Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
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.
Satisfy even the most discerning epicureans on your list with one of these fashionable foodie-approved finds.
We all have that person in our life who can prepare an intricate meal without so much as glancing at a recipe. That person who dabbles in all things culinary related on a daily basis and has a kitchen pantry that rivals that of celebrity chef Mark McEwan (or it at least comes close). Not sure what to treat them to this holiday season? Browse through our list of food-related gift ideas for inspiration.
A heart-smart treat for the health food aficionado in your life, this carefully curated six-pack of cold-pressed juices contains almost two pounds of fruit and veg in every bottle! Cold-pressed Juices, Dose Juice, $42 per 6-piece pack.
This elegant Art Deco-style coffee dripper is for your friend who has one foot planted firmly at home and the other off in some distant Parisian patisserie. Hario stainless copper Coffee Dripper, Indigo, $100.
If the Bat Cave had a coffee maker, this would be it. Nespresso’s latest boasts a matte black finish befitting anyone in need of a caffeine jolt before saving Gotham City. VertuoLine Coffee Machine in Matte Black, Nespresso, $249.
This high-ranking mustard deserves your salute. Flavoured with decadent wine and truffles – and only available for a limited time – it’s a covetable condiment fit for any top official. Black Truffle and Chablis Mustard, Maille, $43 US.
These striking mugs echo exotic corners of the earth that yield top-notch coffee, from Sumatra to Costa Rica. Pair a mug with beans from the same region for a gift guaranteed to please any java junkie. Stamp Art Mugs, Starbucks, $19 each.
These pretty, precious and feminine flasks are almost too stylish to sully with alcohol – but everyone has a friend who would! Stainless steel Odeme Flasks, 90 ml, West Elm, $29 US each.
This vintage-look colander is a timeless classic that takes an everyday kitchen tool from dull to display-worthy. Copper-plated steel Colander in Gold, Anthropologie, $34 US.
This Scandi-chic French press in pale pink (with a pretty copper detail) is not only a beautiful vessel for your morning brew, but also an ideal addition to any open shelf. Ceramic French Press in Sand, Yield Design Co., $120 US.
Treat fans of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation to “the gift that keeps on giving.” Translation: their very own Jelly of the Month Club gift set! (Reference lost on you? See here.) Griswold Jelly of the Month Club Gift Set, Retro Festive, $40.
It may resemble salami, but this treat is made entirely out of chocolate. Containing hazelnuts, almonds, cherries and even rum, the confection is a certified crowd-pleaser – especially when presented on a cutting board. Chocolate salami, SOMA Chocolatemaker, $23.
Count on Alessi to make a conventional utensil undeniably sleek. Crafted from stainless steel and boasting a unique shape, the modern citrus squeezer also doubles as a pestle. Valerio Citrus Squeezer, Alessi, $71.
Building a beautiful cheese platter is something of an art form, but it helps to have stylish spreaders to complement the nibbles. This gorgeous set with rose quartz handles will make any table sparkle. Rose Quartz Spreaders, HomeSense, $15 4-piece set.
10 Pinterest gift wrapping ideas
You've finished all your holiday decorating, baking and shopping. So, what's left to take care of? It's time to get wrapping! If you're feeling creative or want to impress that special someone on your list, skip the usual gift bag and tissue paper. Dress up your gifts with any (or all) of these great gift wrapping ideas we found on Pinterest.
A few kitchen gadgets wrapped up in a new pair of oven mitts makes a thoughtful hostess gift. Pinned from @diyncrafts.
Personalize a simple package with a memorable photo. Add the photo to the top of your gift box to make it extra special. Pinned from @CamilleStyles.
If you’re feeling really creative, try out some chalkboard wrapping paper. You can buy black paper and use a white felt marker if you can't find actual chalkboard paper, but either way the fun is in the decorating. Pinned from @SouthernSavers.
Dress up plain wrapping paper using paper doilies. They’re simple to attach and easy to write on. Pinned from @theBERRY.
Make a stylish statement and load up your wrapping station with a variety of paper, bows, ornaments and ribbon in the same colour palette. From there, go crazy with mixing and matching for an eclectic yet unified look. Pinned from @ABurstofBeautiful.
Trade in your usual bow or a new gift topper. Let your creativity soar by adding feathers. Can't find feathers? Fear not! Print out some designs or freehand on some scrapbooking paper to create a similar look. Pinned from @LiaGriffith.
Using brown paper has been wildly popular over the last few years because of its versatility. Use the end of a pencil and a variety of paints to dab on dots and create a one-of-a-kind wrapping paper design. Pinned from @TheWeddingChicks.
Use paint chips and a festive hole punch to add some fun to your holiday wrapping. Attach them directly to the paper or include a handful inside as confetti to add a little something extra! Pinned from @Just Imagine - Daily Does of Creativity.