Image by: Tracey Ayton
A romantic retreat isn’t as far away as you may think. A few easy additions to your home can turn your space into the perfect escape made just for two.
No matter what your living situation is, it’s important to have a space in your home where you and your special someone can retreat to and reconnect. Whether it’s a nook, a favourite spot on the sofa, or the bed itself, create an area that’s comfortable, cozy and made for both of you.
From lighting to memorabilia, there are a number of easy and thoughtful ways to instantly turn your bedroom into a romantic escape. So put away the passports and get comfy because you two are staying in tonight.
Image by: Stacey Brandford
There’s something comforting and intimate about the tactility of textures. The indescribable softness of a knit throw blanket, the luxuriousness of a faux fur rug, or the delicateness of a lace appliqué. By incorporating these textural elements into your space, you can instantly incite that sense of touch and instill a feeling of romance.
Image by: Janis Nicolay
Creating a place in your home that you actually want to spend time in means it has to be comfortable and cozy. So, it’s time to layer up your space. Throw blankets and toss cushions are an effortless way to inject colour and texture into any room, and there’s no beating the satisfaction of nestling into a soft little nook with your love.
Image by: Ashley Capp
There’s nothing romantic about harsh, bright white lights, so unless you have a thing for sterile hospital waiting rooms, be considerate of your bedroom lighting. The essential here is keeping your lighting options low and warm. A beautiful chandelier on a dimmer switch, for instance, can add instant drama and ambiance, while vintage sconces can create a pleasant soothing glow. Not able to install either? You can never go wrong with candlelight.
Image by: Janis Nicolay
Do you ever notice you’re more drawn to rooms decorated with plants? Fresh florals have always made fabulous decor accents, but they’re also known for improving your home’s air quality, as well as being mood boosters. By adding plant life to your bedroom, you’ll find it becomes a more livable place that you’ll both want to spend more time in, too.
Image by: Tracey Ayton
While it may not be ideal to eat three meals a day in bed, having a breakfast-in-bed for two every now and then is one of life’s simple luxuries. In fact, breaking the usual morning routine and enjoying a cozy meal first thing is a great way to spend a little extra time together and reconnect.
Image by: Michael Graydon
Even a simple nook can be turned into an enchanting retreat. Find a corner to fit a love seat or dress up a small alcove by the window — when there’s just enough room for two, it’s the perfect excuse for an extra cuddle.
Image by: Christy Wright
Create a space that’s for both of you, where you can both feel at-home and relaxed. Take each other’s styles and comforts into consideration, or add some photos or keepsakes to conjure cherished memories, and you’ll have a cozy spot where you both feel welcome.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Image: Maya Visnyei
Boasting a heart shape and a delightful blend of chocolate and fruit, these mini cakes are begging to be made and enjoyed this Valentine's Day.
We love the pairing of chocolate and fruit, so when this combination of sweet chocolate and slightly tart cranberry came together in the form of these adorable two-bite cakes, we knew it was a dessert bound to set hearts aflutter.
1 For the cranberry swirl, bring the cranberries, water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and the mixture thickens to resemble jam, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely. In a bowl, beat together the cranberry mixture, cream cheese and flour until smooth; set aside.
2 For the mini-chocolate cakes, preheat the oven to 350F. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate and butter until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla, followed by the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Stir in the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Scrape 1/3 cup of the batter into each of eight greased 3"-wide mini-heart-shaped pans. Drop small spoonfuls of the cranberry mixture in the batter, gently swirling it with a skewer. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before drizzling with melted chocolate.
If a full-blown kitchen renovation isn’t in the budget, try these more manageable ideas to breathe new life into your kitchen.
Refacing cabinet doors might seem like an economical alternative to fully replacing cabinetry, but buyer beware – especially with older kitchens. “Often you have to replace the hinges as well, which can weaken the cabinet structure over time and lead to sagging,” says Robin. Instead, consider having your existing doors spray-painted. “It’s way better than painting with a brush, which can cause blobs and drips in the grooves of the door profile, and they’ll look like new.”
It’s amazing how new door hardware will transform a cabinet. If you are having the doors sprayed anyway, the pros will fill in the old hardware holes, allowing you to choose any style you like as a replacement.
Instead of replacing an ugly kitchen countertop (which has its own set of drawbacks if you are retaining the base, especially if the old countertop is glued on), you can hire specialists who will add a quarter-inch veneer of genuine granite right on top of the old counter, for the look and almost the same durability as solid granite.
Beef up and modernize accent lighting. Pendants or other decorative fixtures add instant elegance.
Ceiling lighting can have a huge effect on the look and feel of your kitchen. Robin loathes halogen pot lighting, which has become almost the norm in many new kitchens and renovations. “Halogen was never really meant for ambient lighting, and it can cause glare and fatigue. They’ve come a long way with LED bulbs nowadays; they cost more initially but they last for years, are very energy-efficient, and are cool to the touch.” Old-fashioned recessed can lighting, especially the kind with black liners, can be retrofitted with updated energy-efficient versions with little or no repairs to the ceiling.
On the subject of lighting, many older kitchens simply don’t have enough, which can be very fatiguing. If you don’t want to hire an electrician to install more built-in lighting, there are lower-cost options such as “rope” lighting, which can be added under overhead cabinets, or even plug-in strip lighting, which you can put in yourself.
Even if you don’t do anything else to update, it’s amazing what a new coat of white paint on the ceiling will do to brighten things up. “Ceilings get dingy over time with smoke, dust, and dirt almost without you noticing it,” says Robin.
If you don’t have an existing kitchen backsplash, this is a great opportunity to add character and elegance for just a few dollars. Because backsplashes don’t require a large number of tiles, you can splurge on fancy ones, add a mix of high-end and plain ones, or create a focal point with mosaics, mirror tiles or other decorative options. Dated ceramic tile can be spray-painted in the same way as cabinets. “I had my bathroom tiles spray-painted, and they still look new 12 years later,” Robin says.
Click flooring can be installed right on top of ugly old floors; providing your existing floor is level, you can also install cork, laminate tile or linoleum. With care, these are all options you can do yourself.
Update, clean and declutter accessories; many of us tend to accumulate china figurines on the windowsill and cute magnets on the fridge, and just stop noticing them after a while. Replace with something new and fresh: pretty vases or bowls, collections of vintage bottles, or simply a spotless, uncluttered expanse of windows.