10 things to do in May
1 Get your grill on
The central cooking source of your summer entertaining, make sure your grill is in good working order. Scrub down internal racks and change lava rocks that may be lingering from last season. Treat yourself to some new tools of the trade -- a basting mop, grilling basket, non-stick skewers and scissor tongs.
• See our wine list to complement a summer grill menu.
2 Fresh flower arranging
Whether you take a course for fun or gather ideas from magazines, now is the perfect time to brush up on the art of flower arranging. Think of creative containers, mix unexpected elements and play with texture and colour to give your centerpieces unconventional flair.
3 Set out your outdoor furniture
Arrange your outdoor furniture as you would your indoor furniture -- essentially turning your porch or deck into a second living room. Establish a space for eating, group conversation and a more intimate nook for enjoying an after dinner drink or an afternoon read.
4 Repaint trim and doors
High-traffic use of doors and abuse of baseboards can leave a space looking worn and dingy. A quick coat or two of paint on trims and interior doors can instantly refresh your home. Choose a shade darker or lighter than what you currently have to introduce a new contrast with an existing wall colour.
5 Service your air conditioner
Central air conditioners consume a lot of electricity and without regular service, your air conditioner's efficiency can fall by as much as half. Call for servicing now before the temperature spikes, demand for service increases and the cost of a house call goes up.
6 Update your outdoor hardware
With an increased focus on the outside of your home during the spring and summer months, take a look at the state of your outdoor hardware. Door handles, knockers, house numbers and even the mailbox take a beating from the elements and, if they've been present for a decade or more are probably in need of an update.
7 Create a fireplace vignette
With the cold weather months behind us the inside of your fireplace doesn't need to stand empty. Arrange white pillar candles of varying sizes or an assortment of low-light plants in attractive pots to fill this otherwise unused space.
8 Add a splash of colour to your deck
Wood-stains aren't just for preservation purposes. Available colours now go beyond shades of brown and can be used to extend the indoor colour palette of your home. Whether you choose classic blues or greens or bolder colours, proper application is key. Be sure to follow manufacturer's directions to produce a long lasting stain.
9 Plant window boxes
Whether you live in a house or apartment, window boxes make maximum impact of annual flowers. Most plants grow happily in well draining containers -- try petunias, nasturtiums, zinnias, phlox and verbena. Space plants to give them sufficient room to grow, but also ensure that your container will look full and lush.
10 Try wallpaper in a small space
Looking for a big change in a small space? Wallpaper can personalize a small space --out such as a powder room, study or nursery -- in a big way. Wallpaper with a vertical pattern adds the illusion of greater ceiling height while small and open patterns, in lighter shades, can help stretch the perceived size of the space.
99 easy bedroom updates
Your bedroom is your sanctuary. Consider investing a little bit of time and money each season – just a little bit, we promise! – to re-feather your nest. Here are 99 ways to update your bedroom with ease.
1 Buy new bed linens.
2 Or as a cheat, just a new duvet cover or comforter.
3 Got a minimalist bed? Add ornamentation with an upholstered headboard.
4 Or create a faux headboard by placing a large piece of framed artwork on the wall.
5 Got a four-poster bed? Add opulent curtains for a romantic vibe.
6 Hang a mosquito-net canopy for a safari-chic or island vibe.
7 Go nuts with pillows and accent cushions for an over-the-top comfortable in-bed reading or lounging experience.
8 Repaint your bedroom. How about Radiant Orchid , a captivating fuchsia/ mauve that Pantone colour experts deem 2014’s Colour of the Year?
9 Or paint a feature wall. The wall at the head of the bed is the obvious choice.
10 Add drama by wallpapering the entire room, or, again: just a feature wall.
11 Raise the roof! Crown moulding has a room-expanding effect. It’s a one-day DIY project, or hire a big-box retailer to install it for you.
