Best Cabin Placement on Any Cruise Ship

It’s that moment in the cruise booking process that requires you to select your cabin. You know you want a balcony (or inside or suite) but now you need to choose the specific room you want. The only problem? There are hundreds to choose from all over the ship!

How do you know which deck is best, or if you should choose a midship room or one more forward or aft? The truth is, there is no objective answer to the question, “What’s the best cabin placement on my cruise ship?” It all depends on what’s important to you. Whether you need a cabin that won’t aggravate your motion sensitivity or want the best view possible, we round up the locations you should book, based on your stateroom preferences.

Best for a Great View

Cabins at the very front or very back of a cruise ship are most likely to have the best views, as they offer the widest vistas of the ocean stretching out behind or in front of the ship — or in the case of forward cabins, your next port of call. Views are especially fantastic on ships that offer front cabins with oversized floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows. Select Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line ships fall into that category.

Best for a Large Balcony

aft balcony

Aft cabins typically have some of the largest balconies on a cruise ship as there are usually just a few rooms lined up along the back of a ship giving each one more space for a bigger balcony. In particular, aft cabins located on the corners of the ship often have wraparound balconies, creating enough space for chairs, loungers and sometimes a small dining table.

Also good for a larger balcony are cabins located on the so-called “hump” of a cruise ship that is designed with a curvy outline. Cabins located where the ship transitions from a narrower to a wider width have angled balconies that are roomier than a typical veranda. Hump cabins can be found on select Celebrity and Royal Caribbean ships.

Best for Those with Motion Sensitivity

The closer to the edges (top, front and back — but not bottom) of a sea-going vessel you are, the more likely you are to feel the movement of that ship in the water. It’s worst at the front of the ship, which hits the waves first and rebounds upward. (How high the resulting bounce is depends on how rough the water is.) The higher on the ship you are, the more exaggerated the up and down motion of the ship hitting the waves feels. It’s less noticeable at the back of the ship, but even there the motion of the ocean can be felt, especially if the seas are at all rough. Cruisers with a sensitivity to motion will do best midship (midway between front and back) and as low down as possible, as the rocking and rolling of the ocean is much less perceptible the closer you are to the waterline.

Best for Light Sleepers

If you want the quietest cabin possible, eliminate cabins located by noisy areas. Do not book cabins located directly under the pool deck or buffet, too close to the elevators, across the hall from a laundry or crew entry door, and under or over the casino, theater or nightclub. You’ll also want to skip cabins located low and forward (where the anchor being lowered or raised can generate a lot of sound) or at the back (where the ship’s generators create a hum that rarely, if ever, stops). You’ll need to study a deck plan for the best placement or call on a travel agent who knows the ship you’re booking. However, a general rule of thumb is to surround yourself with other passenger cabins — on either side of you, across from you and above and below you.

Best for the Mobility Impaired

Crowds are the bane of cruisers with any type of mobility impairment, and while you can’t avoid people all the time on a cruise ship, you certainly can choose a cabin in a location that’s easier to navigate to or from. Cabins on decks that also host passenger services or public spaces are usually harder to traverse; there will often be people milling around, blocking the walking area so selecting a deck that only has cabins on it is advisable. Even though the hallways tend to be narrower, there are rarely people standing around. If possible, try to snag a cabin near an elevator so there’s less distance between your cabin door and the lift.

Best for Spa-Lovers

The Spa on Viking Star (Photo: Cruise Critic)

If you’re a thermal suite aficionado and plan to spend lots of time in the spa, relaxing on a heated lounger or soaking in the ship’s thalassotherapy pool, you’ll probably want to get a room that’s as close to the spa as you can get. (That way you don’t have to traverse the entire ship in your robe and slippers!) On some ships, you can find designated spa cabins on the same deck as the spa; on others, you’ll probably be one or two decks away. Other ships get you even closer; on Seabourn you can actually get a room with direct access to the spa via a staircase located in the spa’s lobby. On Costa ships, the spa cabins have direct access to the Samsara Spa via a semi-private glass elevator. If you’re a thermal suite aficionado and plan to spend lots of time in the spa, relaxing on a heated lounger or soaking in the ship’s thalassotherapy pool, you’ll probably want to get a room that’s as close to the spa as you can get. (That way you don’t have to traverse the entire ship in your robe and slippers!) On some ships, you can find designated spa cabins on the same deck as the spa; on others, you’ll probably be one or two decks away. Other ships get you even closer; on Seabourn you can actually get a room with direct access to the spa via a staircase located in the spa’s lobby. On Costa ships, the spa cabins have direct access to the Samsara Spa via a semi-private glass elevator.

