Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, from $26
The blend of salty and sweet sounds like just the thing my pantry (and tummy!) need this holiday season. What are some of your favourite winter beverages for indulging?
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, from $26
The blend of salty and sweet sounds like just the thing my pantry (and tummy!) need this holiday season. What are some of your favourite winter beverages for indulging?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Photo: Janis Nicolay
A dazzling home renovation dream team creates a comfy and collected home that is rooted in their histories.
It was a financial decision that initiated Rebecca and Peter Lapres’s “great creative adventure.” Three years ago, they were living in a 70-year-old house on a large piece of land on Vancouver’s west side when they took heed of the escalating real estate prices and decided to cash out and relocate to the city’s relatively less expensive east side. “We didn’t think it was a good idea to have so much money tied up in a property,” says Rebecca.
They discovered an old neglected teardown on a standard-sized lot in an up-and-coming neighbourhood and bought it right then and there. Why, you might ask? Well, Rebecca is a principal at Riesco & Lapres Interior Design, and Peter is a residential contractor and home builder. So the duo, a veritable dream team of home building, knew they could create a house from scratch that perfectly suited their busy family (which includes three children, three cats and a dog). The seven-month process resulted in this 2,900-square-foot three-storey urban cottage teeming with charm. A passion for everything time-worn and timeless inspired Rebecca to design a space that combines aspects of a previous era, including a strong respect for craftsmanship, with a refined feel. “I don’t see any reason for having to go modern if you’re building a new house,” she says. "We wanted ours to feel more established and traditional, but with a fresh look.”
The living room of this Vancouver home features an eclectic mix that's meaningful to its homeowners: The coffee table is an old dining table with its legs cut down; the curvaceous settee came from a client of homeowner and designer Rebecca Lapres; and the side table was made by one of her brothers from a cedar stump cut down in the 1800s.
Eschewing contemporary architecture also meant bucking the trend of open-concept floor plans. Having lived in London for about two years, the couple became accustomed to narrow Victorian rowhouses that were tiny but still boasted separate rooms. For Rebecca, it was important to define formal and informal spaces, and to create cozy nooks where one could get away – resulting in plenty of wall space for art and furniture. It’s a practical sentiment, but it also appeals to the designer’s sense of playfulness and creativity. “I like interiors where there is a bit of mystery; where you wonder, ‘What’s around that corner?’” she says. “And you find little surprises and quirky touches that feel like an aha! discovery.”
The settee in the home office is the perfect spot to curl up with a good read and a cup of tea. A wall of artwork offers inspiration. "Most of the art I buy is from non-professionals, and they're all fairly old pieces," says Rebecca. "For instance, I have a watercolour of the Galata Bridge an Istanbul painted by a British traveller in the 1920s. It's a very evocative painting for me.
A place full of surprises and discoveries is in fact the perfect description for this house, which reflects the couple’s adventurous lives and sense of wonder. Furnishings and accessories were amassed over time – there are gifts from friends and relatives and items found at vintage stores and junk shops or during their stint in Europe – and most have a story. The rug in the kitchen, for example, was found in the ’80s during the nine months the couple lived in Turkey; the pottery pieces on the living room mantel were created by Rebecca’s late great-aunt, Hilda Ross, who taught in the fine art department at the University of British Columbia; and the entryway cabinet, which is used as a purse closet, came from the “beach shack” the pair rented while this place was being built. “There was an Englishwoman living there before us,” explains Rebecca, “and she sold me the cabinet for $150!”
In the entryway, accessories like the naturally shed antler and the beaver stick lend the space an organic touch that reflects Rebecca's West Coast upbringing. "We found that stick on the beach," she says, "so it has a beautiful texture from the beaver chewing on it and then from being tossed around in the ocean."
This refined eclecticism – inspired by the rich, saturated sense of history Rebecca loves about London and by her outdoorsy West Coast ethos – fits the duo to a T. “I liken this house to the way I feel when I’m wearing very comfortable clothing,” she says. “There’s no stretch for me. I’m not pushing any boundaries. It’s simply my definition of home.”
The large foyer is defined by board and batten siding that adds traditional character and offers a distinctive look. "I wanted to give the entryway a sense of significance," explains Rebecca. "I wanted it to say, 'Come into my house. Let me take your coat.'"
The kitchen exemplifies the home's fresh yet traditional aesthetic thanks to elements like the grey-painted Shaker-style cabinetry, honed marble subway tile backsplash, engineered quartz countertop and stainless steel appliances. The brass and powder-coated steel pendant lights and time-worn wooden stools add a vintage vibe.
Open to the kitchen, the dining room is classic and striking, its neutral shades energized by splashes of juicy jewel tones. An old table with an ebonized finish is surrounded by light-toned Windsor dining chairs. "I searched for chairs forever," says Rebecca. "I wanted them to look like they came from a junk store - vintage, humble and simple."
