Take a trip to Dublin, Ireland with our home & style director.
Our home & style director jets off to Dublin, Ireland.
Style at Home's home & style director, Ann Marie Favot, gets her Irish on in this young-at-heart ancient city filled with inspiration.
Day 1: Check into The Morrison Hotel, ideally situated on the banks of the River Liffey in the city centre. it’s a short walk from here to a ton of Dublin’s main attractions, including shopping and nightlife. Stretch your legs by taking a stroll south of the river to The Library of Trinity College Dublin to have a gander at the Book of Kells, the stunning illuminated medieval manuscript that is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures. Then wander through the maze of ancient streets that make up the vibrant temple bar neighbourhood just west of Trinity College.
If you’re lucky enough to be here on a Saturday, start at the Temple Bar Food Market (above) and indulge in fresh scones, cheeses, breads and other snacks you can take back to the hotel (or eat right there!).
Do some serious browsing in the pretty boutiques along Cow’s Lane and in the surrounding area, particularly on Drury, William and Clarendon streets. Scout, Cow’s Lane Designer Studio, Paula Rowan, The Garden (above), Find and the Irish Design Shop all feature beautifully made goods to take home. stop for a rest at Avoca, a divine family-run design shop/café, and then return to the hotel to put away your purchases before heading to the historic Temple Bar for a must-have dinner of oysters and guinness, accompanied by traditional Irish music from a roster of engaging live bands.
Day 2: Start your day with a walk to the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, located in Collins Barracks, an old army base dating to 1704. The museum houses a fine collection of artisanal Irish wares, including glass work, silverware and turned wood, as well as traditional furniture pieces that speak to the country’s domestic history. See the exhibition devoted to Irish modernist pioneer Eileen Gray, which includes her groundbreaking adjustable chrome table and non-conformist chair. Leaving the museum, head south across the river. Your destination is Iveagh Gardens, but take a detour by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to ogle this venerable 800-year-old institution.
Before reaching the gardens, have lunch at nearby Drury Street’s Considered by Helen James, where you’ll dine at communal tables side by side with the locals. Owned by Dunnes stores, the café also features a full range of designer Helen James’s foodstuffs, tableware and accessories. Industry & Co., a lifestyle decor store across the street, also includes a great café. Carry on to Iveagh Gardens, one of Dublin’s best hidden spaces, and lose yourself among the statuary, rockeries, fountains, waterfall and grotto. Small (you can see it all in about an hour) and free, this verdant garden was envisioned by famed landscape architect Ninian Niven in 1865. Soak up the atmosphere at this peaceful oasis as a counterpoint to the hustle and bustle beyond the gates.
Once you’re revived by Ninian’s horticultural genius, make your way back to the hotel for a rest before indulging in a late dinner on the roof terrace at The Woollen Mills, an elegant eatery situated in an old mill overlooking Ha’penny Bridge and the River Liffey.
Day 3: A trip to Ireland isn’t complete without enjoying a drink or two. Check out the Teeling Whiskey Distillery in the historic Liberties district to learn the history of Irish whiskey and do your own taste test. Don’t leave without sampling the divine whiskey ice cream at the distillery’s Phoenix café. Then, if you can still walk, sign up for a tour with Fab Food Trails and enjoy an insider’s look at the city’s past and culinary heritage with one of the local guides.
Alternatively, if you’re in Dublin on the last Sunday of the month, check out the Dublin Flea Market (above) for all kinds of antique and vintage knick-knacks. Book in for dinner at Ely Wine Bar, which stocks more than 500 wines and boasts a “pasture to plate” selection of beef and pork dishes made from livestock raised at its owners’ organic family farm. End your day at one of the nearby bars that feature live traditional Irish music.
Cool, misty Irish days call for practical pieces that work for changeable weather.
Padded Maya Gilet in Brown, Horseware Ireland, $105 US.
Printed Bubble umbrella in Dulse Wave Print, Hunter Original, $75.
Master collection GMT watch, Longines, $2,900.
Discipline travel-sized hair-care products, Kérastase Paris, from $19 each.