Best for Water Babies

The most obvious room location for any water-lover is as close to the pool as you can get. On some cruise ships, you can get a cabin on the very same deck as the pool, so it’s out your door and a quick stroll to paradise. On other ships, you might have to get a cabin one deck below the pool, adding a minute or two or more to your cabin-to-pool commute.

Another, less obvious choice for water babies is a cabin that’s located close to the water line. While you can’t go into the water, you’ll be able to hear it lapping against your balcony or porthole window. For those for whom cruising is just as much about being on water as anything else, these cabins — like the cove balconies on select Carnival ships — are the perfect home away from home.

By Dori Saltzman

Cruise Critic Senior Editor

Yoga vs. Gym: Which Workout is Better?

Is your favorite workout the best workout? That’s a question asked frequently by anyone who wants to get fit. Which exercise yields the best results?

A new study put two popular fitness routines to the test, yoga classes and gym workouts. Researchers from the University of Texas’ Health Science Center in San Antonio asked volunteers to try three different workouts. One group did yoga (focusing on stretching, balance and core strength), another did gym workouts (ramping up their heart rates on treadmills and other pieces of gym equipment), and the third group was asked to stay consistently active in whatever way they chose.

Each group exercised for one hour at a time and for three hours per week.

Dr. David Hughes, assistant professor and clinical exercise physiologist at UT and the lead researcher for the study, thought his gym workouts would be the clear winner.

But the real winner? That surprised everyone.

Hughes found that all of the workouts were equally effective in terms of fitness. Each participant was tested for body fat and physical function before and after the study, and the results were similar across the board. All the participants in the study lost roughly the same amount of body fat: about 4 percent. The participants in the yoga group excelled in one way over their gym rat peers: they were better at stretching and reaching.

According to the study, the key to fitness is consistency. No matter the workout, if you keep with it, you will gain fitness.

“You can just go out and be active, 10 minutes at a time, but for heaven’s sake, find something you enjoy and lock in and do it and if you don’t enjoy it, experiment until you find what you do,” said Hughes.

So which workout is the best workout? It’s the one that gets you out the door.

Meghan Markle Is More Than Just A Pretty Face

We’re proud to say that the news of Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle was no big surprise to us Potatoheads. Not only is Markle beautiful, of course, but she is also one of the most memorable interviewees on The New Potato. When we photographed her, we honestly fell a little bit in love with her ourselves. Markle is the kind of woman that is as endearing as she is stunning, akin to a modern day Lauren Bacall, and we could not be happier for her this week. We want everyone to have a chance to get to know her as well as we have, which is why we’re throwing it back to our interview with soon-to-be-royal. Peruse below for Markle’s favorite restaurants, beauty tips, workout routines and more…

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

A Clean Cleanse vanilla shake blended with frozen Ontario blueberries for breakfast, a Niçoise salad and a glass of rosé with some Grey Owl goat cheese and baguette on the side for lunch, and a leisurely dinner of seafood and pasta with a Negroni to cap off the night.

What’s your drink?

God, do I love wine – a beautiful full red or a crisp white. But if it’s cocktails, I love a spicy tequila cocktail, Negroni, or good Scotch (neat).

What’s different about playing Rachel Zane from other parts you’ve played?

She is so intelligent, as well as being vulnerable, layered and strong-willed. I love finding the layers in Rachel, versus just playing a typical, one-note love interest type that is often written for young female characters.

In playing the part of the Rachel, where do you draw inspiration from? 

I am inspired by the material the writers give us, as well as from the young ambitious women that I have as friends, that are looking for love, are in their twenties, and figuring it out.

What’s the most shocking discovery you’ve made in all your time of playing that part?

I am pretty good at memorizing lines. I used to think I was terrible at it, but when you film a show every day, you flex that muscle memory all the time, and I am shocked by how natural it has become for me. Thank God!

What are some of your favorite Toronto food spots when shooting Suits?

