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.
Showcase beautiful spring and summer blooms in your home.
Celebrate spring and summer with 8 beautiful floral arrangements to inspire colourful displays all season long.
Pull back the curtains and open up the windows - spring is here! And there is no better way to celebrate a fresh new season than with its beautiful bounty. Whether you're lacking a green thumb or are a florist at heart, creating fabulous floral arrangements is easier than you think. We’ve rounded up eight fresh arrangements to inspire colourful displays using delightful spring and summer blooms.
After a long grey winter, even the tiniest bursts of colour are more than welcome around the home. Old-fashioned garden shrubslike lilac and bridalwreath spirea add a touch of nostalgia to this sweet entryway vignette. Tip: When creating a grouping of different posies, use a variety of eclectic vessels and play with the height and volume of each arrangement.
Spring is a season of vivid colours, with its blooms of bright yellows, pinks and blues. For the sake of variety, try a different approach: A quiet collection of greens, whites and a peek of pale purple is like a breath of fresh air.
Add some foliage power to your spring tablewith burgundy-leaved beauties (heuchera and begonia) accented with arching sprays of bleeding hearts and the tiny blooms of forget-me-nots. Tip: Forgo a large centerpiece in favour of mini-posies scattered along the length of the table.
A simple milk glass vessel shows off a voluptuous single-hued bouquet. When arranging a variety of flowers in similar shades, play with tone, texture, shape and size. Here, the display features the beauty of bigleaf hydrangea with tendrils of summer blooms and foliage, including blackberry sprigs and Blue Pirouette clematis, winding through the blooms and offering a wonderfully untamed feel.
This painterly arrangement is composed of serious summer stunners – including ‘Juliet’ long-stemmed David Austin roses and dinner plate-sized ‘Café Au Lait’ dahlias – in the prettiest shades of blush and white.
When hosting overnight visitors, deck out the guest room with a bouquet of vibrant friendly flowers – eye-catching fuchsia blooms, such as dahlias, calla lilies and unfurled fern fronds, will do the trick.
Summer is high time for flowers, since options at the market are seemingly endless. Don’t limit yourself – go lush and grand. Anchor oriental lilies, hydrangeas, love-lies-bleeding and variegated hosta in an urn, and then mix in a few apple tree boughs. A few apples scattered around the base of the urn evoke an abundant summer harvest.
Create a whimsical welcome suited to both formal and casual entryways. Mingle greens – quirky Foxtail lilies, Boston fern fronds, Lime Rickey smooth hydrangea and heuchera – with sherbet-coloured blooms – old cabbage roses and ‘Juliet’ long-stemmed David Austin roses – in a shallow fluted vessel.
Experiment with round mirrors for your bathroom vanity
From gold plumbing to statement art, these are the looks that are big for bathrooms in 2016.
Standard subway tile is getting a fresh makeover with 2016’s hottest tile trend. “Chevron tiles are huge for bathrooms this year, either on the floor or walls,” says Shirley. “Contrasting grout really helps to highlight tile patterns, and white or dark tiles look great paired with the trendy gold plumbing that’s popping up everywhere.”
It’s all about luxury when it comes to bathrooms this year, with traditional pedestal sinks and porcelain tubs making way for more intricate styles. “Sinks and bathtubs carved out of stone are a super luxe bathroom detail that has been showing up all over the place,” says Shirley. “The travertine stone here is becoming popular again, only this time it has a less tumbled earthy look - with its razor sharp edges, this stone is suddenly modern again.”
The bathroom is one of the most used rooms in the home, so why not add some personality to the space with your favourite artwork? “Statement art can be a major update for your bathroom, and in 2016 we’ll be seeing pieces that are really colourful or oversized,” says Shirley. “This bright graphic painting makes a big impact in the master bathroom.”
Sometimes all it takes is a fresh update to a standard classic in order to revive a dated space. “Round mirrors are replacing the traditional rectangular shape we’re used to seeing in a bathroom, adding a dynamic, unexpected graphic focal point,” says Shirley. “Pair them with hanging pendant lights or wall sconces on either side, taking the opportunity to mix the blacks and golds that are so hot for 2016.”
“Creative bathroom layouts are always current, especially in small spaces or urban condos,” says Shirley. “Placing a stand-alone tub inside an open shower is a great space saving technique and is a modern update on the standard shower-tub combo.”
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.