Stage a scavenger hunt with you, as the prize, waiting behind the door of a bedroom scattered with balloons. The helium-filled "Hearts and Flowers" balloon bouquet at right is from Hawaii Balloon Company ($15 to $40-plus depending on bouquet grouping).

Love nest

A little planning turns home
into a suite of sensuality
for your Valentine

Those who haven't yet made dinner reservations or ordered flowers for the big day tomorrow may find themselves in a cold sweat when they discover all the best eating spots are booked and every florist laughs in their face at their plea.

It's at this moment, while you're busy blaming the whole ordeal on Friday the 13th, survival instincts kick in, indicating it's time to devise the 11th-hour plan B: create a love shack for a cozy coup at home.

Balloons of fun

Some people spend so much time at the office, they consider it their second home.

Leslie Jeffryes, who owns home-based Hawaii Balloon Company with husband Jamie Jeffryes, tells of a DJ client who enlisted them to fill his girlfriend's office to the ceiling with balloons as he proposed to her on air. The girlfriend said yes, apparently before she found out she'd be spending a good part of the day down the hall from the studio, popping balloons to access her workspace, but also in order to find her engagement ring, which was hidden in one of them.

"We get called on for all kinds of surprises," Jeffryes said. "We even filled up a car with balloons" for a client who was playing a good-natured prank on a friend.

They even delivered bagsful to the newsroom for a photo shoot.

Balloons are always associated with whimsy, parties and fun, which Mr. DJ probably knew would be his saving grace when he devised his proposal.

It's easy to create a red, white and pink balloon-filled room fantasy described in our "Love Nest" story, but you do need to plan.

"Valentine's Day is especially busy for us," said Jeffryes, whose company relies on individual referrals for advertising, and the company Web site, "Most of the orders this time of year come from mainland customers wanting to have balloon bouquets delivered to friends and family here."

The Yellow Pages offers more information on their company and other balloon shop listings.

It doesn't take much to boost a bedroom into a den of desire for Valentine's Day. The first thing might be to hide reading material that hints at research, such as "Sex for Dummies" or "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Kama Sutra" (unless you envision you and The Valentine using these as your guides for the evening). And, because this is a family newspaper, those in search of more edgy accouterments to accent a nightstand will have to look into other publications. (However, for the timid who blush at the thought of stepping toward such magazine stands or stores, there's a suggestion forthcoming.)

Though spicing up the boudoir for Valentine's Day seems as simple as scattering red pillows throughout the rooms or lighting a candle or two, there are formulas to help ensure success.

Come to your senses

For interior designer Shari Saiki, creating a cozy, loving environment should appeal to the basic senses of touch, smell, sight and sound.

"Most of us don't naturally have romance in our lives," said Saiki, owner and principal designer of Shari Saiki Design Studio. "We work hard, sometimes overcommit, live in a bustling city and (have families to tend to), so for us, romance comes through the power of our imagination."

Saiki, who has won several awards, including a designer of the year award in 2002 from BIA-Hawaii for her work on the Hawaii Kai Peninsula project, said that romance and a romantic environment and mood are personal, differing from one person to the next. "Stimulating the senses is a subtle way to transport us into a frame of mind that opens us up to creating romantic moments."

Science of sensuality

Though the concept is abstract, there's a science behind it. Dr. Martin Johnson sums it all up to less stress.

"Psychological stress is influenced by the environment."

Johnson, a psychologist in a private practice with offices at 1188 Bishop St., said, "A stress-free environment helps reduce cortisol levels in the bloodstream, which is a stress hormone.

"Whether through sight, sound and other senses, we're responding to stimuli that is either arousing (stressful) or soothing."

So if you've been hearing "Not tonight hon, I have a headache," one too many a time, take a look around the home to see what needs tweaking.

"An environment conducive to less stress increases the likelihood that we will be able to access feelings of love, connectedness and tenderness," said Johnson, who specializes in stress-related issues. "The more relaxed one is, the more safe one feels. Therefore, it's an environment more conducive to sensuality."

Designer tips

Here's what Saiki suggests for creating ambience for love. For auditory pleasure, she prefers instrumental music. This way, "You won't limit your imagination with words," she said. "I like the acoustic guitar; the group Strunz and Farah is one of my favorites." She also suggests the use of home water fountains.

For the sense of touch, combine textures such as silky, satiny fabric for bedding and sleepwear, with soft feather beds and plush velvet or soft cotton chenille.

To arouse the sense of smell, she prefers subtle aromas of almond, vanilla and lavender to the more pungent scent of fruits. Oils and candles can produce subtle sensory hints. She suggests Alora, available exclusively at Baik Designs at the Gentry Pacific Center.

"The oil is in a bottle and porous sticks are placed in the bottle." Saiki said. "These oiled sticks gently infuse the air with their aroma. My favorite is 'tre.'"

If you're a romantic adventurer, you may have exhausted all the bed-and-bath supply companies in town, so you might venture online, to We stumbled upon the New Hampshire-based company which offers fine imported soaps and bath oils to add to the bath for creating a spa experience at home. These include Apiana honey soaps from the Swiss Alps, and soothing sea salts and olive oil soaps from Provencal, at prices starting at $2.25 for bath soaps utilizing mood-enhancing essential oils.

A grouping of candles can lend a soft glow to a room. Shown are a scented "Romance" candle from Sedona ($9.80) and shaped candles from Illuminations at Ala Moana Center that mimic candy hearts with messages such as "Light my fire" and "Burning desire" ($3.50).