Hands down, my favorite restaurant in Toronto is The Harbord Room[Editor’s note: The Harbord Room is now closed.] That kitchen puts out consistently amazing food. Everything from their burger (which is my “last meal” kind of meal), to their beautiful seafood and seasonal dishes, it’s just a perfect dinner in the most craveable setting. It’s where I send everyone who comes to town – from editors to friends and family. As a matter of fact, Joe Zee and I are having dinner there soon. My buddy and fellow New Potato foodie!

What are some typical pre and post shoot routines?

I always try to squeeze in a hot yoga class or get a good run in the morning before work (unless I have a 5am call time, in which case, I relish the extra sleep). And post-work, you can generally find me in a bath tub with a glass of wine.

What’s always in your bag on set?

Chanel Eyeliner in Cassis and Fresh Sugar Advanced Lip Treatment.

What’s a typical lunch like on the set of Suits?

We have catering that offers tons of meat as well as vegan options to make everyone happy. I usually grab some kale salad and steamed vegetables with a side of hummus and lots of hot sauce (either Habanero or Sriracha).

What’s always in your Suits trailer fridge?

A green juice, kombucha, almonds and raisins. I’m a nibbler.

Your go-to on set snack…

A crudités and hummus plate, sliced apples with almond butter sprinkled with sea salt, or an apple Larabar.

Your go-to recipe for eating at home…

I make lots of soups. I’ll sautée a mirepoix, add some vegetables and stock and either have a chunky vegetable soup or purée it in the Vitamix. Changing the vegetables and seasoning makes this transition from a spicy Latin soup to something with a more Asian flare so I don’t get bored. It’s so easy and satisfying.

What’s the ingredient you consider overrated? Which do you think makes everything better?

Mayonnaise. It’s just not something I would ever want unless it was incorporated in a way that I didn’t notice it.

Maldon Sea Salt brightens every dish. I love it and use it endlessly.

What catches your eye on every menu?

Squid Ink Pasta or Pappardelle with Cinghiale; I’ve never met a Wild Boar Ragu I didn’t like.

What are your favorite cities for food?

In New YorkABC Kitchen, the Verdure counter in EatalyThe SmileSushi Yasuda (for Omakase), and Taim for falafel.

In Toronto: Bar IsabelUnion, and Fresh (where I get my green juices and vegan fare).

In LALaurel Hardware and Gjelina.

If you could host a dinner party, with any five people living or dead, who would be there?

Anthony Bourdain, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver, and my best friend Lindsay. Those are solid chefs and foodies that I would be in awe of eating with, but that wouldn’t feel intimidating to cook for because they seem fun. And I would just want Linds there to giggle about all of it with me.

Photographed by Danielle Kosann



When harvesting grapes to make wine the likelihood some of the juice will get on and stain clothing is extremely high, if not impossible to avoid. These stains can be extremely difficult to remove and cause a great deal of frustration. So, instead of dealing with all of that headache, we’ve decided to roll with the punches, because when life gives you grapes, you make wine! In this case, when you get red wine on your clothes, make the best of it and tie dye it with more of the juice!

DIY: Red Wine Tie Dye

white cloth items to dye
10 bottles of red wine
rubber bands
10 quart stock pot
baking sheet


1. TWIST the item into the pattern of your choice and tie in place using rubber bands.
2. POUR the wine into the large stock pot and turn heat to medium. Bring to a boil then turn on the heat.
3. LOWER the item slowly into the pot and fully immerse in the wine. Allow the item to sit in the wine
for at least 4 hours (or overnight for a deeper color). Stir the mixture roughly every 4 hours.
4. REMOVE the item from the pot, wringing it out lightly and place on a clean baking sheet.
5. PREHEAT the oven to 170 degrees and put in for 20-30 minutes or until dry. Check on items every 10
6. PLACE on an old towel after items have dried in the oven. Transfer to an ironing board (keeping the
towel between the ironing board and the dyed-item to prevent stainage). Iron the items to ensure
the color is entirely set into the fabric.
7. HAND WASH items in warm water to release any loose dye. Rinse in cold water



8 of the Best Dinners for When You’re In Dire Need Of A Good Night’s Sleep

Some people have problems falling asleep. Others have absolutely no problem closing their eyes at night, but they struggle to keep them closed and end up waking up in the early hours with their minds running. You’re not alone – many of us go through a similar situation. You blame your lack of sleep on the stress that has been taking over your thoughts, but did you ever stop and think that it may actually have to do with the meal that you are consuming before you go to bed? There are certain foods out there that have an impact on the way you sleep at night, and we have given you some great dinner ideas for the next time those bags under your eyes become too unbearable.

