A fresh seaside-chic lake house
This cozy lake house in Port Carling, Ont., boasts a fresh seaside-chic vibe while paying homage to old-school Muskoka.
Nestled on the south shore of Lake Rosseau in Port Carlin, Ont., this 6,800-square-foot six-bedroom house is decorated the way one would dress when visiting: in a crisp Polo Ralph Lauren Oxford shirt and comfortable, well-worn chinos paired with Sperry Top-Siders. It's a timeless look that's coastal, casual and effortlessly chic with a neutral palette at its core.
"The homeowners wanted to capture that warm, windswept lake house aesthetic but with a relaxed, cozy Muskoka feel for their young family of four," says Cory DeFrancisco of Mukoka Living Interiors, who designed and built the home from scratch, finishing in 2013.
Like a friendly smile and a firm handshake, the entryway makes a confident and inviting introduction to the home.
"A lot of old cottages have those tunnelling hallways in their guest cottage or service quarters, and this beadboard wall treatment references that," says builder and designer Cory DeFrancisco.
This small boathouse sunroom is literally right on Ontario's Lake Rosseau: On windy days, you can feel waves crashing up through the floorboards.
"We took up 90 percent of the wall with windows," says Cory of the gorgeous great room, where the ceiling's oak beams guide your eye directly to the view. "The overstuffed sofas are insanely comfortable," he adds. "They're slipcovered in high-quality Belgian linen that gets softer with each wash.
Though the spacious kitchen is crisp, white and polished, simple details, such as the grain of the reclaimed-oak floors and the texture of the brush strokes on the hand-painted cabinetry, keep it humble and homey. "It's a new take on a traditional cottage kitchen, with all the modern amenities," says Cory.
A big weathered farmhouse table paired with slipcovered seating and sophisticated lighting that doesn't block the view equals a dining room with easy elegance. But the best feature of this space is that, with the doors open, you really feel like you're eating alfresco.
Even though this home is grand, the family who lives here wanted an overall feeling of togetherness, so Cory kept it largely open concept.
The west-facing Muskoka room, with wall-to-wall windows, is so bright that it can pull off the charcoal walls. "The darkness acts as an anchor, while the light that shines in highlights the furnishings," explains Cory. The modular sectional is meant for the outdoors (so go ahead, get it wet) and can be reconfigured when company comes to create multiple sitting areas.
The whole master bedroom is very generous, but its sleeping area is quite small. In it, you'll find only an upholstered bed, two small side tables and a 180-degree view of the water.
The large window behidn the free-standing bathtub overlooks a garden and granite. "It's hard to make boulders sound nice," says Cory with a laugh, "but it's a beautiful view."
"All of those elements are, I think, what makes it feel authentic to Muskoka. There's nothing ornate in the whole place," says Cory. And just 35 feet away, in the boathouse, the look is much the same. The palette is almost all white and the dress code is bathing suits - after all, the lake's right there. Take one step out the door, and jump right in. The water's perfect.
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.
Find cheap and chic kitchen perk-ups for your home.
Organizing, styling and mini-makeover ideas to transform the hub of your home.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
1 Elevate the everyday – invest in a set of handmade cereal bowls.
2 Granny Smith apples – a stylist's secret weapon – are a pretty countertop accent and a healthy snack all in one.
3 When was the last time your toaster made toast the way you like it? If you can’t remember, it's time for a new one.
4 Use a bench with storage as a kitchen banquette.
5 Treat yourself to a fresh set of dishtowels. Reuse the old ones as rags to polish silver, shine shoes or wipe up paint spills.
6 Display a vintage dishware collection on open shelves.
7 Hot-glue a seldom used vintage kitchen utensil in a shadow box and start a collection to adorn your walls.
8 Overhaul the area under your sink cabinet to make room for garbage, recycling and composting.
9 Bake a pie or layer cake – your kitchen will be transformed in less than an hour.
10 Hide the counter clutter of keys, cellphones and sunglasses inside a Moroccan tajine.
11 Remove everything from the tops of cabinets. Thoroughly clean the area. Do not replace the items!
12 Get rid of any chipped plates or cups – they're getting you down.
13 Dress the windowsill with two or three pots of moss or herbs.
14 If you have glass door cabinets but can't keep what’s inside looking tidy, line the glass panels with wallpaper or fabric, or apply frosted window film.
15 Install energy-efficient under cabinet lighting.
16 Use crystal flutes for your orange juice tomorrow morning. Champagne optional!
17 Create a photo wall of family members with their birthday cakes over the years.
18 Conceal scratches or dents on an old fridge with decorative wall decals.
19 A rough-hewn wooden bowl looks just as great empty as it does filled with rustic breads, artichokes or newspapers.
20 If there isn't a window above your sink, hang a mirror there.
21 Add French flair: opt for a rustic table and chairs in the centre of your kitchen rather than an island.
22 Wallpaper the ceiling.
23 Tall ceilings? Install a large nontypical central light, like a chandelier, lantern or industrial pendant.
24 Cook up some natural air freshener: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of apple cider to a simmer. Add a few slices of lemon, cinnamon sticks and 1 tsp whole cloves. Simmer for a couple of hours, adding more cider as it evaporates.
