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Briefs: Banish dry air while staying stylish

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008

In the dry winters of my youth, my parents would lug out a tattered box each year and unpack a rather bulky brown-and-tan steam humidifier.

This was the early 1980s. An age of practicality. Before Target had ushered in the concept of "everyday design." Before your microwave, telephone or hand-held vacuum cleaner were considered indicators of your personal aesthetic sensibility.

Such is not the case nowadays.

Enter the Plus Minus Zero humidifier. The sleek, lozenge-shaped machine, in all its Zen minimalist glory, moisturizes the air for a computer-controlled eight hours, while looking like something worthy of display. Recently imported into the states by Compact Impact, it comes in eight colors and, with a few drops of essential oil, even doubles as an aromatherapy diffuser. $279, available at

Just as beneficial to your skin (and your feng shui) is the Blomus Umydo Humidifier. Forged from stainless steel in Germany, the all-in-one piece has a large open top where the water evaporates into air naturally. No electricity needed. $71, available online .

Pottery Barn sets decorating classes

Pottery Barn outlets in Ross and Shadyside both will offer free spring decorating classes Jan 20.

The classes focusing on updating and accessorizing a home will be at 10 a.m. at 1000 Ross Park Mall Drive, off McKnight Road, Ross; and at 9:30 a.m. at 5520 Walnut St., Shadyside.

Reservations are necessary. Call the Ross store at 412-635-7534 and the Shadyside one at 412-683-1960.

New outlet makes plugs more accessible

Kimberly Gerard found herself annoyed by a common problem. She had two cell phones, but she couldn't fit both of their bulky plugs into the only readily accessible outlet in her office.

So she and a friend came up with a solution: an outlet with two sockets that rotate 360 degrees.

The 360 Electrical outlet lets you plug in one device and then turn it to make room for another plug in the same outlet. It comes in four colors: white, ivory, almond and black.

The outlets are available at Harbor Freight Tools USA stores, and they can be ordered from online retailers listed on the Web site . Suggested retail price is $10.

Cashmere sheets offer ultra-luxe sleep

Cotton, linen and silk bedclothes have been going ultra-luxe for years. Now, Italian entrepreneur Manrico Calzoni has upped the ante with deliciously soft cashmere sheets. A king-size set (top and bottom sheets, plus two pillowcases) starts at an insomnia-inducing $5,200. Custom colors, borders and adornments will drive prices higher.

The cashmere feels silky-soft, wicks moisture, and keeps you warm when it's cold and cool when it's muggy, Calzoni says. The linens also are machine-washable and guaranteed for two years.

The bad news• The linens require ironing or, in Calzoni's delicate spin, "just a little steam on top." He and textile experts in Perugia spent five years creating the fabric, woven from the softest belly hair of Mongolian goats. The linens are his first foray into interior decor; later this month he is set to include a line of cashmere curtain and upholstery fabrics. Retail prices will range from $350 to $600 a yard. Order sheets from Manrico in New York at 212-794-4200.

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