Staying In: How to Set a Valentine’s Table for Two, Courtesy of Ajiri Aki


Instead of dining out on Valentine’s Day—in a restaurant packed with strangers and dripping with paper hearts—wouldn’t it be more intimate, in every sense of the word, to stay in? That’s always been our preference: candles, a table set for two, and perhaps pajamas over crowds and cold.

When we emailed recently with Ajiri Aki, the France-based doyenne of stylish, effortless table settings (she runs the vintage tableware shop and linen purveyor Madame de la Maison), we were happy to hear that she feels the same, all the way over in Paris. Here’s how she sets the table for a simple Valentine’s dinner for two—plus her tips for making it just a bit romantic, never fussy.

Photography by Ajiri Aki.

1. Resist the urge to go pink.

Just because it&#8
Above: Just because it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you should drape the table with all the pink things you can find. “As much as I love pink everything, I wanted to go with a simple, soft, romantic look using the orage tablecloth and sable napkins,” Ajiri says. “The orage linen is grey-ish blue, kind of like a storm. Orage means storm in French. It’s a soft color palette without going full-on pink.”

2. Choose petite flowers over big bouquets.

In lieu of a big (quite possibly overpriced) bouquet or centerpiece, tuck just a few small stems into mix-and-match glass jars. This is an intimate dinner at home, remember; the scale should be small. Ajiri used vintage apothecary bottles and vanity jars; simple jam jars work, too.
Above: In lieu of a big (quite possibly overpriced) bouquet or centerpiece, tuck just a few small stems into mix-and-match glass jars. This is an intimate dinner at home, remember; the scale should be small. Ajiri used vintage apothecary bottles and vanity jars; simple jam jars work, too.

3. Sprinkle some roses.

Above: “I always add one little stereotypical element that connects to the holiday,” Ajiri says. For a romantic touch, she scattered a handful of dry rose buds down the center of the table.

4. Use the good china.

Keep the meal simple, but serve it with favorite pieces. &#8
Above: Keep the meal simple, but serve it with favorite pieces. “These mussels in white wine sauce take a whopping 20 minutes to make, but they are always served in beautiful antique finds,” Ajiri says.

5. Embrace imperfection.

Let the table be a little beautifully imperfect, not prim or overdone.  &#8
Above: Let the table be a little beautifully imperfect, not prim or overdone.  “I rarely iron my linens because I find the texture beautiful,” Ajiri says.

6. Sit kitty-corner.

Set two places kitty-corner from one another. It&#8
Above: Set two places kitty-corner from one another. It’s more casual than facing each other—and you won’t have a table between you.

P.S. See more of Ajiri’s entertaining tips in Joyeux Noël: How to Throw a Holiday Party the French Way. And here’s our original feature on her work: Vintage French Style You Can Rent: Madame de la Maison in Paris.



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The Coronavirus Effect on U.S. Real Estate


house party podcast

Getty Images; realtor.com

“House Party” is realtor.com®’s official podcast about the overlapping worlds of real estate and pop culture, hosted by Natalie WayErik Gunther, and Rachel Stults. Click the player above to hear our takes on this week’s hot topics.

For our 50th episode (!!!), our colleague Clare Trapasso, realtor.com’s deputy news editor, breaks down the ripple effect that coronavirus is having on the U.S. housing market. What might happen to real estate as the global pandemic continues to spread?

Other topics we cover:

  • In lighter news, an insane “Star Wars”–themed basement inspired us to discuss what would be in our fantasy spaces. Is it possible to build a 5,000-square-foot hot tub?
  • We reveal our true feelings (and don’t hold back) about she sheds and man caves.
  • We continue our new segment, “The Mailbox,” in which we read and answer listener letters from our inbox. (It’s open, y’all! We’d love to hear from you: podcast@realtor.com)
  • A Valentine’s Day–appropriate discussion turns to Jack-and-Jill sinks. (Are they really worth it?)
  • And, of course, we cover the week’s celebrity real estate winner and loser.

Ready to listen? Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please: Throw us a five-star rating if you like what you hear. The more good ratings and reviews we have, the easier it is for people to find us.

