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.
Quartier Petit Champlain
Here's why you should put on your parka and visit Old Quebec this winter.
Style at Home managing editor Catherine Therrien braves the cold to get a taste of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in its element during the annual winter carnival.
To fully experience Quebec City’s rich history, you must stay at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac – even if only for one night. Located in the heart of Old Quebec atop Cape Diamond, the 123-year-old castle-like hotel exudes charm and character in every possible way. When you check in, take a few minutes to admire the stunningly designed lobby, with its ice blue coffered ceiling, numerous vintage chandeliers, intricate woodwork and brass detailing.
Once you’ve unpacked and geared up for the cold weather, head to the north end of the boardwalk just outside the hotel to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River. Then take the Breakneck (Casse-Cou) Stairs or hop on the funicular to descend to the Quartier Petit Champlain in the lower town (Basse-Ville).
The pedestrian-only cobblestone main street is jam-packed with souvenir shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques – Amimoc sells the most beautiful handmade moccasins – and quaint restaurants. Stop for lunch at Le Lapin Saute, a delightful little eatery with a creative menu. Step out of your comfort zone and try their rabbit lasagna. Head to La Fudgerie to top off your meal. The boutique has 80 flavours of fudge, such as creme brulee and salted caramel, making it a challenge to pick just one. Don’t miss a cool trompe l’oeil mural during your stroll through the area.
If you happen to be in town between January 29 and February 14, enjoy a host of activities at the Quebec Winter Carnival, from snow tubing to night parades. Spend the afternoon at the Plains of Abraham taking in marvellous works of art made from giant blocks of snow for the International Snow Sculpture Competition – a carnival classic. While exploring, look for the sugar shack and indulge in maple taffy on a stick. Return to the hotel for a relaxing night in. Treat yourself to room service and dine at your own private table in the comfort of a plush robe and slippers.
Start your day by devouring perhaps the biggest crepe you’ve ever seen at Casse-Crepe Breton. It offers both savoury and sweet options – I opted for the strawberries with chocolate drizzle.
Walk off your breakfast with a jaunt to Quebec-based fashion retailer Simons. Check out the home collection on the mezzanine level for well-priced stylish wares.
For a spectacular winter scene, take a 20-minute drive east to picturesque Montmorency Falls Park. The 83-metre-high waterfall can be viewed from ground level, a cable car or the suspension bridge. The main attraction, though, is the famous sugarloaf (pain de sucre), a massive loaf-shaped ice cone that forms near the base of the falls.
Head back to town and have a bite to eat at Aux Anciens Canadiens – a tourist favourite for old-fashioned Quebec specialties. The tourtiere and maple syrup pie are must-haves. Then enjoy a few hours of outdoor ice skating (skates are available for rent) at Place d’Youville, a historic square. Finish off the evening at Fairmont’s 1608 bar and savour the best local cheeses and wines from around the world.
Stay warm and toasty while exploring this historic city in the Great White North. Cold weather coat - Shelburne parka in Red, Canada Goose, $775. Haute hat - Word Logo Pom-pom toque in True Black, Gap, $30. Stylish carryall - Saxby messenger bag in Marone, Brave Leather, $335. Cozy socks - Womens Pop Cabin socks in Lodge Red, Roots, $19 per pack of 2. Comfy skates - Cameo by Jackson CS112 Fleece figure skates, Canadian Tire, $70. Hand warmers - HBC Shearling mittens in Camel, Hudson’s Bay, $120.
A fashionable couple treat their stylish abode as an ever-evolving runway that offers opportunities to strike a decorative pose using their chic collection.
A lot can happen in a year. At this time last year – September, to be exact – designer Matthew Meisner, owner of design firm Heirloom & Knot, moved into a new home in downtown Toronto with his partner, Rick Bettencourt, and Rick’s daughters, Milena, 15, and Celeste, 11, who live there part-time. The 2,100-square-foot three-storey ultra-modern abode had great architectural character and, even better, had recently been renovated. All that it required was a coat of white paint, warm wood elements and a healthy dose of personality – of which the couple has plenty.
Fashionable fiances Rick Bettencourt and Matthew (seated) pose in the living room of their downtown Toronto home.
Art collectors, travellers and curators of quirky vintage finds, the two are fashion savvy to boot. Rick is vice-president of Nine West Canada, so even though Matthew is the professional designer, he still lets stylish Rick provide plenty of input. “I want it to feel like we both contributed equally to the look,” says Matthew.