Country Galway boots in Walnut with ExtraFit, Dubarry, $549.
Limbo multiwheel suitcase in Creme White, 22", Rimowa, $915.
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.
Take a tour of Canadian writer Kelly Oxford's L.A. home.
Celebrated designer Orlando Soria creates a carefree and quirky Palm Springs-style oasis in the canyons for a famous Canadian writer living in L.A.
Few friendships are built solely on decor, but for Orlando Soria and Kelly Oxford, it was certainly the foundation. Having met when he redesigned her Los Angeles office, they seem like a match made in heaven: Orlando, creative director of the design firm Homepolish, is one of the decor world’s funniest Instagrammers, and Kelly became famous for her hilarious and unapologetically sarcastic tweets. Needless to say, the office transformation was marked by not only shared tastes, but also cheeky texts and rapid-fire repartee. So when the Edmonton-born, L.A.-based writer of the bestselling memoir Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar – who’s also authored television pilots and movie scripts and appeared in film and on TV with the likes of James Franco and Nicole Richie – moved into a new home with her husband and their three kids, Orlando was the obvious choice to head up its design. “We had such a good time doing Kelly’s office, it was only natural that I do her house as well,” he says. And Kelly’s an easy client. “Half of our texts were about furniture; half were attempts to make each other laugh,” says Orlando, who would send Kelly photos of crazy finds to which she never once replied “Why the heck are you showing me that!?” At times, Kelly even joined Orlando on his flea market furniture hunts. “She’s way better at bargaining than me,” he admits.
Only the main living area needed Orlando’s deft touch, but it presented a challenge for the designer: How would he make the grand all-white room, which gets lots of light from a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, feel elegant and cozy? Dividing the space into three “rooms” (a dining area, living area and family area) unified by a cohesive colour palette and matching rugs was a clever start. Establishing a cool mid-century Palm Springs vibe – which embraces bright light, bright white and bright accent colours – perfected the look, as did the eclectic elements synonymous with Kelly’s style.
“Kelly loves clean lines and contemporary accessories, but there’s a special place in her heart for vintage kitsch – items that have a bit of humour to them,” says the designer. To that point, there are plenty of cheeky moments throughout the house. Those plastic horses trotting along the bar shelves? “We saw them at a flea market and thought they looked stupid but cool at the same time,” he says. That dining room gallery wall? Kelly and Orlando painted bikinis on the nudes to poke fun at ultra modesty. And the French poster for Hitchcock’s The Birds in the kitchen’s eat-in area? A wink at Kelly’s Canadian heritage. “I guess you guys like things that are French because, um, you know more French than we do?” jokes Orlando. Leave it to a friend to understand the nuances of one’s stylish eclecticism – and the quirky chicness of Kelly. As she says in her memoir, “I like the idea that we can contain our weirdess, but I prefer it when we wear it all over ourselves.” Clearly that holds true for her home, too.
Out of a cavernous room with white walls and a white-tiled floor, designer Orlando Soria created three intimate and cozy spaces – a family area, living area and dining area – and unified them using low mid-century modern-style furnishings, the exact same sisal rug and complementary teal, beige and ivory accent colours.
“Sometimes she has this classic old-school thing going on – like when she wears those retro-look glasses,” says Orlando of homeowner Kelly Oxford (both pictured). “But then she also has this really edgy, funny attitude that’s made her famous.”
Long and narrow, the kitchen’s eat-in area demanded an oval-shaped dining table rather than a round one. Orlando also made the bench himself – with the help of Kelly’s young son, Henry – by drilling industrial hairpin legs into a slab of stained wood and tossing a sheepskin on top. “Every other bench we saw was either too deep or too expensive,” says Orlando.
When Kelly and Orlando saw an orange pouffe at a flea market, they thought the $150 US price tag was steep, considering they’d have to have it re-covered, so they passed on the purchase. “But when we walked by the pouffe later in the day, some girls were admiring it, and we said to each other, ‘If they buy it, we’re going to die!’ It’s funny how you realize you want something as soon as someone else wants it, too,” says Orlando with a laugh. The now-teal pouffe is perfect for the living area. “And we still talk about the time some girls tried to steal it from us.”
