Video: How to throw your throw pillows
Video: How to throw your throw pillows
DIY project: Felt ball ornament
Lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs gives her home a fresh look for Christmas. Credits: Tracey Ayton
For lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs, Christmas is all about sentiment and style. Here are 12 ways she pulls off a fresh look filled with meaning to commemorate a family milestone.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without family and tradition, sure, but in Monika Hibbs’s home, Christmas also wouldn’t be complete without her signature styling. Based just outside of Fort Langley, B.C., the blogger, who has quickly become a master of holiday decor, switches up her style almost every year. But regardless of the theme, these aspects always remain: A classic look and neutral scheme, metallic touches, a hint of whimsy and sheer covetability. Seasonal styling is a talent Monika has honed since she was a little girl. “Even when I was young, I loved adorning the tree and wrapping gifts,” she says. “Plus, my mom always let me be in charge of floral arrangements and tablescapes.”
Now that Monika has her own family (including hubby Troy, three-year-old Liam and 11- month-old Lillya), she shares the tasks with her children. “Liam’s really into it,” says Monika. “He decorates cookies, hangs ornaments and arranges the manger.” Though Lillya is too young to get involved, her arrival just two weeks before last Christmas inspired the entire feminine theme, executed with dusty rose-hued accents like tea light holders, wrapping paper and delicate raw silk ribbon.
Holiday decorating with the kids isn’t the only tradition the Hibbses have – they enjoy hot chocolate by their outdoor fireplace in the evenings and always make time for charity. But a highlight is taking the Bright Nights Christmas Train through Stanley Park with Troy’s family. “There’s around 60 of us – we fill the whole train,” says Monika, noting that the park is lit with millions of lights – perhaps the perfect place for this family-oriented champion of Christmas who also happens to have a penchant for sparkle.
1 Lifestyle blogger and unofficial queen of fresh and elegant holiday decor Monika Hibbs has three main tips for trimming a tree: Start with a colour scheme (“You don’t have to use every ornament in your box – save the ones that don’t suit your theme for another year,” she advises); instead of buying one-off ornaments, go for groups of three for visual impact; and organize them by category (like glass balls or felted figures) before hanging them to ensure balanced distribution.
2 “There’s something special about a fire this time of year,” says Monika. The one here in her family room is not the only staple flame of the season – tea lights are strewn on surfaces throughout the house, and the outdoor fireplace plays host to many a morning coffee or evening cocoa. “I love a fire’s warmth and random crackles, which add to the magic of the holidays.”
3 Style meets sentiment in chic pieces that commemorate family milestones, such as the decorative houses arranged on Monika’s fireplace mantel. “Each one represents a huge moment for us, from the purchase of our first home to the construction of this one,” she says. “And I write a note on the bottom of each so I never forget.”
4 Monika doesn’t switch out much of her everyday decor come Christmastime. In fact, furniture placement, artwork and accents mostly stay the same, save for a few toss cushions that get traded for more festive ones.
5 When it comes to garlands, Monika goes all out: She orders a massive length of fresh cedar (last year it was 75 feet!) to string along her banister, mantel, exterior trim and garage. She starts by measuring everything she wants to adorn and then adds an extra foot of cedar for every four feet to accommodate swag. Here, the garland is garnished with eucalyptus, cypress, pine cones and raw silk bows with cascading tails for a fresh, feminine look.
6 “You don’t need to cook an entire sit-down dinner for each of the season’s many parties,” says Monika, who prefers to prep for a holiday drop-in with comfort foods like homemade apple pie. “It’s elegant but cozy,” she explains.
7 Roses may be unconventional Christmas flowers, but they’re perfectly suited to Monika’s pretty-in-pink theme. “Originally, I wanted this piece to be a garland that wrapped around the whole range hood,” says Monika. “But it didn’t look right, so I downsized the idea. It’s perfect proof that sometimes less is more.”
8 A simple wreath hung with thick ribbon serves as another example of less is more and offers a wink of holiday spirit in an otherwise unadorned area.
9 Sparkling rosé served in pink champagne coupes underscores the holiday colour scheme, while whimsical details like frozen-rose ice cubes and sugared cranberries are easy and inexpensive ways to add serious wow factor.
10 No matter her holiday scheme, Monika tends to stick to neutrals when picking gift wrap. “I usually choose paper with subtle patterns, such as snowflakes or polka dots,” she says. “But I always wrap the kids’ presents in something more playful.”
11 Born six weeks after the Hibbses moved into this house and two weeks before Christmas, baby Lillya was the main source of inspiration for the home’s festive decor last year, marked by the powder pink and dusty rose accents with feminine touches. Monika purchased the “Hello Lovely” ornament in honour of Lillya’s birth to serve as a beautiful reminder of when they welcomed her into the world.
