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Chocolate Espresso Semifreddo Recipe

This Italian-inspired indulgence is a coffee, (and chocolate) lovers’ dream. The perfect sophisticated dessert for your next adult dinner party is the Chocolate Espresso Semifreddo.


Chocolate Espresso Semifreddo Recipe:

(Serves 8)



  • 1 3/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing the pan


  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 3 oz. espresso
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 16 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 oz. heavy cream



For the Crust:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.

2.  Lightly brush the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with melted butter.

3.  Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs and 3 tablespoons of melted butter in a small bowl, mixing with a fork until crumbs are moistened.

4.  Pour the crumbs into the springform pan and create an even layer, pressing with the flat bottom of a dish or drinking glass.

5.  Bake for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, line the edges of the pan with strips of parchment paper.

For the Filling:

1.  Over a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar together. Lift the whisk out of the bowl as you go to incorporate air into the mixture. Continue whisking until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, with ribbons.

2.  Add vanilla, rum and espresso. Cook over the simmering water until liquid coats the back of a spoon and the mixture is thick and foamy. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Stir until melted, and continue stirring until the mixture has cooled.

3.  In a separate bowl, combine the mascarpone and heavy cream. Stir together until soft and smooth, taking care not to over-stir.

4.  Combine the egg whites and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in the stainless-steel bowl ofa stand mixer. Gently whisk together over a simmering water bath until the mixture reaches 145°.

5.  Remove from the water bath. Whip the mixture in the stainless-steel bowl on medium-high speed (using the mixer’s whisk attachment) until stiff peaks form.

6.  Reduce the speed to medium and mix until the bowl is cool to the touch.

7.  Fold the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate mixture until there are no streaks.

8.  Fold 1/4 of the meringue into the chocolate-mascarpone mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining meringue in three parts, taking care not to over-mix and deflate the egg whites.

9.  Spread the mixture over the crust in the parchment-lined pan, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours.

10.  When ready to serve, loosen and remove the sides of the pan. Remove the parchment paper strips. Garnish as desired.


For more delicious desserts, follow our Pinterest board, Treats and Eats.


How to Reinvent the Guest Room

You can make any current living space new again by re-envisioning its purpose in your home.
And with changes that all families experience — whether it be a growing or shrinking number of children at home, a need for more storage or a desire for a dedicated area to work on projects — comes an opportunity to reconsider your space. With a little bit of planning, you can take that extra guest room in your home and transform it into a fabulous, new space with a renewed purpose.




If you need an extra place for out-of-town visitors to stay, consider ways in which your guest room can do double duty. A pull-out sofa allows you to quickly turn your room into a comfortable sleeping space at night, but just as swiftly bring it back to a usable space during the day.


During the day or when guests aren’t present, fold up your pull-out sofa, and your guest room becomes a restful reading room complete with a comfortable accent chair and a writing table. It’s the perfect place to curl up with a cup of tea and your favorite magazine or book for some relaxing “me” time.

  Guest Room Two Ways



Bedrooms morphed into dressing rooms are especially desirable in older, storage-challenged homes. Many homeowners are taking cues from boutique dressing rooms and transforming their spare room into a swanky space, complete with elegant lighting, plush ottoman seating and full-length mirrors.




Create a craft room by adding shelving to store items in decorative baskets or jars and utilizing bookcases with cubbies to help stay organized.




Kids will love this transformation from guest room to playroom! Their new- found home for board games, puzzles and toys can also serve as dedicated space for tea time, video games and playing dress-up with friends — all the while keeping the rest of the house in order.



Featured Products from Sofa Mart, Oak Express, and Bedroom Expressions:


Clara Sofa Sleeper – Sofa Mart

Rodea Nightstand – Bedroom Expressions

Outlook Wall Mirror – Sofa Mart

Floral Applique Pillow in Spa Blue – Sofa Mart

Button Lumbar Pillow Sage – Sofa Mart

Delano Duvet Set – Bedroom Expressions


Cream Classic Loop 8’x11′ Rug – Sofa Mart

Gramercy Floor Lamp – Sofa Mart

Black Leaning Shelves – Oak Express


Baltimore 5 Pc. Dining Set – Oak Express

Matrix 64″ Espresso Media Console


Show us your reinvented guest room on Twitter.

Grilled Pork Kebabs with Ginger Molasses Barbecue Sauce Recipe

This summer, dining outdoors is a must. Warm weather, good friends, and good people is all you need to make an evening in the backyard memorable. With this succulent recipe for Grilled Pork Kebabs with Ginger Molasses Barbecue Sauce, and our Outdoor Dining Tips blog post, dining al fresco could be happening in your background tonight!

Grilled Pork


Grilled Pork Kebabs with Ginger Molasses Barbecue Sauce Recipe:

(Serves 6)

For the Ginger Molasses Barbecue Sauce


  • 6 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses (regular or robust;  not blackstrap)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh serrano pepper or other small hot green chile (1 or 2), including seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Stir together all sauce ingredients in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan and briskly simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 3 minutes.

2.Transfer sauce to a medium bowl and cool to room temperature.


For the Grilled Pork Kebabs


  • 1 (1-lb.) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 30 (8-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes, to keep wood from charring


1. Put tenderloin on a cutting board. Starting about 5 inches from narrow end of tenderloin and holding a large, sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to cutting board, cut a thin slice (1/8- to 1/4- inch thick) from tenderloin, slicing diagonally toward narrow end and cutting through to cutting board. Continue to cut thin slices from the tenderloin following same diagonal, starting each consecutive slice closer to wide end. (You will have about 12 slices. Cut any slices more than 2 inches wide in half lengthwise.)

2. Thread 2 skewers, 1 at a time and 1/2 to 1 inch apart, lengthwise through each slice of pork and transfer to a tray lined with plastic wrap.

3. If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Charcoal fire is hot when you can comfortably hold your hand 5 inches above rack for no more than 1 to 2 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on high, covered, for 10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle pork slices with salt and brush both sides with barbecue sauce, then grill on oiled grill rack, uncovered, turning over once, until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes total. Discard any leftover sauce.


For more recipes visit our list here.

Top 10 Ways to Relax at Home

It may sound silly, but relaxing at home can really turn into a chore. There are so many distractions in the home. Preparing meals, organizing clutter, checking the mail, watering the garden, and walking the dog can all turn a relaxing evening at home, into a continued work shift. The Bedroom Expressions team has gathered the top 10 ways to relax at home, that will be sure to work, even for the busiest of busybodies.

Relax At Home

1. Prioritize.  “Simplify your schedule, your home and your relationships,” says Bowling Green, Ohio-based Psychologist and Executive Coach Mike Roehrs. “Stop hanging around people who are not positive. Put more energy and effort into those who are.”

2. Stay true to yourself.  Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into too many directions. “Be clear about what you value and let that be your guiding force,” Roehrs advises.

3. Schedule “me” time.  Commit to activities that renew your spirit, such as going out with friends. “If you don’t, you’ll end up getting burned out or upset,” says Chicago-based Executive Coach/Trainer Susan Fignar.

4. Ask for help.  “It’s easy to try to take on everything yourself,” Fignar says, “but let your spouse know you need help with the kids, or reach out to a colleague for assistance with a project.”

5. Create your own happy space.  Treat yourself to a new comfy chair. Place a basket of your favorite herbal teas and reading material within easy reach. De-clutter your desk.

6. Pamper yourself.  Take bubble baths. Get a massage. Indulge in aromatherapy — candles, diffusers, potpourri, oils and lotions — especially in chamomile and lavender scents. (When traveling, Canyon Ranch Beauty Services Director Laura Hittleman recommends packing tissues or cotton balls scented with essential oils to counter travel stress and fatigue.)

7. Tune in to tune out stress.  Medical experts sing the praises of music for soothing jangled nerves. Create iPod playlists specifically for stressful times — getting ready for work, driving in rush hour, cooking dinner, etc.

8. Take a break.  “The most relaxing, effective breaks offer a complete change of pace,” says Canyon Ranch Movement Therapist DeAnna Pierce. Nap. Pet the dog. Read a book or magazine. Meditate (or simply daydream) — even a few minutes can elevate mood while lowering blood pressure, stress hormones and anxiety levels.

9. Get moving.  Go for a walk or run. Stretch. Jump rope. Find an exercise routine — even if it’s only 10 minutes long — and stick to it. Exercise releases stress-relieving endorphins into the bloodstream.

10. Count your blessings.   Noted health expert Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends keeping a journal of all the things that make you happy and for which you’re grateful. Focusing on good things fuels positive energy and has an overall calming effect.


For more tips, follow us on Pinterest.

Look for Less: Modern Reading Area

Recreate this modern reading area or lounge area for 1/4 of the price using products from Sofa Mart and Oak Express.


The Look ($5,151):

1. Sloane Leaning Bookcase, Crate&Barrel // $139

2. Seville Ivory Leather Chair, Room & Board // $2,699

3. Memphis Steel 5’x8′ Rug, Crate&Barrel // $399

4. Winter Stallion Print, Z Gallerie // $399

5. Ikat Cylinder Baskets, Large and Small, West Elm // $39 and $59

6. Eggs Floor Lamp, // $768

7. Arcadia Server, Oak Express // $649

For Less ($1,676):

1. Leaning Shelf, Oak Express // $88

2. Studio Chair, Sofa Mart // $398

3. Galaxy Shag Rug in Grey 5’x7′ // $198

4. Arcadia Server, Oak Express // $649

5. Kissing Horses Print, Oak Express // $163

6. Durban Baskets, Hi and Lo, Sofa Mart // $26 and $36

7. Josephine Floor Lamp, Sofa Mart // $118


For more Look for Less ideas, follow our Pinterest board. 


Top 10 Summer Backyard Games

Get out, get moving, and enjoy the great outdoors with our favorite new – and retro – games for the whole family. Reclaim your backyard with the new Outdoor Collection from Oak Express.

summer-backyard-games (3)

Top 10 Summer Backyard Games:

1. Cornhole: Played with bean bags and a raised platform.

2. Bocce Ball: The Italian version of lawn bowling played on a flat surface.

3. Croquet: Classic, wicket good fun, played with wooden mallets, hoops and plastic or wooden balls.

4. Pirates of the Backyard Treasure Hunt: Have the kids dress up like pirates and raid the backyard for
hidden or buried booty.

5. Backyard Scrabble: Take the popular word game to the G-A-R-D-E-N where it’s played on an oversize tile Scrabble court with letter tiles.

6. I Spy … Nature: A fantastic game that helps kids learn more about
nature and be more observant of it.

7. Squirt-Gun Tag: Think of it as paintball without the paint. Load squirt guns with different colored water (use food coloring — relax, it comes out in the wash!). Assign each player a color to help keep track of who scores.

8. Badminton: Fun for singles or doubles. All you need are lightweight rackets, birdies and a net (or even just a clothesline).

9. Pillowcase Race: With their feet in pillowcases, players hop on down to the finish line. (After the race,
mom has the perfect excuse to get new pillowcases.)

10. Volleyball: Always fun. It’s a great activity for groups of all ages.


Follow our Pinterest board Inspiration: Summer for more summer backyard ideas.

Summer Recipe: Key Lime Pie Ice Cream and Mango Gelato

Cool off in the backyard with these delicious frozen treats this summer.

For key lime pie fans, this is a must-try dessert. The easy to make recipe offers the perfect balance of sweet, creamy goodness and crisp, tart sassiness. With the launch of Oak Express’ new Outdoor Living Collection, enjoying the summer heat in your backyard has never been more comfortable!


Key-Lime-Pie Ice Cream Recipe:
(Serves 6)


  •  1 1/2 ½cups whole milk
  • ½1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup bottled key lime juice
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 graham crackers (1 1/2 cookie sheets), coarsely crushed, divided
  • Key lime wedges


1.  In a large bowl, combine salt and liquid ingredients; whisk to combine.
2.  Pour mixture into ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

3.  Stir 1/3 cup graham crackers into ice-cream.

4.  Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze for 1 hour, or until firm.
5.  Sprinkle each serving with graham crackers.
6.  Garnish with lime wedges.

Go tropical with a de-lish bowl of mango gelato. Garnish each dish with a sprig of mint for your next outdoor celebration.

Mango Gelato Recipe:
(Serves 3–4)


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 large mangoes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


Mango Puree:

1.  Peel and cut mango into pieces, squeezing as much flesh off as possible.
2.  Blend mango pieces and lemon juice in
the blender/food processor.
3.  Strain the mango mixture into a bowl,
eliminating the stringy bits from the puree.
4.  This should yield approximately 11/4 cups mango puree.

Gelato Base:

1.  Whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and lemony.

2.  In a saucepan, bring milk and cream to a simmer.
3.  Turn off heat and whisk half of the milk mixture into the yolks.

4.  Return everything to the saucepan, cooking over very low heat, stirring until thickened.

5.  Remove from heat and strain it into a large bowl, letting it cool for 5 or 6 minutes.
6.  Mix in mango puree and refrigerate

7.  10 minutes before processing in an ice- cream machine, put the mango custard into
the freezer, along with the ice-cream dasher (this shocks the mix so that not much air is whipped in).

8. Process in your ice-cream maker.


For more delicious desserts, follow our Pinterest board, Treats and Eats.

Summer Recipe: Frozen Fruit Pops

Summer is the perfect season for turning the fresh fruits and berries you find at your local market into icy indulgences. Whether you’re wild for strawberries, or it’s blueberries that tickle your taste buds, mix-and-match your favorite berries to create your own signature frozen fruit pops. Enjoy these frozen treats with Oak Express’ new Outdoor Living Collection.

Kiwi +Orange Banana Smoothie (1)

Kiwi Pops Recipe:

(Serves 4)


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups sliced kiwi – wish or without peel
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice


1.  In a saucepan, combine 1 cup water and the sugar. Stir over low heat just until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, allowing it to cool.
2.  Next, combine the sliced kiwis and lime juice in a food processor until smooth.

