A layered neutral living room
Follow designer Kelley McNamara's tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer Kelley McNamara turns a 3,000-square-foot Dutch Colonial home in Fort Langley, B.C., into a calming abode for her busy family.
Designer Kelley McNamara shares 10 tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer and homeowner Kelley McNamara fills vintage milk glass vases, ceramic jugs and glass jars with blooms to capture the country charm of her rural surroundings. “I always try to have fresh flowers in the house,” says Kelley. “They add an element of organic texture and colour.”
A French metal chandelier brings patina and visual interest to the dining room. “I want the house to look like it’s been here a long time,” says Kelley. The fixture ties in beautifully with the sun-bleached oak table, mix-and-match seating, white oak plank floors and salvaged antique barn door.
An aged-looking support beam gives this pristine space character – and it’s a clever trick. “I wanted salvaged timber, but it was too expensive,” says Kelley. Instead, she painted a new fir beam with a few coats of sun-bleached oak wood stain. A trio of wicker stools, brass-finished hardware and a vintage-style pendant light also lend the kitchen a well-lived-in vibe.
The mud room’s industrial sink makes it easy to bathe the family’s two dogs, Duke and Finnegan, before they track dirt into the house, while the slate floor is easy to clean. A Dutch door injects country charm.
Kelley panelled the range hood over the six-burner gas range to achieve a seamless look with the cabinetry. Installing the microwave in the island keeps it out of sight yet easily accessible for the children.
Kelley believes neutral rooms don’t have to be boring. She jazzed up the formal living room’s white and grey palette with linen fabrics, a wool rug and toss cushions in mohair, faux fur and hide. “The more layers, the richer the room becomes,” she says. A dark-brown-framed mirror creates a focal point over the fireplace, while brass library lights are a warm finishing touch on the built-in bookshelves.
Instead of setting this console against a wall or behind a sofa, Kelley gave it centre stage in her front foyer. To ground the vignette, she placed the console atop a rug and arranged interesting objects, such as coffee table books, geode crystals and a potted plant, on top of it. These decorative items bring the outdoors in and make the arrangement feel purposeful.
Kelley didn't overdecorate the master bath, allowing the glass shower and sculptural free-standing tub to make the statement. The accessories are quiet, except for the aged-brass-finished pendant light, which draws the eye toward the corner windows.
A dining room buffet gets new life as the master bathroom vanity. Kelley asked her carpenter to cut off the top of the buffet, and then had a plumber add a quartz countertop, undermounted sinks and wall-mounted faucets for rustic appeal.
Simple bedding, a tufted bench and elegant accessories signal that the master bedroom is a calming oasis. Soft grey is the only whisper of colour in the otherwise monochromatic room, while a few hits of brass add glamour.
A lamb roast is the perfect Sunday evening dinner.
Spruce up your Sunday dinner with this fresh and flavourful recipe from Sarah Wilson's The I Quit Sugar Cookbook.
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.
A kitchen boasting restaurant-design pedigree
Trendy meets traditional in this family home built from scratch.
Homeowner Tanya Krpan (pictured here) saved on accessories by loading the family room sectional with an assortment of ready-made toss cushions.
Tanya isn’t afraid to play with negative space, as seen in the home’s grand entryway. “Normally, you’d expect a mirror or big piece of art hanging above the wainscotting,” she says. Leaving the wall blank and layering small pieces on the console allows the millwork to shine.
Black casement windows and decorative accents create contrast in the neutral space. Tanya scored the vintage coffee table when her office was being redecorated.
The family room’s classic-cool mix feels right for a young family.
The kitchen, of course, is the true star of the show. Tanya’s restaurant-design pedigree shines through in the room’s floor-to-ceiling tiles, mix of open and closed storage and high-end appliances. She opted for white Shaker-style cabinetry and warmed up the space with a walnut island and brass hardware statement lighting and fixtures.
Another bistro-inspired touch was her choice of dark honed-limestone tiles for most of the main floor. “The tile grounds the space since there’s an abundance of white everywhere,” Tanya explains. “And it’s proven great for hiding dirt.”
Everything in the Krpans’ home is designed for everyday life and entertaining, from the large sectional in the family room to the round tables in the dining room and the kitchen’s eat-in area. “It’s more social to sit at a round table,” says Tanya. “You see everyone’s faces.”
Cabinets with glass doors allow Tanya to display her favourite serving pieces and special glassware. She had the back of the kitchen cabinets tiled to highlight this focal point of the kitchen.
Tanya and Jure – with their sons, Ivan, 3, and Cruz, 2 – have recently welcomed a baby girl named Belle.
The living room’s crisp white, grey and black scheme gets an energy boost from fresh greenery, pops of pink and plenty of pattern – check out the Moroccan-style rug, the ikat-print and chevron-patterned toss cushions and the graphic stool fabric.
To offset the costs of the more expensive permanent elements, Tanya was meticulous with her decorating budget. She incorporated secondhand pieces, such as the family room coffee table, and sourced inexpensive art for the living room mantel. Affordable colourful accessories add youthful edginess to the living spaces. “I love the femininity that the splashes of pink add to the living room and family room,” she says. “Plus, by the time I got to the decorating, I was living with three boys!”
In the dining room, Tanya likes the juxtaposition of the modern Sputnik-inspired chandelier with the traditional coffered ceiling. The artwork was a DIY project Tanya and Jure painted together on her 30th birthday.
Though this house has been well loved for years, there’s a sequel in the works: Tanya and Jure are in the process of building a new home. “We’ll keep some of the same elements but go a little more modern in the kitchen,” says Tanya. We’ll definitely stay tuned.