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.
10 temporary decorating ideas for renters
Check out 10 ways to decorate in a temporary rental space.
Moving into a rental space has its advantages and disadvantages. A new home is always fun and exciting but when you’re renting, you’ll likely find that you’re limited in terms of updates you want to make to your home. But plenty of decorating-to-go ideas abound! If you want to give your rental home a fabulous facelift, we’ve got 10 temporary tactics that will help you personalize your space. You can either take them with you or easily remove them when it’s time to move!
Many a rental space comes complete with vertical blinds that, let’s be honest, are less than stylish. By removing them and replacing them with curtains, you can add instant style to your space. But don’t forget to safely store the blinds after you’ve removed them. You’ll likely have to put them back up when you move out. But you can take the curtains with you when you go! Moorish Tile Curtains, Pier 1, starting at $44.95.
A cocktail cart is a simple way to create a chic entertaining space when you don’t have a lot of room to spare. It’ll add a touch of glamour to your space (especially one in gold) and of course, this one will roll right out the door with you to your new home. Gluckstein Home Trolley Styled Bar Cart, Hudson’s Bay, $299.
Nothing changes the look of a space faster than wallpaper. This gorgeous wallpaper pattern actually comes in 24x32-inch tiles that are easily removable, making them perfect for rental units. They have a low-tack adhesive backing and are washable, too! Diamante (Turquoise) Tile, Hygge & West, $33.
Those builder-grade light fixtures that you find in many apartments are, let’s face it, a total eye sore. A simple swap for something more you, will help to add personality to your space and give you and your guests something pretty to look at. This gorgeous chandelier comes in an antique metal-finished frame and is a beautiful combo of industrial and modern style. Marney Glass Chandelier, West Elm, $479.
Area rugs are great but rug tiles are even better because of their versatility. Each square measures approximately 20” x 20” and you can easily assemble them in any room in your home for added warmth and comfort underfoot. And if you move into a larger space down the road, you can buy more tiles to enlarge the size of the rug. Coming Along Tiles, Flor, prices vary.
Nothing dates a kitchen quicker than those circa-1970 ceramic tiles in hideous colours. Worse yet, tiles that have potatoes, lobsters or baskets of fruit. Yikes! There’s no need to rip out your existing tile to give your backsplash a makeover. Simply apply these waterproof tile decals to add a fresh and modern look to your kitchen. Optic Stripe Tile Decals, Stick Pretty, starting at $18.
An alternative to blinds, adhesive window film will give you total privacy while still allowing sunlight to flow into your space. This gorgeous design looks like etched glass and is a pretty and practical way to add style to your space. Best of all, it’s easy to remove when the time comes. Emma Jeffs Pearl Adhesive Film, Design Public, $86.
These etched blossom knobs are just gorgeous and are a perfect way toupdate a kitchenor bathroom cabinets. Simply swap out the existing ones for something prettier like these but don’t forget to hang on to the old ones so you can replace them before you move out. Etched Blossom Knobs, Anthropologie, $12.
Illuminate a small space with floor lamps that are striking and make a style statement all on their own. This one has a rustic brass finish and will look right at home in your rental and in your new space when you move on. Interlaced Gold Chain Floor Lamp, Pottery Barn, $360.
Of all these ideas, this is the most inexpensive and can pack the biggest punch. Fresh flowers from a local farmer’s market, grocery store or even your own garden will add colour and life to any room in your home. So transform your space with fragrant fresh blooms each week – they’re guaranteed to bring a smile to your face every time you pass by them.
How to: Prepare your home for winter
This Toronto dwelling, with its book-laden walls and cozy corners, is a reader's dream.
Easygoing, trusting and super stylish: These homeowners were downright dream clients for designer Robyn Rider, whom they hired to revamp their newly purchased three-bedroom dwelling in downtown Toronto. The protege of the designer who’d transformed their previous house, Robyn was the prime candidate to deliver an updated look to these downsizing lawyers’ home.