12 Texture the ceiling with anaglypta wallpaper, or, even better, coffer panels or faux-tin ceiling panels.
13 Hang inspiring artwork.
14 Declutter your bedside tables, dressers and dressing table.
15 Invest in a new set of curtain holdbacks or tiebacks.
16 Clear the air while adding life with a potted tree.
17 Or, for the ultimate luxury, invest in a beautiful vase and weekly fresh-cut bouquets.
18 Add a new throw blanket to the foot of your bed. Linen, cotton, or silk for spring/summer; faux-fur, angora or fine wool for fall/winter.
19 Hang an eye-catching statement pendant or chandelier light.
20 Invest in wall-mounted reading lights.
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.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.Credits: Ashley Capp
A resourceful designer with a knack for all things DIY creates a cozy and contemporary space for her family of four.
For the design inclined, recognizing beautiful pieces is easy enough, but the real decorating challenge comes from knowing how to fit all the elements together in a harmonious way. Designer Sarah Walker has this down to a science. Last year, the reno expert transformed her Oakville, Ont., home’s uninspiring family room into a sophisticated space boasting symmetry and style. “I wanted a modern yet classic room that balances the masculine and feminine qualities of our family,” she says, referring to her husband, Graham, and two boys (Noah, 13, and Tate, 2). Having already installed the hardwood flooring and built-in wall unit with her husband five years prior, Sarah’s next order of business was the furniture layout. “I always pictured this space having a pair of sofas facing each other,” says the designer. “I love the conversational quality the set-up brings to a room.”
So she traded in her existing brown sectional for two handsome black velvet sofas and added a geometric-print rug to further delineate the sitting area. This design choice drew her toward a timeless marble herringbone tile treatment for the fireplace, which echoes the graphic quality of the rug but on a smaller scale (with budget top of mind, Sarah and Graham even installed the tile themselves). Other subtle additions to the fireplace like the contrasting white mantel and the curved screen enhance the unit’s bold and beautiful aesthetic. Next up was deciding what to make of an empty alcove set in the wall opposite the fireplace. In an act of creative daring, the deft DIYer transformed the space into a stylish office nook. Sarah began by making an elegant-meets-edgy pin board out of embossed reptile-patterned velvet fabric and then punctuated the look with antiqued brass nails before adding a floating desk and shelf. “The pin board blends in well with the room’s ikat wallpaper but still makes a visual statement that anchors the work area,” she says. After mastering the layout, the designer reinforced the room’s romantic and rustic feel with tasteful details like luxurious sheepskin pieces and natural wooden elements, ensuring each family member feels equally at home. “We spend just as much time here as we did before,” says Sarah, “but now we enjoy it 10 times as much.” That’s all the evidence we need that this master curator has done it again.
Since this family of four has a penchant for the outdoors, the designer incorporated nature-inspired finds, such as the large print depicting a foggy forest hanging above the fireplace. “The image reminds me of being in the woods and escaping the everyday,” says Sarah. She had the piece stretched onto canvas and then resined to deliver more of an ethereal effect.
Sarah and her husband upgraded their fireplace with a striking custom herringbone tile treatment.
The custom white oak coffee table lends an organic vibe to the family room and calls attention to the tall stack of logs tucked into the wall unit. “With a wood-burning fireplace, you want the logs to be close by so you’re not dragging bark everywhere,” says designer and homeowner Sarah Walker. “The display also has visual impact and adds warmth.”
For Sarah, a beautifully styled bookshelf relies on meaning just as much as placement and scale. “It’s important to tell your story through your space,” she says, referring to objects she added that were collected over time, from a sea urchin found in a quirky San Francisco shop to a sepia sketch purchased on the streets of Paris during her first trip there with her husband.
Playing with contrasting shapes, Sarah created a chic coffee table vignette using curved accents, including a vintage silver tray and a faceted black vase, to temper the sharp edges of the surface. “Bringing in round, soft elements is really important when you’re working with a room that has a lot of hard geometry,” says the designer.
Fashioning an inspiring and orderly work area came easily to Sarah thanks in part to location. “When a communal workspace is integrated into a kitchen, it winds up becoming a clutter collector,” she says. “But in the family room, it’s a bit more removed from that initial drop of mail and keys.”