Take a trip to Dublin, Ireland with our home & style director.
Our home & style director jets off to Dublin, Ireland.
Style at Home's home & style director, Ann Marie Favot, gets her Irish on in this young-at-heart ancient city filled with inspiration.
Day 1: Check into The Morrison Hotel, ideally situated on the banks of the River Liffey in the city centre. it’s a short walk from here to a ton of Dublin’s main attractions, including shopping and nightlife. Stretch your legs by taking a stroll south of the river to The Library of Trinity College Dublin to have a gander at the Book of Kells, the stunning illuminated medieval manuscript that is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures. Then wander through the maze of ancient streets that make up the vibrant temple bar neighbourhood just west of Trinity College.
If you’re lucky enough to be here on a Saturday, start at the Temple Bar Food Market (above) and indulge in fresh scones, cheeses, breads and other snacks you can take back to the hotel (or eat right there!).
Do some serious browsing in the pretty boutiques along Cow’s Lane and in the surrounding area, particularly on Drury, William and Clarendon streets. Scout, Cow’s Lane Designer Studio, Paula Rowan, The Garden (above), Find and the Irish Design Shop all feature beautifully made goods to take home. stop for a rest at Avoca, a divine family-run design shop/café, and then return to the hotel to put away your purchases before heading to the historic Temple Bar for a must-have dinner of oysters and guinness, accompanied by traditional Irish music from a roster of engaging live bands.
Day 2: Start your day with a walk to the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, located in Collins Barracks, an old army base dating to 1704. The museum houses a fine collection of artisanal Irish wares, including glass work, silverware and turned wood, as well as traditional furniture pieces that speak to the country’s domestic history. See the exhibition devoted to Irish modernist pioneer Eileen Gray, which includes her groundbreaking adjustable chrome table and non-conformist chair. Leaving the museum, head south across the river. Your destination is Iveagh Gardens, but take a detour by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to ogle this venerable 800-year-old institution.
Before reaching the gardens, have lunch at nearby Drury Street’s Considered by Helen James, where you’ll dine at communal tables side by side with the locals. Owned by Dunnes stores, the café also features a full range of designer Helen James’s foodstuffs, tableware and accessories. Industry & Co., a lifestyle decor store across the street, also includes a great café. Carry on to Iveagh Gardens, one of Dublin’s best hidden spaces, and lose yourself among the statuary, rockeries, fountains, waterfall and grotto. Small (you can see it all in about an hour) and free, this verdant garden was envisioned by famed landscape architect Ninian Niven in 1865. Soak up the atmosphere at this peaceful oasis as a counterpoint to the hustle and bustle beyond the gates.
Once you’re revived by Ninian’s horticultural genius, make your way back to the hotel for a rest before indulging in a late dinner on the roof terrace at The Woollen Mills, an elegant eatery situated in an old mill overlooking Ha’penny Bridge and the River Liffey.
Day 3: A trip to Ireland isn’t complete without enjoying a drink or two. Check out the Teeling Whiskey Distillery in the historic Liberties district to learn the history of Irish whiskey and do your own taste test. Don’t leave without sampling the divine whiskey ice cream at the distillery’s Phoenix café. Then, if you can still walk, sign up for a tour with Fab Food Trails and enjoy an insider’s look at the city’s past and culinary heritage with one of the local guides.
Alternatively, if you’re in Dublin on the last Sunday of the month, check out the Dublin Flea Market (above) for all kinds of antique and vintage knick-knacks. Book in for dinner at Ely Wine Bar, which stocks more than 500 wines and boasts a “pasture to plate” selection of beef and pork dishes made from livestock raised at its owners’ organic family farm. End your day at one of the nearby bars that feature live traditional Irish music.
Cool, misty Irish days call for practical pieces that work for changeable weather.
Padded Maya Gilet in Brown, Horseware Ireland, $105 US.
Printed Bubble umbrella in Dulse Wave Print, Hunter Original, $75.
Master collection GMT watch, Longines, $2,900.
Discipline travel-sized hair-care products, Kérastase Paris, from $19 each.