3.  Add sugar water and 11/2½ cups cold water to kiwi mixture, blend in processor again.

4.  Pour mixture into pop molds, insert sticks, freeze for 6 hours.

5.  Remove pops from the freezer, let them stand for 5 minutes to remove mold.


Orange-Banana Smoothie Pops Recipe:

(Serves 6)


  • 7 oz. Greek yogurt
  • 2 bananas
  • 2/3 cup orange-juice concentrate (thawed)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


1.  Puree yogurt, thawed orange-juice concentrate, bananas, lime zest and lime juice in a blender or food processor.

2.  Pour into six, 3-ounce molds.

3.  Freeze until solid — approximately 4 hours.

4.  Once pops are frozen and set, remove from freezer and dip molds into hot water until pops are able to slide out.


Fruit Popsicle Recipe (5)


Fruitsicle Recipe:

(Serves 8)


  • 1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
  • lengthwise
  • 1 cup strawberries, finely chopped
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 1/2½ cups fruit punch


1.  Combine fruit in a large mixing bowl and spoon it into 8 Popsicle molds.
2.  Fill each mold with punch, add a Popsicle stick to each.
3.  Place in freezer for 4 hours, until fruitsicles are frozen.
4.  Remove fruitsicles and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes to allow for easy removal of molds.
5.  Serve immediately.


Share your summer recipes with us Pinterest.

Top Tips for Spring Cleaning

Whether you do it at the beginning of spring or, like most of us, somewhat later, the annual ritual of spring cleaning is all about the heavy lifting that gets rid of dirt and debris, especially in places unseen. Tackling them signals a breath of fresh air in any season.

Before the soap/water/vacuum detail of cleaning, confront your stuff and discard or reorganize. De-clutter first, advises Molly Boren, a Ann Arbor-based professional organizer and founder of Simplicity Works. Seeing uncluttered spaces gives a positive mindset.

Boren’s mantra? Everything has its place. Put paper (bank statements, medical documents, insurance contracts, credit card bills, etc.) in a designated file; store similar items (e.g., notepads, paperclips and staples) together, then plan your cleaning attack.

Top Tips for Pre-Spring Cleaning:

1. Set a time limit. “Use the kitchen timer, set it for 30 minutes and tackle a couple of cabinets or drawers,” Boren advises. “Scrub to a favorite CD until the music ends.”

2. Eliminate distractions. Answering the phone and checking e-mail foil progress, Boren cautions. Stay on schedule, but factor in a 10-minute break every hour.

3. Make a plan. Be realistic, urges Linda Cobb, Phoenix based author of The Queen of Clean series of housekeeping books. Also, remember that different rooms have different cleaning needs: Create a seasonal cleaning agenda for each room.

4. Create instant reinforcement. Cobb recommends purging, cleaning and reorganizing the least-used room or space first. Seeing a completed task gives a sense of accomplishment.

5. Mind your back. Pair up with a partner for moving furniture. It’s easier, faster, more fun and safer for your back. Never lift a sofa on your own, Boren adds. Instead, shove a towel or rug under the legs, then slide or roll it.

Top Tips for Spring Cleaning:

1. Clean from top to bottom. Remember, dust falls. Clean the tops of picture frames, molding, furniture, light fixtures and walls first. Work in downward strokes. Clean, dust, vacuum and wash floors and carpets last.

2. Get to hard-to-reach places. Remove dust and debris from ceiling fans, chairs, sofas, carpet corners and moldings with your vacuum’s attachments. Use small paint brushes and even cotton swabs to remove dust and grime from tight spots. Swipe hard-to-reach surfaces with a towel wrapped around a long-handled broom.

3. Make curtain calls. Freshen curtains by tossing them into a dryer set on low. During the cycle, wash the insides of windows.

4. Tend to cupboards, closets and drawers. Remove all items, then wipe down shelves and drawers. Replace shelf and drawer liners. Reorganize and return items for storage.

5. Conduct a seasonal rotation. Store winter clothes and equipment and bring out spring/summer clothes, sports gear and garden tools.

6. Create containment systems. Designate containers for donations, recycling and trash. Put bins in convenient locations to reinforce tidy habits.


Maintenance Check

Household Maintenance Check:

1. Go on gutter detail. Start at one end and flush dirt and debris toward the downspout with a garden hose. Consider installing mesh gutter covers to prevent debris from accumulating.

2. Call in the pros. Line up professional cleaning for rugs, carpets and upholstery.

3. Tend to fans. Adjust ceiling and attic fans. Check the vents on ceiling fans to blow air down.


Share your Spring Cleaning tips with us on Pinterest.

Americana Home Decor

Themes from the American farm experience from apple pie to farm animals and implements to the American flag are making a statement in homes across America.

Americans know how to celebrate. When the time is right, it seems nothing can hold us back. Just walk through Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Or, try hunting down a pair of tickets to the All-Star Game or World Series, both celebrations of America’s favorite pastime. Or, simply head into your own backyard on the 4th of July and check out the pyrotechnic display coming from neighboring yards. Sofa Mart, Oak Express, and Bedroom Expressions have teamed up to create the following Americana inspired interiors.


Americans are good at showing their spirit. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the Americana Style movement that’s increasingly finding its way into people’s homes. In some cases, Americana can be found even before you pass through the front door. For example, rural-themed weathervanes, often placed on cupolas, are a reference to early American architecture often found on farms.

Showing Your True Colors
 As you may have gathered, Americana is a celebration of all things American. Utilizing the colors of our flag, homeowners find creative ways to make red, white and blue a central focus of interior and exterior design. Of course, the color palette doesn’t necessarily end there. Americana homes find ways to coordinate furnishings and fabrics with the three colors that make up our stars and stripes. Checkerboards, antique quilts, twill and denim fabrics are all good examples.


A Style Born of Hard Work
The casual, patriotic look embraces a simpler time in the American experience. Farming is a hallmark of Americana. Often a rooster or chicken will find its perch on wallpaper or folk art sculptures and paintings. Farm implements that once toiled in fields appear on walls, bookshelves and entryway tables. Apple pies, prized pigs and other items showcased under the tents of county fairs are also fair game. Thematically, these objects serve to remind us of a time when communities were closely knit — an age that found expression in the paintings of Norman Rockwell.

Once the center of our economy, farm life has always represented an honest day’s work. Owing to this fact, Americana seeks to downplay televisions and other modern conveniences. This can be accomplished by thoughtfully tucking electronics behind the closed doors of natural wood cabinets. Baskets and wickerwork often found on farms do double duty, adorning rooms while, at the same time, providing a useful place to keep items that would otherwise clutter a space.


Interior decorator Abby Manchesky, who maintains the design blog, recommends taking a resourceful, creative approach: “Shop your home and use what you have. For example, use an old trunk as a coffee table; woven baskets hung as art; a grouping of metal found objects; a gallery wall of vintage family photos. These all work well to tell your story of classic Americana.” By rethinking what you already have on hand you may have more in common with Americana Style than you thought.

The Past Never Gets Old
While Americana style celebrates a more primitive, farmhouse aesthetic, it’s not beholden to any specific time period. To embrace it, you need only to honor the spirit of the nation. No one will question the fact that a home will mix Colonial period pieces with early 20th century furnishings. According to Manchesky, “Mixing time periods keeps your room from becoming too predictable and theme-like.”

In the end, Americana is about bringing out a proud and storied past. Whether subtly paying homage to our country’s independence, or expressing our agricultural roots, or both, Americana is a style that pulls it all together under one roof. And, hey, who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned celebration?


From the Farm to the Table
LEFT: The honey-colored hutch and buffet is the perfect piece to showcase your favorite items — from heirloom china to antique books or souvenirs.

MIDDLE: Patriotic plates, vibrant flowers and even apple pie embrace a simpler time in the American experience.

RIGHT: The cream lamp with burlap shade, along with accompanying accessories, offer a mix of shapes, color and textures that utilize the recurring patriotic color and farm themes.

Featured Products:
Lone Star Wall Art – Bedroom Expressions
Evelyn Chair – Sofa Mart
Parkview Sliding Door Cabinet in White – Oak Express
Folk Art Painted School – Bedroom Expressions
Batik Vase Wide in Navy – Bedroom Expressions
Glazed Rooster Tall – Bedroom Expressions

Join the conversation on Facebook.


5 Tips for Decorating with Accent Pillows

An easy and affordable way to add creative drama to a room is by carefully selecting accent pillows. By including pillows with distinct patterns, textures or colors, you can give character to any space.

5 Tips for Decorating with Accent Pillows:

1. Bring the outdoors in with pillows that showcase botanical patterns.

2. Pillows are the perfect complement to outdoor seating and benches.

3. Go Modern. Choose monochromatic pillows with distinct patterns that make a statement.

4. It’s all in the details. Use touches of embroidery or other handcrafted styles. Ruffles can add flourish and a little “sass” to simple patterns.

5. Neutral colors go with everything. Choose pillows with a few small pops of color and pattern for interest.




Featured Products:

Mariposa Pillow Paprika – Sofa Mart

Baroque Pillow Sage – Sofa Mart

Cream and Blue Flower Pillow – Bedroom Expressions

Berry, Wine, and White Spotted Pillow – Bedroom Expressions

Cream and Black Pillow – Bedroom Expressions

Beige and Cream Flower Pillow – Bedroom Expressions

Black and White Pillow – Bedroom Expressions

Beige and Blue Stripe Pillow – Bedroom Expressions

Check out Sofa Mart’s unique collection of accent pillows.

Join the conversation on Facebook.

Anatomy of the Perfect Bed

Have you ever wondered if there was a rhyme or reason to all those layers on the bed?
In this “Ask the Experts” feature, Bedroom Expressions is answering all your bedding questions. Follow the guide at the end of this article to create your own perfect bed. Head over to The Linen Shoppé for all of your bedding needs.


Q. How often should I replace linens?

A. “Think of your bed as needing two sets of outfits,” says Bedding Consultant Mesh Gelman. “The basic part of bedding — sheets and pillows — is the underclothes. What you see on the top of the bed —comforters or duvets, quilts, spreads, pillowcases, shams and bedskirts — is the fashion bedding.”



Seasonal updates. Fashion bedding replacement is primarily driven by seasonality, the need for warmer winter bedding and cooler summer bedding. “Adding a blanket or removing a quilt is a perfect opportunity to change the whole look of your bed,” says Barbara Chandler, store design visual merchandise manager for Furniture Row. Many people choose a richer, more luxurious look for fall and winter and a fresher, cleaner look for spring and summer — “but it’s totally a matter of personal preference.”

Comfort and economy. You spend more time in your bedroom than any other room in the house, so it makes sense to vary the look more often than any other room. Fashion bedding is the easiest and most affordable way to do this. “Changing bedding feels like a wonderful indulgence, and it can be done pretty inexpensively,” Chandler says. “A reversible comforter or duvet can work wonders.” Adds Gelman: “Fashion bedding is a mood changer, and it adds new interest to the room. Going to bed in a relaxed setting does wonders for your state of mind.”


Sheets. Two complete sheet sets are a minimum for each bed. Replace sheet sets one at a time by retiring the oldest one twice a year. Or, says Thomas Shearer, general manager of the Denver Mattress Retail Division, invest in quality sheets that will maintain their color and structure for years. “It’s not thread count that matters; it’s construction — a wellconstructed cotton or bamboo sheet will last as long as a good pair of pants.” If you use polyester-blend sheets, “don’t wash them in high heat or with towels; that only encourages pilling.”

Pillows. “Pillows will increase in weight by almost 50 percent in the course of a year,” Shearer says, “because you lose a pint of fluid every night, which seeps into your linens and mattress, creating an environmental envelope for dust mites.” Shearer advises that even washable pillows should be replaced once a year.


Perfect Bedding Guide:

1. Pillow Protector- Washable, zippered cover that protects pillows from stains, and goes inside the pillowcase.

2. Pillow Sham- A ruffled or otherwise embellished cover for decorative pillows that rest atop sleeping pillows.

3. Euro Pillow Sham- Oversize decorative pillow cover, often with understatedly elegant, squared-off edges.

4. Pillow Case- The cop cover for sleeping pillows.

5. Bedskirt/Dust Ruffle- Decorative element that hides bed’s legs and underside.

6. Mattress Pad- Cotton, wool or fleece-wool cover that protects the mattress and helps keep bottom sheets in place.

7. Fitted Sheet- Bottom sheet held in place with elasticized edges.

8. Top Sheet- Flat sheet that goes on wrong-side-up so the pattern shows when it’s folded down over the blanket.

9. Blanket- Wool, cotton and acrylic in a variety of weights for different times/temperature conditions throughout the year.

10. Duvets/Comforters- Available in all-season down or down-alternative fillings for warmth and cushy comfort. Use a cover to keep them fresh.


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Outdoor Dining Tips

The outdoors is unpredictable. Things don’t always go as planned. In fact, things often go better. When the weather is right, or even close to it, people naturally gravitate there. Add food to the equation, and you’ll never hear complaints about the fact that there isn’t television or air conditioning. Who needs them? You’ve got familiar faces for entertainment. And, if you want to keep cool, just wait for a breeze to come along.

Alfresco is a lot of things. Alfresco gatherings imply a bolder menu and a closer commune with nature. Guests should be able to feel grass under their flip-flops. The idea is to move away from the house and its creature comforts and closer to the way things are done in temperate locations around the world. Outside, it turns out, is the perfect space for entertaining guests.

Effortless-Outside-2 (1)

Jump to our Outdoor Dining Tips

Make it seem effortless.  It’s never fun for guests to see a host straining to pull things off. So, plan ahead. Prepare a menu that accounts for how far it is from the oven to the table. Alfresco is no time to get fancy with sauces or intricate plate presentations. You want to include dishes and drinks that are resilient and bold. Family or buffet-style are always good options. Consider entrées and side dishes that travel well and derive flavor from simple ingredients.

