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Lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs gives her home a fresh look for Christmas. Image by: Tracey Ayton
For lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs, Christmas is all about sentiment and style. Here are 12 ways she pulls off a fresh look filled with meaning to commemorate a family milestone.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without family and tradition, sure, but in Monika Hibbs’s home, Christmas also wouldn’t be complete without her signature styling. Based just outside of Fort Langley, B.C., the blogger, who has quickly become a master of holiday decor, switches up her style almost every year. But regardless of the theme, these aspects always remain: A classic look and neutral scheme, metallic touches, a hint of whimsy and sheer covetability. Seasonal styling is a talent Monika has honed since she was a little girl. “Even when I was young, I loved adorning the tree and wrapping gifts,” she says. “Plus, my mom always let me be in charge of floral arrangements and tablescapes.”
Now that Monika has her own family (including hubby Troy, three-year-old Liam and 11- month-old Lillya), she shares the tasks with her children. “Liam’s really into it,” says Monika. “He decorates cookies, hangs ornaments and arranges the manger.” Though Lillya is too young to get involved, her arrival just two weeks before last Christmas inspired the entire feminine theme, executed with dusty rose-hued accents like tea light holders, wrapping paper and delicate raw silk ribbon.
Holiday decorating with the kids isn’t the only tradition the Hibbses have – they enjoy hot chocolate by their outdoor fireplace in the evenings and always make time for charity. But a highlight is taking the Bright Nights Christmas Train through Stanley Park with Troy’s family. “There’s around 60 of us – we fill the whole train,” says Monika, noting that the park is lit with millions of lights – perhaps the perfect place for this family-oriented champion of Christmas who also happens to have a penchant for sparkle.
1 Lifestyle blogger and unofficial queen of fresh and elegant holiday decor Monika Hibbs has three main tips for trimming a tree: Start with a colour scheme (“You don’t have to use every ornament in your box – save the ones that don’t suit your theme for another year,” she advises); instead of buying one-off ornaments, go for groups of three for visual impact; and organize them by category (like glass balls or felted figures) before hanging them to ensure balanced distribution.
2 “There’s something special about a fire this time of year,” says Monika. The one here in her family room is not the only staple flame of the season – tea lights are strewn on surfaces throughout the house, and the outdoor fireplace plays host to many a morning coffee or evening cocoa. “I love a fire’s warmth and random crackles, which add to the magic of the holidays.”
3 Style meets sentiment in chic pieces that commemorate family milestones, such as the decorative houses arranged on Monika’s fireplace mantel. “Each one represents a huge moment for us, from the purchase of our first home to the construction of this one,” she says. “And I write a note on the bottom of each so I never forget.”
4 Monika doesn’t switch out much of her everyday decor come Christmastime. In fact, furniture placement, artwork and accents mostly stay the same, save for a few toss cushions that get traded for more festive ones.
5 When it comes to garlands, Monika goes all out: She orders a massive length of fresh cedar (last year it was 75 feet!) to string along her banister, mantel, exterior trim and garage. She starts by measuring everything she wants to adorn and then adds an extra foot of cedar for every four feet to accommodate swag. Here, the garland is garnished with eucalyptus, cypress, pine cones and raw silk bows with cascading tails for a fresh, feminine look.
6 “You don’t need to cook an entire sit-down dinner for each of the season’s many parties,” says Monika, who prefers to prep for a holiday drop-in with comfort foods like homemade apple pie. “It’s elegant but cozy,” she explains.
7 Roses may be unconventional Christmas flowers, but they’re perfectly suited to Monika’s pretty-in-pink theme. “Originally, I wanted this piece to be a garland that wrapped around the whole range hood,” says Monika. “But it didn’t look right, so I downsized the idea. It’s perfect proof that sometimes less is more.”
8 A simple wreath hung with thick ribbon serves as another example of less is more and offers a wink of holiday spirit in an otherwise unadorned area.
9 Sparkling rosé served in pink champagne coupes underscores the holiday colour scheme, while whimsical details like frozen-rose ice cubes and sugared cranberries are easy and inexpensive ways to add serious wow factor.
10 No matter her holiday scheme, Monika tends to stick to neutrals when picking gift wrap. “I usually choose paper with subtle patterns, such as snowflakes or polka dots,” she says. “But I always wrap the kids’ presents in something more playful.”
11 Born six weeks after the Hibbses moved into this house and two weeks before Christmas, baby Lillya was the main source of inspiration for the home’s festive decor last year, marked by the powder pink and dusty rose accents with feminine touches. Monika purchased the “Hello Lovely” ornament in honour of Lillya’s birth to serve as a beautiful reminder of when they welcomed her into the world.
12 From the Fort Langley, B.C., shopping bag to the plaid scarf and blanket to the warm winter boots and even the skull mount, there’s always a hint of Canadiana in Monika’s winter decor.
Decorated in shades of silver and gold, this shimmering tree makes a statement. Image by: Donna Griffith
What’s better than chic, sophisticated holiday style? The ability to achieve it with ease. Here are 10 tips to simplify your next festive soiree.