For visual interest, Saiki suggests trying sensual colors such as red-violet, blue-violet, lavender and other shades of blue. Lighting should come from soft incandescent lamps and halogen or incandescent downlights on dimmers, Saiki said. Stay away from fluorescent lighting in the bedroom. "It's a very harsh, cold light and not the most complimentary on the skin."

Also a nice effect for a soft glow of flickering lights are candle groupings.

"It's all about subtlety and balance. The environment you create is purely your backdrop for the romance created by you and your mate."

Unfortunately, Saiki and husband Bryan Kitashima won't have the luxury of primping their house for such playtime tomorrow. "We're still undergoing renovations at home."

She and Kitashima, who is also their company's business manager, are planning a Valentine weekend at a hotel.

"That's another thing people might consider if they're in a situation where they can't create (these surroundings). Either let the hotel do the work for you, or make an appointment for two to indulge the senses at a day spa."

The hunt

Whether you're home for plan B or not, you should have the house readied for your significant other's arrival, said Deborah Lowry, a lecturer at Chaminade University.

This may be more of a challenge, she notes, since Valentine's Day falls on a Saturday, a day couples often spend together.

Lowry, who heads Chaminade's interior design program, suggests a scavenger hunt that piques all senses and curiosity, starting with a note at the door.

"It tells them to go to the fridge. When they open the fridge door, they'll find another note, tacked to a bottle of wine or champagne and a chilled glass, directing them to the bathroom."

Once there, the tub should be readied for a warm soaking.

"Have the bath salts by the tub and a robe with another note that leads them to the bedroom."

The last note, pinned to the robe, leads them to the bedroom door, behind which they'll find a floor blanketed with red, white and pink balloons that they'll have to tread through to reach the bed, where you might be waiting.

She suggests scattering rose petals to lead them along the trail from the start.

"If you have children, it's fun for them to be included, especially since it's a hunt that involves balloons," but then you'd have to keep the playtime G-rated.

Lowry, who has three children, swears by this plan, inspired by readings from "Let's Make a Memory," written by Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson.

"I've done bits of it, not just on Valentine's Day, but other special times in the year; my husband just loves it."

Texture is key to creating romantic ambience, and accessories are an easy fix. Throw pillows such as the DKNY Home Faux Fur one at left ($160, on sale at $79.99) and Fashion Pillows sequined crimson silk one ($24) are up to the task; both are from Macy's Ala Moana.

Plan, plan and plan

Buy red satin bedsheets and table linens during Christmas clearance sales, Lowry advised. "They're great for the Christmas season, but you can use them for Valentine's Day, too."

White tree lights perform double duty when strung underneath a deck umbrella to simulate twinkling starlight when not being used to decorate the tree.

Time is running out, so check what you have in stock, make a shopping list and get ready to do some power shopping to set the stage.

If you've stuck with us (or skipped to the end just for this) here's the tip promised:, based in San Francisco, ships adult toys and more, discreetly in plain brown wrapping -- we're told -- as does Honolulu's Sensually Yours at, to help keep the sparks flying long after Valentine's Day is over.

Hearts to you and good luck.


Try feng shui to
help your love life

This Valentine's day, try a little feng shui in the bedroom to give your relationship a boost. The ancient art of Asia is not based on superstition, but on principles that have been used for thousands of years to improve well-being, according to practitioner Clarence Lau, who says, "We need balance in order to make ourselves happy in all aspects of life."

There are five elements key to feng shui -- fire, water, earth, wood and metal -- and all should be present to achieve balance.

He says decorating one's bedroom with romantic colors, plants and candles can help set the mood for relaxation or romance. Red is the color that is most favorable to passion. Other colors in the "fire" category are lavender, peach and pink.

The other elements are earth, water, wood and metal. A water feature might be as simple as a tabletop fountain or a tape of music that includes the soothing sounds of a gurgling stream.

"Music is also good for relaxing the senses," he said. "Use love songs or soft music -- not rock music."

According to feng shui books on the market, in order for love to blossom, one must enhance the southwest corner -- the romance or relationship center -- of their home.

A field trip compass can be used to determine the hot spot.

"If your relationship corner is located in the bathroom, then I feel sorry for you," Lau said with a laugh.

A tabletop fountain creates soothing sounds. The Fog Fountain ($98) from Sedona at Ward Centre has a feature that releases soft mist.

If you're feeling combative in a relationship, moving a bed or making minor modifications can resolve some problems. Separated beams overhead may be causing negative energy to push a couple apart. In that case, "Cover the beams or buy a canopy bed," Lau suggests.

Feet should not be facing the door. "If you do, you can get sick easily," he said. If you have no choice, Lau suggests placing objects at the foot of the bed to block negative energy.

Sleeping under a window should also be avoided. "Wind plays an important factor in health and bad temper," he said.

Sometimes, romance and feeling of well-being are simply a matter of getting enough sleep. Lau calculates that people spend one-third of their lives sleeping, and he says, "There's a better chance of resolving problems and less arguing if sleep conditions are good."

Candles make a good addition to the bathroom, and should be lighted when taking an aromatic shower or bath, he said.

"Aromatherapy stimulates the sense of smell and the brain cells. When stress is released, you feel more in love."

If all this is too difficult to comprehend, Lau suggests picking up a copy of the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Feng Shui."

Clarence Lau can be reached for feng shui readings at 226-3098.

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