Image by: Stacey Brandford | Styling: Morgan Lindsay & Stacy Begg
A PR maven updates her Toronto kitchen to create a chic space with staying power.
Christine Faulhaber is no stranger to trends. “It’s my job to be on the pulse of what’s new and now,” says the head of Faulhaber Communications, a PR and marketing firm in Toronto. When this in-the-know gal’s kitchen got an update last year, it was destined to have a covetable current look. But first, the 420-square-foot space – which hadn’t seen more than a coat of paint since the ’80s — needed to be brought into this decade.
Seeking help to gut the room and start over, the well-connected homeowner pulled out her loaded Rolodex and called in designer Amy Dillon of AyA Kitchens and Baths. “For the most part, we kept the layout pretty similar,” says Amy. “But we tweaked things to improve usability.” The upgrades included replacing cabinets with space-saving pullouts, swapping bulky appliances for sleek, well-integrated options and supplanting the old island with a longer narrower one that accommodates seating without impeding flow.
With function taken care of, Amy focused on the finishes, opting for elements befitting this fashion-forward professional. She cites the sleek two-tone cabinetry, open storage and a feature wall sans uppers as examples. “Trends can date themselves down the line,” says Amy, “so I incorporated them in a subtle way, using a neutral palette.” The über-popular encaustic-look backsplash tiles are case in point. “The slew of prints is a bit aggressive,” admits Christine. “But they’re monotone, so it’s a safe choice.” Time-tested additions, such as Mid-Century Modern-style seating, grasscloth accent wallpaper and copper accessories round out the room, cementing its staying power.
Designer Amy Dillon grounded the white cabinetry with dark grey accents — but only a few. “I wanted the space to age gracefully, not look like that typical two-tone kitchen you see so much,” she says. Marble-look Caesarstone countertops, which flow into a waterfall edge on the island, help achieve that goal.
For the dining area, Christine went with one of the hottest trends — Mid-Century Modern furniture — and chose chairs in a punchy shade of blue.
Though Amy chose minimal modern flat-panelled cabinetry, she varied the look by incorporating some open storage. “Display space is important to me,” says Christine, who showcases cookbooks and collectibles, such as her grandmother’s porcelain teacups. “These types of pieces give the space character and make it feel more like the rest of the rooms in the house.”
Christine fell for the bold encaustic-look backsplash tiles immediately. “The prints — there are 33 in total — are mostly traditional, so they have long legs,” she says. For a slightly more current effect, she had her contractor double up on the watery pattern, the only contemporary motif in the bunch. “The backsplash is a safe place to try a trend,” she advises. “Worst-case scenario, I tire of it in 10 years. I’d probably want to change my kitchen by then anyway!”
Christine incorporated touches of copper, the metal du jour, starting with a Tom Dixon pendant light in the eat-in area. The zone received the same space-smart treatment as the rest of the kitchen with dual-tone built-ins.
The whimsical artwork printed on Plexiglas is actually an image from a photo shoot Christine produced five years ago to mark the 10th anniversary of her PR and marketing agency, Faulhaber Communications. She used classic grass-cloth wallpaper as a backdrop to amplify the piece.
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.
Take a tour of this gorgeous family cottage on Lake Simcoe.
Designer Jessica Waks gives this family's second cottage its own unique flair, creating a spot to accommodate not only guests but also generations to come.
Nudged awake by the sweet smell of fresh cinnamon buns wafting from the kitchen, sleepy family members lumber downstairs, along the way catching sweeping views of serene Lake Simcoe – calm and quiet before the afternoon action takes hold. It’s a common Sunday scene at this Innisfil, Ont., cottage, which is peaceful in the morning until everyone gets up and silence gives way to animated chit-chat and laughter. Often, it’s not just the occupants of this abode in attendance, but the next-door neighbours as well – after all, they’re family, too. The homeowners, a Toronto couple with four adult daughters and two toddler grandchildren, weren’t planning on purchasing a new place – they bought a cottage only five years ago (featured in Style at Home’s July 2013 issue) – but when this 7,000-square-foot three-storey structure directly next door to the first became available, the owners decided to take advantage of the unique opportunity to keep their rapidly expanding family together on these adjacent vacation properties. To make the cottages look cohesive, they rehired designer Jessica Waks – Style at Home’s former design editor – of Jessica Claire Interiors, who had perfectly appointed their first place. “The homeowners wanted the spaces to have their own identities but to also look unified,” says Jessica, discussing how she took the nautical tone of the first property and layered a more country feel into the second. “I used a refined rustic aesthetic to temper its grand architecture, which boasts a spacious foyer and formal principal rooms,” she says.