A massive sectional was a must for the casual family area, where Kelly, her husband and their three kids, pair of cats and two dogs spend tons of time. This bold blue one (which is 10 feet long on both sides) fit the bill for the family to curl up by the fire or watch TV.
“I like to use a variety of materials in any given space,” says Orlando of his approach to decorating. In the dining area, woven chairs (“there’s something very ‘resort’ about them”) are paired with a wooden table, sheer drapery and a view of the backyard pool. “There are a lot of different elements to enjoy.”
“Built-in bars are so mid-century modern,” says Orlando. this one, which is original to the house, is located across from the dining area. “Back in the 1950s and ’60s, people thought having a bar was super glam, which is cute and kind of hilarious.” But there’s no denying that this drinks station is perfect for parties. Its dark surface lends some contrast to the space, while the architectural stools add a dose of fresh, edgy flavour.
Image: Donna Griffith / Styling: Ann Marie Favot
A black and white palette, square-tiled backsplash, shaker-style cabinetry and iconic furnishings blend perfectly in this modern and traditional space.
Armed with a wishlist a mile long, Toronto homeowners Meghan Mann and Mike Shannon took the renovation plunge last year. With the help of designers Vanessa Kwan and Ingrid Oomen of Qummunicate, they transformed their dysfunctional, dowdy kitchen into a stylish dream and fit everything they wanted into its compact 198-square-foot space. The open-concept design now features a work station, an eat-in nook and a peninsula that overlooks the dining area. Its classic-chic look with a contemporary edge not only complements the young couple’s style but also suits the 1910 house’s traditional architecture and its up-and-coming west Toronto neighbourhood’s trendy vibe.
Opening up the 11-by-18-foot kitchen to the rest of the main floor and replacing the back wall with a glass-panelled door and sidelights were the first steps in creating a more airy and light-filled space. The kitchen has a timeless aesthetic, with Shaker-style cabinetry, classic architectural details and a neutral palette, while a few of-the-moment touches, such as the brass hardware and pendant lights, keep it hip. “It’s a brick house with traditional details like beams and mouldings at the front, and we wanted to carry that essence into the kitchen,” says designer Vanessa Kwan.
A banquette serves as part of the casual eat-in area for the couple and their children, Sadie, 6, and Spencer, 2. It features storage in the form of legal-sized filing cabinets, with flush brass pulls that don’t get in the way of dangling feet. Finding a table that fit the space proved challenging, so homeowner Mike Shannon built the base himself and had a piece of glass cut for the top. The Eames chairs are a classic pick, and the chandelier provides sparkle and blends in with all the brass.
The kitchen was designed with family-friendly functionality top of mind: The white quartzite countertops are aesthetically similar to marble but are more durable and require less maintenance; the six-inch-square ceramic tiled backsplash, with its grey grout, is easy to keep clean; and the cork floors are great for kids because they’re soft underfoot and don’t scratch easily. For homeowner Meghan Mann, who works in software sales from home, the desk area (with a lower counter and two pencil drawers) was a must.
The black faucets and window frame above the sink create contrast yet establish continuity with the black-painted door at the back of the room. The dark elements, offering the kitchen a slightly industrial edge, are also a nod to the neighbourhood’s commercial architecture. “The area has a lot of old factory buildings, some converted into lofts or artists’ spaces,” says Meghan. “And they have those steel windows, so we wanted to echo that look in the kitchen.”
Curvy iconic shapes and trendy accents make this kitchen down-right covetable.
Round wood and marble serving board, Indigo, $38.
Michael Thonet beech era stool in Black, Design Within Reach, $365.
Cotton Soiree toss cushion in Natural with feather-down insert, CB2, $63.
Jason Wu for brizo mixed metal solna faucet in Matte Black, Masco Canada, $611.
Brass and glass Luna pendant light with shade in Clear, 12", Schoolhouse Electric, $269 US.
Cowhide Koldby rug in Brown, IKEA, $299.