Modern-meets-rustic living room.
Designer Paula Velez's 112-year-old home gets a modern-rustic makeover, in which cherished keepsakes and new-found favourites happily coexist.
On a quaint, leafy street in midtown Toronto, a vibrant orange front door on a charming whitewashed brick home is the only clue to the study in contrasts that lies within.
Designer Paula Velez purchased the place two years ago, after combing the neighbourhood for its oldest homes. Built in 1903, the narrow, 2,800-square-foot three-floor house was cramped, dark and outdated. But Paula – who moved to Toronto from Colombia 14 years ago – saw its potential as an airy space that blended the building’s history with a modern-rustic vibe.
During a nine-month home renovation, the walls separating her kitchen, living room and dining room came down, creating one large open area flooded with light - a move that left the electricians scratching their heads over where to relocate the light switches and plugs.
Perhaps the biggest change was to the top floor, which was gutted to make way for a spacious master bedroom – and a dream ensuite bath – where new and expanded windows take full advantage of the outdoor scenery.
After falling in love with a pair of handmade woven stools she found in New York City, Paula brought them home to use together as a DIY coffee table in the family room, her most-used space in the house.
The white painted living room's wood-burning fireplace features a dramatic Italian steel tile surround and is complimented by the sculptural triangular coffee table. "I love the modern triangular shape - it's organic and classic," says Paula, who topped it with antique shoe moulds for contrast.
Paula saw that something was missing in her dining room: The painted white walls were too stark. "I happened to have three giant coffee bags I'd bought back from Colombia, so I framed them," she says.
Before Paula's rustic kitchen renovation.
The new rustic kitchen features dark grey lower kitchen cabinetry and floating metal shelves that showcase favourite pottery decor and collectibles from Paula's travels. The adjustable stools can be used at the kitchen island for quick breakfasts or lowered to serve as extra seating around the dining table.
The white honeycomb tiled kitchen backsplash stretches up to the ceiling, lending height to the room.
Paula updated a tired wooden chair in her new home office with cheerful yellow paint. "You don't have to spend millions of dollars for great design," she says. "Be creative, use what you have and love your pieces." The artwork made by her aunt in Colombia is another favourite.
In the master bedroom, a sliding barn door crafted from distressed wood is offset by the eclectic antler chandelier in the stairwell, which homeowner and designer Paula Velez spray-painted with five coats of splashy orange for a modern lodge look.
In the sun-drenched master bedroom, Paula positioned the new white windows to take full advantage of the wooded view beyond, which she echoed in the birch tree wallpaper.
Paula calls this antique 1940s chair and its matching companion (not shown). "The Survivors" after they endured nine months surrounded by plaster dust and power tools. "I bought them from the previous owners, but I had nowhere to store them. Every time I checked on the house, these chairs were in a different place - I thought they'd get destroyed, but they made it," she says. "They're now in my master bedroom."
A rustic industrial-style grey concrete sink ("it looks like something cows drink from on a farm," says Paula) is juxtaposed with a sculptural antique-look bathtub ("I love that it's traditional and romantic") to create the ultimate retreat in her master bath.
Antlers used as DIY towel hooks reference the others throughout the home.
For someone about to renovate: Count on the project taking longer than you'd expect. Things never go as smoothly as you think they will. Most worthwhile investment: The wireless ceiling speaker makes my home a beautiful jewellery box with music. Best out-of-the-box idea: Pairing an industrial concrete sink with a traditional clawfoot tub in her master bath. Favourite budget find: The reclaimed barn beams scored at a farm outside Toronto add character to the family room's vaulted ceiling. Biggest regret: Not making my bedroom closet bigger! It always seems larger before you move in.
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.
Give this fresh citrus cake a try - we promise you'll love it!
Zingy citrus and Greek yogurt make this cake perfect for more than just dessert – try it morning, noon and night.
Lazy evenings at the cottage require a light “after” that’s easy to assemble but doesn’t skimp on taste – the kind of treat that keeps the fork in your hand, reaching for just one more bite. This juicy cake fits the bill. In fact, it’s a dessert that’s so fresh and good you’ll want it for a lazy cottage breakfast, too.
1 Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
2 Add the eggs, one at a time; continue beating, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.
3 Turn the mixer to low speed and add 1/2 cup of the orange juice, the yogurt and zest; beat until thoroughly combined.
4 In a medium bowl, whisk together the instant polenta, almond meal, baking powder and salt.
5 Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully incorporated.
6 Scrape the batter into a greased 10" round springform pan.
7 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel from the oranges and slice the flesh crosswise into thin rounds; arrange the slices on top of the cake batter.
8 Bake until the edges of the cake are golden brown and the centre is lightly puffed but still dense and pudding-like to the touch, about 30 to 40 minutes.
9 Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the orange liqueur, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup orange juice to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
10 Spoon the syrup over the warm cake before removing the cake from the pan. Let cool slightly before serving.
Serves: 8 to 10
Enjoy this delicious danish recipe any day of the week.
Created with pure dairy ingredients you'll love this delicious danish recipe from blogger Imen McDonnell's The Farmette Cookbook.
1 Place the sour cream, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over low heat; stir until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat; let cool to room temperature.
2 In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 10 minutes.
3 Add the sour cream mixture, eggs and flour; mix to form a very soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
4 Using an electric mixer, beat together the ricotta, sugar, egg, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
5 Place the dough on a clean work surface dusted with flour. Knead 6 or 7 times, just until smooth and pliable. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 12" x 8" rectangle.
6 Spread one-quarter of the filling on each piece of dough. Starting at one of the long sides, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Pinch the seams and ends together to seal in the filling.
7 Place the pastries seam-side down on a buttered baking sheet and cut slits in the top of each one with a knife. Cover the baking sheet with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm draft-free place for about 1 hour, until the pastries have doubled in size.
8 Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the pastries for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.
9 Place the icing sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the elderflower cordial a little at a time, until a glaze forms.
10 Drizzle over the cooled danishes, then sprinkle with elderflowers and serve.
Prep & cook time: 6 hours
Makes: 4 pastries
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Excerpted from The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell. Text and photographs © 2016 Imen McDonnell, Food styling by Sonia Mulford Chaverri and Imen McDonnell. Excerpted by permission of Roost Books. All rights reserved.