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.
Follow these simple tips to keep clutter at bay and keep your home looking effortlessly organized.
Piles of bills on the kitchen counter, DVDs strewn about the living room and a beautiful antique dining room tabletop that's buried under piles of paper. Oh, and you can't find your gym pass either.
Can you relate to the above scenario? If so, you and your loved ones may slowly be drowning in a giant pile of clutter.
Clutter can be a big weight on the state of your mental health. "Clutter is like pollution. It's all-pervasive: It's in your thoughts, in your way, in your space. It robs you of peace of mind and that feeling of being at home," says Kristie Demke, President of Professional Organizers in Canada. "It can also rob you of time," she adds, "because you spend a lot more time moving things to dust, sweep and vacuum around. And, you spend more time looking for things."
Many of us dream of neat and tidy rooms like those showcased in our favourite design magazines like Style at Home. Here are 10 quick and easy ways to start clearing out the clutter in your home.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
1 Identify clutter hot spots
Kitchens attract mail pile-ups, home offices store endless piles of bills. Books and hand cream samples seem to love night tables and the weekend's newspaper becomes a permanent fixture on your living room floor. Once you identify your clutter hot spots, consider purchasing an attractive basket to house items you like to have at your fingertips. But remember, a basket can organize chaos for a while, but will also need a frequent purge a few times a month to avoid pile up.
Purge and do it often. Why are you using up valuable space storing that mixing bowl set you think your niece might want when she leaves for university in a few years? Go through your stuff and think about the last time you used it, why you're keeping it around and if it would be more useful somewhere else. After your first few big purging sessions, you won't need to go at your storage closet so frequently (and ruthlessly).
We all have important keepsakes we don't know what to do with and purging these can be difficult, but don't keep these things buried in the bottom of a box in your garage. Find a space in your home where you can show off its beauty and take good, constant care of it. "There's really no point in owning something if you can't use it," Kristie says.
3 Deal with a little every day
This may be the hardest tip to follow, but it's by far the best. Focusing a mere 15 minutes of your day on clearing clutter will make your life a whole lot easier (and your house a whole lot tidier)! When you're finished your bowl of cereal, put the dish in the dishwasher right away, rather than placing it in the sink. When you get home from work, deal with your mail immediately. File away bills and recycle junk mail then and there. If you have the luxury of half an hour, says Kristie, you can manage to sort through a closet of clothing, determining what you don't need anymore. If you don't let things pile up, your home will be a lot tidier and cleaning up much less of a daunting task.
4 Stay focused
When you're taking on a clutter-busting task, it's important to be energized and focused. Even if you're just spending 15 minutes on cleaning off your desk, ignore the buzz of your Blackberry and the ping of your e-mail inbox. Just focus on the task at hand so you can be done with it once and for all.
5 Look at the big picture
It's hard to decide on the fate of a beloved old sweater when you're looking at it on its own, but when you put it beside all your new ones, you may notice that it's stretched out of shape, faded and really, you wouldn't be caught dead in it in public. Conundrum solved!
6 Make use of unused space
You can add hooks over your bedroom and bathroom doors, bins and baskets on closet floors, storage bins under your bed, and bulletin boards and file pockets to your office walls. Be creative when looking at unused space and it can become a great new place to store items out of the way.
7 Get your kids involved
"Kids come with a lot of accessories," Kristie says, "so you have to be pretty vigilant to make sure you stay on top of it." Kristie recommends sitting down with your kids for an hour every month to sort through what they have, then storing or donating what is no longer being played with. "And make sure whatever storage you have is at their height and within their ability [to use]," she adds. "Even a toddler can put away soft toys into a bin if it's at the right height."
8 Identify a place for things
So you knit, sew, run, bike ride, cook and have two dogs. Your hobbies require you to actually own stuff, and therefore have created a good deal of clutter. "You really have to identify an amount of space - a place - for things. If you have a dog, make sure the leash and bags are all kept in one area," Kristie advises. In finding a home for your hobbies, you may discover you don't have room for all of them, helping you to identify which ones should be a priority.
9 File things ... now
Kristie says that one of the best organizing investments is a filing cabinet. Just think: All of those piles of papers in your home office can be put away in mere moments. And you won't spend hours of your precious time trying to locate your donation receipts come tax time. Don't worry, not all filing cabinets are of the old, stacked metal variety. You can find ones with classy design elements at places like West Elm, Ikea and Pottery Barn.
10 Give away
Dedicate a specific spot in your house or garage for giveaway items, and place a box there. When you come across something you no longer need or want, you can discard it to the giveaway spot immediately, rather than setting it back down and forgetting about it. Plan a monthly trip to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army drop-off location to get rid of the goods you no longer have room for.
