Take a tour of this gorgeous family cottage on Lake Simcoe.
Designer Jessica Waks gives this family's second cottage its own unique flair, creating a spot to accommodate not only guests but also generations to come.
Nudged awake by the sweet smell of fresh cinnamon buns wafting from the kitchen, sleepy family members lumber downstairs, along the way catching sweeping views of serene Lake Simcoe – calm and quiet before the afternoon action takes hold. It’s a common Sunday scene at this Innisfil, Ont., cottage, which is peaceful in the morning until everyone gets up and silence gives way to animated chit-chat and laughter. Often, it’s not just the occupants of this abode in attendance, but the next-door neighbours as well – after all, they’re family, too. The homeowners, a Toronto couple with four adult daughters and two toddler grandchildren, weren’t planning on purchasing a new place – they bought a cottage only five years ago (featured in Style at Home’s July 2013 issue) – but when this 7,000-square-foot three-storey structure directly next door to the first became available, the owners decided to take advantage of the unique opportunity to keep their rapidly expanding family together on these adjacent vacation properties. To make the cottages look cohesive, they rehired designer Jessica Waks – Style at Home’s former design editor – of Jessica Claire Interiors, who had perfectly appointed their first place. “The homeowners wanted the spaces to have their own identities but to also look unified,” says Jessica, discussing how she took the nautical tone of the first property and layered a more country feel into the second. “I used a refined rustic aesthetic to temper its grand architecture, which boasts a spacious foyer and formal principal rooms,” she says.
Jessica was thinking Nantucket rather than classic Canadiana (“it’s more in keeping with the beach locale,” she says) when she rescued the dark and dated interior from its 1980s time warp. The most notable offences? Upholstered doors, inexplicable wall cut outs, tacky floral wallpaper (even on the ceiling in some rooms), mismatched flooring (including fruit-patterned tiles and pink-stained oak), heavily swathed valances, forest green toilets and sinks and a bizarre balcony that jutted into the living room from the second floor. In other words, the cottage called for a complete overhaul. So Jessica started fresh in almost every room, smoothing out the architectural oddities and replacing the flooring with dark-stained oak hardwood, which contrasts the newly white walls throughout – a timeless and cohesive envelope for the elegant nautical look.
Creating a furniture plan for the grand living room was tricky because it has so many points of entry,” says designer Jessica Waks. “Not only did it need to seat a lot of people, but it also had to look good from all angles.” Jessica cleverly selected items like the blue swivel armchairs that can face the central sitting area, the fireplace or the view (win-win-win)!
To make a statement in the foyer, Jessica set visually interesting pieces like the vintage spool-legged console with a curvy linen-upholstered settee against a simple, traditional pedestal table. The jug of maple branches is a nod to the cottage’s sylvan surroundings.
Above the console in the great room, the designer framed and hung a simple grid of antique Simcoe county maps. Believe it or not, the stunning console was a Craigs List purchase. “I love find ing preloved pieces online, at markets and at consignment stores – there are such gems to uncover,” says Jessica, who skilfully pairs these secondhand scores with new custom items.
Meals are often served alfresco with stunning views of Lake Simcoe on the side. To visually connect the two properties, Jessica chose the same outdoor dining furniture for this space as she did for the other cottage next door. “I love how the teak’s grey stain and toss cushions match the stone work and siding of the home’s exterior,” she says.
“The windows in the dining room look out to the front and side of the property,” says Jessica, “so to make up for the lack of lake views and to add visual interest, I chose a charming paisley wallpaper.” The blue-grey tone of the print perfectly matches the original slate fireplace surround.
In the kitchen, the white beadboard cabinetry offers a light and airy country look that’s grounded by darker elements, such as the leathered black granite perimeter countertops and slate-look floor tiles. The wide butcher block-topped island provides ample space for the homeowners, who are avid cooks, to prep meals for their large family.
A pretty patterned wallpaper distracts from this powder room’s awkward angles. Using the space’s drawbacks to her advantage, Jessica leaned a vintage wooden ladder against the wall to hang towels for guests.
The third-floor “bunkie” boasts the most coveted sleeping area in the house: the queen bed in the window niche overlooking the lake. “You can see the sunrise from this spot,” says Jessica. Nautical buffalo-check drapery offers sleepers privacy from the rest of the room.
