Bonus column: Martha Stewart
Fall is here, and it's time to chase the chill from your home. Prepare for the cooler months with these smart, simple tips and you'll stay toasty, while also slashing your heating bill.
1. SLIP INTO SOMETHING COMFORTABLE
Your first line of defense against the cold is suiting up in thermals. Silk ones are ideal because they’re soft, smooth and thin enough to layer under regular clothes (try those from WinterSilks, wintersilks.blair.com). The fabric is also a natural thermoregulator, which means it keeps you warm without overheating you. Look for lightweight pure silks — some are even treated to help wick away moisture.
2. MASTER YOUR THERMOSTAT
As tempting as it may be to turn up the heat to tropical levels, experts agree that about 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal indoor temperature during wintertime. When you have a lot of company over, knock it down to 66 or so, since body heat warms things up. Also, drop the heat before bedtime — 60 to 67 degrees is a comfortable range, and the decrease in body temperature will help you get to sleep.
3. DODGE DRAFTS
To locate gusty spots in your home, either get an energy audit (free from most utility companies; $300 to $500 for a more in-depth professional service) or use this easy method: Light a stick of incense, walk around and note where the smoke wavers or blows out. A few common areas are door and window frames, electrical outlets and light switches. If a door or window is the culprit, make sure the stripping is intact, and place a draft stopper along the bottom. Foam sealers can be installed under outlet and light switchplates.
4. FLIP YOUR FAN SWITCH
In the summer, ceiling fans are set to turn counterclockwise, to push cold air down and cool off a room. If you reverse the direction of the blades (look for a designated switch), the fan will pull cold air up, forcing the warm ceiling-level air down.
5. WARM UP WINDOWS
To block cold from seeping in through glass panes in older homes, Heather McConkey, an architectural designer at Charnock & Company Interior Design, in New York City, recommends drapes that run floor-to-ceiling, slightly wider than the windows. Layering curtains can also stop drafts: Start with a semisheer panel, then hang a heavier wool or linen drape, advises Kelli Holtz, an interior designer in Vail, Colorado. “Even better, add a blackout liner,” she says.
6. BOIL SOME WATER
Take a cue from centuries ago, and preheat your bed before you climb in. Back in the day, people used warming pans filled with hot coals or stones, but for the past few centuries, basic hot-water bottles have done the trick.
Source: Hot-water bottle and wool fleece cozy, $30, vermontcountrystore.com.
7. STAY FOCUSED
Space heaters can be useful in small spaces, like a bedroom or office. One safety caveat: Get a model that shuts itself off if it accidentally tips over.
Source: Dyson AM09 fan heater, $450, dyson.com.
8. RUFFLE SOME FEATHERS
When you’re buying a comforter — because who doesn’t want to feel like she’s sleeping in a cloud? — two numbers matter: thread count and fill power. The first tells you how soft and squishy a quilt feels (300 and up is very good); the second indicates the level of warmth (in winter, 550 to 800 is ideal). As for the down, goose tends to be the fluffiest.
9. GET SWADDLED
Whether stacked in the den or draped on your bed, wool and cashmere blankets pack the most thermal power because they’re made from crimped fibers, which create tiny air pockets that trap heat. “You can’t beat wool for warmth,” says Holtz, who keeps Pendleton blankets all over her Colorado home.
L.L.Bean washable wool throw, in Gray Heather/Cream, $89, llbean.com.
Alicia Adams Alpaca Jettson throw, in Camel, $595, aliciaadamsalpaca.com.
Crate & Barrel Pierce Plaid throw, $149, crateandbarrel.com.
Faribault Woolen Mill Co. Ashbywool throw, in Natural Twill, $140, www.faribaultmill.com.
Homenature six-ply thermal cashmere knit throw, $650, homenature.com.
Pendleton Eco-Wise solid blanket, in Amber, $199, pendleton-usa.com.
Coyuchi Carmel washable cotton-and-wool full/queen blanket, in Pale Dusty Aqua, $398, coyuchi.com.
10. CURE COLD FEET
Surprising news from the decorating world: “Wall-to-wall carpeting is cost-effective,” says Tom Charnock, owner of Charnock & Company. “I’m a big proponent of it for bedrooms.” Radiant heating (which rises from the floor) can be costly to install, but may be more efficient than baseboard or forced-air systems when used in key areas like bathrooms and bedrooms, McConkey says.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send them to Ask Martha, c/o Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 805 Third Avenue, 25th floor, New York, NY 10022. Please include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters and messages become the property of Meredith Corp. and may be published, broadcast, edited or otherwise used in any of its media. By submitting your questions to Ask Martha, you are agreeing to let us use your name and hometown in connection with our publication of your questions.