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.
Budget-friendly home makeover ideas on any schedule
Liven up your living space with these easy decor updates that will take anywhere from a day to a week.
When it comes to remodelling a home, we often can’t help but dream big – because who doesn’t want a walk-in glass shower, marble backsplash and ample storage space? But before you let your design vision overwhelm you, allow it to inspire you to make tiny tweaks that still have a big impact.
Whether you’re tight on time or worried about stretching your budget too thin, we’ve compiled a list of affordable home makeover ideas that can be done on any schedule – from a day, to a weekend, to one week. It’s time to set your decor hesitations to the curb along with that outdated side table, and read on.
For an instant refresh, switch up a space’s furniture placement. Think seasonally: Make your fireplace the focal point in winter and reposition pieces in summer depending on how the light streams in. Don’t be afraid to think beyond a room itself either – that armchair in your living room might look even better in your home office.
Lend a bright new look to your home by displaying eye-catching accessories. Uplift your sofa with playfully patterned toss cushions or scope out a stylish area rug to add comfort and texture to your space.
Think of bookshelves as fanciful art displays that should be carefully curated. Spend a quiet Sunday afternoon arranging your paperbacks by colour or wrapping unsightly book covers in pretty paper. Showcase decorative objets and prints for extra visual appeal. See here for more shelf-styling tips and tricks.
Don’t have time to paint an entire room? Create an accent wall instead to achieve the same decorative punch. Paint the wall a vivid hue or select a graphic wallpaper pattern that demands to be seen. Learn how to design a show-stopping feature wall here.
Wake up tired furniture with a fresh coat of paint. Whether you want to refresh dated cabinets or revamp a dull dresser, new-and-improved furniture pieces will cheer up a room without breaking the bank. Find out how to make this DIY dresser makeover here.
While creating an accent wall can be completed in a day, devoting a weekend to the task affords you the opportunity to be more creative, and you’ll have time to update a few walls. Try your hand at colour blocking or brighten a bedroom with intricate stencils and wall decals like these ones. Urban Walls, $71.66, etsy.com.
You don’t have to rely on marble or glass mosaic backsplash tiles to achieve a timeless look in your kitchen (cue the sighs of relief). Instead, try self-adhesive wall tiles like Smart Tiles. The budget-friendly alternative is simple to install and will still give your space an effortlessly elegant feel. Mosaic Decorative Wall Tile Peel and Stick in Subway White, The Home Depot, $8.97.
Sometimes purging your pad can have just as dramatic an impact as redecorating it. Release yourself from constant clutter by editing every area in your home. Toss tattered items, corral products in stylish baskets and bins and opt for multi-functional furniture. Find 99 more easy organizing tips here.
First impressions are lasting, so spend a few days improving your home’s porch area. Start by painting the front door an energizing hue that suits the exterior (here’s how to choose a front door colour). To enhance the look further, dress up your porch with planters and replace your mailbox, doormat and number signs with more modern styles.
Bedeck your living room with a DIY gallery wall comprised of well-loved prints. Hang art pieces that range in size and shape for added dimension, and choose stylish frames (whether vintage or modern) that complement each other. Once all is said and done, you’ll earn some serious bragging rights. Follow our steps for creating a DIY gallery wall here.
Making a few slight changes to your kitchen and bath will have big payoff. Begin by trading in timeworn hardware for sleek knobs and pulls, and paint your kitchen cabinets if they’re looking a little worse for wear (here’s how). Give yourself time to update other fixtures too, such as the faucets and vanity mirror.
Enhance the look of your dining or family room by adding decorative moulding. It’s an architectural accent that will instantly uplift your space and lend it more character. Now is also the time to consider reupholstering old furniture (get inspired here) and revamping your floors, whether that means refinishing your hardwood (read: sand and stain) or installing new tiles.
Take your bedroom from boring to beautiful with a few creative upgrades. Get crafty by upholstering your own headboard, which creates an eye-catching focal point. For an even easier hack, use a bedsheet as the fabric like we did here. Boost your room’s comfort factor further by adding an area rug, buying new bedding and installing drapery.
