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 condo design featuring traditional details and sculptural furnishings
When Kim Calabrigo moved from a large family home to a condo, she quickly learned that bigger isn't always better.
A peaceful sanctuary in the heart of a downtown core: That doesn’t sound like too tall an order, does it? That’s what Kim Calabrigo sought when she sold her traditional Craftsman-style home in suburbia and moved to a condo in metropolitan Vancouver. Bringing no furniture with her, she was truly starting anew.
Kim’s first-ever solo home purchase offered her the opportunity to decorate exactly as she pleased. “I wanted a tone-on-tone look, mixing classic and modern elements with an edge,” she says.
Coming from a big traditional 4,200-square-foot home and moving to a smaller builder-basic 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom condo, Kim found space planning challenging. She wanted to maintain the most floor space possible while maximizing seating so she could entertain friends and family as easily as she used to.
Homeowner Kim Calabrigo's decorating wish list included sculptural furnishings, soft pink accents and traditional details.
To maximize seating in her new condo, Kim had a nine-foot-long sofa designed to run the length of the living room wall.
Opting to put a chaise against the living room's floor-to-ceiling windows keeps sightlines open and offers Kim a comfy place to take in the picturesque view with her morning cup of tea.
Though the space is open, the dining area is easily delineated by its standard banquette and oversized pendant light featuring white and peach beads and a rope-wrapped frame. "At night, the diamond motif casts beautiful shadows on the walls and ceiling," says Kim.
"I've embraced the less-is-more aesthetic and added interest by mixing old and new, shiny and matte, smooth and textured, organic and clean lined," says Kim. "I don't depend on bold colours and patterns."
Femininity reigns in the master bedroom, from the tall tufted headboard and layered wrinkled linens to the mirrored nightstands and petite vase of flouncy pink peonies. Massive windows mean that Kim can watch the sun set from the comfort of bed. Does it get any better than that?
In the master bedroom's built-in office nook, sparkly silver wallpaper subtly offsets the layers of cream, white and gold on the shelves. The palette is echoed in the frameless print of an 18th-century Venetian palazzo ballroom, resulting in a vignette that's the perfect mix of new world and old.
Image by: Tracey Ayton / Design: Kerrisdale Design
Get the inside scoop on the year's most popular design trends.
Every year brings with it hot new trends and this year’s design trends are sure to get you excited about making some changes at home. Whether you’re thinking about something small scale like painting your powder room in one of the year’s hottest shades or going bigger with beautiful architectural features, these ideas from designers are sure to inspire!
Credit: Amber Interiors
1 "I think that a top design trend will be spaces that are more relaxed and casual with nothing too fussy or sparkly. Call it a restrained and tailored boho aesthetic; think Amber Interiors. Linen or velvet seating (in performance fabrics, of course), a mixture of woods and textures and nothing matching or contrived. Worn, antique area rugs, handmade block print fabrics and a real plant or two add to the layered yet edited feel and give a home soul." - Interior Designer, Vanessa Francis.
Photography: Tracey Ayton / Design: Kerrisdale Design
2 "Look for interior finishings to take centre stage in 2017. While decorative elements like furniture and wallpaper have traditionally set the trends, increasing attention is being paid to the bones of a house. Applied mouldings, interior doors, archways and window casings are becoming more elaborate as homeowners discover that architectural features can make bold statements too." - Blogger and Designer, Jennifer Flores.
3 "Today, forest green has made a comeback and is seen mixed with deep woods and black hardware and punches of brass to make it pop. Go bold and paint a powder room green. Pair with an antique chest turned-vanity and some brass pulls and brass faucet." - Interior Designer, Tara Fingold.
Photography: Stacey Brandford / Design: Jessica Claire Interiors
4 "My favourite design for 2017 is wallpaper that mimics a wall mural. There are some incredible designs on the market where wallcoverings depict designs like large scale florals or hand painted landscapes. The dramatic impact is pretty incredible, and I love how it adds a bit of a handmade influence to any room." - Designer, Lisa Canning.
Credit: Colette Grand Cafe
5 "One top design trend is to introduce unconventional design elements into our homes. Whether your inspiration is a sensational bar shelf suspended from the ceiling at Colette, the stunning floor to ceiling glass walls at The Chase Toronto, or the metal trim detail between floor tiles at most commercial spaces, 2017 is the year for innovative ideas so why not be inspired by our favourite restaurants or the beautifully designed stores as we shop for the holidays?" - Blogger and Decorator, Tim Lam.
