. The top 10 best selling items for the direct-seller of fine home accessories and home décor include candle holders, tea light holders and lanterns.

Lanterns are a particular favorite because they can be hung on stakes or stands to welcome winter guests, or left standing on the mantel for an intimate, fire lit look. Tea light holders are also popular, as well as votive holders.

When giving a gift to an acquaintance or co-worker - or just someone whose tastes you’re unsure of - specialty pantry items are a great suggestion.

“Our AtHome Gourmet mixes - particularly the Bakery Fresh Beer Bread Mix - are a great gift alternative to fresh baked goods when you don’t have time to bake or when your hosts may be overwhelmed with cookies, breads and other baked goods,” Brandau adds.

If the person you’re shopping for likes to entertain, consider festive holiday- themed wine glasses or serving trays that can be used year round functionally - and provide the base for a centerpiece around the holidays.

Another great idea - and very family-friendly - is a milk and cookie for Santa set. AtHome America offers a set that has also been rated among the top 10 items in their 2005 fall/holiday catalog, Brandau says.

Just because you’re shopping last minute doesn’t mean you have to face big crowds, either. AtHome America sells their products through HomeShows, or in-home product demonstrations, as well as on the Internet.

For more last minute gift ideas, or to book a HomeShow, visit www.athome.com.

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December 4, 2005

Bird is the word in home decorating

The Cincinnati Post - Bird is the word in home decorating

By Korky Vann Hartford Courant

Keep an eye out for birds - indoors and out. They are the decorating world’s newest darlings, showing up on everything from drapery fabrics and wall art to dinnerware and linens. The trend signals a real shift in attitude, says Robin Fisher, president of RLF Home, a Hartford, Conn.-based manufacturer of upscale window treatments and other soft goods. "In the past, I’ve had buyers just flat-out say they weren’t interested in any bird-print fabrics, period," Fisher says. "That’s changed. Now those same buyers are much more open to the concept. As a result, we’re seeing a huge variety of bird prints used in casual, traditional, Asian and contemporary settings." Decorating chain Calico Corners, for example, chose "Japonica," an Oriental fabric featuring brilliant birds, flowers and bamboo for the cover of one of its 2005 catalogs. Birds also show up on many of the company’s brightly colored casual cottons, as well as more muted decorating fabrics. "In America, birds have always been a classic motif," says Jen Jessup, marketing director for Calico Corners. "Think French Country roosters or Audubon prints. Now we’re seeing an updating and re-interpretation of the designs. You’ll see birds used in garden rooms, but also in living rooms. The market is always looking for something different." Key to the current avian look is color - think parrot green, robin’s egg blue and canary yellow. "People are excited about strong colors," Jessup says. "They look fresh and new and appealing." And it’s not just fabrics that have taken flight. Bombay Company highlighted a pair of graceful crane garden sculptures in a catalog earlier this year. And designer Oscar de la Renta featured a beautiful chinoisere chest with hand-painted birds, flowers and butterflies in a vivid parrot green finish in his spring 2005 Home collection. Anita Tiburzi, design director for the Source Perrier Collection for Home and Garden, based in Sharon, Conn., says bird prints, figurines, sculptures, tableware and linens are popular items for the catalog and online company. "There are so many applications," says Tiburzi. "Lovebirds in the bedroom, bluebirds in the kitchen or dining room, exotic birds on the patio. Source Perrier Collection best-sellers include a set of two colorful ceramic cockatoos with pale green crests and rosy beaks; Chinese porcelain exotic bird plates; hand-engraved glass table accessories featuring cranes, palm trees and lush foliage; and "Nesting" tableware, a collection of blue-and-white Limoges dishes and table accessories featuring a charming array of blue birds, nests, birds’ eggs and feathers designed by Tiburzi. "There’s something truly engaging about these creatures," she says. "They bring a sense of renewal and they also convey so much symbolism. Cranes indicate good luck, and storks are associated with birth. There’s a reason people watch for that first robin after a long winter. It’s a symbol of life going on." If you’d like to incorporate some flights of fancy into your decor, experts suggest updating your look with bird-inspired pillows, table skirts, slipcovers or wall art "Think outside the decorating box and incorporate a few unexpected items here and there," Tiburzi advises. "They’ll provide compelling contrasts and add interest to your surroundings."

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By Mary Courville
Thursday, December 1, 2005

Question: I am getting ready to decorate my home for Christmas. Can you give me some ideas that will make a splash?

     Answer: The Holidays are a great time to decorate your house and to try new things. The key to successful holiday decorating is to take advantage of all the areas in your home that can be decorated. It is best to pick a color scheme and to stick with it such as red and gold, or silver and white. I like to use all fresh, natural materials for holiday decorating. The smell of fresh cedar throughout the house is wonderful. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Decorate your entryway to set the mood when people come into your home. Hang cedar roping around the chandelier and insert holly with red berries to add color. Replace the chandelier shades with red silk shades. Wrap cedar roping along the length of the stairway banister. Over that, wrap a wide gold ribbon and white lights and attach the berries to the roping. Swag the doorways leading into the living and dining rooms in cedar with red berries.
  • In the dining room, fill the chandelier with fresh greens and dried white flowers. For the table centerpiece, place sugared fruit in a silver pedestal bowl. Choose an assortment of fruits - lemons, oranges, apples, pears, etc. and fill the bowl. Place red roses in silver mint julep cups and put one in front of each place setting and on the side tables. On either end of the sideboard, place rosemary topiaries in silver pots and adorn the topiaries with small silver balls. On the back of each dining chair, tie one large silver ribbon into a bow.
         
  • In the living room, adorn the room with cedar, lemons, pinecones, and pineapples. On the fireplace, swag cedar roping along the top and down the sides of the mantel. Attach lemons and gold spray painted pinecones to the roping with thin wire. Over the fireplace, put a wreath on the wall decorated with lemons and gold pine cones. Take two pineapples, spray paint them gold, and place those on either side of the mantel and then line the center of the mantel with red candles in gold candle sticks. Hang additional wreaths with the lemons and gold pine cones in the center of each window in the room. Place a bowl of red roses, stargazer lilies and spider mums on the coffee table. For the Christmas tree, decorate it in all red and gold ball ornaments with white lights and a gold star on the top. Wrap the base of the tree in a gold skirt.
  • In the kitchen, instead of a traditional holiday motif tablecloth, use a French red and white toile fabric for the tablecloth. Let the tablecloth fall to the floor and cover the chairs in slip covers made out of the same red and white toile fabric. On the center of the table place a vase of red and white flowers.
         
  • On the door knobs in each room, make cones out of white craft paper, and decorate the cones with Christmas motifs. Fill them with colorful holiday candies and attach them to the door knobs with white ribbons. This will be a fun treat for the children in the house.
  • Fill the bathrooms with fresh pine and sweet berry scented candles.
         
  • If you have a room with large windows or French doors, place a Christmas tree with white lights on the outside. At night, you will see the tree twinkling through the windows.
         
  • Don’t forget to decorate the outside. If you have mature bushes in front of the house, wrap them in white lights. If not, place a Christmas tree on either side of the front door with white lights, and hang a lighted wreath on the door. At night, your home will glow to welcome guests.
          Mary Courville is a Winchester Interior Designer who specializes in residential interiors. Her projects include residences in Winchester, in and around Boston, and Cape Cod. Please e-mail your decorating questions to Mary at marycourville@comcast.net.
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