“As a decorator, I love the strong sense of symmetry that comes from a set of twin beds,” says Jessica, who had these hard-to-find spindle-framed beds for one of the rooms shipped from the US. “I like how they stand out against the wallpaper,” she says. “You can really appreciate the spool detail.”
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.
10 things that are making your home ugly and how to fix them
We've gathered 10 great tips to elevate your space from dowdy to dreamy.
When it comes to our personal appearance, we usually know what’s making us – we won’t say ugly – a little less confident than usual, and we know the fix. A ragged nail means it’s time to dig out the file and clippers. Chipped polish means it’s time to freshen up that manicure. Unruly hair calls for a visit to the hairstylist or barbershop. And so it goes.
But in our homes we can sometimes forget the little things that make a big, stylish impression. Ironically, it’s quite often small, changeable things that can make a big impact and elevate a room from dowdy to dreamy.
We’ve seen dated (and we mean seriously dated) apartment rentals go glam with the addition of the right paint, sofa and accessories. We’ve seen boring boxy bedrooms come to life with a beautiful DIY headboard and fresh new bedding. We’ve seen entrances go from messy to marvellous. It can be done, but you’ve got to be ruthless in tackling the ugly with elbow grease and a little ingenuity to make way for fresh, clean style.
Shoes all over the floor, torn-open mail (utility bills, of course) strewn about, keys and random bits and bobs like lost buttons, and empty gadget boxes on your entryway console are just plain ugly. The fix: The entryway is supposed to be a welcome and tidy place, which is good news. All you really need to do above all else is tidy things up, which doesn’t take that long. It also doesn’t cost anything to neatly line up shoes, recycle boxes and envelopes, and give a console and entryway a dusting. A clean entryway with everything in its place is a must.
Chances are your bedroom walls are in pretty good nick, they are typically low-traffic areas and the paint can stay impeccable for years. But in the living room and dining room and particularly the kitchen, that is not usually the case. If you think walls with dirty streaks or scratches from chairs don’t look that bad, think again. They’re really taking your home’s looks down a notch. Walls also include light switch covers, and nothing is uglier than visible dirt around them. The fix: For a little bit of dirt or grime or even oil, sometimes a good cleaning is all that’s needed. Many paints can stand up to being washed with cleaners, but you can check with a paint store or you can spot test before you try cleaning it up. If the dirt, marks and gouges are everywhere, there’s no getting around it, it’s time for a paint job. Fresh paint makes a vintage-inspired home look fresh and new.
Isn’t it funny how just about anything you bake or roast smells great, from cakes to vegetables, whereas anything you fry, even if it’s as yummy as donuts, smells pretty terrible? And let’s not even get into pet odours. Unwanted smells get into your upholstery, from drapes to sofas to rugs, and the worst part is sometimes you get used to them so you can’t even detect them. Ask a family member or a very honest friend to give you his or her unvarnished opinion on what they smell at your home. The fix: If you’ve got lingering food, pet or just stale smells going on in your home, you’ve got a few fixes available. More often than not, food smells need to be rectified by investing in a good, outdoor-venting fan over the cooktop. Of course, that’s not always possible in which case you’ll have to be diligent in airing out the kitchen by opening windows after you’ve been cooking. Need a quick cover up for a cocktail party? Try a home fragrance solution.
Whether it’s souvenirs, memorabilia, or just random stuff you’ve collected over the years, your collection of objects might be too much, and it might be making your shelves, bookcases and mantel ugly. The fix: Editing is easier said than done, so try boxing up the items on your busy shelf or mantel and live with it for a week. Then decide what you truly miss and what just needs to be put in storage or given away. The living room shelf in Ann Marie Favot’s home is strikingly simple in all-white.
You know when your bathroom is dingy and needs renovating, and is just plain ugly – we don’t need to give you a blow-by-blow account here. But don’t worry, we’re also not going to tell you to renovate your bathroom. Truth is, we’ve seen bathrooms in rental apartments go from grungy to glam, all with the help of a deep clean and carefully chosen accessories. The fix: Clean, clean and clean some more. That means grout, fixtures, floors and walls. Once that’s done, really step back and assess what’s making everything dingy. If it’s a dark space, think about getting a fresh white shower curtain and towels and even a white orchid to enliven the room. Hide all unnecessary bottles and toothpaste containers and everything else while you’re at it and you’ll see how much better the space looks. Your bathroom might never be as glamazonian as this one, but you can help it along by keeping it tidy and choosing crisp white towels.
