Take a tour of this dramatic and modern family home.
Mix neutral colours, sleek silhouettes and edgy glamour for a knockout home.
Sarah Blakely has never been one to commit to colour, even when it comes to her clothes. Interested in fashion long before she became interested in interior design and home decor, Sarah notes that her house, which she shares with her husband, Matt, and their two small boys, Knox, 3, and Romeo, 2, is an accurate representation of what she likes to wear.
When the couple purchased this 3,700-square-foot Ottawa home preconstruction three years ago, the builder allowed Sarah and Matt significant input. For them, that included moving walls, designing the kitchen, choosing finishes like the red oak flooring and, of course, painting everything warm white.
The space now showcases an eclectic mix of old and new. Vintage furnishings feature unique silhouettes, modern sculptural and metallic light fixtures add interest, and graphic artwork reflects Sarah’s love of fashion. And, far from monochromatic, the cream, white and black palette is high contrast and dynamic.
All this results in a home that’s fresh and young and at once pared back and richly layered.
High-contrast family room
The high-contrast black, white and cream palette is both dramatic and practical in the family room, where a black-painted wall camouflages the TV.
With their unique curvaceous lines, the vintage Giancarlo Piretti sidechairs are statement-making pieces. So is the Prada art print, which depicts a roadside sign pointing the way to a fake Prada store (actually an art installation) in Marfa, Texas.
In vogue living room
Sarah likes clean, airy spaces for their calming vibe but isn't afraid to throw in hits of drama and glamour.
Draped on the chaise longue a faux fur throw lends interest, while the toss cushions and striped rug offer texture and pattern.
"I have a couple of faux fur throws around the house," says Sarah. "I love the added texture. In a neutral space, it provides a little something for the eye."
A verdigris-finished bust of Zeus adds hits of colour.
Warm neutral space
A framed Hermès scarf, a vibrant green fiddle-leaf fig tree and verdigris-finished bust of Zeus add hits of colour in the black and cream living room. A wall of sheer drapery, also used throughout the house for continuity, lends softness to the space.
Black, white and cream palette
The high-contrast black, white and cream palette is both dramatic and practical in the family room, where a black painted wall camouflages the TV. "Obviously a TV hanging on the wall isn't always the nicest look, but at least here you don't see it as much," explains Sarah.
Dramatic home office
The rich black walls offer a moody, masculine look and also camouflage the dark cabinetry. While the moulding gives the office added character, intriguing elements like the vintage Karl Springer-like waterfall desk and the geometric pendant light create a dramatic setting.
Modern kitchen design
The couple designed the kitchen, which features sleek flat-panelled cherry cabinetry stained a slate colour and white quartz countertops. The gold-coloured pendant lights complement the metallic elements used in the rest of the house, creating visual flow.
The kitchen’s eat-in area features a classic Saarinen Tulip dining table and Mid-Century Modern-style chairs. A glass-topped console with a high-gloss Y-shaped base serves as a spot for display.
A large wooden dining table and a set of vintage chairs -- which Sarah found on Kijiji for $200 and had reupholstered -- define the dining area. Sarah made the floating sideboard out of high-gloss IKEA cabinets and a painted-wood top.
Tour this Vancouver home's modern eclectic look.
This Vancouver home's modern eclectic look is a testament to the power of a sister act.
Now that the dust has settled on their massive whole-house renovation, homeowners Anna Wright and Alistair Sale – both busy professionals and parents of Lewis, 10, Freddie, 8, and George, 6 – each have their favourite features of the new interior. For Alistair, the cook of the family, the open kitchen is the (long-awaited) best part. Anna is most excited about the master ensuite bathroom she doesn’t have to share with the kids. And for the boys, it’s their bigger playroom in the finished basement.
The Vancouver family lived in the 3,700-square-foot 1920s home for five years before embarking on the huge overhaul. “I’m so glad we lived in the house for a while first and figured out what we wanted,” says Anna. “If we’d done the renovation right away, we would have done things very differently, and those decisions probably wouldn’t work for us now.”