Make life easier with snack and drink stations strategically placed throughout the yard. They will save you and your guests an unnecessary trudge to the kitchen for refills. For drinks, distribute several small ice buckets for bottled beverages to keep cool. Include a variety for all ages and diet restrictions. As long as the container is watertight, go with something more imaginative than a plastic chest. Hosts have employed everything from ice-filled birdbaths to flower planters to make drinks accessible. And guests never mind recycling so long as there’s a discrete container within easy reach.

Dining-Outdoors-Tip1 (2)

Dessert can be arranged in advance. Create a dessert station guests can approach buffet-style. Fresh fruit from your local market is always a good choice. And, if you want to make a statement with seasonal flare, include a memorable dessert like a peach and berries trifle. It’s quite easy to make, yet an indulgence that is sure to please everyone.

Set The Table (1)

Set the table. Set the mood.    Alfresco is about maximizing the outdoors, and doing so with minimum effort. Table location and setting go a long way toward establishing the tone. Hosts can utilize distressed furniture and dress it up with china, silver and an elegant runner. Consider a theme utilizing a variety of secondhand tableware. Add a simple arrangement of fresh cut flowers from the yard to echo the natural surroundings. When night falls, heighten the mood with candle-filled mason jars suspended from tree limbs, or placed around the perimeter of your yard. You can even string Christmas lights around a tree, or suspend them overhead.  And don’t forget the music. Pair sound with taste by including music native to the same region as the food. Just keep the volume at a level conducive to easy conversation.

  Natural State (3)

Outdoor Dining Tips

1. Simply Beautiful: Use elements you have on hand. A potting bench can  double as a dessert station. Artfully arranged fruit is both decorative and delicious.

2. Local Attractions: By gathering just a few fresh ingredients, you can create a simple and mouthwatering salad.

3. Cool and Refreshing: This Brazilian Limeade offers a uniquely creative twist on quenching outdoor thirst.

4. Lighting adds ambience to alfresco dining long into the evening.

5. Create a seasonal and local menu of fresh produce. A trio of grilled yellow squash, red bell peppers and scallions makes a colorful side dish.

6. By serving delicious items hot off the grill, you can create the perfect recipe for friends and family to enjoy the festivities.

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Farm Fresh: Tips for Navigating your Local Farmers Market

Shopping at the farmers’ market is a way to support local commerce, try new produce and even make new friends. Oak Express sat down with Anja Mast, co-owner of Trillium Haven Farm, CSA in Grand Rapids, Mich., gives some tips to roaming the open aisles with success.

Farmers Market

Q: What should I bring to the farmers’ market?

Bring your own bags (not a basket) and carry young kids in a baby carrier or sling. Part of coming to the farmers’ market is being part of a community, so be considerate of the rules of your local market. Also, try to make sure you buy something — it’s a social place, but it’s also a local business.

Q: How can I support this local commerce?

Buying at the farmers’ market means you’re supporting small farmers in your area who are still growing food, which is less than .01 percent of the population. Don’t just buy a few things and leave, consider buying in quantity and fully supporting the farmers during that season. If you don’t know how to store, eat or prepare a particular vegetable, ask the farmer!

Q: How can I make my market experience fun?

Make a plan to try something new every single week. Go in with the intention to always be in the beginner’s mind-set — break out of the rut that the grocery store imposes on us. Find a farmer who has some cooking knowledge or who works with a local restaurant and ask what to do with your new food. Chances are, you’ll begin to build relationships with a few farmers and become part of the farming and culinary communities in your area.

Q: How do I find the right farmer for me?

Finding a farmer that fits you is like finding a restaurant you like — notice the vibe, rapport with the other farmers, the employees, the product, your comfort level with them. Remember, you’re not just buying food. You’re forming a relationship, and you might just find a new friend as well.

Q: Besides fresh produce, what else can I find at the market?

Any kind of handcrafted product can be found: from goat cheese to salsas, jams, jellies, preserves, soaps, homemade breads, fresh flowers and dried beans. Look for people who love certain products and who focus on that one specialty item.

Q: Is the farmers’ market cheaper than the grocery store?

Some items are more expensive; some are cheaper. Think about the fact that you’re paying more for something that is less than 24 hours old (the produce in the grocery store can be up to two weeks old) and the flavor is better because it didn’t get shipped around. Also, consider the farmer as a serious professional who cares about the quality of the product and the quality of the farm. Their profession is farming, and if they do it well, the quality is second to none.

Farmers Market Tips

Below are some general guidelines to help you navigate fresh, local produce. But check with your local farmers market to see what’s growing in your area.

Spring: asparagus, green onions, leeks, lettuce, maple syrup, mint, mushrooms, new potatoes, peas, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, wild greens

Summer: basil, berries, cherries, cilantro, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, fennel, green beans, kohlrabi, melon, okra, peaches, peppers, plums, tomatoes, summer squash

Autumn: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, cranberries, grapes, kale, pears, persimmons, pumpkins, Swiss chard, winter squash

Winter: apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, citrus, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turnips

Taken from Simply in Season by Lind and Hockman-Wert


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How to go Backyard Camping

Backyard Camping: Summer is made for adventure. And you don’t have to travel far to find it. With just a little bit of preparation and some basic equipment, you can create an unforgettable camping experience— right in your own backyard! Head on over to Oak Express for their NEW Outdoor Living Collection.


With warmer weather comes an opportunity to plan new and exciting family adventures. And if you’ve been looking for a good way to introduce your kids to the idea of camping, setting up a campsite in the backyard is a great first step.

With a bit of planning and some imagination, creating your own backyard camping event can be the perfect way to experience good, old-fashioned family fun. And by sticking close to home, you and your kids can feel safe and secure (while remaining within walking distance of a bathroom).

There’s also no reason you have to limit your guest list: backyard camping is perfect for sleep overs, birthdays and special events. You can even make it a bigger party by inviting friends and neighbors to share in the fun.


Don’t forget to document the day! Capturing images of your kids in and out of the tent will make a great photo book and serve as a special memento of the experience.

Gather your Gear

Gather the bedding that you’ll need for the night, including blankets, sleeping bags and pillows. Keep the nighttime temperature in your area in mind as you plan — in some locations, temperatures at night dip considerably. Make sure you have wood for the fire, flashlights (check your batteries ahead of time), insect repellent and warm, layered clothing. Be sure to bring everything you need for the night so there’s no need to go inside the house. A backpack with pajamas, a change of clothes and any can’t-live-without books or toys would be a great start. You might even throw in a pair of binoculars or a compass for the kids.



Bedtime in a new location after a long day of adventures can sometimes prove difficult, so expect some giggling, tossing and turning before the kids fall asleep. Make sure you have plenty of blankets on hand and extra padding in case the ground gets too hard to handle — pillows, air mattresses and even couch cushions can work. Sleeping in a new place can be scary for some kids so remind everyone that mom and dad are right there with them.

Pitch a Tent

Use a pop-up tent that you already have, or create a makeshift one of your own by draping a blanket over a clothesline or other structure. Make sure the kids take part by helping set up the tent, along with the bedding inside. This is also a good time to be sure you have everything you need for the night, including pillows and flashlights or necessary stuffed animals.

Arrange a Seating Area

Set up a picnic table, use some patio furniture or simply arrange a few lawn chairs and a table to use as a drink station. Chairs can also be arranged around the campfire at night for singing and storytelling.

Create a Campfire

A must-have for any camping experience, a campfire provides light and warmth at night and the ability to cook over a real fire. But before starting a fire, make sure you have municipal permission, and keep a close eye on it, ensuring it’s always under adult supervision.


1. Neighborhood Hiking. Plot a course for the kids to navigate, and enjoy nature along the way. Gather samples of nature, such as leaves, flowers and rocks to examine back at camp.

2. Bird Watching by Day, Stargazing by Night. Daytime is perfect for bringing out the binoculars for a bit of bird watching; nighttime offers an opportunity for identifying constellations.

3. Storytelling. Take turns telling stories and even acting them out. One person starts with a few lines of a story, and then each person adds to it as you go around the circle. For a twist, parents can do some research ahead of time and tell a story about the history of your own neighborhood.

4. Flashlight Fun. Use them to read books together, play games or even create shadow puppets for younger kids. A game of flashlight tag or a scavenger hunt using flashlights to find items is also great for older kids.


Backyard Bonding

After a long day of activities, make dinner a family bonding time. Use it to share experiences and discover what your kids enjoyed most that day. It’s also a good time to plan evening activities and pick songs you’d like to sing around the campfire.

S’mores on a stick

  • 6 long wire skewers or wooden sticks
  • 1 bag marshmallows
  • 1 box graham crackers
  • 1 jar chocolate sauce or hazelnut spread
  • Other toppings as desired, such as peanut butter and fresh fruit

Warm chocolate sauce in a bowl; place crushed graham crackers on a plate. Roast marshmallows, dip them in the chocolate and then the crackers. Enjoy!


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Big and Bold Stripes

Show your true colors, and stripes, this season! Whether you’re in the market for new bedding, an area rug or other home furnishings, bold stripes are this summer’s hot ticket. Go for bold solid stripes, or choose multicolor thin stripes for a more textured look. Whatever your style, Sofa Mart, Oak Express, and Bedroom Expressions have got you covered for this season’s hottest home decor trends.

Big + Bold Stripes


Big + Bold Stripes Product List:

1. White and Black Pillow // Bedroom Expressions

2. Mansfield Chair // Sofa Mart

3. Doral Comforter Set // The Linen Shoppé at Bedroom Expressions

4. Stripe Shower Curtain // West Elm

5. Beige and Blue Stripe Pillow // Bedroom Expressions


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How to Decorate with Accent Tables

Accent tables complement a room without demanding the spotlight. Selecting the right accent table effortlessly joins function and feel, fosters continuity in a room’s design, directs traffic flow and serves as a building block for just-right interior design.


“As with all layers of design, contrast adds depth and dimension.”

It’s important to keep in mind accent tables are not bound by one style, color or shape. They include contemporary and traditional, and are sold as side tables, end tables, night stands, consoles, square, round and triangle, offering ample decorative and functional options.


Aesthetics and Style- An accent table can serve as a building block of interior design through its wood tone and shape, adding depth, contrast and interest to a room. “For example, if you have a lot of rectangles in your home, such as your sofa, the rug, the windows, the bookcases, etc., then round or oval accent tables bring contrast to all those sharp edges and corners providing softness, interest and energy as your eye moves around the room,” says Amy Foster, Furniture Row Companies home accessory buyer.

Consider wood tone as another layer of color for a room, Foster adds. And not all colors have to match as long as they coordinate. “As with all layers of design, contrast adds depth and dimension,” Foster says. “If you have a matching set of tables as your coffee and side table, consider purchasing the console table in a deeper tone or lighter tone to add interest. Of course, a painted accent piece or a piece made from reclaimed wood would perform the same task of adding dimension and even a little bit of soul to the room.”


“Circular tables allow or encourage movement.”

Purpose – Considering the purpose you want your accent table to serve is essential, and this often depends on where it will be located in a room, Foster says. Some accent tables in a living room or bedroom function as a place to set beverages or hold reading lights, while others help shepherd traffic flow or complement a room’s overall décor without screaming their presence.


Proportion – Accent tables should be in balance with other pieces in a room. For example, “If you have a large, overstuffed chair, you want something with heft next to it,” says Foster. “If you have grandma’s spindly rocking chair, you need something delicate next to it.”

Traffic Flow – Properly arranged and appropriately sized furniture enables family members and guests to easily navigate a room. Choosing accent tables that help direct, rather than hinder, traffic flow is important.


Shape – While the stain of the wood and design style are important factors to consider, so too is the shape of an accent table, which can enhance the flow of a room and strengthen its theme, Foster says. Square tables often are used as a “connecting” piece. Circular tables create a sense of smooth-flowing motion. “Circular tables allow or encourage movement,” says Foster. “They create a nice energy and movement we’re unaware of.” Oval-shaped tables permit open-floor space in areas where motion can easily overlap. Triangular tables can turn a boring corner into a secondary focal point in a room or fill in odd corners, while maintaining the flow of a room.


Featured Products:
Cable Knit Pillow // Sofa Mart
Kantha Diamond Pillow // Sofa Mart
Cable Knit Throw // Sofa Mart
Antique Mercury Table Lamp // Sofa Mart
Iridescent Box // Sofa Mart
Ruffled Vase // Sofa Mart
Montauk Tray // Sofa Mart
Colby Tealights // Oak Express
Yuma Footed Bowl // Oak Express
Hampton Bench // Sofa Mart
Sea Bridge Sideboard // Sofa Mart
Vero Beach Leather Sofa // Sofa Mart
Peasant Wheel // Oak Express
Driftwood Vase // Sofa Mart
Berkshire Cocktail Table // Sofa Mart
Industrial Trolley // Oak Express
Saxony 3pk Tables // Sofa Mart

7 Tips for a More Tranquil Bedroom

Subtle changes can go a long way when it comes to creating a tranquil bedroom. Take lighting, clutter, and even texture into consideration when giving your bedroom a tranquil makeover. For the full article visit, Creating the Tranquil Bedroom.

Tranquil Bedroom



Tranquil Tips:

Rugs– Use pattern very deliberately, taking care not to overdo it. Rugs should be plush and help reduce noise, especially if you have hardwood floors.

Armoire/Storage– A stylish armoire is a fantastic way to add storage in smaller bedrooms.

Bedding– Quality bed linens are a must — the higher thread count, the softer they are. Beyond a high thread count, ironing your bed linens makes them feel softer.

Bedside Lighting– Choose light fixutres that fit your lifestyle by looking for dimmers that allow you to adjust light as needed. Allow natural sunlight to be your alarm clock — diffuse it with lighter fabric curtains.

Window Treatments– Base your choice of window treatments on what you need, whether it’s letting light in or blocking out sound.