Once the weather warms up, our attention quickly shifts to the outdoors. Make your yard more inviting this year with a gorgeous garden path or walkway (materials like natural stone, brick and concrete all work well). Don’t stop there. Take the time to paint your home’s exterior – or at least the trim! – as well as the fence. Other easy tasks include washing the windows, staining the deck and painting outdoor furniture.
Enrich your space with this season's hottest colour trend for a beautiful, cozy fall home.
Embrace the best of fall decorating with this season’s hottest colour trend: caramel! It’s time to steer away from the typical rich reds and burnt oranges of autumn and indulge in this new neutral. While it still offers that deep, rich colour to warm up your space, it’s easier to incorporate into your current decor thanks to its neutral hue. So once summer fades, try layering your home with our favourite caramel picks of the season.
A soft, full-grain leather sofa from Ikea's classic Stockholm collection. Stockholm sofa in Seglora natural, ikea.ca, $2,199.
Credits: West Elm
Take your workspace to a whole new level of sophistication with a top-grain leather swivel chair. Slope Leather Office Chair, westelm.com, $399.
This mid-century inspired bench is beautifully crafted to work anywhere in your home, whether in your entryway, dining room, or at the foot of your bed. Reverie bench in Coachella Cognac, eq3.com, $949.
Credits: Design Within Reach
Designed by mid-century French modernist icon Jacques Adnet, this mininalist mirror is thoughtful in design, beautifully constructed with a hand-stitched full-grain aniline leather strap and outfitted in brass details. Adnet Round Mirror, dwr.com, $1,099 – $1,399.
Create instant impact with ease thanks to these rich, saddle brown leather fringe pillows. Leather Fringe Saddle Pillow (18”x12”), cb2.com, $199.
If fringe isn’t your style, try this decorative stitched pillow. Catmando Decorative Pillow (18”x18”), bouclair.com, $34.99
Seasonal fall home decor ideas
Pumpkins are a staple of fall decorating, but not everyone embraces the onset of orange. Opt instead for white varieties like Baby Boo and Casper to pepper along the table and around the fireplace.
Cinnamon and cider... over and over. It’s a favourite flavour of autumn (second only to pumpkin pie), so keep your best recipe on hand and serve it in simple Mason jar mugs updated for the season with a strip of burlap secured by a piece of yarn.
Natural elements like wood accessories and wool in a simple unadorned arrangement are reflective of fall.
This DIY rough-edged table runner is a great white tabletop accessory and is easy to make with a simple bolt of burlap and scissors. After measuring and marking the desired width of fabric at one end, make a small snip at each mark and hand-tear lengthwise in one strong, swift motion. Make sure the final length is four to six inches longer than your table on each end. Add texture by fraying the edges by hand.
Dispersed in odd number groupings throughout your space, decorating with candles are a surefire way (pun intended!) to add warmth in aesthetic, in mood and, of course, in temperature.
Pears, pomegranates, persimmons and pumpkin decorations: Let fall’s fruitful bounty take centre stage in your seasonal decor.
Although fall lends itself to a natural look, you can still set an elegant tabletop. When paired with sparkly elements like glass and silver, rustic pieces like a burlap table runner, pure linen napkins, organic-shaped dishware and braided wicker napkin rings come together as a glamorous farmhouse-inspired tablescape.
The palette here may be pale, but the texture is vibrant. From the choppy rough-hewn wood to the intricately carved lamp base, the chunky woven wicker baskets to the fluffy hydrangeas and pompom mums, the layering and balance of materials mimic the diversity of nature.
A new take on a traditional wreath, this one uses hundreds of dried leaves – punctuated with a few fresh green ones – for a tissue paper-like effect and is laid down, rather than hung, for a casual vignette.
A glowing fire may be fall’s version of summer’s open windows, but don’t forget autumn’s answer to fresh-cut flowers: bunches of dried wheat and branches of berries gathered on a nature walk for an unfussy fall floral arrangement.
Cooler nights call for having warm wraps within easy reach, so stack favourite beautiful blankets in different patterns (but in the same palette) as a useful decorative accent. Cozying up to enjoy those last fleeting moments on the porch will always be just an arm’s length away.
The family room has the feel of a Maine family cottage, with its tongue-and-groove walls and ceiling and chiselled fieldstone fireplace. Slipcovered furnishings in soft yellow, cranberry and sage continue the main-floor colour scheme.