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.
A wooden dresser transforms into an ultra-stylish statement piece.
Put your DIY skills to the test with these simple and stylish IKEA furniture transformations.
Style at Home's talented design team puts their own unique spin on IKEA's VITTSJÖ nesting-style coffee table with three personality-packed rooms to match.
Discover how all three looks came together and how you can create the same look in your home.
We created a customized office desk for this cozy home office nook.
Using IKEA's ALEX desktop you can create the same look at home.
A simple DIY project dramatically transforms a regular wooden dresser into a luxe piece of furniture on a budget.
Using IKEA's TARVA three-drawer chest get this look at home.
Glam up a plain pendant light with a coat of gold spray paint.
Using IKEA's HEKTAR pendant light get the step-by-step instructions here.
Add some stylish storage to your space with this gorgeous do-it-yourself cabinet featured in our high/low: chic dressing room.
Using IKEA's SEKTION wall cabinet get the step-by-step instructions here.
Create your own free-standing island like the one featured in our Parisian-style kitchen. This budget-friendly accessory can be customized to suit your style while adding an extra prep area to any size space.
Using IKEA's KARPALUND base get the step-by-step instructions here.
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
A layered neutral living room
Follow designer Kelley McNamara's tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer Kelley McNamara turns a 3,000-square-foot Dutch Colonial home in Fort Langley, B.C., into a calming abode for her busy family.
Designer Kelley McNamara shares 10 tips to creating a serene family home.
Designer and homeowner Kelley McNamara fills vintage milk glass vases, ceramic jugs and glass jars with blooms to capture the country charm of her rural surroundings. “I always try to have fresh flowers in the house,” says Kelley. “They add an element of organic texture and colour.”
A French metal chandelier brings patina and visual interest to the dining room. “I want the house to look like it’s been here a long time,” says Kelley. The fixture ties in beautifully with the sun-bleached oak table, mix-and-match seating, white oak plank floors and salvaged antique barn door.
An aged-looking support beam gives this pristine space character – and it’s a clever trick. “I wanted salvaged timber, but it was too expensive,” says Kelley. Instead, she painted a new fir beam with a few coats of sun-bleached oak wood stain. A trio of wicker stools, brass-finished hardware and a vintage-style pendant light also lend the kitchen a well-lived-in vibe.
The mud room’s industrial sink makes it easy to bathe the family’s two dogs, Duke and Finnegan, before they track dirt into the house, while the slate floor is easy to clean. A Dutch door injects country charm.
Kelley panelled the range hood over the six-burner gas range to achieve a seamless look with the cabinetry. Installing the microwave in the island keeps it out of sight yet easily accessible for the children.
Kelley believes neutral rooms don’t have to be boring. She jazzed up the formal living room’s white and grey palette with linen fabrics, a wool rug and toss cushions in mohair, faux fur and hide. “The more layers, the richer the room becomes,” she says. A dark-brown-framed mirror creates a focal point over the fireplace, while brass library lights are a warm finishing touch on the built-in bookshelves.
Instead of setting this console against a wall or behind a sofa, Kelley gave it centre stage in her front foyer. To ground the vignette, she placed the console atop a rug and arranged interesting objects, such as coffee table books, geode crystals and a potted plant, on top of it. These decorative items bring the outdoors in and make the arrangement feel purposeful.
Kelley didn't overdecorate the master bath, allowing the glass shower and sculptural free-standing tub to make the statement. The accessories are quiet, except for the aged-brass-finished pendant light, which draws the eye toward the corner windows.
A dining room buffet gets new life as the master bathroom vanity. Kelley asked her carpenter to cut off the top of the buffet, and then had a plumber add a quartz countertop, undermounted sinks and wall-mounted faucets for rustic appeal.
Simple bedding, a tufted bench and elegant accessories signal that the master bedroom is a calming oasis. Soft grey is the only whisper of colour in the otherwise monochromatic room, while a few hits of brass add glamour.