Bookcases in the living room add character and frame the doorway into the home office. "I love books," says Rebecca. "A lot of mine are non-fiction titles on travel and art, as well as a little bit of poetry."
The master bath's built-in vanity, with its drawers and turned legs, looks like a stand-alone piece of furniture. It's made of quarter-sawn oak stained brown and brushed with a black glaze. "It has a nice depth and rich patina," says Rebecca.
In the master bedroom, the side table lends an exotic Moorish look while the avian-motif bedding offers a hit of whimsy.
Take a tour of this gorgeous family cottage on Lake Simcoe.
Designer Jessica Waks gives this family's second cottage its own unique flair, creating a spot to accommodate not only guests but also generations to come.
Nudged awake by the sweet smell of fresh cinnamon buns wafting from the kitchen, sleepy family members lumber downstairs, along the way catching sweeping views of serene Lake Simcoe – calm and quiet before the afternoon action takes hold. It’s a common Sunday scene at this Innisfil, Ont., cottage, which is peaceful in the morning until everyone gets up and silence gives way to animated chit-chat and laughter. Often, it’s not just the occupants of this abode in attendance, but the next-door neighbours as well – after all, they’re family, too. The homeowners, a Toronto couple with four adult daughters and two toddler grandchildren, weren’t planning on purchasing a new place – they bought a cottage only five years ago (featured in Style at Home’s July 2013 issue) – but when this 7,000-square-foot three-storey structure directly next door to the first became available, the owners decided to take advantage of the unique opportunity to keep their rapidly expanding family together on these adjacent vacation properties. To make the cottages look cohesive, they rehired designer Jessica Waks – Style at Home’s former design editor – of Jessica Claire Interiors, who had perfectly appointed their first place. “The homeowners wanted the spaces to have their own identities but to also look unified,” says Jessica, discussing how she took the nautical tone of the first property and layered a more country feel into the second. “I used a refined rustic aesthetic to temper its grand architecture, which boasts a spacious foyer and formal principal rooms,” she says.
Jessica was thinking Nantucket rather than classic Canadiana (“it’s more in keeping with the beach locale,” she says) when she rescued the dark and dated interior from its 1980s time warp. The most notable offences? Upholstered doors, inexplicable wall cut outs, tacky floral wallpaper (even on the ceiling in some rooms), mismatched flooring (including fruit-patterned tiles and pink-stained oak), heavily swathed valances, forest green toilets and sinks and a bizarre balcony that jutted into the living room from the second floor. In other words, the cottage called for a complete overhaul. So Jessica started fresh in almost every room, smoothing out the architectural oddities and replacing the flooring with dark-stained oak hardwood, which contrasts the newly white walls throughout – a timeless and cohesive envelope for the elegant nautical look.
Creating a furniture plan for the grand living room was tricky because it has so many points of entry,” says designer Jessica Waks. “Not only did it need to seat a lot of people, but it also had to look good from all angles.” Jessica cleverly selected items like the blue swivel armchairs that can face the central sitting area, the fireplace or the view (win-win-win)!
To make a statement in the foyer, Jessica set visually interesting pieces like the vintage spool-legged console with a curvy linen-upholstered settee against a simple, traditional pedestal table. The jug of maple branches is a nod to the cottage’s sylvan surroundings.
Above the console in the great room, the designer framed and hung a simple grid of antique Simcoe county maps. Believe it or not, the stunning console was a Craigs List purchase. “I love find ing preloved pieces online, at markets and at consignment stores – there are such gems to uncover,” says Jessica, who skilfully pairs these secondhand scores with new custom items.
Meals are often served alfresco with stunning views of Lake Simcoe on the side. To visually connect the two properties, Jessica chose the same outdoor dining furniture for this space as she did for the other cottage next door. “I love how the teak’s grey stain and toss cushions match the stone work and siding of the home’s exterior,” she says.
“The windows in the dining room look out to the front and side of the property,” says Jessica, “so to make up for the lack of lake views and to add visual interest, I chose a charming paisley wallpaper.” The blue-grey tone of the print perfectly matches the original slate fireplace surround.
In the kitchen, the white beadboard cabinetry offers a light and airy country look that’s grounded by darker elements, such as the leathered black granite perimeter countertops and slate-look floor tiles. The wide butcher block-topped island provides ample space for the homeowners, who are avid cooks, to prep meals for their large family.
A pretty patterned wallpaper distracts from this powder room’s awkward angles. Using the space’s drawbacks to her advantage, Jessica leaned a vintage wooden ladder against the wall to hang towels for guests.
The third-floor “bunkie” boasts the most coveted sleeping area in the house: the queen bed in the window niche overlooking the lake. “You can see the sunrise from this spot,” says Jessica. Nautical buffalo-check drapery offers sleepers privacy from the rest of the room.
“As a decorator, I love the strong sense of symmetry that comes from a set of twin beds,” says Jessica, who had these hard-to-find spindle-framed beds for one of the rooms shipped from the US. “I like how they stand out against the wallpaper,” she says. “You can really appreciate the spool detail.”
