Find helpful budget-friendly makeover ideas.
Make over your home with decorating tricks that don’t cost a dime!Who says you have to spend money to makeover your home? Here are some easy, fun and practical ideas for spiffing up your space without spending a cent.
Image by: Chris Court, William Meppem / Styling by: Justine Poole
Get an extra boost of energy in the morning or on-the-go with this granola, which calls for a 1/2 cup of espresso.
Espresso aside, this granola is made with other energy-boosting ingredients including sunflower seeds and almonds, making it a great way to start your day. Add a scoop of it to yogurt or just eat it by the handful.
1 Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the espresso and water in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the oats and raisins, mix to combine and allow to stand for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Add the maple syrup, sunflower seeds and almonds and stir to combine.
2 Spread the mixture onto two parchment paperlined baking sheets and bake, tossing occasionally, for 45 minutes or until the oats are crisp. Allow the mixture to cool on the baking sheets before serving.
3 Store the granola in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. To serve, divide among four bowls and top with the milk, figs and maple syrup.
Prep & cook time: 1 hour
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Excerpted from Life in Balance by Donna Hay. Recipes Copyright © 2016 Donna Hay, Photography copyright © 2016 Chris Court & William Meppem. Excerpted by permission of Harper Collins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Modern rustic townhouse
With a limited budget, a lot of creativity and loads of white paint, Toronto designer Jo Alcorn puts a stylish stamp on her sunny townhouse.
If her signature platinum blond hair and the moniker of her design firm – Whitewash & Co. – aren’t proof of her affinity for a certain shade, then a tour of Jo Alcorn’s west-end Toronto townhouse certainly is. White permeates the light-filled interior, from the furniture and accessories right down to the paint, which isn’t just any colour, but Jo Jo Whitewash, the namesake blend she custom designed for Para Paints. It was also the catalyst for her choice to infuse the 1,900-square-foot three-storey home with a fresh and crisp brio.
While the listing for the townhouse piqued her interest two years ago, tempting her with more space in her preferred neighbourhood, the viewing didn’t. “I actually wasn’t going to take it,” she says. “All the walls were painted yellow, and there were heavy old drapes, maple cabinetry and a sad-looking patio.” Before she shut the door on the property forever, her aesthetic instincts kicked in and she knew she could run with it. “I realized underneath it all, the house had good bones: 12-foot-high ceilings, detailed crown mouldings, clean lines and tons of natural light. I signed on the dotted line.”
“My dining room is just 10 feet wide, so it was tricky to figure out the scale of the furniture,” says homeowner and designer Jo Alcorn. To remedy this, she enlisted her father to craft a narrow dining table with benches that tuck underneath. “He used pine planks, and it cost a fraction of the price of a similar-looking table I had my eye on.” A modern white end chair plays off the rustic style of the table.
The galley kitchen’s maple cabinetry was punched up with paint and vintage brass hardware. “The upper cabinets are the same colour as the walls,” says Jo. “and I used a charcoal shade on the lowers to blend in with the black appliances and anchor the room.” A runner helps disguise the original floor tiles until Jo replaces them.
Myriad combinations of Jo’s signature look – an abundance of white, graphic black accents and soft touches like comfy furniture, throws and toss cushions – define the living room as both stylish and approachable.
“This is where my dogs, Lucy and Ricky, and I spend a lot of time,” she says. “White furniture is actually a cleaning lifesaver with white shedding dogs!”
Inspired by the conviviality of country kitchens with designated seating areas, Jo nixed an eat-in area in favour of a cozy sitting nook that’s perfect for morning coffee and evening cocktails.
Wallet-friendly black accents, whether in the form of paint, toss cushions, rugs or artwork, were used generously throughout to animate the pale backdrop and prevent the house from feeling stark.
Since every wall in the master bedroom features a window or a door, Jo had no choice but to position the bed in front of a small window. She found a headboard tall enough to hide its awkward placement, but the colour was wrong. Jo reupholstered it using a patterned fabric shower curtain and a staple gun. the result is a showpiece crafted on a shoestring budget.
The nightstand introduces a warm element (as well as handy storage) to the bedroom. The mirror reflects natural light and provides a feeling of spaciousness, while the dramatic horn lamp offers a sculptural balance to the large-scale headboard.
1 1006-02 loveseat, Cocoon Furnishings, from $2,280. 2 Dakota dining table, 77", Crate and Barrel, $1,699. 3 Triangular bevel rectangular framed mirror, Lowe’s, $80. 4 Scroll Tile rug in mocha, Pottery Barn, from $281. 5 Maison 4-drawer dresser in antiqued white, Restoration Hardware, $1,595 US. 6 Source kudu table lamp, West Elm, $219.
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.