Image by: Donna Griffith | Styling: Christine Hanlon
Hushed tones and plenty of natural light make for a dreamy retreat
When these newlyweds ditched their condo for a house — as so many do — they set their sights upon Toronto’s leafy Summerhill neighbourhood , which they admired for its older homes. The couple found a 2,290-square-foot four-bedroom semi built in the 1930s that fit the bill in terms of age and locale, but it hadn’t been touched since the ’80s.
“It was so dark,” says one of the homeowners, referring to the interior, which was coated in dowdy browns and suffering from tiny rooms and windows, as well as a gloomy kitchen partitioned from the rest of the house. “We needed more light and a large kitchen for my husband, who loves to cook,” she says. Simply put, the house was hardly what you’d call a love nest. So the homeowners enlisted Croma Design’s Ryan Martin and Amy Kent to give their starter house a style transfusion.
“We wanted to create a classically inspired backdrop with clean-lined furnishings and art,” says Amy. The homeowners didn’t want to go too stark or too stuffy, so they settled on a transitional look with bold lashes of black and modern furnishings boasting traditional details. And, of course, they addressed the cramped spaces and lack of light.
To that end, the designers reworked the layout, removing the powder room, relocating the kitchen and expanding the windows at the front and back of the house. “We opened everything up so the light emanating from the new windows and existing skylight would stretch further,” says Ryan.
As for the finer details, near-black accents add striking drama against the palette of soothing greys, blues, browns and whites. “The colours in this home are very subtle, tone-on-tone and easy to live with,” says Amy. “We wanted the house to make an impact as a whole – not for any particular wall or accent to stand out above the rest.”
Whether the homeowners are upstairs lounging in the relaxed media room or downstairs sipping tea in the more formal living area, there is indeed a clear sense of cohesion, which is a hallmark of this home — and what makes it a far cry from its gloomy beginnings.
A dynamic explosion of hexagonal and subway tiles gives the third-floor bathroom edge. The contrasting grout as well as the blackened metal fittings, chair rail and sconces look sharp against the white backdrop.
Watery blues and greys lend a serene painterly feel to the tranquil second-floor family room.
The long and linear print of birch trees (with hand-applied copper leaf) echoes the shape of the low-slung sofa, which is clean-lined to suit the quiet space.
“I loved being able to customize the house to our needs,” says one of the homeowners. “My husband really loves the new kitchen.”
Mixed Metals Pot, Terrain.
It's time to update your home decor for the new year and we've got the perfect 10 items to help.
You did it! You survived the holidays and hopefully your wallet did, too. But if you’ve got plans to shake things up at home this year, there’s no need to panic at prices. You can give your home a whole new look in 2016 with budget-friendly items that are big on style but small on cost. We’ve done the legwork and sourced 10 pieces that’ll help reinvigorate your home without breaking the bank – and they’re all under $50!
We all know that rugs can cost a fortune but if you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful way to update a space, this pretty patterned rug is just the thing. In a lovely neutral combo of grey and white, it will fit in easily with most colour palettes. It’s 100% cotton, which means that it can be machine washed. Score! Patterned Cotton Rug, H&M Home, $29.99.
This little piece is perfect for planting pretty succulents and bringing the outdoors in, especially during long winter days. The pot is brushed with metallic paint to create a gleaming gold finish. You’ll love the difference this makes to any room in your home. Mixed Metals Pot, Terrain, $8.
Get those photos off your computer and turn them into a piece of artwork you’ll cherish for years to come. This photo collage is completely customizable. Simply choose eight photos, maybe of your family or of your travels and choose from 15 different frame options to create wall art that will not only look great but will bring a smile to your face every time you walk by and relive the memories. Square Frame and Print, Minted, $42.
Well, we just can’t resist this beautiful butterfly hook. Hang a single hook or a series in your hallway for coats, in the bedroom for loose clothing pieces or in the bathroom for towels. However you decide to use these hooks, they’re sure to become a favourite statement piece in your home. Golden Butterfly Hook, Zara Home, $13.90.
The simple addition of a decor piece like this one can add oodles of interest to a desk or coffee table. This structural spike sphere is a work of art in and of itself and we just love the shiny gold finish. And at this price, you could consider buying more than one to cluster and create a pretty vignette. Gold Spike Decor Sphere, Indigo, $29.50.