We've designed a dapper den - fit for cozy movie nights - on both a Hollywood and an indie budget. Can you tell the difference?
1 Painted steel little flag floor lamp in black. suite22.ca, $1,000. 2 TW Ceramics medium handmade earthenware pot in white. greenlightshop.ca, $65. 3 TW Ceramics short handmade earthenware pot. greenlightshop.ca, $50 4 Spisani acrylic Scottish terrier bookends. elte.com, $295. 5 Linen blend down-filled Melinda toss cushion. boobooandlefty.com, $295. 6 TW Ceramics medium handmade earthenware path pot in white. greenlightshop.ca, $75. 7 Lafco hand-blown glass soy blend powder room candle in Duchess Peony. boobooandlefty.com, $65. 8 Elysee marble-topped polished steel coffee table. shelter.ca, $949. 9 Opulence Collection hand-knotted bamboo silk rug 8' x 10'. carpetandhome.com, $2,949. 10 Randall sofa with organic linen Farrow fabric in silver. elte.com, $5,755. 11 Down-filled linen toss cushion in Deerfield Coral. boobooandlefty.com, $195. 12 Hand-stitched wool toss cushion with polyfill insert. greenlightshop.ca, $75.
1 Powder-coated steel Eetu floor lamp. eq3.com, $250. 2 Powder-coated earthenware Papaja pot in white. ikea.ca, $4. 3 Ceramic hand stamped pot in thin stripe. westelm.com, $24. 4 Resin golden dog bookends with glass bases. zarahome.com, $100. 5 Cotton toss cushion with feather insert. homesense.ca, $40 per pair. 6 Eartenware kardemumma pot. ikea.ca, $5. 7 Glass soy blend candle in Pure Peony Blush. indigo.ca, $18 (8 oz.). 8 Round marble-topped chrome-plated steel smart coffee table. cb2.ca, $379. 9 Legend Collection hand-tufted wool blend rug. carpetandhome.com, $1,780 (8' x 10'). 10 Allen sofa with cotton Lenna fabric in steel. eltemkt.com, $1,395. 11 Cotton leisure toss cushion in Blush with feather insert. cb2.ca, $50. 12 Polyfilled cotton toss cushion. homesense.ca, $25.
Make your bookshelf an attention-grabber (not to mention a jaw-dropper!) with unique bookends. Whether you choose an option from the animal kingdom, an industrial-inspired version or a beachy showpiece, look for luxe materials and sheens in neutral tones. Think glossy acrylics, solid marble and shimmery gold. (From the top, left to right): 1 Horse with wooden bases. cornerstonefurniture.ca, $74 per pair. 2 Spisani acrylic dachshund in tortoise. elte.com, $295 per set. 3 Faux shell with acrylic base. homesense.ca, $35 each. 4 Ceramic pug dog. linenchest.com, $70 per set. 5 Gold-leafed steel ampersand with marble base. elte.com, $305 each. 6 Spisani acrylic Scottish terriors. elte.com, $295 per pair. 7 Glazed porcelain gear. cornerstonefurniture.ca, $45 per pair. 8 Resin golden dog with glass base. zarahome.com, $50 each. 9 Resin shark-shaped with wooden bases. zarahome.com, $70 per set.
The most intruging shelfscapes look like they came together slowly over time. But if you want style stat, we created this variation on our high and low shelving in less than five minutes. With our five pro tips, you can, too. 1 Step up your end game. Bookends that are this pretty deserve to be in the spotlight: Display them solo or atop a pile of books. 2 Breathe life. Incorporate greenery for a bright, tactile element. No one does texture better than Mother Nature. 3 Stack this way. Arrange books in small groups, set both vertically and horizontally for visual interest. 4 Surprise! Lend depth by weaving in unexpected pieces, such as this miniature armchair and golden nugget. 5 Pull it together. Keep the look cohesive with a distinct colour palette. Here, for instance, we covered a few tomes in paper in the same hue as the wall.
Two sleek grey sofas, two very different price tags. Why the $4,360 gap? While the Low sofa is machine made using cost-saving materials, the High is handmade by skilled craftspeople using low-VOC finishes, including certified sustainable wood, a flame-retardant reneweable soy-based foam and organic linen. High: Randall sofa with organic linen Farrow fabric in silver. elte.com, $5,755. Low: Allen sofa with cotton Lenna fabric in steel. eltemkt.com, $1,395.
Camouflage run-of-the-mill magazine holders as one large art piece. Look for a graphic photo in your own albums, scour the web or reach out to an Instagram favourite (we go ours from @roberttravelpics). Print the image large enough to cover the backs of all the holders. Measure and cut it into equal segments and attach them to the back of each holder using spray adhesive. Set the holders side by side for a showstopping display that can stash a ton of stuff. Plywood Knuff magazine holders, ikea.ca, $13 per pair.