Take, for example, the wallpapers and textiles on display throughout the home: Most are designed by Matthew for his Heirloom & Knot collection but selected for the interior by his hubby-to-be. “It’s like choosing between my own children,” says Matthew. “I can’t pick favourites, so I leave that to Rick.” The open-concept space is also decorated with relics of the couple’s past, from the antique kitchen scale that was one of the first pieces they purchased together (“out of the garage of a random guy we met on Craigslist,” says the designer with a laugh) to the framed fashion show invites in the powder room (not shown) collected during Rick’s days working as the womens- and menswear director for Holt Renfrew (Prada and Hermès and Alexander McQueen, oh my!). Art purchased on vacations, knick-knacks picked out at antiques markets and a real deer head that’s been in Matthew’s family for years all lend the home its eclectic character while clearly reflecting the fashion-forward couple. “Anywhere we turn in our home, we see something that makes us smile,” says Matthew, noting that there are memories tied to almost every object in their house.
Matthew lugged the huge deer head on the plane home from his parents' cottage in Winnipeg. "It's been in my family for ages," he explains. "My great-uncle accidentally hit the deer with his car when he was young." The bust has lived with Matthew's grandparents and parents and now acts as the perfect pairing for the tartan wool-upholstered sofa in the living room, lending a rustic cabin vibe to this modern eclectic space.
And it’s always evolving. “If I were to describe our home in a sentence,” says Matthew, “I’d say, ‘It’s curated over time and never finished.’” The two buy new pieces whenever something catches their eyes and, as a result, the decor rotates almost twice monthly. “What it looks like now is very different from these pictures,” says Matthew, explaining that while big furniture items stay the same, smaller finds flow in and out. The artwork exhibited on the master bedroom’s feature wall is seemingly switched out more often than that of a commercial gallery, and textiles are turned over seasonally.
Though their house’s interior decor shifts many times in one year, it always feels like home. “We’ve brought in things from former jobs, from frequent travels and from day-to-day life,” says Matthew. “It’s the celebration of everything that has brought us to this point in our lives.”
Credits: Ashley Capp
It’s fitting, because almost one year after moving into their dream home, Matthew and Rick will mark another milestone with their September 2016 wedding. And judging by how their two styles harmonize so perfectly here in this home, we’d say they’re a match made in heaven. Chin-chin!
Designer Matthew Meisner had sections of his Rorschach ink blot test-inspired wallpaper blown up and framed as art for his dining area. It makes for lively dinner discussions: "Everyone has an opinion of what they see," says Matthew, "and it's not always rated PG!"
Credits: Ashley Capp
A dramatic departure from the crisp white envelope of the main living space, the kitchen is decidedly dark. Warming up the existing cabinetry is vinyl wallpaper Matthew designed and named after Rick: Bettencourt Series 2. "It's durable and easy to switch out should we want a new look in the future," says Matthew.
Credits: Ashley Capp
Credits: Ashley Capp
The wall tiles in the master bath are a spin on the classic checkerboard look and a clever design hack - Matthew simply cut adhesive kitchen shelf liner into triangles and stuck it to the existing white tiles (which never get wet).
Credits: Ashley Capp
"I love that the bed frame's cane detail has old-world character while the shape is Mid-Century Modern," says Matthew, who introduces layers of history into his designs.
Credits: Ashley Capp
Two closet designs: One for colour and one for black and white
Designer and blogger Erica Cook styles her IKEA storage systems to look like high-end boutiques.
As a single mother of five boys, Erica Cook, the Calgary designer and blogger behind Moth Design, craved an orderly, feminine corner of the house that was all her own. So she transformed her bedroom’s two closets, designating one for colourful items and the other for black and white pieces. “It’s all about finding beauty in the mundane,” she explains. Here’s how Erica styled her IKEA storage systems to look like high-end boutiques.
Erica’s weekend wardrobe fills up the multi-hued closet. She sacrificed shelving in the middle to display her perfume and collection of framed shopping bags that represent special or significant purchases. “They’re like postcards to me,” she says.
Long necklaces won't get tangled when stored in separate bowls.
“When you place an item on a tray or a dish, it’s like giving the piece its own little stage,” says Erica of her artful vignettes.
Bright orange boxes add pop to an eye-catching display.
“I didn’t want my belts rattling around on the back of a door, so I chose to roll them up instead,” says Erica.
The second closet, which contains formal pieces, is a true reflection of Erica’s aesthetic. “I relish the high contrast of a black and white scheme,” she says. “Nearly my whole house is black and white!” Touches of lacquer and metal play up the glam factor.
“Because acrylic is clear, it doesn’t feel like it’s taking up any space,” says Erica, who scooped up these boxes from a clothing store that was closing its doors.
Save the closed storage for essentials and put sparkle on display.
A long black porcelain tray is perfectly proportioned to hold Erica’s watches.
Erica has specific criteria for the trays and bowls she chooses: "I like vessels that are feminine but crisp and can bounce around some light."