Summer cocktails: You'll love these cute and useful summer cocktail recipe cards
Download your free summer cocktail recipe cards.
Summer cocktails: You'll love these cute and useful summer cocktail recipe cards
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.
Out-of-date kitchen gets a whole new makeover.
Style at Home contributing design editor Christine Hanlon partners with IKEA to turn up the heat on her vacation home’s dated kitchen.
Christine originally envisioned rustic open shelving in the kitchen of her century-old vacation home, but the wonky walls (an unfortunate feature of many a building of that age) were easier to disguise with closed upper IKEA cabinetry, which Christine stacked to take advantage of the space’s high ceiling. Open shelves tucked behind chic bold-patterned cafe? curtains below the counter, however, make it easy for her kids to help set the table and empty the dishwasher.
In order to achieve a cohesive look along the back wall, Christine had to sacrifice an original antique window sill to make room for a continuous countertop. But the effect of the seamless surface was worth it. “The view of the kitchen straight on from the dining room is one of my favourite things about the space,” she says. “I’m just so drawn to symmetry.”
Topped off with designer details like brass-hued hardware, a mix of patterns, smooth organic lines and vintage treasures, the new kitchen exudes Christine’s signature bespoke beauty with a dash of Nordic country flair.
A beautiful floral arrangement make for the perfect kitchen countertop accessory.
Christine strayed from her original vision, which featured dark cabinetry, and instead opted to apply a bold, almost-black hue on the walls. “I agonized over the decision,” she admits. “And I didn’t decide until the very last minute. I thought, I have to try it or I’ll never know.” So late one night, Christine slapped some dark paint on one wall, “to end the agony of whether or not it would work,” she says. “And the more paint I applied, the more I liked it.” The entire space, including the adjoining dining room, is now enveloped in the smoky shade to striking effect.
Christine had the sink smartly positioned in the centre of the island, so when she’s performing hosting duties, she can still chat with guests sitting at the dining table just beyond. And that’s not the island’s only benefit. Hidden within it are a fully integrated dishwasher, as well as a pullout waste-sorting system to make tidying up easy.
Since this created a kind of kitchen within a kitchen, the creative designer took advantage of the unique opportunity to use a complementary marble backsplash. The main area features a Moroccan-look flower in subtle silvery grey hues (“I fell in love with the pattern as soon as I saw it,” says Christine), while the nook boasts a brick-patterned backsplash in slightly deeper shades. “They’re the perfect coordinates.”
Tucked away from sightlines is a cozy chef’s corner with a sleek white cooktop, self-cleaning oven and plenty of counter and cabinet space – not to mention drawers perfectly sorted with IKEA’s Variera organizers. “I wanted this area to be its own private zone so when we host, none of the cooking mess would be visible to guests,” explains Christine.
It’s hard to believe that the dingy old kitchen from the ’70s could be transformed into the stunner it is today. As lovely and functional as the layout itself is, it’s the designer details – perfect pattern pairings, bold colour choices and doses of flourish – that make the beautifully bespoke space so successful.
Image: Michael Nangreaves / Produced: Christine Hanlon & Morgan Lindsay
Can you tell which moody sitting room serves high or low end decor?
We designed a moody true-to-trends sitting room on both a high tea and a cup of joe budget — see if you can tell the difference.
1 Tree, Elte, $695; 2 Chandelier, Elte, $2,545; 3 Wallpaper, Thibaut at Kravet Canada, $560; 4 Etagere, Art Shoppe, $1,998; 5 Sofa, Urban Barn, $2,999; 6 Lumbar cushions, CB2, $258; 7 Coffee table, Art Shoppe, $3,899; 8 Rug, Elte, $8,505; 9 Armchair, Elte, $2,745; 10 Side table, Barrymore Furniture, $920.
1 Tree, Crown Flora Studio, $295; 2 Chandelier, Elte, $2,085; 3 Wallpaper, Thibaut at Kravet Canada, $358; 4 Etagere, HomeSense, $1,299; 5 Sofa, IKEA, $2,199; 6 Lumbar cushion covers, Inserts, H&M Home, $13 each, $7 each; 7 Coffee table, Elte, $1,895; 8 Rug, Elte, $5,165; 9 Armchair, HomeSense, $500; 10 Side table, Universal Lamp, $395.
Our favourite piece in the room is also the most timeless piece — a brown leather sofa. And so, we've rounded up the best options on the market, at every price point. Flip through the slideshow below to check out our hand-selected picks.
Polyfoam-filled full-grain Seglora leather Stockholm in natural, IKEA, $2,199.
Hamilton leather sofa in mocha, West Elm, $2,799.
Polyfoam- and down-filled waxed top-grain leather Diego in ox tan, Urban Barn, $2,999.
Polyfoam and down-filled full-grain leather Trevor in camel, Crate and Barrel, $5,999.
Foam- and polyfiber-filled top-grain Italian Brompton leather Belgian Track Arm in chestnut, Restoration Hardware, $5,995 US.
