Decorated in shades of silver and gold, this shimmering tree makes a statement. Image by: Donna Griffith
What’s better than chic, sophisticated holiday style? The ability to achieve it with ease. Here are 10 tips to simplify your next festive soiree.
Last year, when homeowners Pamela Schott and Sheldon Pollack moved into this 7,500-square-foot five-bedroom century home in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, they merged more than just their families (he has three 30-somethings; she has two kids; and four of the five live at the house part-time). The couple, who will wed next year, also blended their approaches to the holidays. To that end, their seasonal decor is sophisticated and minimalist, glamorous and uncluttered, neither too gimmicky nor too theme-y. For Pamela and Sheldon, it’s all about simplicity. Though they enjoy entertaining – the couple loves to host a holiday drop-in – they always keep it effortless. “A party is about the friends, family, wine, appetizers and conversation,” says Pamela, who makes creating a relaxed atmosphere her priority. “It’s about the event, not the planning.” Here, we highlight 10 ways Pamela and Sheldon execute their elegant holiday style with ease.
1 Choose function: A petite potted rosemary tree gives the kitchen counter holiday flair with purpose. Well into the new year, it will serve as a source of fresh decoration for place settings and garnish for themed cocktails.
2 Make strategic splurges: Don’t stress about baking in the days leading up to your party. If you lack the time and the piping skills, splurge on artfully adorned cookies iced in your home’s colour scheme for a scrumptious statement.
3 Stay simple: A bouquet of white amaryllis is an understated accent that’s synonymous with winter but doesn’t scream “holidays.” Buy the blooms a few days before your event so they’re at their prime when guests arrive.
4 Lay it down: Getting festive garlands to swag just right can take a lot of fussing. So if you want to gussy up your windows in a flash, layer cuttings of greenery on your windowsills instead. Here, Douglas fir and magnolia leaves add a luxe touch.
5 Accent the architecture: Draw attention to eye-catching structural features like leaded glass windows with beautiful holiday wreaths that accentuate the details but don’t steal the show.
6 Make room for more: Use a bowl to hold gorgeous Christmas ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree for a simple centrepiece or coffee table accent.
7 Wrap it up: No pot? No problem! Use a swath of grey linen fabric secured with decorative ribbon to dress up the base of a tabletop tree. This unconventional feature lends a festive touch to an otherwise unadorned space.
8 Come out from under the tree: Take your gift wrapping to the next level with finishing details like sculptural toppers and layered ribbons. Don’t just place presents under the tree: Artfully arrange them on various nearby surfaces for vignettes that suit the season.
9 Mix metallics: Sticking to a gold and silver palette makes decorating the tree almost effortless. Look for a mix of shimmering materials, from beading to mercury glass to metallic fabrics, so you don’t have to think too hard about even distribution.
10 Make it a team effort: Whether it’s decorating the tree, hanging wreaths or wrapping presents, holiday tasks are more easily executed as a team. Get your tools out ahead of time, gather the family and put on your favourite holiday tunes to set the mood – you’ll be done before you can say “cool yule!”
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.
Celeb home tour: Jensen Ackles's Malibu home
Inside Supernatural TV star Jensen Ackles' prestigious single-family Malibu home.
This might just be one of Malibu’s most wanted listings. Situated in a gated property on a one-acre site, is television actor Jensen Ackles and wife Danneel’s 5,940-square-feet home in Point Dume. The single-family house, which was remodeled by the couple this year, features a gourmet kitchen designed with custom cabinetry, hand painted tiles and Calcatta marble. To top it off, the family home includes a pool, spa, outdoor kitchen/BBQ, guest suite above the garage, and rights to the Riviera Beach.
An ocean view from the balcony, attached multi-purpose room, separate walk-in closets and a large master bath, are just some of the perks of the grand master suite. The listed price for this impressive real estate is $6.995 million. Check out the listing here.
- 5 bedrooms
- 6 bathrooms
- An entertainer's dream backyard
- 3 grassy yard areas
- Guest home suite
- Grand living room
- Gourmet kitchen
- Outdoor kitchen
Surrounded by luscious trees, pillars and a stone stairway, the outdoor hall to this Malibu home creates a grand welcome into the home.
The couple's idea of a contemporary classic style, starts from the foyer and flows through the entire home.
