How to: Create accent walls
Looking to create an impact in your space? For an easy and inexpensive way to add a bit of drama to any room, consider creating a feature wall with an accent paint colour. Perfect for highlighting a focal point such as a fireplace or shelving unit, an accent wall commands the eye’s attention.
We checked in with five paint companies to get expert advice on where to feature an accent wall and what colour combinations pair well together.
Photography courtesy of Benjamin Moore
Go dark for drama
Using a vibrant colour on an accent wall is bold, but if you want a touch of drama in your space, go for a dark navy, charcoal or even black. A dark colour looks great against surrounding light walls and crates a space around a room’s focal point, like the fireplace in the photo above.
"When we choose the colours for a room, we try to use a dark colour to add drama,” says Benjamin Moore colour and style expert Sophie Bergeron. “In this case, black and blue walls work well together to add both drama and a sense of airiness. The blue (Gossamer Blue 2123-40) is very fresh and light while the black (Black Satin 2131-10) sets the tone for a more modern setting."
Photography by Stacey Brandford
Switch it up with colour blocking
Not all accent walls have to be a solid hue – get creative with colour blocking by adding a striped wall or a graphic pattern.
“These stripes feature the room’s soft hue alternating with an energetic pop of colour,” says Bev Bell, Beauti-Tone colour expert. “The combination creates a dramatic accent wall with a more cohesive and harmonious feel than if the wall was painted one solid accent colour.”
Photography courtesy of Farrow & Ball
Try a custom wallpaper
For an accent wall with a bit more character, try a graphic wallpaper pattern. Some paint companies like Farrow & Ball custom make their papers using their own paint colours, so you can co-ordinate with the surrounding walls in the room.
“The accent wall has encouraged a more adventurous approach to decorating, providing an opportunity to indulge in colour and pattern without the commitment of covering a whole room,” says Sarah Cole, Director at Farrow & Ball. “Try one of Farrow & Ball’s traditional damask paper designs such as Silvergate or St. Antoine in a contemporary colourway for a modern twist on a classic pattern. For a more contemporary design, try Lotus or Bamboo (shown above) for a really striking accent.”
Photography courtesy of PARA Paints
Use an accent wall to define a living space
Accent colours are great for creating a defined area in a multi-functional space (think open-concept loft or studio apartment). Paint a little nook to create a home office or an inset wall to define your sleeping space like in the image above.
“This bright, bold accent colour (Fresh Berries’ P5079-63) directs the eye to the main focus of the room – the bed,” says PARA Paints Senior Brand Manager Garry Belfall. “Used as a vibrant contrast to the more neutral base colour (Every Girl’s Dream’ P5219-14) as seen on the other walls, Fresh Berries perfectly complements this room and creates a bold, beach-themed oasis where you can escape from reality.”
Photography courtesy of CIL
Add a pop of colour to a black and white room.
Add some life to a neutral room with a bold colour that commands attention. Black-and-white is a timeless colour combination, but adding a vibrant hue gives it a modern edge.
“Cinnabar 50YR 32/460 from CIL is a trendy orange that, when paired with stark white and a graphic black-and white-print, is super modern,” says Alison Goodman, CIL Brand Manager. “When you’re dealing with a predominantly black-and-white colour scheme, a feature wall and its splash of colour is a must-have.”
4 fabulous holiday table settings
3 Gorgeous gold
Rococo patroness Madame de Pompadour, with her considerable taste and verve, may have set such a table were she celebrating Christmas today. Mismatched antique dishes lavished with gold detailing from Toronto’s Cynthia Findlay Antiques are brought straight into the 21st century with slick contemporary gold flatware, while a simple linen napkin keeps the look from going over the top. And did you notice? The Kelly Wearstler fabric that covers the table is faux python – we think Madame would be pleased!