Scented candles will update the look, feel and fragrance of your home and these scented soy candles, which come in an embossed metal tin are just perfect for that job! Not only are the tins gorgeous, but they can also be used for odds and ends once the candle has burned out. They’re available in two rich fragrances and you’ll get 40 hours of burn time out of them. Moroccan Embossed Metal Candle, Urban Outfitters, $30.
It may be dark and dreary outside but you can easily bring the feeling of spring into your home by switching out pillow covers. This pretty watercolour floral patterned cover is made with 100% Belgian flax and is washed for a unique, shabby chic look. Belgian Linen Pillow Cover, West Elm, $44.
This sweet Admiral Hanging Mirror from Anthropologie is perfect for a foyer as a last-look mirror before you head out the door. Made with iron and glass and hung from a jute rope, this mirror is an easy way to fill a blank space stylishly and inexpensively. Plus, it’s got a full felt back so it won’t scratch your wall. Admiral Hanging Mirror, Anthropologie, $18 - $24.
Simple votive candles will assume a whole new pride of place in your home when displayed in these stunning lantern holders. Available in a soft brushed gold, they will look spectacular clustered on a coffee table or dining table as a centrepiece. Or hang them like lanterns for a more dramatic look. Golden Lantern Votive, BHLDN, $8.
A copper storage basket will add both form and function to your home. Not only will it look great but it will also provide a handy spot for all kinds of items around the house that need a home, like magazines or throw blankets. Copper Wire Storage Basket, CB2, $27.95.
Suffer from allergies? Choose hypoallergenic bedding like this Style at Home collection mattress pad.
Find everything you need to know to maintain a functional, clean bed long term.
You’re diligent about washing your sheets, but do you clean what’s underneath them? In addition to the expected bodily fluids and dust, your mattress comes in contact with all types of microscopic filth, chief among them dust mite droppings. Dust mites live in upholstery and feed on skin cells (something you’re constantly unwittingly shedding), and beyond being plain gross, their droppings can cause allergic reactions. So it’s high time you add mattress cleaning, a seasonal chore, to your to-do list. Having removed the sheets, vacuum the surface using the upholstery and crevice attachments. Spot clean any stains using an enzyme-based upholstery or carpet spray, such as a pet-odour remover. Then liberally cover the mattress with baking soda; let sit for a full day. Finally, vacuum up all the powder and enjoy a truly freshly made bed.
Buyer’s guide: In the market for a new mattress? Check out our shopping tips:
Cost: Set a realistic budget (don’t cheap out on a good night’s sleep) and stick to it. This is a big-ticket item, so the store may be willing to bargain.
Quality: Pay attention to details (stitching, seams, etc.), which will reveal how durable and well made the mattress is.
Comfort: Always lie down to get a feel. If you’re debating between two models, opt for the firmer one – it will soften over time, and you can buy a plush mattress pad if need be.
Policies: Familiarize yourself with the return policy and warranty before purchasing.
The average lifespan of a mattress is about a decade. If yours is showing surface wear, sagging or becoming at all uncomfortable, it may be time to trade up.
Seasonal to-do: On rotation much like the groove that develops in your go-to spot on the sofa, over the years, different areas of your mattress get uneven wear. To help it last longer, make a habit of rotating the mattress once a season. Alternate between flipping it from head to toe one season and upside down the next. (If your mattress has a pillow top, then only flip it head to toe.)
Very airy: Air circulation is key to deterring bacterial growth, so give your mattress some breathing room: If possible, place it outdoors in the sun (the UV rays will add an antimicrobial kick) every few months. When you go out of town, leave it bare of sheets.
Do: Use a mattress cover. Launder it frequently, especially if you suffer from allergies.
Don't: Saturate your mattress with water or use any sort of dry-cleaning chemicals; both can cause irreparable damage.
Stock up on these tools to create the ultimate mattress-cleaning kit
1 ￼Deodorizer: Nature’s best odour absorber is baking soda, and this one is sourced without the use of chemicals. Bob’s Red Mill baking soda, Well.ca, $5.
2 Dirt sucker: This handheld is specially engineered to extract all the microscopic dirt from your mattress. V6 mattress vacuum, Dyson. $330.
3 Stain remover: This non-toxic spray tackles organic stains without leaving behind any harmful residue. Nature Clean Pet Stain & Odour remover, Well.ca, $9.
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.