The living room is lined with large windows, allowing natural light to come through. A design scheme of light colours and textures were added to further brighten up the room.
From the bold colour palette to rich fabrics, this home has plenty of 2014 design trends.
The family-friendly living room has built-in shelves around the fireplace, making for a great focal point.
A view from the traditional and contemporary-styled living room into the kitchen. The room is designed with open seating and patterened rugs for a cozy feel.
The counter-height table set makes for additional seating in this open-concept kitchen.
With custom kitchen cabinetry, hand painted tiles, marble countertops, and walnut plank flooring, the couple has pulled out all stops for their gourmet kitchen.
This master suite, with a peaked ceiling and exposed beam, definitely gives a luxurious feel with a view to the ocean, balcony and an attached spare room.
A custom designed master bathroom is a serene retreat thanks to a neutral colour palette, extended vanity and oversized walk-in shower.
The couple installed a sleek white freestanding tub, giving the bathroom a more modern look, unique from the rest of the house.
Along with a pool and greenery as far as the eye can see, the house has rights to access Riviera 3 Beach.
Placing the outdoor kitchen and bar-height table in the corner, creates more room for guests and entertaining.
Adding to this massive backyard design, are three grassy areas and an option for a tennis court.
Give your space a budget-friendly update for fall.
Give your space a budget-friendly update for fall.
Give your home an update with these fabulous finds all under $100.
It can be fun to update your home with seasonal accents but it’s not something you want to blow your budget on. If your home is begging for an overhaul this fall, go for it … but do it on a budget! These fab fall finds all clock in under $100 but will give your home just the oomph you’re craving!
This gorgeous glass vessel is not only the perfect home for a bouquet of fresh or faux flowers, but even when not filled with beautiful blooms, it is a stunning decorative item to grace any room in your home with. Featuring a gold-finish metal collar and a striking teal colour, this piece will look great in your home this fall. Short Metal Collar Vase, Teal, Indigo, $35.
Surround yourself with the gentle, calming glow of candlelight this fall season. This beautiful candle is made from soy wax and will give you 60 hours of burn time. Featuring marine notes, as well as notes of stone fruit, rose and moss, it will also fill your home with a delightful and inviting fragrance. Candlefish Ceramic Candles, Anthropologie, $28.
It’s time to change up the art on your walls! Inject some new colours and at the same time, give your home a whole new look by swapping out existing art with new pieces that will make your walls feel fresh and revived! This beautiful piece is alive and vibrant with colour and will make you happy each time you pass it. Dream Peachy, Minted, starting at $21.
Throw blankets come in all shapes, sizes, colours and, yes, price points! We love the look and soft feel of this plush fleece throw but we are also digging the price point, too! Updating your home for the season doesn’t have to cost a fortune and this cozy throw will not only look good on display but will keep you warm on those long, cold fall nights. Textured Fleece Throw Blanket, Wayfair, $55.99.
When it’s dark and chilly outdoors, head to the sanctuary in your bedroom where thoughts of spring reign supreme! This printed duvet cover and sham set features a gorgeous meadowlark print on 100% organic cotton percale. Colourful and cheerful, this is a quick and easy way to update your bedroom. Meadowlark Print Organic Duvet Cover & Sham, Pottery Barn, $23 - $95.
Instantly turn your home into a gallery! These 3D faceted mirrors are stunning sculptural pieces that will add a healthy dose of modernism to your home. The unique trio of mirrors will catch and reflect light in interesting ways in your home and will certainly be a conversation starter when friends come to visit. 3D Faceted Mirrors, West Elm, $79.
Wood and tile floors can get cold underfoot during fall and winter so warm things up with a cozy area rug. This pretty rug features a fall-inspired motif and colour palette and is easy to add to any room in your home – and subtract when you no longer need the warmth underfoot. The perfect seasonal decorating accent! Anni Floral Round Printed Rug, Urban Outfitters, $79.
Curtains not only provide a perfect finishing touch to any room but they can also add some extra insulation to keep the cold air from drafty windows at bay. These 100% cotton curtain panels are yarn dyed and have an elegant drape you’re sure to love and we love this soft shade of grey, a pleasing neutral that will easily suit many different styles of rooms. Wallace Grey Curtains, Crate & Barrel, $79.95 - $99.95.