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Make over your home with decorating tricks that don’t cost a dime!Who says you have to spend money to makeover your home? Here are some easy, fun and practical ideas for spiffing up your space without spending a cent.
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Lead image credits (top to bottom); Virginia Macdonald, Stacey Cohen Design, Donna Griffith
Small space: Contemporary and artistic duplex
When the opportunity to purchase the great space you've been renting for a year arises, you grab it. And that's exactly what Leah Belford and Kris Dirksen did."We were so attached to the home and couldn't bear the idea of moving," says Leah, "so when the owner decided to sell, we pulled together an offer and got it!" That "it" is a three-storey, 1,080-square-foot duplex set in Kits, the local moniker for Vancouver's vibrant Kitsilano neighbourhood.
As new homeowners, the couple was keen to synthesize the space's design with their needs. Overall, they wanted to eradicate the dingy yellow walls, dated popcorn ceilings and '90s builder-quality finishes to a cleaner design.
In the living room, a new large picture window keeps the view to the garden unobstructed and lets in lots of light. A mix of modern furniture and worldly finds, such as the vintage throw blanket that was picked up on a trip to Buenos Aires and repurposed as a rug, reflects the couple's eclectic approach to decorating.
The couple knew their fresh finishes had to be practical, and a serious lack of storage space (just two tiny storage cupboards and two closets) meant the organizing solutions had to be savvy. The stacked drawer units in the hallway provide optimal organization in the small space.
Jewellery storage trays
Leah, a jewellery designer, uses funky trays for storage to hold strands of pretty gemstones. "They have to be stored in a single layer to avoid becoming a tangled mess," says Leah.
With saving space in mind, Kris built a sliding cedar barn door between the master bedroom and ensuite. An antique armoire scored on Craigslist holds most of Leah's clothes; off-season items are stashed in storage baskets under the bed. An African feather headdress lends a tactile softness to the room.
Here, the couple shunned the traditional bathroom vanity for pre-fab lower kitchen cupboards. "They're easier to customize because there are more sizing options, and they are higher and wider than standard bathroom cabinets so there's more room for storage." In addition to housing toiletries, the cupboards hold extra bedding, blankets and cleaning supplies.
The skylight illuminates the professional-looking results of leah and Kris's DIY bathroom renovation. A ladder handcrafted by a local woodworker is an interesting perch for the bath mat. It stands beside Uma the cow, an oil painting by Leah's artist cousin.
In homeowner Leah Belford's Vancouver duplex, her second floor studio (where she creates jewellery for her line, Leah Alexandra) remains clutter-free thanks to clever storage solutions, some of which are artfully placed in the bay window.
Third floor: 130-square-feet
Initially Kris set up his studio on the third floor, with Leah's on the second. But the arrangement proved problematic: "There's no door on the top floor to shut out sound," explains Leah. "Since I was working right below, either Kris was complaining about my music being too loud for him to do his work or vice versa!" Eventually he converted the garage into his own soundproof studio, and the top floor is currently a "bonus" space that Leah uses as a home office.
In Leah's home office on the third floor, white IKEA exposed shelving units deliver both practical storage and an ever-changing lively vignette of books and favourite objects. A vintage bench upholstered in bright pink linen injects a decidedly feminine air, while the gold-leafed pendant light adds a layer of rustic glamour.
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.