Cozy home office nook.
Creativity abounds in this cozy home office nook, which we've designed on both an entry-level and a CEO budget. Can you tell the difference?
1 Quartet cork wall tiles, 12" x 12". Staples, $13 (set of 4). 2 Powder-coated steel Bondis wall clock. IKEA, $30. 3 Umbra aluminum Lettro wall organizers. Urban Barn, $48. 4 Powder-coated steel swing-arm sconce in black. CB2, $90. 5 iMac 3.3GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 desktop computer with Retina 5k display, 27". Apple, $2,399. 6 KSP acrylic Ghost-style chair. Kitchen Stuff Plus, $125. 7 Painted particleboard Alex desk (top only) in white, $169. Painted fibreboard Linnmon tabletop in white, 2' x 4', $20. Lacquered bamboo Hilver desk legs, $20 each. All IKEA. 8 Kate Spade New York acrylic Strike Gold stapler. Indigo, $28. 9 White waste basket. Dollar Tree, $1. 10 Faux leather office bag in brown. Zara, $70. 11 Contemporary handspun wool Sync rug in Spring Rain, 6' x 8'. Weavers Art, $3,570.
1 Cork Tackboard harmony wall tiles with self-adhesive backing, 12" x 24". Jelinek Cork Group, $110 (set of 5). 2 Large stainless steel wall clock in black. Urban Mode, $113. 3 Powder-coated iron Revere wall organizers in silver. CB2, $30 each. 4 Powder-coated steel swing-arm sconce with brass details. Pavillion, $399. 5 Mac Pro 3.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon ES desktop computer with Dual DPU ($3,499) with Thunderbolt display, 27" ($1,199). All Apple. 6 Polycarbonate Belle Epoque chair in Crystal Clear. UpCountry, $295. 7 Painted fibreboard Emerson desk in white with ash legs. Structube, $529. 8 Stainless steel Akto stapler. Urban Mode, $87. 9 Design Ideas spoxy-coated steel spoke waste basket in white. Neat, $30. 10 Royal Republiq leather Telegraph bag in cognac. Te Koop, $240. 11 Signature handspun wool-blend Terrazzo rug in Stone & Tan, 6' x 8'. Weavers Art, $5,370.
At times, tidying an office space can feel like a near-impossible feat (we've all been there). But before that pile of paper is mistaken for a mini mountain, rest assured: help is on the way. From wall-hung storage bins to fancy glassware, these three organizing solutions will have you conquering clutter once and for all. 1 Welcome wall storage: Free up precious desk space by storing stray items in sightly wall-mountaed storage bins. Ideal for tight quarters, they come in a range of sleek style sand can easily house everything from keys and office supplies to mail and magazines. 2 Get creative with glass: The glass message board has quickly become the new whiteboard. Simply hang a float picture frame (available at craft supply stores) on your wall and write notes on the glass using an erasable marker. Insert a favourite photograph or, if you're feeling crafty, line the inside with patterned paper. 3 Repurpose pretty dishware: Corral oft-used items like pencils and push-pins in gorgeous glassware or petite ceramic bowls set on a modern serving tray. Think of it as styling a glamorous bar cart, minus the booze!
Step 1: Assemble the Alex desktop as per the manufacturer's instructions (you won't need the frame that's included). Set the desktop aside. Step 2: To make the desk 30" high (the standard height), use a handsaw to cut off 3" from the bottom of each Hilver leg. Screw the legs into the pre-drilled holes of the Linnmon tabletop. Step 3: Apply a latex-based adhesive to the top of the Linnmon tabletop and carefully set the Alex destop on top, ensuring it's centred. Clamp the surfaces together while the adhesive dries overnight.
Aesthetically pleasing and practical for small spaces, the mighty sconce prevails in the world of office lighting. On the hunt for a style that suits your budget? We promise you'll take a shine to one of these swing-arm designs. From the top: 1 Brushed stainless steel vintage. gusmodern.com, $600. 2 Powder-coated steel with brass details. pavilionmodern.com, $399. 3 Powder-coated steel Tribeca Warren 1 in brass. wayfair.com, $350 US. 4 Powder-coated steel in black. cb2.com, $90.
Forgo securing a bulletin board to your workspace wall and opt for this textured and versatile cork alternative. The secret to any well-decorated space is finding a balance between style and function. In the case of cork, don't restrict yourself to a pre-made bulletin board. Perfect for adorning a wall, cork tiles (sold in an array of sizes and textures) will lend you a warm, tactile element to your home office. Jazz up the look some more by reusing bejewelled brooches as push-pins.