Photography: Tracey Ayton
With a plan in hand and some professional guidance, these homeowners take the reins of the modern design of their spacious new home.
Wing Lau and Kevin Teo bought their first Vancouver condo because of its easy access to work and the downtown amenities – charming restaurants, chic boutiques, art galleries and more. The problem? The one-bedroom-plus-den was a tight fit for the young couple and their two dogs. “We were barely ever home because it was so cramped,” remembers Wing. Add the fact that they were recently married and planning to expand the family, and 600-square-feet wasn’t going to cut it. For these IT professionals, though, a house wasn’t the answer. “That’s too much maintenance,” says Wing.
The solution was moving to a larger condo – a new build with panoramic views and breathing room thanks to a second bedroom and bathroom, as well as a den. Being a blank slate, however, it lacked character. “We found someone to inject some flair into the place,” says Wing, referring to designer Jamie Deck of Shift Interiors.
After researching Jamie’s work online, Wing realized the company was a great fit – and not just because she liked her style. Wing is hands-on when it comes to her home. A decor enthusiast and avid DIYer, she needed a design partner, not a leader, and Jamie’s firm allows homeowners to buy blocks of time to customize the level of service, from light guidance to full execution. So Wing requested Jamie’s advice on layouts and furniture selection, and then chose her favourites. She did much of the shopping and implementation herself.
Central to the 24th-floor condo are the living-dining area’s floor-to-ceiling windows, which showcase mountain views. They’re what sold the couple on the home and naturally became a central focus for the open-concept main living area. The room’s muted colour scheme provides the perfect frame for the vista – and also reflects Wing’s personal palette. “I only ever wear black, white or grey,” she says. “So it was an easy choice.”
With its seamless modern scheme, the kitchen was another selling point for Wing and Kevin, and required no design updates. “We got lucky that this kitchen already had a look we both love,” says Wing. The cabinet fronts and island base boast a unique striated grain in warm grey and cool taupe that lends the space artistic interest and texture all on its own – no extra design flourishes required.
Though Wing had originally wanted a concrete-look accent wall in the dining area, they were concerned it would compete with the kitchen. So they settled on a dining room gallery wall – which Kevin took total ownership of – and created the feature wall in the master bedroom instead. Complementing the concrete-look surface, a custom fabric-covered headboard that stretches the entire length of one wall visually widens the space and offers a structured, unfussy vibe.
In their new space, the couple feels proud and happy. There's something gratifying about executing a flawless design as an amateur, even when it's with significant help from a professional. Though the idea of a forever home isn't something they can commit to right now, this will be their domain for at least five years. "Until we outgrow it," says Wing, "or my design bug bites again." Maybe next time she'll brave it on her own.
Homeowners Wing Lau and Kevin Teo didn’t need designer Jamie Deck’s help in designing their gallery wall. Wing has been pinning favourite pieces for years and opted for a combination of personal photos and low-cost prints. Kevin was in charge of installation. “We had painters’ tape all over the floor and outlining the gallery wall to make sure the configuration was right,” says Wing of organizing the graphic black and white pieces in the dining room.
Wing swapped the condo’s living and dining areas to create a larger and more functional living room. After all, it has to handle the couple’s two dogs and, at some point, kids. The carpet was chosen in part for its low, easy-to-clean pile (so the battle against dog hair isn’t too taxing).
For Wing, it was important to mix high and low pieces. The Parsons dining table, for example, was a total splurge. The couple saw the piece in Seattle, fell in love with it and returned to the city two months later to haul it home in the family van. It’s something Wing plans to hang on to for a long time: “My future kids will probably spill on the table,” says Wing with a laugh. “But we’re okay with that.”
Prior to purchasing any furniture, the couple brought home fabric swatches to ensure everything matched with the kitchen cabinetry. “With its interesting grain, it almost plays the role of a feature wall,” says Wing. So it dictated what she and Kevin did with the rest of the space. “We couldn’t choose anything that competed with that.”
The kitchen is the literal and figurative centre of the apartment: It overlooks the living and dining room, benefits from the stunning view out the floor-to-ceiling windows and is a place Wing and Kevin spend a lot of time, doing everything from cooking breakfast to entertaining company.
Jamie suggested multiple furniture configurations for the master bedroom, but they settled on a set-up that takes advantage of the mountain views. The space is a lesson in how to create a successful high-low mix: The head-board was custom-made by Shift Interiors, but Kevin painted the concrete-look feature wall himself. The bedding and toss cushions are big-box-store finds.
With its simple mirror, metal console and wooden stool, the entryway announces the muted palette present throughout the space. Floating circular hooks offer a functional yet chic place to hang coats.
The bathroom echoes the kitchen with the same seamless cabinetry, but the countertop adds another layer of pattern that the kitchen lacks, proving it’s easy to be more daring with design in closed-off spaces. His and hers sinks allow for stress-free mornings.