Jun 11, 2009
solar-powered string lights
Jun 11, 2009
solar-powered string lights
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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.
You'll love this vintage airstreams retro look.
A vintage airstream trailer gets a luxurious makeover complete with wallpaper, linen drapes and a champagne gold faucet.
I’ve loved Airstream trailers for a long time,” says blogger Lynne Knowlton of Design the Life You Want to Live. “A few years ago, my husband, Michael, and I toured the Airstream factory in Ohio, and it fueled our dreams of owning one.” So last spring, when a friend spotted an Airstream for sale on a roadside not far from the couple’s Durham, Ont., home, their vision became a reality – albeit a less than glamorous one.
Parked beside a spring-fed pond on owners Lynne and Michael Knowlton’s 100-acre property, the trailer is positioned to capitalize on the view. “It’s a beautiful place to take in sunrises and sunsets and to gaze at the incredible night skies,” says Lynne.
“The interior was original 1976 vintage,” says Lynne. “The flooring was carpet and laminate tile and the kitchen cabinetry was an icky wood-look veneer.” In her mind, she was already restyling the 240-square-foot space as a retreat she could park on their 100-acre property to rent out (through lynneknowlton.com and Airbnb) when she and Michael weren’t enjoying it. “I wanted a bright and airy feel while still maintaining the trailer’s retro vibe,” says Lynne.
The compact kitchenette features the original four-burner gas range and an eat-in area with a built-in collapsible table. the dining chair, a yard sale find, brings a country element to the space, while artwork from a street market in Bali adds a whimsical accent.
Lynne determined which of the original design features were keepers: the blue chenille sofas, panelling, gas range and layout of the bedroom. Everything else was cleared out to let the decor reboot begin. White paint and wood-look flooring made from partially recycled vinyl spruce up the compact quarters and provide a neutral backdrop for the sofas to pop against. New custom lower kitchen cabinets were coated in the same white as the walls and then gussied up with brass hardware.
“The original chenille upholstery is still in beautiful shape – how cool is that?” asks Lynne. The blue sofa, which opens into a double bed, is reflected on the range, making its white door appear a watery hue.
She carried the warm metallic through to the faucet, wallpaper and even the gas range. “It was trimmed in stainless steel, which I covered with gold using a permanent marker,” says Lynne. A finishing touch of soft linen drapery makes the space unexpectedly luxurious and serene. And the serenity seems to be catching on. “Our guests love the comfort here. Most don’t want to leave, but when they do, they’re well rested.” Happy campers indeed.
“I considered a queen bed, but the two twins with a nightstand in between them maintain the vintage feel,” says Lynne. She accessorized the pale bedroom with cheery yellow toss cushions and a patterned rug. A rope of twinkling LED lights casts a warm glow at night.
Learn to get this retro glam look in your own space.
Cole & Son Banbury Stone Trellis wallpaper in 3012, through designers, Lee Jofa, $226 per double roll.
Linen Niels wingback chair in Regal Blue, West Elm, $979.
Anne of Green Gables book by L.M. Montgomery with cover illustration by Anna Bond, Indigo, $18.
Smeg 2-slice toaster in cream, Hudson’s Bay, $230.
Zia Birch toss cushion cover in Soft Butter, Tonic Living, $34.
Learn more about this rising design star and where she finds her inspiration.
Learn more about this rising design star and where she finds her inspiration.
Check out our interview with the ever-talented textile designer Rebecca Atwood.
She’s a rising design star, her products are something to covet, she just released the bible on pattern play – and here, she takes the time to chat with us about everything else she has in the works.
Well, she’s more of a prints princess, but her patterns are certainly charming. Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., designer Rebecca Atwood is a budding It girl of the decor world, known for her eponymous home textiles line (featuring toss cushions, table linens, wallpapers, fabrics and more). She just released her first book, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for the chance to learn the secrets to her signature style: livable patterns and relaxed luxury. In Living With Pattern, Rebecca proves that layering prints on prints on prints can indeed impart peace and, when employed thoughtfully, truly empower a home.
What do Charleston, S.C., and Zihuatanejo, Mexico, have in common? They’ve both influenced Rebecca’s work. Living in a big city, she’s inspired on a daily basis – but even more so when she travels. “When you’re out of your element, you’re able to see things more clearly,” she explains. The soft colours of Rebecca’s Spring 2016 collection (shown above) capture the lush tones she fell for when visiting Charleston, while Spring 2017 is set to feature elements that caught Rebecca’s eye when she was recently in Zihuatanejo for a family member’s wedding. “I saw this colourful, stylized sun-moon objet on my hotel door,” she says, “and started to paint my own concept of the sun-moon combo. It’ll be featured in some of the fabrics I have coming out next year.”