Underbed Storage– Maximizing storage helps combat that chaotic clutter. Think multi-use when picking out bedroom furniture.

Accent Pillows– Layering pillows lets you introduce different colors and patterns. Your bed should be the mecca for comfort.


Product List:

Cream and Black Pillow // Bedroom Expressions

Madagascar Queen Storage Bed // Bedroom Expressions


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Home Decor: Rustic and Refined

Rustic décor is no longer found simply in cabins and country homes. Today, by mixing rural elements with modern ones, the two diverse components can come together in harmony to create a rustic, yet refined space.

“The rustic style of yore was characterized by lodge décor — heavy leather furnishings, wood paneled walls, and taxidermy in abundance,” according to Leah Moss at

But today’s rustic and refined style offers an updated twist: It boasts clean lines and modern touches softened by vintage elements, like those found in Sofa Mart’s “Lost & Found Collection.” A subtle white or light-colored background provides the canvas for unique, often textured vintage finds as well as classic modern pieces that brighten the room.


By bringing two diverse components together, you can create a warm and sophisticated space.

A variety of textures, central to rustic décor, break the monotony in a space. 

By mixing refined elements, like a sleek leather sofa, with rustic textures, such as reclaimed or distressed wood, you can create a uniquely sophisticated look. According to, rustic décor often utilizes elements of natural fibers and textures, including wood, canvas and linen, rustic metals and wrought iron, and cowhide and vintage leather. Modern elements include acrylic, glass, faux fur, sleek woods, refined leather, and satin and polished nickel and chrome.

Rustic and Refined Variety

Incorporating elements from nature adds a rustic feel without losing the ambiance of a more refined space.

It’s important to remember that because rustic items are often textural, you should add them in small amounts. By mixing them into your décor in a few places, each item can stand out. Patterns and textures for fabrics, pillows and area rugs will add warmth and charm. Tables, mirrors or other accessories make great accents, and by keeping your walls and most major pieces relatively neutral or light in color, you can add bold accents and accessories to achieve a dramatic mix.

Natural Elements

Creating Your Own
Rustic & Refined Space

  • Paint the walls in white or light neutral tones, which create a clean look.
  • Use slightly darker-hued furniture with large cushions to contrast with the walls and prevent the space from becoming monotone.
  • Accent the room with rustic items, including wooden elements, wrought iron or distressed metal.
  • Utilize simple rugs made of natural materials like jute, sea grass, sisal or animal furs.
  • Light the space with large lamps or unique hanging lights.
  • Accessorize with scenic art or nature-themed items, bringing outdoor elements into your home.


Browse Sofa Mart for one of a kind ‘reclaimed,’ pieces in the Lost & Found Collection. Sofa Mart has been able to infuse a “Saturday morning antique adventure,” into their customer’s shopping experience. Inventory for each store is unique to what’s available locally. So, you are truly getting a one of a kind reclaimed piece!


Product List:

Salina Table Lamp // Sofa Mart
White Horse Canvas // Sofa Mart
Tuscan Rubbed Urn // Sofa Mart
Wisteria Bronze Vases // Sofa Mart
Cottage Urn // Oak Express
Butterfly Study Prints // Oak Express
Eden Curved Front Chest // Sofa Mart
Copenhagen 3Pc. Wedge Loveseat Sectional // Sofa Mart
Apothecary Chest // Oak Express
Tonu Small Sideboard // Oak Express
Dagney Coffee Table // Oak Express
Vassona Mirror // Oak Express
Stuttgart Table Lamp // Sofa Mart
Kentor Sidboard // Oak Express
New York Canvas // Oak Express
Iridescent Vase // Sofa Mart
Pearl Frames // Oak Express

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Creating the Tranquil Bedroom

A tranquil bedroom. We love the idea of it. We love the promise of it. We love the reality of it. But, really, how many of us actually have it? We’re guessing not too many. But, why? What gets in the way of creating the ever-elusive tranquil bedroom? For most of us, “life” does. We take our bedrooms for granted, often leaving the master bedroom last on our “to decorate list.” The consequence of our neglect is often a room that has the typical bedroom-like furnishings, but completely fails to deliver the haven-like qualities we deserve.

“Since everyone’s taste varies, the perfect tranquil bedroom will also vary in style and character,” says Grand Rapids, Mich., interior designer Valerie Schmieder, principal of Val Design, Inc. “The key is to pay attention to all your senses.” On the other hand, interior designer Lisa Adams of Adams Design, Inc. in Washington, D.C., regards a tranquil bedroom as being a setting for healing. “I tell my clients that a bedroom ought to be a place where, if you’re ill, you can get well. It puts the concept of tranquility in a meaningful perspective.”

So with the idea of a sensory-rich, good-for-you getaway in mind, we break down the top elements that can turn an otherwise chaotic bedroom into a tranquil retreat.

Tranquil-Bedroom Colors that Calm: For bedrooms, colors that are considered more passive, or neutral, help create a more calming effect. However, beyond the actual color itself is how it’s used. According to Schmieder, “The tone and the mix of colors, as well as adjacency of color, are more important than the color itself. Blue is considered to be a restful color. However, if you use a bold, intense periwinkle blue and contrast it with bright orange, you’ve now created an energetic color scheme.”

Dreamy Bedding: From the quality of your mattress to the fluffiness of your pillows, if it’s on your bed,  it’s important. “When you turn the lights off, bedding is the one thing that matters most,” Adams says. Not a fan of comforters, she prefers duvets. “Personally, I don’t like comforters they’re harder to care for. Duvets, though, are ideal and easy to care for.”


The Right Light: Ideally, a well-lit bedroom has ambiance lighting as well as task lighting the latter being particularly true if you like to read in bed. “It’s very important to have dimming controls on task lighting,” Adams says, “especially if you’re sharing the space with someone.” Equally important are window treatments. For light sleepers, blackout curtains are must-haves. They not only ensure a bedroom is virtually free of unwanted outside light, they’re also energy-efficient.

Sound Advice: It may seem obvious, but there is a difference between “sound” and “noise.” Some are happy being lulled to sleep by the humming of a ceiling fan. Others need complete and utter silence in order to rest. That’s when sound-dampening curtains can be a huge benefit. Schmieder agrees: “Adding fabric to your windows reduces the noise bouncing around the room.” She also adds, “If you have hardwood floors, rugs can help soften and absorb sound as well.”

Furniture Influences: Just like furniture placement defines a space, the kind of furniture in a bedroom affects your ability to relax. “You need to have furniture that makes you happy and promotes your idea of tranquility,” Adams says. This means that any style bedroom can be made to be tranquil, whether it’s sleek and modern or full-on country chic. The point is to have furniture that you love, suits your needs and enhances the way you live. A final must-have? Seating. “Whether it’s a bench at the foot of your bed or a posh slipper chair, every good bedroom will have a place to sit.”


The Big Picture: Ultimately, your tranquil bedroom will be defined by you. “Your bedroom is your personal refuge from the world,” Schmieder says. “It should make you feel comfortable, secure and relaxed.” Just keep in mind that from wall color to lighting, your choices should reflect your needs as well as your wants. Because in the end, balancing those two things is what will make the difference between just a room you sleep in and a real good, feel-good bedroom.


Product List:

Via Spiga Queen Wall Bed

Via Spiga Dresser

Suite 303 Queen Duvet Set – White and Tan // Linen Shoppé

Suite 303 Euro Sham – White and Tan // Linen Shoppé

Dimpled Vases //

Elegance Vase // Bedroom Expressions

Brooklyn 3 Pc. Queen Sleigh Bed // Bedroom Expressions

Delano Meadow 6 Pc. Full/Queen Duvet Set // Linen Shoppé

Crochet Standard Sham // Bedroom Expressions

Marseille 3 Pc. Queen Sleigh Bed // Bedroom Expressions

Ruffles 3 Pc. Full/Queen Duvet Set // Linen Shoppé

Classic Full/Queen Duvet Set // Linen Shoppé

Damask Dog Bed // Bedroom Expressions

Casual Elegance Queen Duvet Set // Linen Shoppé

Bye, Bye Birdie Lamp // Oak Express

Studio Chair Pack // Sofa Mart

Encore Wall Bed + Dresser + Mirror + Chest // Bedroom Expressions

Sanibel Lamp // Bedroom Expressions

Cream and Black Pillow // Bedroom Expressions

Madagascar Queen Storage Bed // Bedroom Expressions


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How to Increase Your Home’s Value with Home Improvements

Adding value to your home doesn’t always mean spending a fortune on costly home improvement projects,” says Terry Churches, real estate broker from Grand Rapids, Mich. “There are also many smaller improvements you can make to your home in a series of targeted weekend projects.” These weekend projects, says Churches, not only help to spruce up the look of your home, but they also can add value when it comes time to sell.

And although everyone loves compliments on their home improvement projects, the real payoff is watching the value of your home rise as a result of hard work. We’ve looked into some of the home improvement projects you might consider that can pay off in the long run, and help you avoid breaking the bank in the process.


Before anyone steps into your home, the first thing they see is the view from the curb. And, if that view is lackluster, a potential buyer may never even get past your front door. A few simple updates can fix that:

1. Painting– If your home’s exterior is in disrepair, it’s easy to assume the inside is also. Spruce up the exterior by pressure washing, or repainting it. But be careful when choosing a color. One that is too bright — or too dull — can make it less appealing to buyers. Look for online resources such as, which offer helpful inspiration galleries for choosing exterior paint.

2. Lighting- Tasteful outdoor lighting is an important — and visible — asset that reflects the care and attention you’ve given your home.

3. Doors- Touch up the paint on your front door, or if it’s in rough shape, consider replacing it with one that matches the style of your home.

4. Hardware- Gone are the days of shiny brass fixtures. Replace them with updated brushed metal hardware.

5. Planting- Trim overgrown bushes and plant a few flowering shrubs. Mature trees are always desirable, so planting a new one that can grow over the years is also worthwhile. A potted plant by the door, flowers along the sidewalk or edging along your lawn also add curb appeal.

Interior Rooms (1)

When it comes to the interior of your home, focusing on projects that create a clutter-free environment with great lighting, well-designed spaces and updated flooring, fixtures and cabinetry will shorten a potential buyer’s “to-do” list.

1. Windows-  If your budget allows, installing new energy-efficient insulated windows or well-placed skylights can add value, and you may even enjoy a tax credit.

2. Flooring-  Natural flooring materials are considered very desirable in today’s market. Wood, ceramic tile and “green” options, like bamboo, are popular choices. Even updating carpeting can give your home a boost.

3. Lighting-  Ditch the tacky lighting and replace it with tasteful, but not overly expensive, fixtures. If your room is dark, consider upping the wattage of your bulbs. Well-lit rooms feel more cheerful and make the space feel larger and cleaner. Consider installing updated light switches and outlets.

4. Trim and Moldings-  Add a “wow” factor to a room with baseboards, chair rails, wainscoting or crown molding. And, some of these architectural details can be relatively cheap and easy to do yourself!

Replacing dated carpet or tile in your home can make a big difference, says real estate broker Terry Churches. “These days the value in doing repairs is not just in dollars and cents, but it also may determine whether the home sells at all.”

Kitchens & Baths

1. Appliances- If your appliances are dated or mismatched, consider an upgrade. Stainless-steel, energy-efficient appliances are “gold standard” choices.

2. Fixtures- Replacing outdated faucets and light fixtures can immediately update the look and function of your kitchen and bath.

3. Finishes- Refinishing your kitchen and bathroom cabinets is a relatively simple project that offers a big bang for your home improvement bucks. If your room is small or dark, consider a lighter finish on your cabinets, and don’t forget to choose brushed-metal hardware for a polished look. Also, be sure that your countertops are updated and in good condition.

4. Space- Many buyers are looking for roomy master baths and kitchens with a lot of workspace. But, if expanding your space isn’t an option, maximize it with appropriate cabinetry and by eliminating clutter.

5. Function- Consider creating functional spaces that do double duty, like an eating area with bench seating/storage space or a bathroom vanity that can stock your toiletries. Areas like these maximize space while adding storage, which is in high demand for homes today.

You don’t have to spring for a complete bathroom remodel to reap financial benefits. Modest bathroom upgrades that include new cabinetry and fixtures go a long way.


Product List:

Equinox II Sofa // Sofa Mart

Equinox II Chair // Sofa Mart

E’lan Coffee Table // Sofa Mart

Cameron Round End Table // Sofa Mart

Surveyor’s Floor Lamp // Sofa Mart

Monaco Sisal Rug // Oak Express

Montego Table, Chair, & Bench // Oak Express

Sonoma Barstool // Oak Express


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How to Choose the Right Accent Chair

Add a little drama, and extra seating space, in your home. A well-placed accent chair can add a dose of personality — and practicality — in a living area. By placing a colorful, comfy chair near a window and adding a lamp and side table, you can create an instantly stylish reading space. The Pacific accent chair is an excellent example. 

Whether you’re looking to make a style statement, create a conversation space or add a relaxing reading nook in your home, accent chairs can be the perfect solution. They allow you to express your personal style and add charm to any room. Accent chairs can bring new touches of color, texture and shape, and they are versatile enough to be used in your living room, bedroom, home office or other seating or living areas.

Define your style and space — Accent chairs come in a variety of styles. First, consider whether you prefer a more traditional, or a sleek, contemporary look. The style of your home and how you want to use the space in which you’ll be incorporating your accent chair are important. To add a bit of sophistication to the room and showcase your unique personality, a chaise lounge can be a beautiful and versatile complement to your home furnishings. If you prefer comfort, an oversize accent chair provides a cozy place to curl up at the end of the day to read a book or watch television. In terms of color, it’s often wise to choose something that could work in more than one room so that you can switch things up later if you desire.