Fettuccine with Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese

The key ingredient in this dish is kale. Kale and other leafy vegetables give your body the healthy dose of calcium that it needs. Sure, dairy products also contain calcium but some of them can be heavy while greens are not. Not having enough calcium in your body when you go to sleep at night can lead to a restless evening.

Fettuccine With Kale, Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

Herb Butter Salmon and Asparagus

Creme de la Crumb

Fish, especially salmon, are loaded with vitamin B6, the vitamin that is needed by your body to make melatonin. Melatonin is essential in order to sleep because it is a hormone that is triggered by darkness to help you fall asleep at night. Other fish that have plenty of the vitamin are tuna and halibut.

Get the recipe from Creme de la Crumb.

Yellow Jasmine Rice

Budget Byte$

Eating any type of grain, like rice or bulgur, before bed helps you fall asleep, but studies have shown that eating jasmine rice, specifically, before you close your eyes at night helps you shut your eyes faster. This is because jasmine rice contains a high-glycemic index, whereas other grains have lower-glycemic indexes. High-GI foods have much more insulin, which travels to the brain and triggers you to feel tired.

Get the recipe from Recipe by Budget Byte$.

Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese

Cooking Ala Mel

Like the kale recipe, dairy products also give your body the right amount of calcium it needs. However, you have to be careful with what kinds of dairy products you are ingesting before you crawl into bed. Yogurt and milk are great to incorporate into your dinner meal because they are not as heavy. However, take it easy on the ice cream!

Get the recipe from Cooking Ala Mel.

(Almost) Classic Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf

Connoisseurus Veg

This funky, vegan spin on a traditional dish is filled with chickpeas, which, like fish, help make melatonin, triggering you to fall asleep faster at night and stay asleep.

Get the recipe from Connoisseurus Veg.

Southwest Turkey, Vegetable and Rice Skillet

Recipe Runner

Everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving know this. Turkey contains a chemical called tryptophan, which helps people fall asleep (hence why everyone ends up napping after Thanksgiving dinner). This meal has both turkey and rice (mentioned above), so that you are twice as likely to get the amount of sleep you want AND need.

Get the recipe from Recipe Runner

Chicken, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Dinner

Cooking Classy

Sweet potatoes are the key to an insomniac’s happiness. They contain carbs, which help push sleep in the right direction, and potassium, which relaxes your body and prepares you for the night ahead.

Get the recipe from Cooking Classy.

One Pot Spinach Chicken Pasta

Spinach chicken pasta
Chef in Training

Last but not least, this leafy vegetable has got a long track record of helping people sleep. Being a source of tryptophan, it also has nutrients in it like folate, vitamins B6 and C, and magnesium, which help produce both serotonin and melatonin throughout your body. Spanish also has glutamine, which eliminates toxins that can cause you to have many restless nights.

Get the recipe from Chef in Training.




32nd Annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

December 9, 2017


December 9, 2017

Marina Jack: Sarasota Bayfront

2 Marina Plaza
SarasotaFL 34236

United States

The 32nd Annual Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights will be held on Saturday December 9, 2017 beginning at 6:00 p.m. The best areas for viewing are Marina Jack Restaurant, Bayfront Park, City Island and Centennial Park.

The Parade route has been expanded by an additional turn marker at the southwest side of Bay front Park. All boats must now pass approximately one third of the Sarasota Bay side of Bay front Park within a few yards, to be considered for judging. The Bay front Park spectator viewing area has been expanded to include the entire Northern tip of island near the fountain. The VIP viewing area has been moved to the Marina Jack’s fuel dock to allow additional space for spectators. This will improve spectator viewing from Bay front Park considerably. The SNN 6 local news staff will be covering the event throughout the evening at several areas throughout Marina Jack.

There is no entry fee for boats registering for the parade. Each parade participant will receive a commemorative gift. Vessels must be over 21 feet.

Entries will be judged in 4 categories including:
Private (P1): 21-35 ft
Private(P2): 36ft and over’
Corporate (C1): 21-35′
Corporate (C2): 36′ and over.

