Incorporate white into your home with these helpful tips.
See how cool winter whites take centre stage in this Scandinavian chic house year-round.
When surrounded by snow, the cool winter whites that take centre stage in this eclectic Scandinavian chic house year-round could look downright frigid but instead seem warm and inviting. Here are ten reasons why they work and how they can inspire you to decorate with white in your home.
1 Elevate your entrance with evergreens
Your home may be surrounded by nature, but don’t overlook fresh greenery in your exterior decor. Evergreen wreaths and potted fir trees are a welcoming display on this porch.
2 Strike a contrast
Sometimes layers upon layers of white can be so airy they appear to be floating away, so it’s important to anchor your space with a bold accent colour that lets the white shine but doesn’t steal the show. In this interior, black does the trick, grounding the space with a dose of lively patterns, but nothing solid – which would look too heavy, taking away from the weightless whites.
3 Make it personal
Home decor is so much more successful when it’s personal. When you travel, pick up souvenirs that suit your home’s palette but still remind you of that exotic place abroad. For these homeowners, it’s some monogrammed decorative accesories in an artisanal bowl tucked into a curio cabinet.
4 Bring in botanicals
Although white feels super-wintry, your decor doesn’t have to be cold and spare. Above the desk, framed prints of foliage and just-about-to-bloom buds of magnolia remind visitors of spring – Jack Frost hasn’t taken over the whole house!
5 Forage at flea markets
If white is your go-to hue, you probably have a couple of remnant cans of paint kicking around, what with the walls, ceiling, trim and furniture taking on that (non) colour. Let the flea market world be your oyster: Antique wooden pieces can be instantly updated with a coat of paint to suit your space. These dining chairs are the homeowners’ most recent find, and their simple white makeover makes them look as though they are meant for the space.
6 Embrace understated undertones
In the whole spectrum of whites, those classified as “cool” tend to have blue undertones. Here, tinted glass, bluish purple blooms and icy silver decor accessories blend effortlessly and add dimension.
7 Mirror mother nature
Since she gets it right with each and every one of her designs, let Mother Nature dictate some of your home decor. Here, the woods are echoed by the twiggy arms of the chandelier and the branches on the dining table. A striped rug, a lacy tablecloth and a twiggy table arrangement add interest in the absence of colour.
8 Don't let low ceilings get you down
The subtle switch in shades of white from wall to ceiling lets its low stature go largely unnoticed. An organized desk and comfy chair are the perfect pieces to fit underneath the angled ceiling.
9 Go for folk
Folk patterns rarely read as cold or edgy, so they make a fabulous foil to cool whites and add an element of interest in the absence of colour. Try framing some wallpaper or wrapping paper remnants for a cutesy effect.
10 Crave a little country
Soft and romantic, the layered bedding, ruffled bedskirt and pile of throw pillows at the foot of the bed lend a wellloved and lived-in look, cozying up the palette’s potentially clinical feel.
Take a peek inside this super chic and stylish condo.
A designer brings serenity to a condo belonging to a pair of lifelong art collectors.
Incorporating art collections into interiors can be tricky for designers. They need to honour the works while delivering a design that reflects the lifestyle and decor preferences of their clients. Ultimately, the result should express the taste and passion of the collectors.
The owners of this Toronto condo devoted three decades to scooping up art and objets – particularly Asian, African and Canadian pieces – on their travels around the world. The beloved treasures, along with a lifetime’s worth of stuff in general, were starting to encroach on their space, which had other issues: A wall divided the kitchen from the living room, creating a jail-like atmosphere for the person prepping meals; the kitchen itself was shabby; and the two bathrooms were in equally rough shape.
“Dark, cluttered and dated” is how designer Anne Hepfer describes the state of the original 1,500-square-foot condo, which she had completely gutted and opened up. Fortunately, the unit had one redeeming quality: a row of large south-facing windows.
While Anne’s clients can pick out an Inuit carving in a flash, when it comes to decorating, they’re stumped. “Over the years, we’ve bought many things that were just poor choices,” says one of the homeowners. “I would highly recommend hiring a designer because it actually saves money.” That said, the vintage kilims they brought back from Morocco and the Middle East, boasting pale pink, soft grey and earthy brown hues, served as the starting point for the condo’s palette, proving to be one of the homeowners’ better purchases. Anne made toss cushions out of these textiles (“They add an exotic flourish,” she says) and then, to really up the ante, turned to the drama of the runway. “I looked to Italian fashion designer Brunello Cucinelli’s elegant use of neutrals, which translates so beautifully to interiors,” says Anne. She also accented the space with hits of black for contrast and mixed metals for sparkle.
As in Brunello Cucinelli’s collections, a thread of understated luxury stitches the rooms together: a vintage French chest in the entryway, a quartet of plush pink club chairs in the living area and a headboard upholstered in Kelly Wearstler fabric in the master bedroom, to name a few. As for the homeowners’ vast art collection? Anne worked her magic, thoughtfully layering items in the form of vignettes, creating special moments throughout the condo.
The vintage French chest, gilded mirror and sea urchin-patterned chairs make for a stunning welcome in the entryway, especially when paired with the gorgeous parquet that extends throughout the open-concept condo. Instead of sending the flooring to a landfill, designer Anne Hepfer had it refinished because it was in great shape.
The living room boasts two sitting areas: one with a soft grey linen sofa and two armchairs and the other with four velvety pale pink chenille swivel club chairs, all designed by Anne herself. “I love incorporating natural materials into a space because it lends an earthy element,” she says.
The small kitchen features a practical back-painted glass backsplash and Caesarstone countertops. Anne ripped out the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room and installed a bar-height counter to open up the space.
The master bedroom has a cocoon-like vibe thanks to its monochromatic mix of textures and patterns.
The vintage nightstand was given a coat of warm grey paint, which perfectly complements the artwork by David Fisher.
Evoking a casual feel, the den is decked out with an antique desk and a chaise that’s perfect for watching TV.
“I really love how this project evolved,” says Anne. “It was a joy, putting together the pieces of the puzzle, editing and using a lot of restraint.” The easiest thing she could have done, of course, was store it all and start fresh, but that wouldn’t have been an authentic way to honour this professional couple’s passion for art and travel. “Including my clients’ unique collection into the design,” says Anne, “makes the space personal, warm, inviting – and theirs.”
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.
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.