12 From the Fort Langley, B.C., shopping bag to the plaid scarf and blanket to the warm winter boots and even the skull mount, there’s always a hint of Canadiana in Monika’s winter decor.
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.
House tour: Timeless and modern Christmas
At Style at Home senior style editor Ann Marie Favot's midtown Toronto house, Christmas is lovingly created by hand with both budget and elegance in mind.
It’s hard not to get carried away when hosting a holiday feast: formal table settings, complete with chargers and centrepieces, party favours and place cards, oh my! Trees are decorated to the nines, gifts are wrapped so beautifully you never want to open them and glittering decorations capture everyone’s eye, whichever way they happen to glance. This time of year, over the top can be an understatement, and inhibitions about spending seem to soar out the window.
But Style at Home’s senior style editor, Ann Marie Favot, has found that fine holiday balance. She hosts some of the most elegant affairs featuring personalized menus, signature drinks, two trees and gold and blue accents – everywhere. Yet the look is refined, the decor tasteful and the price tag minimal. After all, savvy Annie does a lot of it by hand and on a budget. It’s no Christmas miracle that it all looks so beautiful.
A small faux tree in the entryway sets the party’s tone for arriving guests. What does it say? The pretty champagne-coloured ice bucket holding the tree: “This is a somewhat formal affair.” The luxe sheepskin it’s set upon: “But we’ll make sure you feel comfortable while you’re here.” The ornaments hung from the tree with ribbon instead of the wire they came with: “Extra handmade effort went into this event.” All in all, it says, “This is Christmas. And a chic one at that.”
Make a statement on your staircase – especially if it’s in the entryway. Here’s an easy way to do so that looks glitzy and expensive but costs very little in terms of time and money: Suspend a multi-stringed beaded garland along your banister using white ribbon. Wire together trios of ornaments and attach them to the ribbon. Tuck in gilded leaves for extra flourish and – voila! You’re the queen of Christmas crafts.
Here lies proof that a topper isn’t the most essential element for a decorated tree. On Annie’s evergreen, the perfectly coordinated ornaments stand for themselves, and a topper would have just drawn onlookers’ eyes away from those efforts. So put away that oversized star or handcrafted Christmas angel, and leave your treetop au naturel. It has a humble country look that complements Annie’s contemporary space. Don’t be afraid to switch out your everyday decor for the seasonal stuff, says Annie. Here, she simply removed a piece of artwork from her gallery wall and replaced it with a gold metal wreath hung from a pretty blue ribbon. She didn’t need to make a new hole in her wall, and her holiday decorations seem to seamlessly blend in with what’s always been there, for a look that’s festive but far from over the top.
When homeowner and Style at Home senior style editor Ann Marie Favot hosts a dinner for family or friends, Christmastime or not, she likes to keep everyone's glasses full. But ducking in and out of the kitchen means she misses out on her guests' anecdotes and punchlines, so she creates a bar station in the room where the action happens. On her dining room console, Annie used a simple gold tray to corral her bar elements, then she selected a signature drink to serve guests. "To be honest, I chose this cocktail because it matched my palette," she says.
Last Christmas’s boxwood wreaths dried out over the course of the year and, at first, Annie considered tossing them out. But, ever the inventive decorista, she had an idea: She could turn misfortune into fortune by spray-painting the browning wreaths gold – a quick trick that both prevents them from crumbling and also reinforces her holiday colour palette.
The dining table is beautifully set with an air of formality at a casual price. Craft store gift tags were turned into place cards with the wave of a gold pen, while menus were made from plain card stock with the courses handwritten on each and a decorative label placed at the top. It’s a personal touch that doesn’t require spending a fortune at the printer’s.
From the gifts to the tabletop decor, the beautiful blue and gold colour palette is reinforced right down to the napkins.
Cohesion is key to constructing a grouping of stylishly wrapped presents. Annie chose four coordinating papers in solid colours and subtle patterns, and created easy cards and toppers to make them stand out. Instead of buying pricey gift tags, she personalized plain white craft store ones with simple stickers, or placed sticky name tag labels directly on the gift wrap. She also played with layers of ribbon and twine on each gift in addition to using traditional bows.
Christmas crackers are often as pretty as they are fun to pop open, so why hide them away until the big dinner? Instead of filling a bowl with shimmery Christmas ornaments or rustic pinecones, Annie used gold crackers for an uncomplicated festive display. The bonus? With space at a premium during the holidays, it’s nice to be able to store stuff in plain sight without having it look like clutter.
It’s all in the details. Sure, this pretty toss cushion wasn’t brought out exclusively for Santa. But we love how Annie’s blue, white and gold Christmas scheme echoes her home’s everyday palette, right down to the smallest notion – like a gold zipper on a custom blue and white toss cushion.