How to: Paint outdoor furniture
When undertaking a DIY project, there are usually a few things to consider. Add tempermental weather to the list and suddenly that little list has multiplied. How do you prepare your furniture for painting? What type of paint do you use? How does it differ for different types of material?
Though the process of painting outdoor furniture may seem daunting now, the best way to go about a DIY job is to be prepared. We talked to an expert at Canadian Tire to do just that. Michael Bache, Category Business Manager at Canadian Tire, shares his prepping and painting how tos to help put your DIY nerves at ease.
1 What supplies will you need for prepping and painting?
Depending on the state of the furniture (e.g. new wood, old plastic, painted metal, painted wood) and the type of paint chosen, a variety of items should be considered.
If using brush-on paint, consider using a primer before applying a new fresh coat of colour. When priming your furniture, make sure to use a good quality paintbrush and rags or drop cloths for clean-up. However, if you're using Krylon® Fusion™ no primer is required.
If repainting a metal or wood surface that has loose peeling paint, it must be removed for best adhesion. You can use sandpaper, steel wool, wire brush, scraper, or a stripper. You may require a tack cloth to clean up dust residue when sanding. If sanding a latex paint, a simple damp rag will work just fine.
2 Do these steps differ when prepping different materials, such as metal, plastic, wicker or wood?
Yes. Some products don't require primer, saving you a prep step. Using an aerosol is a benefit, too, as you also save a step in the prep. It generally dries faster and doesn't require clean-up since no paint brushes are involved. Even better, aerosols tend to give a factory style, air brush finish when applied properly, as opposed to a brush-on paint.
Bare wood generally requires a primer to seal the wood prior to painting as the surface is porous. The primer is used to provide a nice, smooth finish. Krylon Dual saves a step on both bare wood and metal since it primes and paints in one easy step. This saves time and allows people to have more time enjoying their furniture and less time prepping it!
3 What type of paint should you use for outdoor furniture?
Always follow the directions on the label for specific product use. This will ensure proper adhesion to your surface.
Plastic patio furniture should only have a paint specifically designed to adhere to plastic and hard-to-bond surfaces. Many general purpose paints can adhere to most surfaces except plastic.
For wicker or rattan, spray paints tend to make a nicer finish and easily gets into the grooves. Muskoka chairs are also easier to paint when using an aerosol as opposed to a paint brush. Now there's even an aerosol wood stain by Krylon. Spray stains make fast work of Muskoka chairs and planters - no brushes to clean up either.
5 What about rust prevention?
Paint designed especially for metal surfaces tends to add rust protection into the paint - make sure the paint says "rust proofing" or "rust inhibiting".
As our climate changes, U.V. rays are also a consideration - they're hard on our skin and our exterior patio furniture! Some paints actually have U.V. protection in their paint. This will help protect your finish to resist harsh weather conditions. We suggest storing patio furniture during the fall and winter months when not in use. If space is a problem, a variety of covers and tarps are available to help protect your investment.
6 What are the best painting methods to use?
Much of this is personal preference. However, some surfaces, like wicker and rattan, have a nicer finish when sprayed versus brushing.
7 What kind of finish, if any, should you use?
Most paint companies offer a variety of finishes to choose from - satin, gloss, textured, metallic, hammered, and more. As long as you use an appropriate paint for your exterior surface and follow the instructions, you should achieve the finish you want. The really nice thing about the variety of paints and finishes available is that people can turn "garage sale finds" into treasures. Mixing and matching old and new creates a different and personalized patio set.
8 How many coats should you use
Follow the instructions on the can, however many paints suggest two coats. When painting remember this rule of thumb: Thinner coats are better than thicker coats. Thinner coats dry faster and produce a harder finish.
9 What should you look for in a brush?
Is it the right paint brush for your paint? Oil-based paints generally have different bristles than latex paints. The brush label will specify this.
Is the paint brush the right size to do your project? If you are painting furniture, smaller brushes may be better. Ensure it fits into your paint container.
A roller can be great for large flat surfaces, like a tabletop. This can help reduce brush marks, too!
10 How does climate affect the painting process?
Weather is a big factor. For the most part, if you're getting a sunburn and sweating, it's probably too hot to paint. This will cause the paint to dry too fast. If it's too windy and you're using an aerosol paint, your paint may dissipate before it reaches the surface. Either wait for the wind to die down or use cardboard to build a spray tunnel. Humidity can affect the paint's dry time, which leaves more time for surface imperfections to take place on your finish. In general, 21ºC and about 50% humidity are ideal conditions for painting.
12 Any last tips?
Remember to protect other surfaces if working outside by using masking tape and drop cloths. Most importantly, regardless of your project, remember to always read product labels thoroughly and follow directions.