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.
5 small space myths
We debunk 5 myths about decorating for small spaces.
Photography by Paul Chmielowiec
Small space myth 1: Don't use large furniture.
There's this strange myth out there that if you use large furniture in a small space, it will eat up the room. This can be true if you try to stuff a large bedroom set in a 10'x10' room, but you can still introduce large pieces in small quantities. Don't want to give up your queen-sized bed? Instead, cut back on other pieces like large armoires and bulky side tables. Your big bed will become a beautiful focal point in the room.
Photography by Kim Christie
Small space myth 2: Only use neutrals.
Sure, white walls can make a small room look airy, but don't limit yourself to just neutrals. The bedroom above (in a small Vancouver condo) has sandy walls, but also includes an artistic chalkboard wall. Pops of colour in the cushions bring life to the space and do anything but make it feel smaller.
Photography by Michael Graydon
Small space myth 3: They always look cluttered.
There's no need to get rid of all your 'stuff' just because you live in a small space -- just make sure you have savvy storage spaces. The teeny bathroom above has full cabinetry underneath the sink, but features sliding doors to keep things looking sleek. Thin glass shelves above the toilet neatly hold items that are frequently used so they're always at the ready.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
Small space myth 4: Avoid patterns.
Much like the myth of sticking to one focal point, many of us are scared to use pattern in a room in fear that it will look too busy. The living space above uses seven different patterns and they all blend together to create a cohesive space. The key is to use a similar colourway -- each of the patterns either use a neutral or the coral colour used on the walls.
Photography by Sue Stubbs
Small space myth 5: Stick to one bold focal point.
Many designers advise that you choose one eye-catching piece when decorating for a small space to avoid an overwhelming look, but this isn't always the case. The dining room above incorporates a bright feather wreath with a gorgeous natural stone fireplace and a Floyd Paxton pendant light. Even though each is a showstopper in their own right, the mix of one bright colour with neutrals ensures they work seamlessly together.
25 ways to decorate with paint
These tips and tricks on how to decorate with paint will breathe new life into a dull, tired home.
Update your home's interior and exterior using a fresh coat of paint to decorate. Bring energy and optimism, create a calming, relaxed atmosphere and renew old furniture using paint colours, finishes and accents .
1 Establish a more intimate space by painting the ceiling a darker colour, creating the illusion of a lower ceiling.
2 Soften an awkwardly angled wall or room by painting it one solid colour.
3 For a modern effect try painting the walls and trim the same colour. Use a flat paint for the walls and a semi-gloss for the trim.
4 Make a tight space seem larger and airier by painting the ceiling a lighter version of the hue painted on the room’s walls or white.
5 Paint your front door a statement colour that stands out from the rest of the house. Try a gorgeous historical blue or a radiant ruby red - not something you see every day.
6 A home's exterior plays a large part in how the world, or at least neighbours and visitors, see you. Revitalize your home with a fresh coat of paint every three to six years.
7 If you want to invigorate your home's exterior without painting the entire exterior, freshen up the trim. White or rich neutrals, depending on the house's exterior colour, can easily update the look of your house.
8 Shutters and porch gables are the perfect place to express a love for colour and decorate with paint.
9 If you really want to set a mood in a room, then use different paint hues to create an energetic or relaxed atmosphere or to warm up or cool down a space.
10 Ash purples, bronzed greens and lacquer reds reflect a feminine classicism, inspired by needlework, appliqués and period furniture, that is back in style.
11 Conjure up images of rural life with wonderfully rustic plum, teal and red clay tones.
12 If you have a lot of dark wood furniture add an exotic, Middle Eastern influence by painting the walls a deep, rich purple or blue.
13 Expressing your individuality in your paint colour choices can result in more unexpected pairings of colour, pattern and design styles.
14 If you’re colour shy, go with all-white walls. The absence of colour is as effective as the presence of colour.
15 Use a variety of neutral shades and have fun mixing several textures in your rooms to keep things interesting.
16 When choosing a bold colour be sure to tie it into the whole scheme of the room.
17 Contemporary paint effects like stencils and colour washes create interest and surprise. Think of these effects as unframed artwork adorning your walls.
18 Use lightly washed stripes to create a sophisticated French country look (especially if you use blue, yellow or white hues). This is a subtle technique that adds texture and sheen to a room.
19 Create a fun mural, like clouds or the night sky, on the ceiling. This is a great way to decorate with paint in a child's room, nursery or family room.
20 Fresco is a wonderful painting technique that can help hide surface imperfections. It gives a soft, mottled look that adds depth and interest to your walls.
21 Add a splash of colour to neutral walls by selecting zones on a wall or ceiling and painting them a different, often contrasting, colour from the main wall. This technique is known as colour blocking.
Accents & accessories
22 Feature a wall at one end of a hallway by painting it a contrasting, dramatic colour; that will serve to visually bring it forward.
23 Give chairs, dressers, drawers, tables and desks a new lease on life with a new colour or coat of paint. You’ll be surprised how quickly that old, ugly chair becomes your new favorite accent piece.
24 Get in touch with you inner Pollock by applying dripped and splattered paint to an article of furniture. Make sure the piece is painted a solid colour (preferably white or black) before you start throwing different paint shade onto it.
25 Make the kitchen pop by bringing in a bold colour. Paint the backsplash or the cabinetry a bright colour that you love (and can live with).
A vibrant and elegant master bedroom. Image by: Donna Griffith
This blissful bedroom by Toronto designers Erin Feasby and Cindy Bleeks has us dreaming of restful slumbers. Here’s how to bring the look home.
1 Embrace a light fixture with personality. This chic chandelier, featuring leaf-shaped adornments, lends drama and illuminates the space’s most coveted element: the bed.
2 An upholstered bed frame provides not only an extra layer of comfort and warmth but also texture and interest. For added glamour, choose a style with tasteful details like deep button tufts and wooden legs.
3 A soothing neutral backdrop is always welcome in serene sleeping quarters, but introducing unexpected hits of colour wakes up the space in all the right ways. Here, lively floral fabric with shades of pink imparts a fresh and feminine feel.
4 Create the ultimate sanctuary by carving out space for a small sitting area complete with a cushy armchair and ottoman. Whether sipping a hot bevvie or cozying up with a good read, you’ll be tempted to stay all day.
5 Convert a corner of your room into a chic primping station. A slender mirrored vanity set beneath a wall mirror reflects colour and light and provides depth. For a dose of old-world charm, seek out a piece with a graceful patina and pair it with an antique chair.
6 The most inspiring spaces tend to focus on the finer things. Brighten up your bedroom with a fabulous floral arrangement and treat yourself in the process.
Glass Carat table lamp with cotton shade, CB2, $269.
Cotton Jellybean fabric in Beige & Pink, through designers, Kravet Canada, $109 per yard.
King linen Chamber bed frame with wood base, Elte, $9,845.
Polyester Polo armchair in Beige with ash legs, Structube, $549.
Lacquered wood Mason nightstand, Crate and Barrel, $479.
Cotton and wool Diamond rug, 8' x 10', Pottery Barn, $499 US.