6 "Loft-inspired design has been around for few decades but we're seeing a resurgence of this trend with the black steel factory door. The large black grid of these elegant beauties are not only attractive but they provide great sight lines to the outdoors, further forging the relationship between indoor and outdoor living. They can easily elevate any modern or traditional home whether as a patio door, room divider or shower door. With this much versatility, it's easy to see why the black steel factory door is expected to be a big winner in 2017!" - Designer, Andrea Haraldsen.
Photography: Michael Graydon / Design: Sam Sacks Design
7 "Give way to lighter woods! We’re seeing a move towards a blonder, natural looking wood from floor to ceiling. Wider plank hardwood with an oiled/ matte finish is a great choice in creating visual interest and providing a neutral backdrop for furniture and other interior elements. Natural, rift cut oak is a great option for cabinetry, pairing well with walnut and darker woods and even painted finishes. Light wood is extremely versatile and a great way to add warmth and texture throughout a home without it feeling overpowering or heavy." - Interior Designer, Nyla Free.
Conquer that closet clutter once and for all.
Keep your bedroom closet organized and on track with these 6 helpful tips.
From reach-ins to walk-ins, almost every bedroom comes equipped with a closet. While no two are alike, keeping them in order is a hurdle for many. Wendy Hollick, professional organizer and owner of Neat Spaces, shares her tips for conquering your closet disaster through minimizing clutter and maximizing your space's potential. With solutions that save time and money and are stylish, here's how to get things back in order so you can keep track of what you own.
1 Create zones
The first step is to figure out what's going to live in your closet. "You look at your inventory and design around your needs," says Wendy. "Do you have many things that are long-hanging like dresses? How do you hang your pants? Do you share your closet with somebody?" By evaluating how you will use this space, you can create areas to figure out what type of storage you need ... from shoe racks to drawers.
"Purge, baby, purge," says Wendy. If you haven't used something in the past two years and it has no intrinsic value, get rid of it or donate it to charity. As a professional organizer, Wendy has seen dozens of closets over the years and believes over-consumption is to blame. "Eighty per cent of what we keep, we never use," she says. "And we wear 20% of what we own only 80% of the time and the rest just hangs there."
3 Use every inch of space
No square inch should go unnoticed. Many closets are designed poorly and often times the top and bottom spaces aren't used properly or at all. As a rule of thumb, most used items should be stored in plain sight, less-used below and rarely-used up high. To maximize your closet's potential, "you need to look for durability and flexibility," says Wendy. "Look for something that when you install it, can work with you and change with the trends." She suggests using products with epoxy-coated metal rather than plastic-coated metal because of its strength and durability. Wendy also suggests using floor space and high shelves for storing seasonal items and shoes because they can be stacked in clear plastic boxes free of dust and you can still see what's inside.
4 Take advantage of doors
"In a perfect world, all closets would be built with a pocket door," says Wendy. Unfortunately, getting one requires tearing out a wall and that's not always permissible. But this doesn't mean you can't put your swing door to good use without having it eat up your closet's floor space. By using a hanging organizer, you can turn your door into storage for shoes, belts, ties and other accessories.
5 Add a double or pull down rod
Adding another rod to your closet isn't as difficult as it sounds. There are hanging rods that you can put over existing rails for a quick addition to your hanging space. You can even take the alternate, though more expensive route, and use your high ceilings to install a pull down rod.
Either way, with an additional rod, you can organize your clothing into sections. Lower rods for hanging pants and higher-up rods for longer items like dresses and coats. Don't forget to coordinate your hangers and use the proper ones for a uniform, polished look.
"Velvet hangers are great to keep your clothes from slipping, wood hangers are durable but can take up space, while plastic takes up less space and is less finicky than velvet," says Wendy.
"When you look at something that gives you that editorial look, you are more likely to respect it," says Wendy. Treat your closet like a small room, taking into consideration lighting and wall colour. Recessed lighting doesn't obstruct your view and it disguises perfectly in a small space. Light paint colours like white, soft greys and beiges are sleek and reflect light. By adding a mirror to your closet, its reflection will automatically make the room appear larger.
To determine volume and prevent clutter build up, Wendy shares her trick for tracking overflow so you know what to get rid of next season: "Go into your closet and rearrange your hangers so the hook is facing you. When you wear something and put it back, the hook should face inwards. Over time you can actually see what you wear and what you don't from what's left facing outwards."