Tour this chic and stylish condo.
Downsizers trade their house in the sticks for the prettiest pared-down condo in the city – and they don’t miss their old digs one bit.
With their enviable nooks and crannies, most suburban houses can handle the extras. You know, the useless bits that gobble up space: the family china passed down through the ages or a dusty treadmill dying a slow death. Shove them into a corner and no one is the wiser. But in a condo, space is a coveted commodity. Every item must count and every design decision must be carefully executed, as it is in Janice and Colin Dreyer’s 1,600-square-foot abode. Located on the fourth floor of a new-build boutique high-rise in Vancouver, the unit is vastly different from their previous home, which was nearly double the size. The couple, a pair of empty nesters in their 60s, knows about “stuff” first-hand. For 30 years, they lived on the outskirts of the city – first in Cloverdale, where they raised three children, and then in their last house in South Surrey for 10 years – slowly accumulating a lifetime of belongings. And it’s been a relief to finally purge. “I got rid of almost all of it,” says Janice, who confidently announces: “Honestly, I don't miss a thing.”
The couple didn’t have to search far to find the right person to decorate the condo. Their daughter is designer Karla Dreyer, who heads up an eponymous firm in Vancouver. In addition to providing interior services, Karla offers beautifying help virtually with her e-decor program. But for her parents’ home, she worked in the flesh, fast and furiously passionate, over a three-month period. “They really wanted it done quickly because they were excited to start their third act in life,” says Karla. The bones of the space served as inspiration. “The windows – there are a ton of them – and the white-tiled floors really lent themselves to decorating in a light, airy way,” says Karla. The springtime palette of pretty pastels makes the condo sparkle with youthful freshness. “Pastels can come off as juvenile, so the trick is to incorporate them in a sophisticated fashion,” says the designer, who tempered them with glam gold accents and a bright white shell. “I love how the soft colours evoke a joyful vibe.”
Clearly they have also influenced the occupants, who are adjusting brilliantly to city life. Says Janice, “Living with less is great.” Should a bout of nostalgia hit, however, she can always visit a selection of precious pieces she salvaged from the suburbs. “I did take out a storage unit for small items I was unsure about,” says Janice. None of them have made it back into the condo.
When Janice and Colin Dreyer purchased their new condo, they knew exactly who to turn to for decorating help: their designer daughter Karla. In the living area, she decided to incorporate gold touches and coral accents for a decidedly youthful feel. “My parents are pretty stylish, so the decor represents them well,” says Karla, who believes design shouldn’t subscribe to ageism.
Janice loves birds, so Karla went with an avian theme, expressed here in one area of the condo via the wallpaper featuring hummingbirds in flight, the brass sculptures on the chest and the witty painting by local talent Zoë Pawlak.
"I’m used to having lots of wall space, so dealing with all the windows was tricky,” says Karla. But this spot was perfect for the dining area, allowing the couple to take in the sights over a meal. The Tulip-style table paired with mismatched chairs is fun.
Accommodating the 63-inch TV (a must for Dad) meant Karla had to get crafty because it dominated the room. “It’s a monster,” she says with a laugh. “The living area only has one wall, so I had to place the television there. I camouflaged its looming presence with some pretty wallpaper, which I think worked out well.”
Layered in champagne hues and captivating textures, such as the faux-fur throw and the cushy velvet headboard, the master bedroom is inviting and luxurious.
The home office, situated in the solarium just off the master bedroom, is simple yet perfectly functional.
Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
Celebrate pumpkin season with this healthy smoothie.
Sweet and nutritious pumpkin is the star of this delicious smoothie.
Inspired by our favourite fall flavours, this smoothie is blended with good-for-you ingredients, including hearty rolled oats, fibre-rich flaxseed and delightful spices.
1 Grind the flaxseed using a spice or coffee grinder.
2 Combine with the remaining ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth.
3 Garnish with a pinch of ground cinnamon. Serve.
Makes: 2 smoothies
Per serving: 216 calories; 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 39 g carbohydrates; 8 g fibre; 6 g protein; 9 mg sodium
Image: Stacey Brandford / Styling: Christine Hanlon
Nest maker, know thyself. Here’s how one designer used self-reflection and simplicity to do up her Toronto Victorian.
“There are thousands of inspiring ideas out there,” says designer Melanie Hay, referring to the wellspring of online home decor images, blogs and shops. “You can literally research for months. But in the end, the best design is born of self-discovery. The more you understand who you are and how you live, the better the odds that the rooms you create will be rooms that you love.”
Melanie should know. When she and her husband, Andrew, an entrepreneur, purchased a tall, narrow Victorian in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood about four years ago, they were two people without a plan – but with about 3,000 square feet of empty space. Needless to say, to a designer like Melanie, this blank canvas meant instant inspiration overload. “My mind was swimming with decorating schemes,” she recalls. “Deep down, though, I knew Andrew and I are nesters, and when we walked in the door, we would want to come home to a space that echoes our life stories.” This is where her approach to decorating the house started.
But it was not as easy as it sounds. “From the beginning, I had to acknowledge that Andrew and I don’t share the same taste,” she says. Melanie loves white; Andrew prefers dark wood. Something had to give. The house already had the towering black doors and high-gloss black banister they both liked, so the couple let these details inspire the look. “Plus, we already owned a black and white rug, a round table with a dark top and a black leather Eames chair, so why not use them?” adds Melanie. Red- and peach-painted walls were redone in shades of light and shadow. Such was the start of what is now the home’s signature black and white colour scheme.
And a little self-reflection went a long way when it came to deciding what to hang on the walls. “Although we appreciate fine art, personal mementoes that connect us to our families matter more,” says Melanie. This realization became the inspiration for the dining room gallery wall. Gathering a few favourite prints, posters and paintings, the designer created a dynamic visual mash-up. The result is a sophisticated yet personal design element. One added bonus? It was totally budget-friendly. “I paired gold-framed heirloom pieces with newer prints in inexpensive white frames to unite the random collection,” explains Melanie. And since not many are forever pieces, she adds or subtracts on a whim. “There are a lot of nail holes in that wall!” she says with a laugh.
In many ways, this ever-evolving approach is a reflection of Melanie’s creativity. “Unlike the homes I design for clients, which are done in one sweep, my house changes constantly. I’ve become incredibly good at moving furniture, which must drive Andrew crazy. This house will never be truly finished,” she says. “And if it ever is, I’ll probably just start over!”
Homeowner and designer Melanie Hay paired her husband’s steel-topped dining table with chairs she bought on Craigslist. “I’ve reupholstered the seats two times already,” she says. Right now, they bear a sophisticated charcoal linen that accentuates the dark walls and striped rug.
“It’s been a bedside table, an end table and a catch- all,” says Melanie of the bar cart she purchased years ago. “Finally, it’s a bar!” The cart is low, however, and the home’s ceilings are very high. To draw the eye upward, she added a painting and a wall-mounted metal stag bust above it.
Melanie scoured big-box stores for large-scale artwork to act as stand-ins for the forever pieces that will eventually accent her living room. That way, she doesn’t have to live with blank walls while she searches for the perfect investments.
The house was built in the early 1900s, but its contemporary fireplace mantel and furnishings achieve an eclectic mix that feels right at home in the space. “If you can’t afford to do a house all at once,” advises Melanie, “then do one room at a time. That way you can afford to invest in key pieces.”
“Decorating one room completely and then carrying that look to the next allows you to really establish a cohesive aesthetic throughout the house,” says Melanie, who started with the living room and finished with the master bedroom, which echoes the rest of the home’s light-meets-dark and modern-meets-traditional themes.