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.
We've got the scoop on what's popular in bathroom designs for 2017.
When it comes to resale value, kitchens and bathrooms typically give homeowners the greatest return on their investment, which makes them the optimal rooms to update and renovate. As we head into a new year, we asked designers what some of the hottest trends in bathroom design are for 2017. Looks like this is the year to get creative with those bathroom tiles! Check out what seven designers had to say.
Photography: Donna Griffith
1 "Accent walls have been around for a while but traditional accents walls have been achieved with paint or wallpaper. In 2017, we'll see mosaic glass tiled accent walls. From over-sized florals, confetti bursts and subtle damask prints, the small squares of the mosaic glass tile offer a cool pixelated look, tipping its hat to today's digital world. Whether behind a free-standing tub, shower or bathroom floor, the mosaic tile accent wall can add a whimsical wow factor into any bathroom." - Designer, Andrea Haraldsen.
Photography: Stacey Brandford & Donna Griffith
2 "Since bathroom are typically one of the smaller rooms of the house, they are the perfect place to create interest on the floor by splurging on mosaic tiles. Create a border in the room with a larger format of the mosaic inlay. You won’t want to cover these beautiful tiles with an area rug, so consider heated floors." - Interior Designer, Tara Fingold.
Photography: Stacey Brandford
3 "A streamlined, contemporary bathroom with wall-mounted toilet and a ledge to house bathroom essentials or display artwork is on top of my dream bathroom list. If you are going to install a wall-mounted toilet, you will need to build out the wall to facilitate the flushing mechanism. So why not make it a design statement and practical feature? Best of all, a tailored, refined bathroom is always in style and will definitely bring in top dollar at resell." - Blogger and Decorator, Tim Lam.
Photography: Angus Fergusson
4 "Graphic floors continue to be a strong trend in 2017. Printed encaustic tiles in beautiful graphic patterns will continue to prevail, but I am also loving patterns created with solid coloured tiles laid in interesting patterns. For example, three colours of the same hexagonal tile laid in a random pattern, or in a pattern that gives the floor the look of an ombré gradient, can create beautiful impact in bathrooms large or small." - Designer, Lisa Canning.
5 "Bold geometric and mosaic tiles in the bathroom have been popular in recent years but a shift to simple and creative tile patterns will gain traction in 2017. While a classic white ceramic tile will never go out of style, it feels fresh when laid in a herringbone pattern instead of traditional subway running bond. Or create chic appeal with solid square tiles in a trio of colours laid out in a trendy yet timeless buffalo check pattern." - Blogger and Designer, Jennifer Flores.
Photography: Phil Crozier
6 "All white bathrooms will continue to be popular as they are timeless and tend to evoke a spa feel that people crave in a bathroom. Introducing lighter wood tones befitting of Scandinavian spaces will continue to be on trend and warm up an all-white space. Mixing metals will gain popularity as homeowners realize they can mix a chrome faucet with a gold or brass mirror and wall sconces to great effect. Busy patterned floor tile will lose its appeal as consumers realize that they will tire of them and they will date very quickly." - Interior Designer, Vanessa Francis.
Photography: Stacey Brandford
7 "Move over subway tile and make room for shapes and geometrics. Whether the shape or pattern is part of the tile or simply created by installing in a geometric pattern, we’re seeing diamonds, hexagons, fish scale, chevron, herringbone, ovals, penny rounds and more. Regardless of the tile, basic white, bold colour or natural stone, creating pattern through shape is sure to elevate your bathroom in a classic, yet current way." - Interior Designer, Nyla Free.
Recipe: Moroccan sweet potato, red quinoa & chickpea salad with honey harissa dressing
A main course, Moroccan-inspired red quinoa salad made with a zesty Harissa (hot chili paste) dressing.
For honey harissa dressing
For the salad
1 Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the honey harissa dressing.
2 Toss 1⁄4 cup of the dressing with the sweet potatoes and spread out onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Toss another 2 tablespoons of the dressing with the chickpeas and spread out onto another parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
3 In a small pot, bring the beluga lentils and 4 cups cold water to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain, rinse and place in a large bowl, along with the roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas.
4 Meanwhile, in another small pot, bring the red quinoa and 4 cups water to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain the quinoa and let dry in the sieve for 2 minutes. Add to the sweet potato mixture.
5 Stir in the green onions, pumpkin seeds, pecans, mint and cranberries. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and toss gently to combine. Place the warm salad on a large serving platter and garnish with the fresh pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. Serve.
Modern and functional kitchen
An out-of-date kitchen gets a fresh, modern makeover.
Closed off and cramped, there was nothing working about this family kitchen.
A swish of the wand (and hammer) and this small space went from cramped and dreary to open and fresh, the perfect match for this family.
“I’m a firm believer in bringing the outdoors in,” says designer Trish Johnston. To liven up the space, she chose a durable light grey faux bois porcelain tile for the floor and glossy white subway tiles to run floor-to-ceiling behind the range. To counter all the white, Trish chose a bold wallpaper. “The cheery green pattern is so fresh and inspiring,” she says. Hits of natural texture and gold-toned hardware tie the whole look together. “It’s all big box but doesn’t feel like it,” explains Trish.
“When I first saw the space, it was apparent that the layout was not working,” says Trish. “So I redesigned the kitchen with a working triangle in mind to make it more functional.”
Trish replaced the peninsula with an island and changed its orientation to run down the centre of the room, allowing her to incorporate a large 10-foot-long version, complete with an undermount sink, dishwasher and tons of extra storage.
Trish wanted to create a way for Nicole and Nial’s son, Nathan, 5, to be able to participate in mealtime prep, so she got rid of the table and chairs and incorporated a few stools at the island. “It’s a great place for him to colour or play while Mom and Dad are working in the kitchen,” says trish. By the window, two armchairs serve as a spot for morning coffee or evening cocktails. “They really soften the hard lines in the space and give it a homey, relaxed vibe,” says Trish. With the accompanying vibrant wallpaper and jute rug, the area almost evokes a mini sitting room.
Trish also created a command centre between two banks of cabinetry to give homeowners Nicole and Nial Hennessy a spot for charging electronics, paying bills or displaying self-serve appetizers and drinks for guests.
“We spruced up the room by using IKEA's Sektion/Bodbyn cabinetry throughout, but in white for the island and in grey for the pantry wall,” says Trish. The contrasting colours help define the kitchen’s two zones: work and storage.
With so many cabinets and tons of storage, it's important to stay organized, even in the smallest drawers.
The space remains fresh, not just through the new design, but also by adding some simple greenery to match the view outside.