Want to chime in? Have your own crazy home-related story you’re dying to share? We’re all ears, eagerly waiting to discuss all of your burning real estate questions. Email us at podcast@realtor.com, follow us on Facebook, or tweet us @housepartypod on Twitter.

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Stories we discussed on ‘House Party’ this week:

U.S. Real Estate Market Shows Symptoms of Coronavirus Effect: What You Need to Know

$26.5M Hidden Hills Mansion With Stupendous ‘Star Wars’ Basement Lands on Market

‘Help, My Husband and I Can’t Agree on a House!’

My Biggest Remodeling Regret? Double Bathroom Sinks

No Longer a Housewife, Bethenny Frankel Sells Her SoHo Loft at a Loss

Lance Armstrong Lists His Beloved Aspen, CO, Family Retreat for $14.5M



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Editors’ Picks: The Remodelista Valentine’s Day 2020 Gift Guide


Here’s how I usually respond when my husband asks about Valentine’s Day gift ideas: “I don’t want anything.” “Really, any gift you give me will be great.” “Whatever.”

Here’s what I’m going to do this year instead: send him the link to this gift guide.

Below, Remodelista’s wish list of beautiful things:

Above: Margot’s smitten with the plant-dyed textiles of Dublin-based Kathryn Davy, in particular with her pink-hued wool socks, but as those are currently sold out, she’s eyeing this Linen Cutlery Pocket, hand-dyed with madder root; $24.71.

Above: From Julie: Centuries-old French fragrance company L’Officine Universelle Buly will carve whatever monogram you wish into its Savon Superfin soap for added luxury. You can also choose from different packaging (pictured are 2 of 14 options); €24.17 each (€5 for monogramming).

One Kiln Ceramics' Ash Glazed Cup at Alder and Co. Shop Above: “I love the foil of iron exterior and soft blush interior of this cup,” says Justine. One Kiln Ceramics’ Ash Glazed Cup, made in Japan, is $30 each at Alder & Co.

Above: “I would be happy to receive a clutch of dead flowers for Valentine’s Day,” says Fan. “These dried botanicals from Bloomist are so pretty and poetic.” The Dried Pink Heather is $22 and the Cream Globe Amaranthus is just $12. Extra points for presenting them in a Pink Terracotta Vase by Sheldon Ceramics.

Cafe Bowl Sorbet Heath Ceramics Above: Another Julie suggestion: Cafe Bowls, in sorbet, from Heath Ceramics’ Chez Panisse Line; $37 each.

Above: “I am dying for somebody to please get me a pair of pajamas from Zara Home’s really great-looking collection,” says Annie. “In particular, their Pleated Pajamas“; $69.90.

Hay Flare Candle Holder Above: Another one from Annie, who is committing to a candle-lit life this winter: Hay’s Flare Candle Holder, shown in pink, is just $25 each.

Above: Fan finds paper products—books, newspapers, magazines—romantic. These prettily packaged Antoinette Poisson Notebooks are each hand-printed and bound in Paris; from $48.

Above: Julie has Baies Rose Dishwashing Liquid by Astier de Villatte on her wish list. She found it at The Primary Essentials, where it’s currently sold out. Liberty London also sells it for £20.
Above: Another one from Fan: “I used to work with Marcie McGoldrick at Martha Stewart Living, where she was the editorial director for crafts and holiday. She’s now making artful ceramics, among which are these captivating cameo pendants, cast from tinted porcelain.” Her Cameo Jewelry, which also includes rings set in silver or gold, starts at $140 each.

Above: Margot fell for R+D Lab’s Italian colored borosilicate glassware at Shoppe Object last week. She was happy to discover that the Bon Nuit Bedside Carafe and Glass and Cameo Pink Ribbed Wine Glass are both sold at Sunday Shop; $178 and $82.

For past Valentine’s Day roundups, see:

  • Editor’ Picks: Our 2019 Valentine’s Day Gift Guide
  • Editors’Picks: 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts
  • 8 Favorites: Drinking Glasses With a Hint of Pink
  • Rethink Pink: 14 Favorite Graphic, Un-Frilly Rugs in Rose Hues



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