1 Coalport bread and butter plate, Cynthia Findlay Antiques, prices available upon request.
2 Coalport Tea cup and saucer, Cynthia Findlay Antiques, prices available upon request.
3 Coalport Champagne coup and tumbler, Cynthia Findlay Antiques, prices available upon request.
4 Salt and pepper shaker, Cynthia Findlay Antiques, prices available upon request.
5 Royal Doulton dinnner plate, Cynthia Findlay Antiques, prices available upon request.
6 Gold flatware, HomeSense, prices vary.
7 Gold glitter letter stickers, Michaels, prices vary.
8 Holiday ornament, Michaels, prices vary
9 Minton salad plate, Cynthia Findlay Antiques, prices available upon request.
10 Groundworks Kelly Wearstler Serpent fabric in Ivory, through designers Lee Jofa, prices vary.
4 Sophisticated silver
The patina of silver and the sparkle of crystal highlight the white Jasper Conran plates with delightful scalloped edges in this modern setting. It’s a sophisticated aesthetic with just a touch of whimsy found in the delicate chinoiserie-patterned plate, the antique silver-plated pheasant that stands at attention and the small bowl of shiny ornaments that speaks to the holiday spirit. A handwritten place card in a petite silver tray and a hint of fresh greenery are all that’s required to complete this festive look.
1 Silver-plated pheasant sculpture, Cynthia Findlay Antiques, prices vary.
2 Waterford Lismore Diamond glass and flute, William Ashley, prices vary.
3 Chinoiserie Platinum accent plate, William Ashley, prices vary.
4 St. James silver-plated footed bowl, William Ashley, prices vary.
5 Robbie & Berking silver-plated Alt Chippendale flateware, William Ashley, prices vary.
6 Jasper Conran at Wedgwood Baroque White dinner plate, William Ashley, prices vary.
7 Faux silk fabric, Designer Fabrics, prices vary.
9 Christmas party essentials that make hosting a breeze
First things first: Invitations. Sure, you can send out a text or email to let friends and family know the details of your gathering, but we think that paper invitations that arrive in the mail the traditional way are much more charming. Minted offers a large selection of gorgeously designed invitations that are guaranteed to set the mood for your holiday party. Gilded Botanicals Holiday Party Invitations, Minted, prices vary.
We admit, we’re not fans of the sickly sweet fragrances emitted by many a scented candle, but choose carefully and you can infuse your home with an aroma that truly enhances the atmosphere of your party. This candle is not only a beautiful display item but it also gives off the subtle but authentic smell of a fresh Frasier fir. If you aren’t putting up a real tree in your home, just fake it! Thymes Frasier Fir Poured Candle with Pine Needle Motif, Indigo, $32.
If most of your holiday music is digitally stored on your phone, then you’ll need a speaker to fill your home with the joyful carols of the season. This moderately-priced option is sleek and lightweight and produces high-quality sound. It has a seven-hour rechargeable battery and easily pairs to any Bluetooth-enabled iOS device. Beats by Dr. Dre Pill Speaker, Apple Store, $219.95.
While you want your guests to eat, drink and be merry, you don’t want to find impossible-to-remove water rings or red wine stains on your travertine coffee table the next morning! Help your guests help you keep your home stain-free by making sure everyone has a coaster upon which to place their drink. These leather reindeer coasters are just the thing to add a festive touch to your soiree. Forest Merriment Coasters, Anthropologie, $32 (set of 4).
Your guests will need a napkin or two over the course of the evening, especially if you’re serving finger foods. Skip the boring white napkins and instead, opt for ones that are Christmas-themed. These 12 Days of Christmas paper napkins are perfect for a casual gathering and will add a touch of whimsy to a more formal one. 12 Days of Christmas Napkins, Amazon, $4.19 (package of 20.
Take a more modern approach to champagne this holiday season. Instead of traditional stemmed flutes, serve your bubbly in these stemless glasses, gilded with gold. Each is inscribed with the word ‘Cheers’, making them suitable for year-round use, but they’re particularly perfect for the holiday season. Stemless Champagne Glasses, Indigo, $39.50 (set of 4).
You don’t have to be Tom Cruise to mix a cocktail like a boss. This eight-piece set will turn you into a pro in no time. Complete with all the essentials you’ll need, you may be ready to start moonlighting before the night is out. This set includes a one-quart Mason jar, stainless steel strainer, double jigger, hardwood muddler, ice tongs, a stir spoon and two pour spouts. MakersKit Classic Cocktail Kit, West Elm, $28.
Sometimes it’s the smallest details that are the most impactful and memorable. Dress up your holiday table with these beautiful napkin rings, which are made with gold beads and sequins. Flurry Beaded Napkin Rings, Crate & Barrel, $4.76.
A selection of fine cheeses and gourmet crackers are always a hit at a party. And since cheese stays cooler on marble than most other surfaces, this is a great option. Plus, it also comes with a wire slicer that can easily cut through most soft and hard cheeses. Marble Cheese Board and Slicer, Sur La Table, $11.96.
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.