Cash prizes, awards and trophies will be awarded at a ceremony at Marina Jack’s fuel dock at 8:30pm following the parade.

All Proceeds Benefit Suncoast Charities for Children, Inc.

Downtown Sarasota Tree Lighting Celebration

November 30, 2017

Five Points Park, Downtown Sarasota

1331 1st St
SarasotaFL 34236

United States

Downtown Sarasota’s Tree Lighting will take place at Five Points Park from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Enjoy refreshments and music and photos with Santa!

Presented by the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association

Bird Key Yacht Club tries to serve up pickleball

But nearby residents worry the sport will make too much racket in the neighborhood.

SARASOTA — The Bird Key Yacht Club plans to serve up six new pickleball and badminton courts in its eastern parking lot.

But some nearby residents have volleyed back, arguing the courts could be a noisy, high-traffic addition to the quiet neighborhood there.

The club has been working on the idea throughout the year and formally filed plans for the project with the city of Sarasota earlier this month.

The proposal includes eliminating the eastern portion of the club’s employee parking lot, transforming 18 under-used parking spaces and several waste bins for six new regulation courts that could be used for badminton and the increasingly popular sport of pickleball, according to documents submitted to the city. The project would include fixes to the kayak rack and fencing there, damaged during Hurricane Irma, and add new landscaping along that edge of the club property.

Pickleball is similar to badminton and tennis, with a specific type of paddle, low net and a ball similar to a wiffle ball. The game attracts all ages but is particularly popular with seniors who are still active but look to avoid the stress and strain of traditional tennis.

Some nearby residents, though, have argued the usual paddles and hard plastic ball used in the game could cause a racket in the neighborhood.

Several complained at community workshops this summer and sent in letters to city staff to oppose the project over the past two weeks.

To try to allay those fears, the club has offered to use so-called quiet paddles and soft balls, as opposed to the hard plastic kind, to minimize any noise, planner Brian Lichterman has said. The club even hosted a demonstration in June to let skeptical neighbors hear the volume of both types of paddles and balls.

Lichterman and yacht club board member David Cohen addressed the concerns in relation to the noise generated by the club’s tennis courts on the opposite side of the property, also right next to homes, at an August community workshop.

Despite almost two dozen residents’ notes of support for the plan, the Bird Key Homeowners Association also has argued the plan violates the group’s restrictions on building on the key. The club contends that is not the longstanding interpretation of the restrictions in relation to the club property, Cohen wrote in a rebuttal letter.

The Association’s Architectural Committee also reviewed and denied the plans earlier this year, but the club is proceeding with the city permitting anyway, according to documents submitted to the city.

The proposal follows a growing trend around the area in which some clubs and parks have begun converting old tennis courts or creating new courts to satisfy the demand for more pickleball. The newly renovated Longboat Key Bayfront Park, unveiled this month, includes pickleball courts, and last year Sarasota County added even more pickleball-specific courts to By-Pass Park in Venice.

City staff must still review the proposed plans for Bird Key, and they ultimately will be reviewed and voted on by both the Planning Board and City Commission.




There are drinkers and then there are drinkers. We like to think that we fall in the latter category, and as such maintain a strict drink regime for our Thanksgiving celebrations. The key, as any professional will tell you, is not only in pacing but also in variety. To help you along we have mapped out each step of the process, from first thing in the morning through late night reveling, to keep you happy this holiday.

Morning Prep Work

Bloody Mary

We’re going to start things off pretty simply. It’s first thing in the morning and you’ve got to get that bird in the oven, but first, drink. Bloody Marys are not only boozy, but also nutritious (tomato juice and celery, guys!). Here’s what you need:

1 lemon, juiced
2 ounces vodka
4 ounces tomato juice
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 drops tabasco sauce
1 pinch celery salt
Salt and pepper, to taste
Celery sticks, to garnish

SALT the rim of a tall glass by wetting it first with lemon juice and then dabbing it into a small pile of salt.

ADD ice to the glass.

MIX vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco and celery salt in the glass, stirring thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a celery stick.

Turkey Is in the Oven

Celebration Shooter

You did it! The turkey is in the oven and you’re on schedule to having the food on the table at a reasonable hour. You deserve to celebrate, but don’t over do it quite yet. Whip together this quick shooter, knock it back and continue with your preparations – that table isn’t going to set itself!