The crisp white brick fireplace surround, built-ins and original wood panelling set off the dark grey on the upper walls of the den. Leaded glass cabinetry doors are another original feature. The antique chandelier was picked up at a London flea market.
A contemporary pale orange sofa pops against the white panelling and dark grey walls. The Mid-Century Modern desk was a lucky find at an antiques store a few years back, as was the Tolix chair.
Going vintage is often a more economical decorating idea than buying brand new, says Sophie.
The birdcage pendant light adds another unexpected dose of colour and whimsy.
In the dining area, an antique zinc-topped table from a French flea market pairs well with mismatched colourful Eames dining chairs. “We thought the different hues of the dining chairs would be quirky and fun,” says homeowner Anna Wright.
The designer pendant light was a pricey find from London, England.
Expanding the existing skylight and adding more windows above the sink brought loads of natural light into the white painted kitchen. Homeowner Alistair Sale greatly appreciates the bigger sink, but extra kitchen counter space, double wall ovens and a gas cooktop were at the top of his must-have list.
French doors lead out to a newly enlarged wraparound deck off the open kitchen/dining area, making the backyard much more accessible. The kitchen peninsula is perfect for casual breakfasts and homework time.
The zinc top on the antique dining table can take plenty of wear and tear from everyday family meals; the stark white modern dishware strikes a pleasing contrast against the patinated surface.
A desk area in the kitchen serves as the family workspace and offers plenty of storage space for the kids’ paperwork and school supplies. Inspirational photos and small pieces of art bring personality to the nook.
The new master ensuite bathroom is Anna’s retreat from hectic work and family life.
The matching gold mirrors in the master ensuite are a glitzy big-box score.
Grey and white cement floor tiles provide ornate pattern in the otherwise serene white room.
The bathroom floor tiles themselves weren't very expensive, but shipping the from California was.
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.
Easily update your home this fall with natural accents that create impact and add texture, without adding to the bills.
After summer ends and we all brace for the colder months, we bid farewell to the flower markets and prepare the gardens for hibernation. While we love our tulips and dahlias, there’s something undeniably beautiful in going au natural. We're talking bare bones (or bark in this case). It’s simple, readily available and affordable (possibly even free!). That’s right, decor accents can be found right outside your home! From branches to leaves to moss, there’s an abundance out there just waiting to beautify your home. Not sure how to make sticks look stylish? Not to worry, we have plenty of ways to inspire some new fall decor.
Fallen branches are your easiest bet. Gather a bundle and let them create visual interest and add texture in your space.
Is there a tree hanging precariously low or in the way? Take advantage of some tree trimming and go big with a large branch propped against a wall for some real impact.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
Bright and bold
Not into the bare branch look? Using a large branch with its leaves is not only a great statement, but can also add a luscious dose of colour – especially if the leaves have started to change into those beautiful autumnal oranges and reds.
Rustic red centrepiece
Speaking of changing leaves, a cluster of rich, red leaves makes for an instant fall centrepiece.
Credits: Janis Nicolay
Pretty in pink
With their sparse pink blooms, magnolia branches make a softer statement when effortlessly displayed in a simple white ceramic jug.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
It doesn’t get any simpler than feathery green branches in a clear glass vase to celebrate their natural beauty.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
An organic touch
These eucalyptus branches are just as simple, but have a slightly different look and feel. They still add a delightful organic touch, but with a richer, fuller display.
Credits: Janis Nicolay
Amp up your greenery by mixing assorted wildflowers with your eucalyptus for a more lush arrangement.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
Soft and simple
A simple bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace leaves adds a touch of texture and greenery.
Credits: Robin Stubbert
Low profile, high impact
If you don’t want the height of branches and leaves impeding views, but still want a burst of natural green colour in your space, a decorative bowl of moss instantly injects life into any space.