Last year, when homeowners Pamela Schott and Sheldon Pollack moved into this 7,500-square-foot five-bedroom century home in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, they merged more than just their families (he has three 30-somethings; she has two kids; and four of the five live at the house part-time). The couple, who will wed next year, also blended their approaches to the holidays. To that end, their seasonal decor is sophisticated and minimalist, glamorous and uncluttered, neither too gimmicky nor too theme-y. For Pamela and Sheldon, it’s all about simplicity. Though they enjoy entertaining – the couple loves to host a holiday drop-in – they always keep it effortless. “A party is about the friends, family, wine, appetizers and conversation,” says Pamela, who makes creating a relaxed atmosphere her priority. “It’s about the event, not the planning.” Here, we highlight 10 ways Pamela and Sheldon execute their elegant holiday style with ease.
1 Choose function: A petite potted rosemary tree gives the kitchen counter holiday flair with purpose. Well into the new year, it will serve as a source of fresh decoration for place settings and garnish for themed cocktails.
2 Make strategic splurges: Don’t stress about baking in the days leading up to your party. If you lack the time and the piping skills, splurge on artfully adorned cookies iced in your home’s colour scheme for a scrumptious statement.
3 Stay simple: A bouquet of white amaryllis is an understated accent that’s synonymous with winter but doesn’t scream “holidays.” Buy the blooms a few days before your event so they’re at their prime when guests arrive.
4 Lay it down: Getting festive garlands to swag just right can take a lot of fussing. So if you want to gussy up your windows in a flash, layer cuttings of greenery on your windowsills instead. Here, Douglas fir and magnolia leaves add a luxe touch.
5 Accent the architecture: Draw attention to eye-catching structural features like leaded glass windows with beautiful holiday wreaths that accentuate the details but don’t steal the show.
6 Make room for more: Use a bowl to hold gorgeous Christmas ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree for a simple centrepiece or coffee table accent.
7 Wrap it up: No pot? No problem! Use a swath of grey linen fabric secured with decorative ribbon to dress up the base of a tabletop tree. This unconventional feature lends a festive touch to an otherwise unadorned space.
8 Come out from under the tree: Take your gift wrapping to the next level with finishing details like sculptural toppers and layered ribbons. Don’t just place presents under the tree: Artfully arrange them on various nearby surfaces for vignettes that suit the season.
9 Mix metallics: Sticking to a gold and silver palette makes decorating the tree almost effortless. Look for a mix of shimmering materials, from beading to mercury glass to metallic fabrics, so you don’t have to think too hard about even distribution.
10 Make it a team effort: Whether it’s decorating the tree, hanging wreaths or wrapping presents, holiday tasks are more easily executed as a team. Get your tools out ahead of time, gather the family and put on your favourite holiday tunes to set the mood – you’ll be done before you can say “cool yule!”
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.
Gorgeous gift ideas for decor lovers
Find the perfect present for your home decor obsessed friend or family member.
Got a decorista on your Christmas shopping list this year? If you’re shopping for someone who loves all things related to decorating and design, you’ll appreciate this thoughtfully curated list of gift ideas. From beautiful, purely decorative items to gifts that are both pretty and practical, these suggestions are just what you’re looking for!
1 Maze Print Wool Throw: You can just never have too many throws, especially in the dead of winter when everyone in the family is looking for something warm to snuggle up with. Give the gift of warmth this Christmas with this graphic pattern blanket that is handcrafted with 100% all natural wool. Maze Print Wool Throw, Bambeco, $195.
2 Gold and White Decoupage Trays: Looking for a gorgeous gift that looks more expensive than it is? These beautiful decoupage trays can be used to store anything from jewelry to keys and mail, to help keep clutter at bay. And at just $19 each, they’re an economical and easy gift giving idea! Gold and White Decoupage Trays, West Elm, $19.
3 Paxton Ceramic Blue Vase: A truly beautiful vase is one that looks just as good empty and on display as it does filled with a bouquet of fresh blooms. This ceramic vase has a marble effect that makes each piece different, one from the next. The perfect hostess gift to take to your next Christmas party! Paxton Ceramic Blue Vase, Indigo, $29.50.
4 Tosca Tiered Catch-All Dish With Mirror: A vanity mirror is not just a practical gift; this one makes a lovely decorative item for the bathroom countertop, too. Plus, it’s got tiered catch-all dishes to store odds and ends like jewelry and makeup essentials. Tosca Tiered Catch-All Dish With Mirror, Urban Outfitters, $39.
5 Preserved Potted Boxwood Cone Topiary: This potted boxwood topiary will make a gorgeous addition to someone’s Christmas decorating this year. They’ll be thrilled to put it on display year after year and you can rest assured they’ll remember you each time they do. This is a gift that just keeps on giving! Preserved Potted Boxwood Cone Topiary, Pottery Barn, $49.50.
6 Kieran Hanging Brass Frame: These days, everyone’s got a ton of photos but they stay locked in their prisons on smartphones and digital cameras. Give someone gorgeous frames like these brass ones and encourage them to put their beautiful photos on display. Better yet, print out photos and place them in the frames before you gift them. Kieran Hanging Brass Frame, Wayfair, $59.99 for set of 2.
7 Monogrammed Glass Cloche: There are candles and then there are candles. These gorgeous gold candles come complete with a handcrafted glass cloche that has a single initial monogram, perfect for personalizing this gift for someone special. Monogrammed Glass Cloche, Horchow, $45.
8 Tea and Coffee Canisters: Help someone add some style to their kitchen countertop with these modern stoneware coffee and tea canisters. In chic black and white with a neutral wooden lid, they’ll seamlessly blend into any decor and more importantly, will make sure that these two morning essentials are always within easy reach. Tea and Coffee Canisters, Crate and Barrel, $9.95 each.