25 Hang a fabric blind with an elegant swag for a touch of grandeur.
Photography by Robin Stubbert
26 A potted orchid in a white ceramic pot is a sophisticated living accessory that lasts longer than cut stems.
27 Install a new faucet.
28 Use a shallow baking dish to store cooking essentials by the cooktop or stove. It will keep everything exactly where you need it and save your counter from oil rings and pepper grinder debris. Decant olive oil into an opaque or dark glass bottle to protect it from light.
29 Treat yourself to a new set of canisters.
30 Say no to paper napkins and switch to a colourful fabric set.
31 Switch out your dated kitchen chairs for black Windsor chairs. They're a design classic – great with mod or trad tables.
32 Remove a pair of cupboard doors and style the open shelves with your prettiest things.
33 Install invisible touch-latch hardware for a sleek, modern look.
34 Hang wallpaper as a backsplash. Protect it with acrylic or glass panels custom cut and installed by a glazier.
35 Leave only your chicest small appliances on the counter.
36 Conceal an ugly backsplash behind peel-andstick Smart Tiles.
37 Banish old knobs in favour of sexy new ones.
38 Conquer the junk drawer.
39 Get a handsome mortar and pestle. When you aren't using it to muddle mint for a mojito, press it into service as a bookend for cookbooks.
40 Paint your cabinets nature's neutral – green. It will look great with all your fruits and veg.
41 Display a pineapple when you're expecting guests – it's the universal symbol of welcome.
42 Make a pretty message board by placing fabric or decorative paper behind the glass of a large frame. Then use a dry erase marker to write on the front.
43 Add shaped brackets along the toe kick to make your cabinets look like fine furniture.
44 Install decorative casing trim around your pass-through.
45 Banish the smelly dishcloth hanging over the faucet! Organize your sinkside essentials on a rectangular dish or tray. The must-haves: dish soap in a pretty container (or decant some into a translucent white squeeze bottle), an all-natural cellulose sponge for dishwashing, a scrub brush and a plastic scrubber for pots.
46 Install a plate rack. Use it to display a collection of platters or cookbooks.
47 Splurge on a marble-top dining table for your best friend.
48 Keep utensils contained and at the ready in a plain white pitcher – it goes with any kitchen.
49 Perk up a family table with cheerful oilcloth that you can wipe clean in a flash.
50 The next time you buy groceries, bring home a bunch of daisies for the kitchen table.
The post-presidential home for Barack Obama and his family.
Take a look inside the multi-million dollar home President Obama and his family will lease once it's time to leave the White House.
This January President Obama and his family will say goodbye to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and lease a 8,200-square-foot mansion in Washington, D.C.'s Kalorama neighbourhood. Owned by Joe Lockhart, a former White House press secretary, the multi-million dollar mansion will cost an estimated $22,000 per month to rent.
Built in the 1920s the Obama family will call this nine bedroom mansion their home for the next two years while their youngest daughter Sasha finishes high school. Located in one of Washington's most desired neighbourhoods the home also features two kitchens, nine bathrooms, a home office and large multimedia room. The home also features a spacious au pair suite which is said to be the perfect place for Michelle's mother (who currently lives with them at the White House).
Take the tour of this beautiful red-brick Tudor home below and check out the full listing here.
Built in the 1920s, this gorgeous Tudor-style home is located in one of Washington's most desired neighbourhoods.
It might not be the North Portico at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but that doesn't mean this front door is lacking in character. We love the large wrought iron door, wall sconces and the beautiful patina copper awning.
We're certain this grand foyer will be filled with framed family photos and lots of fresh flowers soon enough.
Once inside you can follow the beautiful black and white marble tile floor right into a spacious living room.
With lots of natural light and a walk-out to the backyard this living room is the perfect space for entertaining and relaxing. We can already invision Bo and Sunny (the family's Portuguese Water Dogs) laying comfortably by the large fireplace.
It's no oval office but we're sure President Obama will make good use of this cozy sitting room.
What's not to love about this spacious kitchen. From the Shaker-style cabinetry to the glossy subway tile backsplash and gorgeous hardwood flooring it's a great space for the family to enjoy making meals together (which is one of Michelle's favourite things to do).
We love the look of classic subway tile and marble countertops against the contrasting black window frames in this kitchen. And let's not forget about that glorious 6-burner gas range.
With lots of storage space, a small mini fridge and dishwasher a well organized pantry is sure to help keep this home's kitchen neat and tidy.
We can't help but wonder how the Obama family might redecorate their temporary home. Another large living space means plenty of opportunity to add family photos, keepsakes and artwork.
They might not be hosting state dinners but this dynamic dining room is definitely large enough for entertaining guests.
The home's master bedroom includes a fireplace and sitting area as well as his and hers ensuite bathrooms.
As a style and fashion icon we're certain Michelle will be able to fill every nook of this dressing room.
If there's one thing President Obama and the First Lady don't have to worry about it's sharing a bathroom. The master bedroom has both his and hers bathrooms with Michelle's featuring a luxurious deep-soaker tub and vanity.
It might not be as luxurious, but this bathroom features a spacious walk-in shower.
This guestroom is just one of eight others in the home. Which means there's plenty of options for both Malia and Sasha when choosing a post-White-House bedroom.
Michelle is quite the greenthumb (she's kept a garden at the White House since 2009) which means this large greenspace is bound to be full of fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs in no time.
The home also features a two car garage and parking pad to accomodate up to six other vehicles. Making it the perfect spot the family's Secret Service agents.