Dash of whiskey
Dash of amaretto
Dash of cranberry juice (substitute cranberry sauce to really make things festive)

CHILL a double-shot glass in the freezer for a few minutes.

COMBINE one part whiskey, amaretto and cranberry, as the glass will allow. Shoot it back.

Guests Arrive


Alright, it’s game time: People are actually starting to show up. You’ll want to get the party going, but undoubtedly still have tons to do. The Negroni is a classic, a crowd pleaser, and a totally easy drink to make:

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth

PLACE ice in a short glass, or tumbler.

COMBINE all ingredients. Serve.

Turkey Time

Something Red

Once the food hits the table, it’ll be high time for wine time. A meal like this will traditionally call for a red, typically something like a Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. However, if you want to try something a little different, consider adding a dry rosé or Lambrusco to the mix.


Fortified Wine

Now that we’ve got our wine game on, let’s keep the ball rolling. As Thanksgiving is not a time for holding back, a sweet wine to go with your pumpkin and pecan pies is definitely the move. We would recommend a port or sauternes. But remember, this stuff is super sweet, so short pours are a must.

After Dinner

Fernet and Coke

There will eventually come a time when you physically cannot eat anything else. But you will, of course, still have room to continue drinking. At this point, we recommend a little something to help settle your now gorged self – which is where Fernet comes in. Fernet is an Italian liqueur made from a mix of herbs and is traditionally served as a post-dinner digestif. The taste can be a bit different, but if you mix it up with a little bit of Coca-Cola classic or, if you can get your hands on it, some of that imported Coke made with real cane sugar, you’ll be well on your way to the perfect post-feast beverage.

1 ounce Fernet
½ ounce Tuaca
2 ounces Coca-Cola

MIX Fernet, Tuaca and Coca-Cola in a glass with ice, and stir well.

STRAIN mixture into a separate glass without ice. Serve.

Late Night


Finally, after the dishes are done, the leftovers put away and the overly-chatty great-Aunts departed, you can really get your drink on. At this point, all that should be left are your old college buddies and their respective significant others, so we’ve got two words for you: Party. Time. Finish strong by taking things up a notch with this New Orleans absinthe classic:

1 sugar cube
½ ounce absinthe
2 ounces rye whiskey
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Dash of simple syrup
Dash Angostura bitters

CRUSH the sugar cube at the bottom of short glass or tumbler.

POUR in the absinthe and swirl around the glass so that it coats all sides, then discard anything leftover.

MIX ice, rye whiskey, simple syrup, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters in a separate glass.

STRAIN into tumbler. Serve.

5 Ways to Create Ambiance in Your Home

(StatePoint) If your home interiors lack charm, don’t worry. These five simple additions and updates can add ambiance and character to your home.

1. Use bold colors. Colors have the power to create specific moods. To ensure a welcoming atmosphere, make sure you select shades wisely. The science behind color psychology can help you choose paint, upholstery and more. Warm colors like red, orange and yellow make people feel more cozy and intimate. Cooler colors like grey and green are better for invoking calm, and are used to make a room feel more spacious.

2. Add a touch of softness. Use plush, cozy materials, such as decorative pillows and throws to create inviting places to sit. Soften hard surfaces like wooden or tile floors with area rugs. Add some warmth to hallways and narrow foyers with runners.

3. Breathe new life into spaces. Indoor plants can give life to an otherwise stagnant living area. For those not blessed with a green thumb, consider artificial plants. High-quality options can look very realistic and will save you time on care and maintenance. Or, for variety, add a simple vase to the kitchen table and brighten up the room with a new bouquet of fresh cut flowers each week.

4. Make music. A piano brings a level of elegance to any room, but you don’t have to overspend to get a beautiful sound or visual. New digital pianos reproduce the subtle nuances of the world’s finest grand pianos at various price points. For example, the Celviano Grand Hybrid Piano from Casio has the technology to produce an authentic grand piano experience, but doesn’t take up as much space or cost as much. Plus, since it’s digital, you won’t have to worry about maintenance and tuning.

5. Mood lighting. From candles to unique fixtures to bright open windows, the type of lighting used to illuminate a room sets its tone. Choose curtains and candles for cozy, romantic nights. Draw them open in the day for bright, sun-lit spaces. Install interesting fixtures as a focal point in empty hallways and in living spaces.