Jessica was thinking Nantucket rather than classic Canadiana (“it’s more in keeping with the beach locale,” she says) when she rescued the dark and dated interior from its 1980s time warp. The most notable offences? Upholstered doors, inexplicable wall cut outs, tacky floral wallpaper (even on the ceiling in some rooms), mismatched flooring (including fruit-patterned tiles and pink-stained oak), heavily swathed valances, forest green toilets and sinks and a bizarre balcony that jutted into the living room from the second floor. In other words, the cottage called for a complete overhaul. So Jessica started fresh in almost every room, smoothing out the architectural oddities and replacing the flooring with dark-stained oak hardwood, which contrasts the newly white walls throughout – a timeless and cohesive envelope for the elegant nautical look.
Creating a furniture plan for the grand living room was tricky because it has so many points of entry,” says designer Jessica Waks. “Not only did it need to seat a lot of people, but it also had to look good from all angles.” Jessica cleverly selected items like the blue swivel armchairs that can face the central sitting area, the fireplace or the view (win-win-win)!
To make a statement in the foyer, Jessica set visually interesting pieces like the vintage spool-legged console with a curvy linen-upholstered settee against a simple, traditional pedestal table. The jug of maple branches is a nod to the cottage’s sylvan surroundings.
Above the console in the great room, the designer framed and hung a simple grid of antique Simcoe county maps. Believe it or not, the stunning console was a Craigs List purchase. “I love find ing preloved pieces online, at markets and at consignment stores – there are such gems to uncover,” says Jessica, who skilfully pairs these secondhand scores with new custom items.
Meals are often served alfresco with stunning views of Lake Simcoe on the side. To visually connect the two properties, Jessica chose the same outdoor dining furniture for this space as she did for the other cottage next door. “I love how the teak’s grey stain and toss cushions match the stone work and siding of the home’s exterior,” she says.
“The windows in the dining room look out to the front and side of the property,” says Jessica, “so to make up for the lack of lake views and to add visual interest, I chose a charming paisley wallpaper.” The blue-grey tone of the print perfectly matches the original slate fireplace surround.
In the kitchen, the white beadboard cabinetry offers a light and airy country look that’s grounded by darker elements, such as the leathered black granite perimeter countertops and slate-look floor tiles. The wide butcher block-topped island provides ample space for the homeowners, who are avid cooks, to prep meals for their large family.
A pretty patterned wallpaper distracts from this powder room’s awkward angles. Using the space’s drawbacks to her advantage, Jessica leaned a vintage wooden ladder against the wall to hang towels for guests.
The third-floor “bunkie” boasts the most coveted sleeping area in the house: the queen bed in the window niche overlooking the lake. “You can see the sunrise from this spot,” says Jessica. Nautical buffalo-check drapery offers sleepers privacy from the rest of the room.
“As a decorator, I love the strong sense of symmetry that comes from a set of twin beds,” says Jessica, who had these hard-to-find spindle-framed beds for one of the rooms shipped from the US. “I like how they stand out against the wallpaper,” she says. “You can really appreciate the spool detail.”
Use fresh peaches for this delicious dessert recipe.
Our delicious crumbly topped buckle comes with a hit of sour cream for a dessert that’s peach perfect!
Fuzzy peaches are ripe for the pickin’ right now, so make the most of their juicy sweetness by baking a moist and tender coffee cake.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
2 With the mixer still running, add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the sour cream and almond extract.
3 Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
4 Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
5 Butter and flour a 9" round deep-dish pie pan.
6 Pour half of the batter evenly into the pie pan and layer 2 cups of the peach slices overtop.
7 Repeat with the remaining batter and peach slices.
8 To make the streusel topping, in a small bowl, work together the butter and the flour with your fingers until a coarse meal forms. Stir in the almonds, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the peach slices.
9 Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the buckle comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream on the side.
Serves: 8 to 10