Consider use — Think about how you’ll use your chair — and who will be using it. Are you looking for something comfortable in which to relax and read your Kindle, or do you prefer a unique statement piece? Accent chairs in recreation and living areas are likely to be used frequently, so durable, yet comfortable and stylish leather chairs could be a perfect fit. Chairs situated in hallways or bedrooms can be chosen more for their style, so a hand-crafted wood or antique chair might be a good choice. To use your accent chairs as extra seating in the dining room, select firm, sturdy chairs that are the correct height (usually with a seat 16 to 18 inches high).


Placement is key — Creating a sense of ambiance in a room is important. Your new accent chair should make the room look more inviting — not cluttered. In a bedroom, an accent chair can provide the perfect sitting area. Or, placing a chair next to a window with a small table and lamp creates a cozy reading nook. Comfortable chairs that recline or pair with an ottoman are great for low-traffic areas. It’s also important to ensure traffic can navigate comfortably around whoever is seated.

The size factor —  Scale is one of the most important considerations when purchasing furniture. For any room, the size of the chair should be in proportion to the space so the room doesn’t diminish it, or vice versa. Make sure the height of the seat is in balance with other seating in the room. For tall guests, avoid chairs that are too low to the ground; for petite guests, avoid chairs with a deep seat length.


It’s important to consider the number of chairs you need for your space. If your goal is to create a conversation space, you’ll need at least two chairs, but if you are simply looking for a statement piece, choose a single, unique chair that reflects the personality of your home. Two accent chairs can replace a loveseat or flank an occasional table and create an area that is both stylish and functional. Another idea is to try placing a chair on either side of your fireplace.

Accent chairs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some feature distinct curves to give your room a distinguished appeal. Others have more traditional lines, or a sleek, modern look. But no matter which you choose, you want your new accent chair to look great and provide maximum comfort for you and your guests!



Transitional Style // Central Park Accent Chair // Sofa Mart

Modern Style // Cole Chair in Linen // Sofa Mart

Chaise Lounge // Chaise & More Accent Chair // Sofa Mart

Armless Contemporary // Clara Accent Chair // Sofa Mart




Trending Home Accessories

Artfully arranged groupings of accessories add interest to even small spaces such as bookshelves. This Spring, bring touches of the outside world into the home with carefully selected home accessories.



Trending Home Accessories

1. Profile Vase Small // Sofa Mart

2. Little Sparrow // Bedroom Expressions

3. Grant Park Wall Mirror // Sofa Mart

4. 18 x 18 Green Stripe Pillow // Bedroom Expressions

5. Tuscan Rubbed Bowl // Sofa Mart

6. Twig Lanterns Round // Bedroom Expressions


Show us your home accessories and home decor style on Facebook.

How to Buy Bedding on a Budget

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to revive your bedroom is with fresh, new bedding. By changing out your linens, you can add flair to your room at an affordable price.


Simplicity and supreme comfort unite with the Sweet Bow Tie Duvet Set.

Since the bed is generally the most prominent piece in the room, a new comforter or duvet will refresh the entire space. Spend the greatest portion of your budget on this item and embellish it with lower-priced accessories. “Bedding is a personal fashion choice, just like clothes,” says Jodi Visser, buyer/designer for Furniture Row Companies. “In our stores, customers can ‘try it on’ to see what their selections will look like on the bed.”

Money Saving Ideas:

  • Select a bed cover that goes with your current décor, including paint, carpet and window dressings.
  • Choose neutral colors and add splashes of color with accessories. Sticking with neutral colors allows you to update inexpensively in the future.
  • Bedding sets are often less expensive and make decorating easy by putting coordinating elements all in one package.
  • Cover an old comforter with a new duvet cover.
  • Choose a style that works year-round, so a second set isn’t necessary.
  • Select washable fabrics to save on dry cleaning.

You spend a third of your life in bed, so it should be a soothing oasis. Buy the best sheets your budget will allow in a bold color that complements your comforter. Find affordable sheet sets in a range of thread counts, fabrics and colors. Add a cozy blanket in a neutral color that goes with both your comforter and sheets.

Money Saving Ideas: 

  • Buy good-quality sheets. They’ll last longer and you’ll avoid spending more over the long-term replacing lesser-quality sheets that have pilled or faded.
  • Start with just one set of sheets, then add a second set as your budget allows.
  • Choose light to mid-weight sheets that will serve you well in any weather.

Brocade Duvet Set: Elegantly displayed in repeating patterns of angled black damask, the details of this charming duvet set give it bold contrast, while the two tone façade will easily coordinate with any bedroom décor.

Nothing is more inviting than a bed adorned with piles of fluffy pillows. Adding textured pillows and shams in accent colors will give vibrancy to your bedroom and create a bed you’ll want to dive into each night.

Money Saving Ideas:

  • Look for inexpensive throw pillows and pillow shams that complement the comforter, but add richness. Try borrowing pillows from other rooms in your house.
  • Find pillows and shams with a different pattern on front and back for a quick change.
  • Put older bed pillows in shams and use newer bed pillows for sleeping.
Choose Bedding

Choose bedding items that are practical, and pretty. A blanket in a neutral color provides extra warmth in the winter and can be used in place of a heavier comforter during warmer seasons. Fun throw pillows help to dress up your bed and add personality.


  • For a finished look, and often a lesser price, choose a comforter, duvet or coverlet set that includes a coordinating bed skirt, pillow shams and decorative pillows.
  • Most often, you can find coordinating sheets as well. Or, shop around several retailers, from department stores to warehouses, that carry high-thread-count sheets at affordable prices.
  • Don’t feel that throw pillows must match exactly with your bedding. Look for coordinating colors and multiple sizes to help add interest and appeal.
  • Remember, it’s the bedding that you’ll see each day so it should reflect YOU! Your bedding should make you feel cozy and relaxed. Choose the bedding that fits your budget, your personality and your style.



Sweet Bowtie Duvet Set // Linen Shoppe

Brocade Duvet Set // Linen Shoppe


Sleep Experts: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

In this week’s ask the experts, we’ve teamed up with sleep experts to answer the most common sleep related questions. These simple but powerful tips will help shave time off tossing and turning, and make more time for some serious shut eye.

QUESTION: How can I get a good night’s sleep?

ANSWER: Unless you’re suffering from a serious sleep disorder, says Thomas Shearer, general manager of the Denver Mattress Retail Division, you can get a better night’s rest by improving your sleep habits and creating a better sleep environment.


QUESTION: How do I create a better sleep environment?

ANSWER: Keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Mask disturbing noise with a fan or humidifier. Most people sleep better in a slightly cooler room, so set your thermostat accordingly. Choose the right mattress: Denver Mattress offers a patented Strength-Resistance Test, a free service that helps you determine which mattress provides the proper spine alignment for your body. Also, plan to replace your mattress every five to seven years to accommodate your body’s changing needs. Replace pillows once a year, especially if you have allergies.


QUESTION: What sleep habits will help?

ANSWER: Set your “body clock” by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Expose yourself to bright light (preferably sunlight) as soon as you can after rising. Don’t exercise within three hours of retiring, but do exercise. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine, which might include quiet reading, a warm bath and meditation


Watch what you EAT:

• Cut out caffeine. Including coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas and chocolate.

• Avoid alcohol. It might make you fall asleep faster, but it can reduce sleep quality.

• Watch the clock. Don’t eat a big meal within two hours of going to bed.

• Ditch the rich. Avoid heavy foods as bedtime snacks.

• Snack for sacking out. Choose bedtime snacks that contain the amino acid tryptophan or the sleep-inducing hormones melatonin and seratonin: warm milk, half a turkey sandwich, a banana, oatmeal or almonds.

Getting a good night’s sleep can sometimes be a challenge, but the benefits go beyond nighttime and translate into your everyday activities. Try out a and begin giving yourself the sleep you deserve.


Strawberry Salad Recipe

The perfect spring snack: Strawberry salad recipe with mixed field greens, candied pecans, goat cheese and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette.



For Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

2 pints strawberries

2 tbs lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbs dijon

1 shallot

1 cup balsamic

2 cups canola oil

Reduce strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar in pan to form a thick syrup. Place cooled strawberry syrup, dijon, shallot and balsamic in a blender and puree. While blending gradually, add canola and emulsify. Salt to taste.


For Candied Pecans:

2 cups pecans

1 egg white

1/2 sugar

1tbs cinnamon

1/2 allspice

salt and taste

Whisk egg white with sugar and spices. Toss with pecans and spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until toasted and candied shell glaze forms. Stir, salt to taste and allow to cool and fully harden.

Just before serving, toss farm fresh field greens with the balsamic vinaigrette and fresh cut strawberries. Sprinkle with goat cheese and candied pecans.


How to DIY an Indoor Garden

A great way to celebrate spring while bringing a little fun and relaxation into your home at the same time is through creating an indoor garden. 



1. Begin by scouting out the best location in your home for an indoor garden. Southern-facing areas are ideal, but any area with good sunlight will work.

2. Purchase plants that grow well indoors. Most varieties of ivy and tropical plants are good choices.  

3. Select several plants of various sizes, colors, forms and textures. A grouping typically includes an upright plant, a trailing plant and a colorful focal point.

4. Purchase fun garden accessories that add flair to your garden and coordinate with your existing home furnishings.

5. To add a creative twist to your garden, create a terrarium. Terrariums are miniature landscapes that include a collection of plants grown together in a clear container, such as an aquarium, cloche or jar. They are ideal for the busy gardener because they require little care — just watering every few weeks.

6. Use potting soil — not low-nutrient topsoil from your backyard — in your pots. For best results, mix about 4 parts potting soil to 1 part odorless compost or other organic fertilizer in each pot.

7. Fill each container with your soil mixture, and begin to experiment with various plant arrangements in each pot. If your garden will be viewed from all sides, place the tallest plants in the center of each container.

8. Once your plants are potted, arrange them, along with your terrariums, to showcase them well. Consider hanging plants from the ceiling that grow downward, such as spider plants and ivies. Place larger plants toward the back so 

you can easily view smaller ones.

9. Be sure to regularly water each of your plants and ensure they are exposed to appropriate levels of sunlight, temperature and humidity (using a spray bottle to mist your plants daily helps with the lack of humidity in most homes). 

10. Make any final touches needed, take a step back and enjoy your new indoor garden.


Share your indoor garden and unique terrarium with us on Facebook.


Designing Simple Sophistication at Home

Sara Shalls, principle designer at the award-winning interior design firm Jennifer Adams Design Group, and recently seen on HGTV’s DIY Dominator, shares her take on creating elegant environments tailored to make you feel right at home.



“In small spaces, scale is everything. For this living room, we mixed large and small pieces to get just the right balance.”  >>

<< Sara Shalls in her Boulder, Colorado, office at Jennifer Adams Design Group

Long before interior designer Sara Shalls joined the ranks of the award-winning Jennifer Adams Design Group, her formative years were spent very much like the rest of us: as a young child under the steady mentoring arm of a mother who provided opportunities to let her talents and gifts shine.

And as Shalls honed and developed those skills over time, she experienced success in the interior design world. Her 13-year career has included earning her bachelor’s degree in interior design from Brevard College of North Carolina; working with brands of distinction, including the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons Resorts; leading luxury residential projects in cities like New York City and Portland, Oregon; and even appearing on HGTV’s wildly popular DIY Dominator.



“In small spaces you want to be sure your furniture is the right scale. For this living room, we mixed large and small pieces to get just the right balance.”


While many of us share stories from the setting of a single-address childhood home, Shalls’ narrative is one of an on-the-go family moving from home to home over the course of her childhood.

For Shalls, each relocation provided an unexpected benefit she’d grown to love: the opportunity to collaborate with her mother in creating a new home environment, wherever they landed. Looking back, Shalls says the listening skills and resourcefulness her mother taught her have factored into her own design style.

“I am always on the hunt for great, new resources. I love to find inspiration from the unexpected!”


“For guests bedrooms, I like to keep things simple and fresh… not too cluttered. This Lake Tahoe residence is just that, a relaxing guest retreat!”


“I’ve always enjoyed collaboration on a space, rather than just telling someone what to do,” says Shalls. And to enlist this collaborative style, Shalls asks her clients to look and listen to their space by writing down where they do things in their home, paying special attention to seemingly insignificant day-to-day activities. Her questions include, “Where do you have dinner? At the kitchen bar? In the living room? Or at the dining room table?”

All of these habits, once logged in a journal, help Shalls unlock a plan that makes sense for her clients’ space based on use.


“It’s always great to be able to work on large-scale projects. In this Tahoe resort we mixed textures and colors to create a mountain-modern design.”


Shalls believes that when a person walks in the door of any space, he should feel right at home.

“My philosophy is a really simple one: a clean space lends itself to a clean mind,” says Shalls. “When we have a space that is not overly cluttered, we have a chance to actually see the design of the room, to clearly show off the structure.”

Shalls believes that anyone looking to redecorate or create a new home design plan would be well-served to employ a simple approach she uses with her own clients — dividing the space into three simple layers: the foundation, the majors and the accessories. Achieving the simple sophistication look couldn’t be easier with these three principles.

“To help my clients visualize this foundation layer, I ask them to imagine turning their space upside down and shaking out all the items inside the room not attached,” says Shalls. “This leaves the flooring, walls and built-in architectural elements.”

Since layer one is a foundational element and often cannot be changed without a major investment, Shalls says there is one simple (and inexpensive) modification that offers lasting impact: repainting the room.

Shalls recommends starting with a neutral base color like tan or camel, which can help set the stage for the next, more dramatic second and third layers. She says this foundation layer can also provide a framework from which to hang our uniqueness, which can change over time, just like we do.

The second layer involves the arrangement or securing of major pieces like a sofa, an easy chair or a dining room table. These items may require investing a good amount of money, so making a good choice is critical. Shalls recommends items with simple lines or a neutral color palette, forsaking excessive colors or trendy patterns.

“If you must have a splash of color at this layer,” says Shalls, “an easy chair is a great piece to consider.”