“They have great taste and great pieces to work with,” says Robyn – plus, lots of books. Though the homeowners significantly reduced their large book collection, the remaining titles were more than substantial, including legal references, favourite reads, hardcover sets and prized heirlooms. It’s only fitting, then, that the only directive Robyn was given was to accommodate this veritable library, which ended up dictating much of the main floor’s design.
Robyn added floor-to-ceiling bookcases throughout the entire main level to achieve the perfect marriage of library and living space. This is especially evident in the dining room, which she designed as a place to not only eat meals and host dinner parties but also to lounge by the fire with a good book. To that effect, a cozy armchair by the fireplace is accompanied by a reading lamp and footstool, and the banquette at the round urn-based dining table is extra-deep and extra-comfy. “I wanted to create an intimate area that could accommodate guests, but where the homeowners wouldn’t feel ridiculous when it’s just the two of them,” says Robyn.
While the central kitchen marks a bit of a departure from the scholarly look, it still feels like a seamless part of the open-concept living area. “I used cabinets featuring the same profile and colour as the millwork in the adjacent dining and living rooms,” says Robyn. Integrated and panelled appliances as well as cabinetry with footed toe kicks lend the space a furnished feel, while oversized lantern-style pendant lights above the island are the kind you might find over a formal dining table, further blending the lines between the cooking zone and the rest of the home.
After all, the kitchen leads right into the living room, which returns to books. “I didn’t even try to organize or colour code them,” says Robyn of her approach to keeping the look cohesive. “It would have felt too contrived.” (Plus, the husband is pretty particular about organizing things by subject.) So, to temper the mismatched assortment, Robyn created a serene envelope of white millwork and cream walls, which she used throughout the main level. “We could afford to be quieter with the paint palette considering the books and the bold textiles,” she explains, noting examples like the traditional multi-hued heirloom needlepoint rug and contemporary zigzag-patterned armchairs. “The homeowners definitely didn’t need to be convinced to use colour,” says Robyn. “It actually took some convincing to leave the walls neutral!”
Once Robyn finessed the final details of the newly designed house, the homeowners unpacked and arranged their last tomes onto the shelves, ready to begin their new chapter.
French doors – which lead to a backyard oasis that borders a ravine – let a tremendous amount of light into the living room of this Toronto house designed by Robyn Rider. Because of the kitchen’s proximity to this space, it was decorated with statement pieces, such as oversized lantern-style pendant lights, to unify the areas.
Black soapstone counter- tops break up the white kitchen cabinetry that would have otherwise looked too clinical in this cozy space. Even though it’s quite high maintenance, soapstone adds warmth and lustre. “It’s an extra layer of luxury,” says Robyn.
The first space you see when you walk through the front door is the powder room. It sets the tone for the punchy greens and bold prints used throughout the rest of the house.
The library-inspired living room features clever design details, such as space-saving pull-out shelves in place of side tables. “I was channelling British townhouse style, in which everything has a purpose,” says Robyn.
Reminding Robyn (pictured right) of gardens in Provence, the table base, an oversized urn, was the jumping-off point for the dining room’s palette. “I love its intense green colour,” says the designer, “and I just went with it!” The homeowners also love the extra-deep banquette. Robyn used a bold botanical print on the Roman shades to blur the border between indoors and out, imparting a lively and verdant atmosphere.
A dining area and reading nook rolled into one, this room sees a lot of action. The bookcases, lined with selections and collections most meaningful to the homeowners, lend an old-world vibe that is punched up by the fresh armchair fabric.
A serene departure from the rest of the house, the main guest room is soft yet sophisticated. The antique settee is a family heirloom that Robyn had reupholstered with a contemporary centre stripe design. From there, Robyn layered in more powder blue and cream elements into the space but brought in dove grey to counter the femininity. “Powder blue on its own can border on prissy,” she explains.
Photography by Stacey Brandford