Country Galway boots in Walnut with ExtraFit, Dubarry, $549.
Limbo multiwheel suitcase in Creme White, 22", Rimowa, $915.
Two styles combine to create this gorgeous farmhouse retreat.
Designer Viki Mansell blends contemporary and rustic styles with tons of texture and original artwork to create a fabulous farmhouse retreat.
Viki Mansell has an indisputable take on artwork in the home: “You can have beautiful design, but if you have a ghastly piece of art, that’s all anyone will look at.” It’s a conviction reflected in her two Toronto home furnishing stores, Absolutely and Absolutely North, which, in addition to offering furniture and decorative accessories, feature a range of artwork, from photographs and paintings to lithographs and drawings. “Most people are confident when picking out paint colours and furniture,” says Viki, “but few train their eyes for buying art – especially when it’s for a farmhouse.” The farmhouse referred to here belongs to one of Viki’s clients, an avid art collector, who enlisted the designer to transform a turn-of-the-century rural property into a picture-perfect retreat.
Situated north of Toronto, the 3,600-square-foot brick house was definitely in need of some serious loving care, but fortunately, its original floor plan required little finessing. So while the space was gutted to remedy old electrical, insufficient insulation and dated finishes, the staircase remained in its original position, and wherever possible, other features – such as the hardwood flooring upstairs, all the interior doors and the tongue-and-groove ceilings in the kitchen and dining room – were kept intact. Viki replaced the downstairs flooring, which couldn’t be saved, with butternut planks sourced and prepared by an arborist. The only structural changes were the addition of a fireplace flanked by French doors in the living room and the repositioning of an upstairs wall. “We siphoned off square footage from one of the three bedrooms to increase the size of the second-floor bathroom,” says Viki.
Once renovated, the house was ready to receive its artistic flourishes. “My vision was to maintain the farmhouse’s structural integrity while infusing it with a modern rustic overlay,” says Viki. This vision was inspired by the home’s setting. “The palette was drawn from the surrounding countryside, so we highlighted the neutral walls with furnishings in caramel, burnt orange and maple red.”
Viki’s choice of furniture amplifies the contemporary mood. “Comfort was a priority, but the furniture is tailored – there’s no overstuffing or rolled arms, just the simplicity of the lines,” she says. It’s a simplicity that extends to the windows on the main level, which were purposely left unadorned. “The homeowner didn’t want window coverings to distract from the beautiful views outside and the artwork on the walls.” It’s apparent that art is an essential design element, as it’s displayed everywhere from the dining and living rooms to less expected spots like above the bathtub and in the mud room. “While the artwork would look great anywhere, it truly complements this space,” says Viki. “It belongs here.” There’s no debating that.
“In the living room, I wanted to create a convivial sitting area focused on the fireplace,” says designer Viki Mansell.
The bucolic surroundings inspired Viki’s approach to the farmhouse’s palette and design.
Custom made from butternut, the living room sideboard features a black powder-coated steel base that ties in with the TV and the interior door, which Viki had painted black.
A 19th-century carpenter’s bench is used as a console and styled with modern pieces like a Tizio task lamp and Rothko poster in the mud room.
The kitchen, featuring rift-cut oak veneer-fronted cabinets, limestone countertops and a hand-applied plaster backsplash, has a simple charm belying its luxury.
In the dining room, a wooden trestle table combined with Italian leather chairs and a graphic light fixture capture the contemporary farmhouse aesthetic.
The living room’s slate-fronted fireplace encapsulates Viki’s take on turn of the century meets contemporary. “The mantel has a pared-back design, yet it’s crafted from 19th-century pilasters,” she says. The lithograph above the fireplace is by Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies.
A bathtub surround and vanity made of 150-year-old pine warm up the all-white second-floor bathroom.
The antique rug was the jumping-off point for the master bedroom. “I wanted the room to be cozy, so I chose a warm red fabric for the headboard and bedskirt,” says Viki.
A mix of textures lends interest to the upstairs hallway; the art by Ian Gray adds colour.
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.
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.