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Image by: Monic Richard
Below, answers to the eight biggest dining room design dilemmas.
Photography by Donna Griffith
Having an odd number of dining chairs is the perfect opportunity to have fun in the dining room. Mix things up with a boldly patterned or vibrantly coloured chair at the head of the table.
Photography by Janis Nicolay
If you’re scared that reupholstering the chairs will only lead to them getting stained again, look for chairs made of fiberglass, acrylic or plastic – easy to clean and much more durable.
Photography by Monic Richard
A few architectural touches will give your dining room the formal design you crave. Add some wainscoting or a chair rail to the walls and give the ceiling that finished look with crown molding. If you want to make the room even more grand, heighten the wainscoting to make the ceilings appear taller.
Photography by Donna Griffith
Condos can be short on kitchen storage, so take to the dining area and purchase a buffet to house all of your favourite entertaining accessories.
Photography by Michael Nangreaves
Instead of replacing the lighting altogether, give that shade a little boost by recovering it in leftover wallpaper or patterned fabric.
Or try this glam gold DIY here.
Photography by Andrew Grinton
If overhead lighting is too harsh to create that intimate restaurant experience in your dining room, install a dimmer switch. It’s an easy and affordable solution that allows you to be flexible with your light settings.
Photography by Virginia Macdonald
Go restaurant style and create a booth with two settees and a long table in the middle. Not only is it intimate, but you can also make it formal with tufted seating and a chandelier overhead.
Photography by Virginia Macdonald
If your everyday family dining differs from your weekend dinner parties, look for a versatile dining table that will cater to both. Opt for a round or square table with leaf inserts that will extend when you have guests over for dinner.
A glam bachelorette pad with a beach-inspired design
A 500-square-foot condo in the city is transformed into a stylish, tropical oasis.
Growing up, decorator and stylist Laura Collins would often rearrange the furniture in younger sister Jennifer’s bedroom. “My room was always a mess,” says Jennifer. “Almost weekly, Laura would come in, switch the furniture around, organize and make it look pretty again.” So when it came time to furnish her first bachelorette pad in Toronto, Jennifer didn’t hesitate to ask for help from her big sis, who started with a mood board that evoked a sun-drenched Florida beach house. It was a style Jennifer sought not only because it reminds her of frequent family vacations down south, but also because she admires her sister’s beachy-glam Toronto townhouse (featured in Style at Home’s June 2014 issue), which boasts a similar eclectic coastal aesthetic.
Immediately, Laura identified aqua, brass and flamingo pink as key colours for the 500-square-foot space’s fresh, fun look. “My sister is my favourite client ever,” says Laura. “She trusts me – she knows this is my area of expertise.” Indeed, Jennifer purchased almost everything on the mood board within a week of moving in.
Though the space is small, Laura picked out standard furniture instead of condo-sized options. “Larger pieces make it feel more grand and livable,” she says. But of all the furniture in the space, the brass bar cart, set in front of the balcony doors and decorated with tropical details, is Jennifer’s favourite. “It reminds me of being somewhere hot,” she says. “I wake up, sit on the comfy sofa with my cup of coffee and see the sun shining in. It makes me feel like I’m in a beach house. It’s exactly what I wanted.”
Brass, aqua, turquoise, a hint of kelly green and a spattering of flamingo pink against the neutral white backdrop lend a refined vintage tropical vibe to the main living area of homeowner Jennifer Collins’s Toronto condo.
Framed prints of exotic beaches, a robin’s egg blue task lamp and a carefully edited selection of tropical-feel objets add freshness to the desk.
The kitchen is compact but features all the essentials, including a microwave tucked under the counter, a slender fridge and a peninsula offering enough seating to eliminate the need for a formal dining area.
A vintage brass tray topped with pink tumblers in the kitchen links to the brass bar cart with flamingo-themed items in the living area on the opposite side of the space.
Decorator Laura Collins (right) sits with her sister under a vintage Turner flamingo print.
1 Calypso tray, Rosanna, $32. 2 Amir toss cushion cover in Azure, Tonic Living, $45. 3 Industrial task lamp in White, West Elm, $119. 4 Kivik loveseat with Dansbo fabric in White, IKEA, $529. 5 Lucette bar cart in Gold, Pier 1 Imports, $430.
Image: Donna Griffith / Styling: Morgan Lindsay
Thanks to a designer’s masterful eye, this modest modern kitchen serves as a lesson in making the most of the space you have.
If not precisely planned, a tiny kitchen can lead to chaos of all sorts: appliances dominating countertops, overstuffed cabinets that barely shut, even cookware stashed in the oven. The trouble with this Toronto couple’s 235-square-foot cooking quarters came down to its awkward U-shaped layout, which divided the kitchen into two distinct zones: a prep area and an eating nook.
To maximize the kitchen’s storage capacity, Veronica traded in awkwardly positioned uppers for glossy white and oak-look cabinetry that extends to the ceiling. “The original cupboards left all this untouched space above them, so it was important to reclaim that and take advantage of the 10-foot-high ceiling,” she says. The homeowners now use the extra storage to stow away off-season items and other specialty kitchenware.
The pre-reno space featured a pantry that protruded into the nearby hallway. “It resembled a front hall closet and felt very removed from the kitchen,” says Veronica. So the designer got creative. To better incorporate a new pantry into the room, she had custom floor-to-ceiling cabinetry installed in the same spot and then had matching fake doors added to the bump-out wall directly beside it. The clever addition looks like a large unit that was always part of the kitchen.
Though 24-inch-deep cabinets constitute the majority of this kitchen’s storage, Veronica chose to recess the doors above one countertop to add depth and function, ensuring the prep surface is accessible. Incorporating whitewashed-wood-look doors also lends warmth to the predominately white space. “All-white kitchens can come off as cold,” she says. “Introducing wooden elements is one of the best and easiest ways to increase interest.”
Instead of limiting counter space to the kitchen’s cooking zone, the designer had sleek quartz countertops installed along an entire wall, extending into the eat-in area. “This design choice reinforces the idea that it’s one integrated space,” she says. The shallow countertop underneath the TV also acts as a sideboard thanks to the built-in cupboards below, where the homeowners store everything from formal dishware to electronics.
The kitchen’s eating nook is one of the most well-loved spots in the home. It’s where the couple sips coffee every morning and retreats after a long day. Keeping this in mind, the designer didn’t want to be constrained by choosing only compact furniture. She instead used large cushioned dining chairs that “encourage the homeowners to stay longer,” she says. The round aged-elm dining table balances the look and is easy to navigate around.
The original U-shaped kitchen layout impeded traffic flow and separated the cooking hub from the eat-in area. The new linear layout boasts a modern free-standing island equipped with an undermount sink, which allows the couple to move around and entertain guests with ease while cooking.
While outfitting the small space, Veronica was careful to create cohesion. The existing maple flooring was swapped out for the same stained oak that’s carried throughout the rest of the main floor. The new accent cabinetry mimics the look of the dining table. Even the cabinetry hardware mirrors the chandelier’s black framework. These repeated decorative details ultimately tie the room together.
"I wanted there to be huge visual impact when you entered the kitchen, but I also didn't want to compromise the view to the backyard garden," says the designer of her decision to add the stick-like chandelier to the eat-in area. "It was important for the light fixture to bring something unexpected to the space," she adds. "A drum shade, for instance, would have fallen flat. It would've been too predictable."
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.