According to Shalls, a sofa can always be punched up with the simple addition of patterned pillows or a colorful throw blanket. These items, classified as elements of the third “accessories” layer, reflect our personality and can be easily swapped out at a later date.

Accessories can include artwork, lamps, mirrors in nice, thick frames, or something as personal as a salon-style grouping of family photos and artifacts tied together with frames of the same style or color.

“When we have a space that is not overly cluttered, we have a chance to actually see the design of the room, to dearly show off the structure.”


“The goal for this residence was to create a cozy retreat situated right on the golf course. We did just that by using warm colors, textural fabrics and soft lighting.”

This final layer is often where people get tripped up, but Shalls says she has a surefire trick to help get the last layer perfect.

“This is just like the tip women use before walking out of the house for a night on the town,” Shalls said. She explains that when they look in the mirror, they simply remove the first piece of jewelry that catches their eye. “This also works with the editing phase of the third layer. If there is something that pulls your focus, minimize it by repositioning it or removing it completely.”

Shalls knows that while not everyone can hire a designer, they can use these simple tools and tips she’s learned along the way to create a unique space that makes anyone feel right at home.


“In this Portland, Oregon penthouse we took advantage of the large windows that bring light to the space. We were also able to capture the fun and whimsy of the client by incorporating bright pops of color into the accessories and artwork.”


Sara’s Three Simple Design Tips

1. When purchasing a sofa, bookshelf or dining room table, always choose well-crafted items since these items will most likely stay with you as long as you have your home — and, likely, they will travel with you, should you

ever move.

2. When looking for accessories, pick items that you relate to or that tell a story. If you are looking for art, visit an art gallery or an artist’s market to make a personal connection with the work you are bringing into your home. You can entertain your guest with exciting stories behind the art you hang on your walls.

3. The easiest and fastest way to change a space is through our senses. Maybe a full remodel is not required, but a few candles or fresh flowers from a local farmer’s market, according to Shalls, are always something she has in her own home to help her relax.

Achieve the simple sophistication look with these featured products:

How to Choose Pet-Friendly Furniture

To guide your choices in pet-friendly furniture, we consulted with Bruce Galbraith, Sofa Mart’s national merchandise manager, and David Cox, Sofa Mart’s leather buyer.

Question: What’s the best type of furniture to buy if I have pets?
Answer: No furniture is indestructible, but many options are perfect for furry friends who just want to curl up next to us on the couch.


“Start by asking how your pets treat your current furniture,” Cox advises. “Chances are you’ll see more of the same behavior when your new furniture is delivered. If your pets never get up on the furniture, all leathers and fabrics are available to you. If your pets lie on the furniture but never claw or scratch the upholstery, some additional signs of wear may occur, especially on natural fibers such as cotton, wool or linen. If your pets lie on, play on, dig, scratch or chew at the upholstery, no fabric upholstery can withstand that kind of daily treatment. The best option would be corrected-grain leather.”

Rachael Sofa

The Rachael Sofa, by Sofa Mart.

Upholstered Furniture

Galbraith maintains that tightly woven fabric and special processing make microdenier suede or microdenier velvet constructions the best choices, well because its pile surface and heavy weight stand up to pets. Woven textures are not recommended because dog and cat claws will damage the weaves.

Cox says 100-percent synthetic-fiber upholstery such as polyester, acrylic or polypropylene (aka Olefin) will last longer and show fewer signs of wear than natural-fiber fabrics.

Newscastle Sofa

The Newcastle Sofa, by Sofa Mart

Leather Furniture

“The most durable upholstery is leather,” Cox explains. “Top-grain cowhide leather will last, on average, four to five times longer than most fabrics. No normal house pet will be able to puncture or tear top-grain cowhide leather.”

Corrected-grain leather, aka “protected leather,” will take the most abuse. Make sure the leather is top-grain cowhide and not bonded leather (which is not actually leather) or split-hide leather (which lacks the strength of top-grain leather). Moderate to heavily corrected leather feels less-soft because of the relatively heavy urethane protective surface coating, but it resists scratches more than natural-grain leathers and cleans up easily with distilled water and mild soap.

Be sure to choose the right finish. For example, scratches may show on a heavy-wax antique finish, but they won’t penetrate the leather. Work with your sales professional to determine what’s right for you.

The Neutral Nursery

Transform a tiny spare room into a beautiful baby sanctuary. Our experts have teamed up to create this beautiful neutral nursery that is suited for both baby and parents.


Before: The tiny guest room was sparsely decorated with a few items of furniture. It lacked storage, character and a clear purpose.



After: The room was transformed into a fabulous neutral nursery — perfect for a boy or a girl. The soft color palette and unique textures give the space an elegant, but tranquil, feel. We also created additional storage with a window seat and architectural details with crown molding, wainscoting and a ledge to hold decorative items. We then removed the closet doors and replaced them with tangerine fabric panels, which brighten the space and make it appear larger.





1. With traditional styling, this piece can be handed down for generations. It has the ability to convert into a daybed with a toddler rail so it can grow along with your child. Jamison Crib & Toddler Rail, Kidz Bedzzz

2. Whimsically done in a child-like style, a little sheep jumps and frolics in this sweet illustration. Designer created to coordinate with our Short Latte Crib Bedding collections available at Kidz Bedz in Bedroom Expressions. 100% American Cotton Canvas. Counting Sheep II Canvas, Oak Express

3. Personalize the space with your child’s initial. 8” Letter “B” – Pottery Barn Kids 

4. A rocking lamb is a unique addition that adds a bit of whimsy to the space. Rock with Ewe Sheep,  Land Of Nod 

5. The decorative pillows with varied textures and patterns are hand sewn from purchased fabric. Decorative Fabrics, Hobby Lobby

6. Create a comfortable sitting or reading area with this unique plastic molded rocking chair. Vinnie White Cradle Chair, 

Laundry Organization in 4 Easy Steps

Doing laundry is a chore by most anyone’s standards. So, in attempt to mitigate our loathe for laundry, we looked for a few simple ways to begin organizing laundry room spaces and implementing a few systems the whole family can follow.




Laundry Organization: Simple Solutions. Easy-to-implement ideas for hanging laundry disorder out to dry in your home.

1. Designate a Dumping Ground for Soiled Laundry Enlist the help of the whole family in making laundry chores easier. Create a designated sorting station where everyone can throw their dirty clothes into hampers or plastic bins. Label each bin accordingly with “darks,” “lights” and “colors.” This helps create a system that’s easy for all family members to follow. And, you can make it fun by enlisting your kids to help choose or create colorful labels and bins.

2. Create Ambiance Laundry can seem like a chore, and part of the reason is that most laundry rooms are downright drab and dreary. To make it more inviting, add a few touches that can help transform the room into a relaxing space. Consider decorating a bit by placing an area rug around your ironing area, adding a stylish lamp, or hanging framed art and family photos in the space. As a finishing touch, bring portable speakers and your iPod so you can enjoy your favorite music while doing laundry. You’ll also want the room to exude cleanliness and be bright and easy to clean. To create this feel, make sure you have ample lighting and walls that are white or a luminous color.

3. Organize Your Products Clear the clutter in your laundry area by using boxes or baskets to group items you use often. For easy access, store items you use daily or weekly on open shelving — preferably near your washer and dryer. By grouping items such as detergents, stain removers or spray starches in designated baskets, you’ll eliminate the need to reach and pull a lone item that’s toppled over on your shelf or spilled in the back of a cabinet. And, the box can easily be set on your washer when in use and then placed back on the shelf when laundry is complete.

4. Utilize Storage Gadgets There are so many new storage gadgets to help keep your laundry room neat and organized. Handy racks that hide away after use or small appliance storage systems keep items within reach but out of the way.


Establish Simple Systems

•  Hang a bag in a designated location
to hold “dry clean only” items, and choose certain days of the month to drop them off.

•  Use smaller baskets or cute dishes
to hold found items such as money
or buttons.

•  Consider designating a basket, bin
or shelf for each family member. Let
him or her retrieve their clean, folded clothes from the laundry room.

•  Hang a bag in the laundry room for items that need repair so you can keep them all in one place until they can
be fixed.

• suggests clipping clothespins to the sides of
your hampers and teaching your family to pin them on clothing to mark stains
or spills.

Bonus Tips

1. Get the kids into the act with their own laundry bag. Individual bags are fun and can be easily identified.

2. Baskets make great sorting tools. They can serve double-duty as hampers as well as storage.


Product List:

1.Umbra® Square Crunch Cans // Container Store

2. Rosie Round Rug, 3′ //

3. Smith and Hawken® Boxwood Bundles // Target

4. Meghan Vases // OakExpress

5. Penmanship Table Lamp // Sofa Mart

6. Paeon Clover Mirrors // Target

Share your Home Organization Tips with us on Facebook.

Favorite Things: Little Luxuries

Little Luxuries: It’s all about the little things with these small indulgences that can be a big deal. Our editors at Sofa Mart, Oak Express, Bedroom Expressions, and Denver Mattress have gathered a few of their favorite indulgences that go a long way.


Little Luxuries List:

1. Lip Balm
Bobbi Brown — $19

2. Take Charge Case
Neiman Marcus — $30

3. Pantherella Women’s Cashmere Knee-High Rib Socks
Alex Blake — $48.25

4. Perfume Bottles
Z gallerie — $32.95-$48.95

5. UV Toothbrush Sanitizer
Violight — $29.95

6. Mini Chocolate Tasting Library
Vosges Haut-Chocolat — $25

7. Himalayan Pink Salt Plate
SaltWorks, inc. — $16.95-$82.95 or (800)353-7258


Join the conversation on Facebook.

6 Must Have Nailhead Trim Furnishings for your Home

Create a bold statement and draw attention to decorative details with nailhead trim furniture and accessories from Sofa Mart and Bedroom Expressions at Furniture Row.


 Featured Products:

1. Calico Hills Sofa // Sofa Mart

2. Carson Ottoman // Sofa Mart

3. Kendi Accent Chair // Sofa Mart

4. Rosemont Chairside End Table // Sofa Mart

5. Annabella Accent Chair // Sofa Mart

6. Renaissance Queen Storage Bed // Bedroom Expressions


Show us how you decorate with nailhead trim on Facebook.


DIY Bulletin Board

Take your home workstation from drab to fab by creating your own bold bulletin board. A framed fabric bulletin board adds personal style and function to your work space.


Directions for DIY Bulletin Board:


1. Cut a piece of cork board to match your desired size. Then, mark the size on your chosen fabric, adding two to three inches on each side to ensure the fabric is larger than the board.


2. Cut the fabric according to the measured size. For added padding, cut a sheet of fabric batting two inches larger than the corkboard and place it under the fabric when assembling.


3. Lay the fabric face down with your corkboard centered over the fabric. Stretch the fabric over the corkboard and fasten it to the back, one side at a time, with a staple or hot glue gun, starting at one corner and moving from one side to the other so the fabric stays taught.


4. Turn the board face up and arrange your ribbon in a crisscross pattern across the front. Pull the ribbon taught and use tacks to pin it in place. Finish by adding a frame and hang in your desired location.



Featured Products:

Seattle 44″ Computer Desk with Hutch – Oak Express
Whitney Frame – Oak Express
Pretty Posey Small Red Pot – Oak Express


Show us how your DIY Bulletin Board came out on Facebook.

Double Fudge Layer Cake Recipe

We recently featured a Double Fudge Layer Cake in our Easy and Elegant Entertaining Series. A Double Fudge Layer Cake exudes elegance, and we’ve made the Double Fudge Layer Cake Recipe as easy as possible for your next gathering.


Double Fudge Layer Cake on a bed of cranberry and rosemary.


Double Fudge Layer Cake (serves 8-10)


For the Cake

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


For the Ganache

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut in cubes
  • For the Buttercream
  • 5 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled




1.  In a small saucepan, cook the butter, cocoa and water over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts and mixture is smooth; remove from heat and let cool.

2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla at medium speed. Add the chocolate mixture to the buttermilk mixture, beating until blended.  Combine the flour, sugar and salt; gradually add to buttermilk mixture, beating until blended. The batter will be thin.

3.  Spray three 8″ pans with cooking spray or brush with butter.  Line with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake at 350° for

20–25 minutes or until firm to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pans and let cool completely.



1.  In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chips and heavy cream for 2–3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted, being careful not to burn.  Whisk until smooth.  Gradually add butter whisking until smooth.  Cool, whisking often, 15–20 minutes or until spreading consistency.



1.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm.  Place the bowl back on the mixer and begin whisking with the whisk attachment.  Add the vanilla and whisk at high speed until egg whites become firm and glossy.  With the mixer running, begin adding small chunks of the softened butter.  (If the mixture begins to look runny and curdled, just keep the mixer running and it will become smooth.)  After the buttercream has reached the desired consistency, remove from the mixer and pour in the cooled chocolate.  To create the “bark” appearance, don’t completely mix the chocolate in — leave streaks of chocolate.


Assemble the Cake

1.  Place one layer of cake on platter, spread about ¼1 cup ganache over layer.  Repeat with next layer and then place top layer on.  Pour remaining ganache over the top and spread evenly on the top and around the sides.  Refrigerate until set.  Spread the buttercream roughly around the sides, creating a “bark” effect.  Garnish with rosemary sprigs and cranberries.


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Stuffed Pork Loin Recipe

On the menu from the Easy and Elegant Entertaining Series, is a stuffed pork loin recipe that cannot be beaten. 