If you watch home renovation TV shows, you’ll know that outdated kitchens are always high on an owner’s must-destroy list. And yes, they can be really ugly and detract from a home. But a renovation isn’t always in the cards or budget, in which case, you’ll have to figure out how to live with cabinetry and surfaces that have seen better days. The fix: Embrace the kitchen for what it is: you’re not going to make a super-modern kitchen out of a 1960s-era setup. So if it’s vintage-y or cottage-y right now, find a way to enhance that charm. Paint ugly wood cabinetry. Make the best of an old countertop by making it sparkling clean. Add some bright and coordinated accessories, et voila. Painted cabinetry adds immense charm to a cottage kitchen.
A bedroom, especially in new-build homes, tends to be a basic, bland white box. The reasons for this are often practical – a plain box of a room will be easy to place a bed in (no weird angles) with plenty of room left over for side tables and a dresser or drawers. But yes, it can be rather blah and lackluster. The fix: If the walls are white you don’t even have to paint them, you can work with this most versatile of shades. The secret is texture. A tufted headboard, patterned bedspread and layered textiles will bring the beauty to a bedroom. Textures and layers contribute to a stylish, fresh and airy bedroom.
There is a certain aesthetic that makes bare walls the best choice, but for many other homes, it just makes it look like you’ve never really moved in. And looking like you are about to flee the premises is never an attractive quality in a home. The fix: You can’t go wrong in terms of satisfaction if you stick to displaying art and photography that means something to you. How to do it artfully is another matter. When in doubt, stick to frames of the same colour and type (the size can differ), but if you’re more adventurous (and your decor is too) create a display wall of mismatched frames. A collection of antique maps was deliberately framed and matted differently in this gallery.
Has your dining room become a catch-all for everything in your home? Gifts piled up for weeks waiting to be wrapped. Your desktop computer and work papers setting up residence. If making your home beautiful is high on your priority list, it’s time to rethink this strategy. There’s a reason you don’t see dining rooms in the pages of decor magazines all covered with half-empty shopping bags, bills, car keys and stray electronic chargers. It’s because it’s ugly. The fix: You need to make some hard decisions, but they’re not necessarily expensive or tough-to-execute ones. Firstly, you’ll want to move that desktop computer off your dining table – which might mean putting it in the kitchen or bedroom, or trading it for a laptop. Think about why junk is accumulating on your dining room table and fix the underlying causes. It’s as simple as that. A dedicated dining room table is an inviting and relaxing space.
A backyard is a place to have some fun and get comfortable, so if yours is too basic and boring, it’s doing your entire home a disservice. If you have rickety aluminum folding chairs that are always ready to snap shut while you’re sitting on them, or worse, cheap white plastic ones that are suitable for your first post-college apartment, it’s time to step up your game. The fix: Mostly any backyard, even the smallest, can accommodate a stylish pair of outdoor chairs and a stool that can take a turn as a side table. If budget is an issue, midsummer is usually a great time to sweep up steep deals on outdoor furnishings. This beautiful Toronto backyard also serves as an outdoor living room.
A freshly renovated kitchen takes on a minimalist look
The fetching minimalist look of this newly renovated kitchen was achieved with careful consideration of every square inch of space.
An out-of-style, spatially awkward kitchen.
Devise a layout to achieve optimum flow.
The homeowners splurged on tailor-made cabinetry to get all the storage they needed but saved money by choosing cost-effective appliances. The custom range hood – a specialty vent insert surrounded by black-painted MDF – cost 20 percent less than a store-bought version. An inlay of black and white marble basket weave floor tiles elegantly marks the entrance to the backyard.
The cabinet doors open up to reveal ceiling-high storage space. “We went with a fairly streamlined profile to keep the look minimalistic,” says designer Stacey Cohen. “Painting the cabinets white would have been too stark, so we coated them in a soft grey to tie in with the transitional bones of the home.”
The Caesarstone sink front provides a high-end feel.
Adding a burst of colour with fruit keeps the minimalist vibe of the kitchen while providing a quick break from the grey cabinets and white countertops.
The white-painted brick veneer wall and faux croc banquette add subtle texture to the space. To further keep the look simple, Stacey (pictured) not only used Caesarstone on the countertops and backsplash but also had it cut into a tabletop for the banquette.
What might have been dead space was turned into a functional corner with the addition of a built-in microwave.
"My clients really enjoy the space now," says Stacey. "It goes to show how much our environment truly affects us."