Follow Rebecca on Instagram (@rebecca_atwood) and guess which of the everyday patterns she captures will appear in an upcoming collection. It's easy to see how these snaps from Charleston, S.C., influenced the prints in her Spring 2016 Gardner Collection.
“My mom saved everything – vintage lace, dresses from the ’20s,” says Rebecca, who appreciates the importance of surrounding herself with items of personal significance. “It’s about making a piece of your family’s history a part of how you live now,” she says, referencing an heirloom quilt in one of the homes featured in her book.
Whether Rebecca is sketching or painting – she travels with the supplies to do both – her top tools of the trade are her hands. “I typically can’t come up with ideas just sitting at a computer,” she says. “I have to start with a hands-on process where I allow myself to be creative and experiment, letting things flow naturally. It’s just about getting started and putting marks on paper or fabric. Then things come to life.” Beyond those basic tools, Rebecca likes working with India ink as well as gouache paints (“They’re like watercolours but are more opaque and have a matte finish,” says the artist). She also loves Muji sketchbooks – unless she’s working directly on fabric, and if so, she favours natural materials.
In Living With Pattern, Rebecca turns her favourite interiors into lessons about using pattern that you can easily adapt to your home. Her advice for making the living room your own? “Use a large neutral rug as your base and define the seating area by layering a smaller rug on top,” she writes. She also says to play with texture and include woven textiles as well as wood and stone. “Remember that linear elements, such as the legs of a plant stand, can become pattern, too,” she adds. “And keep fabric patterns simple and graphic to maintain the focus on the foundation.”
Tour this Vancouver home's modern eclectic look.
This Vancouver home's modern eclectic look is a testament to the power of a sister act.
Now that the dust has settled on their massive whole-house renovation, homeowners Anna Wright and Alistair Sale – both busy professionals and parents of Lewis, 10, Freddie, 8, and George, 6 – each have their favourite features of the new interior. For Alistair, the cook of the family, the open kitchen is the (long-awaited) best part. Anna is most excited about the master ensuite bathroom she doesn’t have to share with the kids. And for the boys, it’s their bigger playroom in the finished basement.
The Vancouver family lived in the 3,700-square-foot 1920s home for five years before embarking on the huge overhaul. “I’m so glad we lived in the house for a while first and figured out what we wanted,” says Anna. “If we’d done the renovation right away, we would have done things very differently, and those decisions probably wouldn’t work for us now.”
The crisp white brick fireplace surround, built-ins and original wood panelling set off the dark grey on the upper walls of the den. Leaded glass cabinetry doors are another original feature. The antique chandelier was picked up at a London flea market.
A contemporary pale orange sofa pops against the white panelling and dark grey walls. The Mid-Century Modern desk was a lucky find at an antiques store a few years back, as was the Tolix chair.
Going vintage is often a more economical decorating idea than buying brand new, says Sophie.
The birdcage pendant light adds another unexpected dose of colour and whimsy.
In the dining area, an antique zinc-topped table from a French flea market pairs well with mismatched colourful Eames dining chairs. “We thought the different hues of the dining chairs would be quirky and fun,” says homeowner Anna Wright.
The designer pendant light was a pricey find from London, England.
Expanding the existing skylight and adding more windows above the sink brought loads of natural light into the white painted kitchen. Homeowner Alistair Sale greatly appreciates the bigger sink, but extra kitchen counter space, double wall ovens and a gas cooktop were at the top of his must-have list.
French doors lead out to a newly enlarged wraparound deck off the open kitchen/dining area, making the backyard much more accessible. The kitchen peninsula is perfect for casual breakfasts and homework time.
The zinc top on the antique dining table can take plenty of wear and tear from everyday family meals; the stark white modern dishware strikes a pleasing contrast against the patinated surface.
A desk area in the kitchen serves as the family workspace and offers plenty of storage space for the kids’ paperwork and school supplies. Inspirational photos and small pieces of art bring personality to the nook.
The new master ensuite bathroom is Anna’s retreat from hectic work and family life.
The matching gold mirrors in the master ensuite are a glitzy big-box score.
Grey and white cement floor tiles provide ornate pattern in the otherwise serene white room.
The bathroom floor tiles themselves weren't very expensive, but shipping the from California was.