Pork Loin Stuffed with Fig and Blue Cheese, paired with Sautéed Asparagus


Pork Loin Stuffed with Fig and Blue Cheese (serves 6) 


  • 1 (4–5 lb.) boneless pork loin
  • 1 large onion, halved and then sliced into 1/8″ slices
  • 1 1/2 cups diced dried figs
  • 1 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt (divided)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper (divided)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock



1.  Caramelize the onions by heating the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, add the sliced onion, thyme, bay leaf and ½teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Over a low flame, cook the onions until soft and tender, stirring occasionally.  This can take 20–30 minutes.  When onions are soft, tender and golden, remove to a bowl and let cool.
2.  Roll-cut the pork loin.  To do this, lay your knife parallel to the cutting board with one end of the pork loin nearest to you. Slice 1/2″ from cutting board (you are trying to get the pork loin as thin as possible) from right to left but don’t cut all the way through, leave at least 1/2″ as a hinge. Now place your knife in the center of the pork loin “book,” with the blade facing left. Cut another flap toward the left, leaving another 1/2″″ as a hinge. You should now have a 1/2″″ -thick piece of pork loin that you will be able to stuff and roll up.

3.  On the rolled-out pork loin, sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper.  Spread the caramelized onions, figs and blue cheese over the pork, leaving about a 1½”″ border around the edges.  Roll up the pork loin and with seam side down, use butcher’s twine to secure the rolled pork loin together (every 1″″).  Place in a roasting pan and pour 1 cup of the chicken stock into the pan and place in the oven.  Pour 1 cup stock in after about 20 minutes.  Keep an eye on the pork and if pan juices are evaporating, add remaining 1/2 cup.  Roast the pork loin until a meat thermometer registers 155°.
4.  Remove the pork loin from the pan and let rest, covered with aluminum foil on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes. After the pork has rested, remove twine and slice into 1–1 1/2″½ slices.  Arrange on platter and pour the pan juices over the top of the sliced meat.


*The pan juices can also be poured into a sauté pan with additional stock added to make 2 cups, add ¼ 1/4 cup of dried figs and about 2 tablespoons honey. Cook and reduce until thickened and pour over the pork slices.


Making this tonight? Let us know how it came out on Facebook!

Cranberry Punch Recipe

Throwing an elegant party has never been easier. Follow our Easy and Elegant Entertaining series for the best tips, tricks, and ideas for your next party. Skip the sodas, and wow your guests with this easy and elegant Cranberry Punch recipe.


Easy and Elegant Entertaining: Cranberry Punch Recipe

Cranberry Punch

  • 1 quart White Cranberry Juice
  • 2 cups Unsweetened Pineapple Juice
  • 2 tablespoons Almond Extract
  • 1 (2liter) Ginger Ale
  • Frozen while Cranberries for garnish

Combine all the ingredients in a punch bowl. Garnish with frozen cranberries.


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Carmel Walnut Tart Recipe

We recently featured a scrumptious Carmel Walnut Tart in our Easy and Elegant Entertaining – Part II Pre Party Checklist. This tart can easily be made the night before and served warm or cold the next day.


Add an unexpected nod to nature, by placing your Carmel Walnut Tart on a backyard tree stump.


WALNUT TART (Serves 8-10)


For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, cut in cubes and very cold
  • 1 egg beaten


For the Filling

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Zest from 1/2 orange
  • 2 cups walnuts toasted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract




1.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the butter and pulse until coarse crumbs form.  Through the feed tube, pour the beaten egg into the mixture and pulse just until mixture comes together in a ball.  Remove from the bowl and knead lightly to incorporate any remaining dry ingredients.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan or springform pan.

2.  Place the prepared shell in the freezer for 1 hour.  Place a piece of buttered foil in shell and pour pie weights or beans into the shell.  Bake at 375° for 20–25 minutes.  Remove foil and pie weights from the shell and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly.


1.  In a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream, sugar, brown sugar, honey and orange zest.  Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, bring to a boil until thick.

2.  Add the walnuts and the salt.  Stir to

combine and pour into baked tart shell.  Add the walnuts and the salt.  Stir to combine and pour into baked tart shell.

3.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400° for 25 minutes.  Remove to wire rack and let cool completely.


For more recipes, visit the Home is Here Food page. 

Before and After: Newlywed Bedroom Suite

“Because this couple is very outdoorsy, we wanted to bring in elements of nature to make their newlywed bedroom a calming space.” — by Elizabeth Marcus

It’s only natural that the most intimate room of the house [the newlywed bedroom] should reflect a couple’s personal taste. Of course, when that room once housed only half that couple, it’s also natural that some adjustments must be made. Here’s how we transformed a bachelor’s room into a romantic retreat for newlyweds.


After: The size and scale of the Bryant Park bed and the Elease nightstands are a better fit for the room. The soothing color palette is a harmonious blend of shades of blue, green and ivory with gold, orange and brown.

Before Once a virtual “man cave,” this bachelor bedroom was dominated by heavy, oversize furniture and strong colors.

Before: Once a virtual “man cave,” this bachelor bedroom was dominated by heavy, oversize furniture and strong colors.


The finished, well-balanced design is neither too masculine nor too feminine.

Out with the old. The biggest challenge was the furniture, which was mismatched and didn’t fit the space. “The height and scale of the bed and nightstands were visually too big for that room,” explains Barbara Chandler, store design/visual merchandise manager for Furniture Row.

A color-palette update also was in order. The walls were pinky-beige, the comforter and pillows were salmon and the carpet was beige.  “The room was very drab,” Chandler recalls. “It was just a place to sleep.”

A new look for a new life. “Our mission was to make it an ‘ours’ room, neither too masculine nor too feminine,” Chandler says. “Because this couple is very outdoorsy, we wanted to bring in elements of nature to make it a calming space.”

The colors. We established a palette of blue and orange to incorporate the spicy, orangey colors they love, without everything having to be one color or tone. Benjamin Moore’s Hint of Mint — a pale bluish-green — on the walls sets off the golden tones of the wood shutters, wood ceiling trim and a new floor. Shades of blue, green, orange, cream and brown repeat throughout the room.

The furniture. The couple wanted to stick with a king-size bed and, the new one, with its open-slat ironwork and lower-set mattress fit the bill perfectly. It’s in synch with the room’s scale and coordinates beautifully with the new nightstands. A tufted, armless chair from Sofa Mart adds style and comfort to the room. The upholstered bench further softens the look.

The floor. We replaced the carpeting with a pre-finished hardwood floor. “This was done in a matter of days with very little mess,” Chandler says. “If you’re handy, you could do it yourself.” A large sisal area rug, topped with a smaller wool panel rug — both available from Oak Express and Bedroom Expressions — beneath the bed, anchored the room. “Using two rugs is a layering technique that gives added dimension to the space,” she explains.

The room accents. The contemporary bedside lamp’s subtly patterned shade from Bedroom Expressions adds texture. Faux-ceramic vases with a birch-bark finish hold candles and silk aspen leaves for splashes of color. Dried flowers and fresh greenery bring in the outdoors. Photos from the couple’s wedding give the walls a personal touch. The result? A beautiful new room for a happy new life.



Before. The big and bulky oak built-in had to go — it didn’t work with the room’s new look and it didn’t provide the drawer space the couple needed.

After. The new media credenza offered much-needed drawer storage, provided a better spot for the couple’s television and complemented the new design scheme.


Featured Products from Bedroom Expressions:

Bryant Park King Bed – Bedroom Expressions

Piedmont Tray – Bedroom Expressions

Sanibel Table Lamp – Sofa Mart

Casablanca Wool Rug – Sofa Mart

Annabella Accent Chair – Sofa Mart

Casablanca Wool Rug – Oak Express

Monaca Sisal Rug Taupe – Oak Express


Share your before and after pictures with us on Facebook. And keep up to date on the latest Before and After projects by Sofa Mart, Oak Express, Bedroom Expressions and Denver Mattress.

Tips for Updating your Living Room Arrangement

Does your living room or family room need an update? Follow these easy and powerful tips and transform your living room into a mecca of comfort. We’ve created three unique spaces for you to draw inspiration from. To make it even easier, all furniture and accessories shown can be purchased at Sofa Mart and Oak Express.


1. Family Gathering Living Room Arrangement Family-Room#1



Form Family Gathering Zones. Form family gathering areas to movie and game nights, the living room is often the hub for activities in your home. As a result, the proper placement of your room’s furniture can help make your space feel comfortable and welcoming, allowing family and friends to sit closely and converse comfortably.

An effective room arrangement starts with choosing a focal point. In some rooms, this is architectural, such as a fireplace, a set of French doors or a bay window. For other living rooms, it’s a television.

Once you determine a focal point for your living room, orient your main seating toward it, arranging secondary seating pieces around the main piece.

Finding a focal point, such as a fireplace or television, is the first step in establishing a room arrangement.


2. Activity Zone Living Room Arrangement



Form Activity Zones. In a large room with an open floor plan, consider dividing the space into different activity zones with your furniture placement.

For example, a pair of chairs and a small table arranged on one end of a room around a fireplace provides a cozy spot for games or conversation. A sofa, coffee table and a pair of chairs arranged around an area rug in the center of the room can define a larger, separate space perfect for conversation clusters or watching television.

Create comfortable areas within a room by dividing the space into activity zones, such as conversation, entertainment or reading areas.


3. Cozy Conversational Living Room Arrangement



Create Cozy Conversation. Positioning furniture so that guests face each other helps conversation flow naturally. And by adding strategically appointed side tables and a central coffee table, drinks are always within easy reach, which promotes a more relaxed atmosphere. To allow for even more conversations to flourish, add ottomans and floor pillows for guests to create their own conversation clusters.

Symmetry imposes a sense of order in a room. Pairs of matching sofas and side chairs placed at right angles also create a formal feel for the space.


Get tips for arranging living room furniture in a way that creates a comfortable and welcoming environment while making the most of your space.

Living Room Arrangement Tips:

1. Use an area rug to unify a seating group within a large, open area space.

2. When dividing a large room into activity zones, leave a clear path between them to allow for guests to easily move from one to another.

3. Always keep an ottoman and/or oversize floor pillows on hand. They can be easily arranged to create extra seating in a pinch, or serve as additional side tables.

Featured Products from Sofa Mart and Oak Express:

Venice Sofa – Sofa Mart

Magellan Coffee Table  – Sofa Mart

Monaco Sisal Rug in Aloe – Oak Express

Profile Vases – Oak Express

Kendi Accent Chairs – Sofa Mart

Grand Gemma Canisters – Oak Express

Del Mar Entertainment Wall – Oak Express

Zig Zag Pillows – Sofa Mart

Faux Doupioni Tab Curtain Panel – Linen Shopée

Water Coconut Trees – Oak Express


Tell us what you think about our living room arrangement tips on our Facebook page.

How to Make or Break Habits

Habits: Break them, or make them?

Most would say that we’re creatures of habit — and habits are hard to break. We spend much of our time and energy trying to break these behaviors. What if we thought differently, and instead of trying to break all of these bad habits, we create healthy ones?

We talked with Jessica Chamberlin, M.A. and Licensed Professional Counselor, about developing a few good habits that will lead to a happier, healthier life.


“When working on cultivating a habit of gratitude, keep it simple and don’t make it all about yourself. Extend your thankfulness and reflect on the bigger picture.”


Q: Do you think people should focus on making good habits — or breaking bad ones? Can we find better success from doing one versus the other?

A: I believe it to be more efficient and a more positive experience to make good habits. Breaking a habit is like punishing yourself, while developing a good habit can help you to focus on the positive. It is easy to be disappointed in yourself if you don’t do well in extinguishing a bad habit, while cultivating a good habit produces pride in your steps forward and achievements. Also, it’s likely that your bad habit will fall to the wayside when your new, good habit is formed.


Q: Remembering what we’re grateful for seems to always put things into perspective. Any advice for ways we can cultivate a habit of gratitude?

A: One way to cultivate gratitude is to express your thankfulness to someone else.  I recommend hand delivering a letter (or note) of gratitude to someone for something they have done. This simple gesture brings so much joy to both individuals. It’s a great gesture to make into a personal habit. Another way is to reflect upon the positive aspects of each day. You can do this by journaling at night or finding something symbolic, like pictures from a magazine, and creating something as simple as a collage.


Q: What we say can often get us into trouble — and it’s so easy to join in and criticize or complain. How can we learn to better direct our speech (and even thoughts) in a positive direction?

A: When you’re with a group of people and the conversation starts to drift to being critical, ask yourself, “Are we being constructive?” When the negativity is centered on a person, remember that everyone is dealing with something behind the surface. Also, ask yourself if the person’s behavior triggers something within you. It can be easier to dislike a person because how they act resonates with something that’s within you — perhaps from a bad past experience.


Q: How we start and end our days is important. Do you have suggestions for healthy habits we should consider developing for the morning or evening hours?

A: Use these times to de-stress — start fresh in the morning and unwind in the evening. Running or yoga are great ways to clear your body and mind. Also, use this time to work on your habit of gratitude.


Q: It’s easy to fall into old, unhealthy habits when relating to those closest to us. What have you found to be helpful in maintaining strong relationships with the key people in our lives?

A: Don’t immediately think you have to distance yourself from the person with whom you formerly developed a bad habit; instead, communicate to them about your new good habit. Share with them the benefits you’re already seeing from this new, healthy habit.


Good habits will not only serve you well in your life, family and place of employment, but being intentional about creating them will set you on a path of happiness. Don’t try to make all the changes at once, but work at making small changes and experiencing the satisfaction in those steps.





5 Tips to Kick Start Good Habits

1. Create a List- Make a list of the pros/challenges to making this change. What would be the pros/challenge to NOT making this change?

2. Get a Buddy- Find a friend to hold you accountable. Regularly check in with her to share your progress and setbacks

3. Keep a Log- Document your successes and progress of your new, healthy habit.

4. Read- Get motivated from stories of inspirational figures who have overcome an obstacle, quotes and educational material about your healthy habit.

5. Use Social Media- Social media can support you in your new habit. Blogs, Pinterest and Facebook can be useful in finding groups, friends and ideas to encourage you.


Tell us about your Make or Break Habits on Facebook.

