Video: How to make the perfect bed
Video: How to make the perfect bed
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.
25 ways to decorate with paint
These tips and tricks on how to decorate with paint will breathe new life into a dull, tired home.
Update your home's interior and exterior using a fresh coat of paint to decorate. Bring energy and optimism, create a calming, relaxed atmosphere and renew old furniture using paint colours, finishes and accents .
1 Establish a more intimate space by painting the ceiling a darker colour, creating the illusion of a lower ceiling.
2 Soften an awkwardly angled wall or room by painting it one solid colour.
3 For a modern effect try painting the walls and trim the same colour. Use a flat paint for the walls and a semi-gloss for the trim.
4 Make a tight space seem larger and airier by painting the ceiling a lighter version of the hue painted on the room’s walls or white.
5 Paint your front door a statement colour that stands out from the rest of the house. Try a gorgeous historical blue or a radiant ruby red - not something you see every day.
6 A home's exterior plays a large part in how the world, or at least neighbours and visitors, see you. Revitalize your home with a fresh coat of paint every three to six years.
7 If you want to invigorate your home's exterior without painting the entire exterior, freshen up the trim. White or rich neutrals, depending on the house's exterior colour, can easily update the look of your house.
8 Shutters and porch gables are the perfect place to express a love for colour and decorate with paint.
9 If you really want to set a mood in a room, then use different paint hues to create an energetic or relaxed atmosphere or to warm up or cool down a space.
10 Ash purples, bronzed greens and lacquer reds reflect a feminine classicism, inspired by needlework, appliqués and period furniture, that is back in style.
11 Conjure up images of rural life with wonderfully rustic plum, teal and red clay tones.
12 If you have a lot of dark wood furniture add an exotic, Middle Eastern influence by painting the walls a deep, rich purple or blue.
13 Expressing your individuality in your paint colour choices can result in more unexpected pairings of colour, pattern and design styles.
14 If you’re colour shy, go with all-white walls. The absence of colour is as effective as the presence of colour.
15 Use a variety of neutral shades and have fun mixing several textures in your rooms to keep things interesting.
16 When choosing a bold colour be sure to tie it into the whole scheme of the room.
17 Contemporary paint effects like stencils and colour washes create interest and surprise. Think of these effects as unframed artwork adorning your walls.
18 Use lightly washed stripes to create a sophisticated French country look (especially if you use blue, yellow or white hues). This is a subtle technique that adds texture and sheen to a room.
19 Create a fun mural, like clouds or the night sky, on the ceiling. This is a great way to decorate with paint in a child's room, nursery or family room.
20 Fresco is a wonderful painting technique that can help hide surface imperfections. It gives a soft, mottled look that adds depth and interest to your walls.
21 Add a splash of colour to neutral walls by selecting zones on a wall or ceiling and painting them a different, often contrasting, colour from the main wall. This technique is known as colour blocking.
Accents & accessories
22 Feature a wall at one end of a hallway by painting it a contrasting, dramatic colour; that will serve to visually bring it forward.
23 Give chairs, dressers, drawers, tables and desks a new lease on life with a new colour or coat of paint. You’ll be surprised how quickly that old, ugly chair becomes your new favorite accent piece.
24 Get in touch with you inner Pollock by applying dripped and splattered paint to an article of furniture. Make sure the piece is painted a solid colour (preferably white or black) before you start throwing different paint shade onto it.
25 Make the kitchen pop by bringing in a bold colour. Paint the backsplash or the cabinetry a bright colour that you love (and can live with).
Tour this stylish open-concept condo.
Starring a diverse cast, tension and drama, this pared-back open-concept condo is anything but prosaic.
A great designer is a matchmaker, a trendsetter and, above all else, a storyteller. With the decor of this new-build condo’s main living area, Yanic Simard, founder and lead designer of Toronto Interior Design Group, proves he is among the greats. The scene in this 540-square-foot open-concept space was already set. Floor-to-ceiling windows spanning two entire sides of the condo flood it with sunshine and overlook the tree-lined streets of Toronto’s posh Yorkville neighbourhood and the city’s downtown skyline beyond. With such a lively setting, a restrained decorating approach was best, so neutral finishes were chosen in the form of sophisticated greyish-white wall paint, warm-toned wide-plank hardwood floors and cream-coloured kitchen cabinetry.
With a relatively blank slate established, the cooking/dining/living space was ready for some personality, so Yanic set about casting his characters, starting with the hero: “That custom blue sectional is the piece,” he says, adding that he had fabric samples sent from as far away as Europe and South America to find that “delicious” velvet. To fill the supporting roles, he animated the room with a small yet eclectic group, including a retro brass and glass coffee table, an Art Deco-inspired mirror, Mid-Century Modern-style dining furniture and traditional-meets-modern clear plastic kitchen stools. The vastly varied furnishings lend the space quiet tension, but it’s their shared low-slung silhouettes that create drama. “We wanted to make the ceiling – already impressive at 10 feet – appear even higher,” says Yanic, citing European apartments as inspiration. Dramatic, too, are the light fixtures. In the kitchen, a futuristic long-armed Serge Mouille-influenced piece is the antithesis of the classic Shaker-style cabinetry, but the fixture’s white finish humbles it. Meanwhile, the matching pendants over the living and dining areas hark back to the opulence of the Hollywood Regency period, but their size is modest and their shape simple. After all, much like the best narratives, the chicest rooms show off a skillful interplay of striking and soothing moments, so it’s no wonder this fanciful yet pared-back space earned a five-star review from the homeowners.
The living area plays host to all walks of (decor) life, amounting to a timeless look. though disparate, all the pieces abide by one rule: Nothing distracts from the million-dollar view of downtown Toronto.
“Don’t fight what the space is offering you,” says designer Yanic Simard, who selected floating furniture arrangements for the living and dining areas in order to respect the walls of windows behind them.
Yanic punctuated the space with a small selection of thoughtful accessories, such as the blue glassware, which reinforces the colour theme introduced by the sectional.
Like a pair of old hollywood starlets, the brass-framed crystal chandeliers in the dining and living areas are all sparkle, glitz and glam, yet these dames’ diminutive proportions and simple geometric shape keep them from stealing the show.
Visible behind the vintage wood-panelled herringbone-upholstered armchair, sheer drapery, used throughout the space, almost blends into the walls. the white fabric’s grey wavy pattern is interesting up close but unassuming from afar.
The Art Deco-style mirror takes advantage of the 10-foot-high ceiling. Beneath it, the super-long glossy black sideboard connects the dining area to the living zone and houses everything from napkins to DVDs.
The bold veined grey marble countertops and backsplash energize the traditional cream-toned kitchen cabinetry. The classic finishes get a dose of modernity from the contemporary light fixture and clear plastic stools.
Image: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.