Part 3: How to be the Perfect Host – Minding your Manners

“Being a host comes with a lot of responsibility,” notes Ann Marie Sabath, owner of At Ease Inc., a national etiquette consulting firm. To help an overnight stay go smoothly, she’s opened up with tips for minding your manners as a host.



Map Out the Visit. Discuss arrival and departure dates, food preferences and major activities before guests arrive.

Welcome Guests with Food. Drinks and light appetizers are a must, especially if guests have driven a long way.

Show Them the Ropes. Let guests know where everything is, how things work and all they need to know about staying in your home.

Be Sure to Give Your Guests Privacy. Always knock before entering the guest room. Consider providing a privacy screen if guests are bunking in the family or living room.

Create an Open-Door Policy. Show your guests where you hide the key, so they can come and go when they please.

Let Them Surf on Your Turf. Show guests how to log on to your computer and access the Internet.

Give Your Neighbors a Heads Up. Let them know you’ll have guests, so they won’t be alarmed by unfamiliar cars and extra activity.


Graciousness is as important for guests as it is for hosts. Jennifer Dunham Luby, an Entertaining Consultant with Chicago’s Second City Soirée in Chicago, offers these etiquette tips:


Communicate. Tell your hosts ahead of time about any special needs or allergies, and offer to accommodate yourself. If the host offers to accommodate you, let them.

Arrival. Be on time or a little late, but not early.

Bring Something. Luby recommends an edible or perishable gift (chocolate, flowers, wine) rather than a vase or other object that creates clutter.

Engage. Join in activities the host suggests, but plan some of your own, too.

Chip In. Make your bed in the morning, clear your dishes after meals and help prepare meals unless instructed otherwise.

Turn In. Don’t feel obliged to sit up. If you’re tired, excuse yourself and go to bed.

Departure. Leave on schedule and leave your room cleaner than you found it. If you broke something, fess up and make arrangements for repairs or replacements.

Say Thank You. Follow up with a thank-you call and a handwritten note. After longer visits, say two or three days, send a gift after you leave.


For more hosting tips, check out these related articles:

Part I How to be the Perfect Host – Home Preparation

Part II How to be the Perfect Host – Sleeping Arrangements


Do you have a ‘Perfect Host’ tip? Tell us about it on our Facebook page.

Part 2: How to be the Perfect Host – Sleeping Arrangements

Overnight guests need a comfortable, private (or semi-private) place to sleep, dress and relax. The ideal situation is a guest room outfitted with a comfortable bed as well as an accent chair and a place to read or simply relax. A guest-room bed should be queen size, if there’s room, and topped with a medium-firm mattress in good condition — that is, one you’d sleep on yourself, says Larry Killingbeck, national sales manager at Denver Mattress.

If you don’t have a guest room, consider a sofa bed and an attractive folding screen for privacy. The newest sofa beds sport air-bed technology, says Bruce Galbraith, national merchandise manager for Sofa Mart. After the user unfolds the bed, he or she starts an air pump that fills the mattress and shuts off automatically.

When purchasing a sofa bed with a traditional coil-spring or memory-foam mattress, make sure the mattress is at least five and a half inches thick for maximum comfort, Galbraith advises.

To add comfort, use a mattress pad; remove it and all bedding before folding the bed away.


Sleeper chairs with foam mattresses that fold out or with fold-out beds like those in sleeper sofas are a good option when space is limited. Futons’ firmness best suits them for young guests or those staying only a night.

Quality bed linens, comforters and throws go far in making guests comfortable: Use the same quality and condition as on your own bed, advises Jodi Visser, designer and buyer at Furniture Row.

Offer guests a variety of hypoallergenic pillows — soft and firm, thin and fluffy — so they can customize their comfort. Layers of bedding — a top sheet, blanket and comforter — also allow customization.

A final touch? “A light spritz of linen spray is a nice way to welcome the guest and freshen the room,” Visser advises.



• Traditional Bed, Sleeper Bed or Sleeper Chair, or Futon

• Accent Chair and Table

• Empty Dresser Drawers

• Closet Space and Hangers

• Sheets

• Two Blankets

• Duvet

• Extra Pillows

• Face & Body Towels, Washcloths

• Robes (One per guest)

• Night Table and Reading Lamp

• Alarm Clock

• Ironing Board and Iron

• Small Television with Remote

• Stamps, Writing Paper and  Envelopes; a Small Sewing Kit

• Magazines; Current Local or City Publications are especially nice for out-of-towners


For more hosting tips, check out these related articles:

Part I How to be the Perfect Host – Home Preparation

Part III How to be the Perfect Host – Minding Your Manners

Do you have a ‘Perfect Host’ tip? Tell us about it on our Facebook page.

Part 1: How to be the Perfect Host – Home Preparation

“Company’s coming.” If any phrase can stop you in your tracks, that’s it. No matter how long they’ll be staying, your guests will need extra care and attention, and that means lots of planning and thought.

Being the perfect host or hostess has one overarching principle: “The best way to make guests feel comfortable is to let them know how happy you are to have them there,” says Barbara Chandler, store design/ visual merchandise manager for Furniture Row.



Perfect Host/Hostess Tips:

1. A comfortably appointed home also helps. Several key pieces can help turn a home into dinner-party-central, Chandler says. For instance, outfit your entryway with a small bench and table to give guests a place to remove shoes and put down their things.

2. In the dining room, a buffet or sideboard is a must for dinner parties. The extra surface “helps clear the table, so guests feel comfortable to sit around and chat after dinner,” Chandler says.

3. Comfortable dining room chairs encourage guests to linger and relax. Solid wood chairs with shaped seats and curved backs offer lumbar support, says Oak Express Buyer Dennis Crouthers. Padded seats and backs also provide comfort; look for leather or easily maintained faux leathers. For more casual meals, seat guests at a counter with counter-height bar stools. If you have a rug under the table, it should be large enough to accommodate chairs that are pulled out all the way.


For more hosting tips, check out these related articles:

Part II How to be the Perfect Host – Sleeping Arrangements

Part III How to be the Perfect Host – Minding Your Manners


Do you have a ‘Perfect Host’ tip? Tell us about it on our Facebook page.

Inspired Winter Centerpieces

Wintery Wonderful Centerpieces you can create at home. This season, create an array of unique winter centerpieces to fit any décor by simply grouping wintery white flowers with simple elements that can be found in your home.



Winter Center Pieces Highlights:

  1. Hobnail glass is the perfect item to host a fragrant array of stock flowers. By placing the vase on a stack of books, you can add height — and a little drama — to your table.
  2. A wooden box is the ideal base for creating a romantic, rustic centerpiece. Just place two white pillar candles inside and add seeded eucalyptus for fragrance and filler.
  3. A white pitcher makes a great vessel for dried flowers like these snow berries — and a more contemporary statement.
  4. By creating your own box with distressed wood, you can tailor your centerpiece to any space. Line the base with floral foam and place long-stemmed flowers such as star of Bethlehem and larkspur in a single row. Then, arrange moss around the base of the flowers to cover the foam.
  5. Petite and pretty. This antique pewter sugar bowl makes a beautifully simple centerpiece when filled with delicate flowers like lisianthus.

Don’t have these items at home? Hit your local second hand store and garage sales. Want to buy new? Stop into your nearest Oak Express for all your home decor and accessory needs.

Table Setting: How to Set a Proper Table

Finally, a step by step guide on how to set the perfect table. We have recreated examples of every dining situation, and how to properly set the table. Head to Oak Express for your next dining table, chairs, and accessories.

A properly set table is a canvas for a beautiful meal. But when it comes to the specific dos and don’ts of setting a proper table, do you wonder about the correct placement of silverware or exactly where to put the napkin? With a few basics under your belt, you can begin to apply your new-found knowledge to your next party — whether it’s an elegant dinner, a simple lunch or a casual brunch.




In Linen Color: A tablecloth serves as the foundation on which to build your table setting. Whether you choose an elegant linen tablecloth or a casual cotton one to go with your favorite placemats, you can help set the mood and color palette for the occasion. Napkins add a final touch and should be placed according to the type of meal you’re planning. Remember, a formal dinner and an informal lunch call for different protocols.

Sizing Things Up: As you begin setting your table, you’ll want to ensure the place settings are evenly spaced and flatware is balanced at each setting. Be sure to place dinner plates about two inches from the table’s edge and squarely in front of each chair. Make sure they’re far enough apart to provide sufficient elbowroom — about two feet from plate center to plate center.

Special Touches: Dress your table up with candles, a special centerpiece, napkin rings or place cards personalized to your guests or for the occasion or season.


Eclectic Feast: Colorful jewel tones create an eclectic atmosphere for a bountiful feast, such as a large family or Thanksgiving dinner.



Formal White:  White china paired with crisp, white linens are perfect for an elegant and formal winter dinner party or reception.



Gilded Harvest:  Combine rich, golden accents with outdoor, earthy elements for a stylish seasonal celebration.



Botanical Breakfast: Bring nature’s palette indoors with a blend of rich colors and textures accented by garden-inspired dish ware.






Setting a proper table begins with dinner plates. Salad plates are placed either to the left or on top of the dinner plate. If you’re serving bread for a more formal meal, place the bread plate above the forks and a butter knife or spreader across the plate. If you’re serving soup, the bowl should be placed on top of the dinner plate.


Flatware follows one simple rule: No matter how formal or informal your meal, silverware should be placed in the order of its use — from the outside in. Forks are to the left of the plate, and knives and spoons to the right. Place knives with their cutting edge toward the plate. Dessert utensils should be placed horizontally above the plate with the fork handle to the left and the spoon or knife handle to the right.


Stemware should be set above and to the right of the dinner plate. Water glasses stand above the dinner knife, white wine to its right, followed by red wine, and if champagne is served that follows, the red wine below center. Coffee cups and saucers may be placed on the table to the right of the knife and spoon.


For all of your dining and entertaining accessories, visit Oak Express.

For more table setting tips, check out Easy Guide to Setting the Table by the Front Door Blog.

Top 10 Holiday Cookies: Rugelach Recipe

Holiday Rugelach Recipe from our Top 10 Favorite Holiday Cookies article.




  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate,
  • finely chopped



In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes more. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat on low just until combined.

Remove half the dough from the mixing bowl and form into a 4″ x 4″ square, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Place the chocolate in the top half of a double boiler over barely simmering water until melted, stirring until smooth. Add the melted chocolate to the dough in mixer and beat just until combined. Form the chocolate dough into a 4″ x 4″ square and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate both squares of dough for at least 30 minutes.

On 2 lightly floured sheets of parchment paper, roll each dough half into 12″ x 10″ rectangles. Carefully lift the parchment paper with the chocolate dough and invert it over the rectangle of vanilla dough. Remove the parchment paper and roll the dough into a tight jelly roll. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Unwrap the dough and cut into 1/4″ slices. Place 2″ apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.


Topping Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon



To make the dough:

Put the cream cheese in a food processor and pulse in the butter a few pieces at a time until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla  and process until thoroughly blended, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the flour and salt, pulsing just enough for the dough to stick together.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 4 portions. Wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.

To make the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine the sugars, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts and stir until well mixed.


To make the rugelach:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it rest for at least 15 minutes or until it’s soft. Using a floured rolling pin, on a lightly floured board, roll out each dough portion into a 1/8″ thick 9″ circle. Spread the dough evenly with 2 Tbsp. of the marmalade or preserves. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the rugelach filling over the preserves. Press the filling mixture firmly and evenly over the dough. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough circle into 12 wedges as you would for cutting a pie. If necessary, use a thin knife or other utensil to loosen the triangles from the board. Starting at the wide end, roll up the triangle and bend the ends around to form a slight crescent shape.

Place the rugelach, point ends underneath, about 1 1/2″ apart on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.

While the rugelach is in the refrigerator, combine all the topping ingredients in a bowl. Just before baking, brush the rugelach with the milk mixture. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.


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Top 10 Holiday Cookies: Raspberry Linzer Cookie Recipe

Raspberry Linzar Cookie Recipe  from our Top 10 Favorite Holiday Cookies article.





  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (approx.) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1 cup sliced, toasted almonds, for optional garnish



In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture and mix well. Shape the dough into a ball; cover and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease baking sheets and set aside.

On a surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar, roll half of the dough to 1/8″ thickness and cut with a floured 2-1/2″ round cookie cutter. For the remaining dough, repeat the process using
a floured 2-1/2″ doughnut cutter to produce a hole in the center of each cookie. If desired, press a few sliced, toasted almonds into the dough.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. In a separate bowl, combine the almonds and remaining sugar. Brush each cookie with egg white and sprinkle with the almond mixture. Place on the baking sheets and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Spread 2 tsp. of the preserves over the plain
side of the cookies without a hole. Place the cookies with the hole, almond-side up, on top
of the preserves.


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Top 10 Holiday Cookies: Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Shortbread Cookie Recipe from our Top 10 Favorite Holiday Cookies article.






  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut
  • into 1″ chunks



Heat the oven to 325°F. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse to fine crumbs. Continue pulsing until the crumbs start to stick together, but don’t over-process. Press the dough into an ungreased 8″- or 9″-square baking pan or a 9″ pie pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake until golden-brown, 35 to 40 minutes for a 9″ pan, or 45 to 50 minutes for an 8″ pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.


See what other cookies made the Top 10 Holiday Cookie list visit here.

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Top 10 Holiday Cookies: Gingerbread Men Cookie Recipe

Gingerbread Men Cookie Recipe from our Top 10 Favorite Holiday Cookies article.





  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup light-brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. hot water
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • Raisins, nuts or cinnamon candies
  • for decorating (optional)



Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheets and dust lightly with flour.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend well. Shape dough into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4″ thickness, and cut into gingerbread men. Arrange on baking sheets 1 1/2″ apart, and bake until risen and no longer shiny, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow cookies to cool. If desired, decorate with raisins, nuts or cinnamon candies. Store gingerbread men cookies in an airtight container.


See what other cookies made the Top 10 Holiday Cookie list visit here.

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