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.
This master bedroom and ensuite demonstrate that neutral is anything but boring.
This master bedroom and ensuite demonstrate that neutral is anything but boring.
This master bedroom and ensuite prove a neutral scheme is anything but boring.
After purchasing a semi-detached dwelling in one of Toronto’s sought-after midtown neighbourhoods, this young couple quickly abandoned the home’s wonky layout and dated decor in order to welcome the opposite: a clean-lined, contemporary and predominately white interior. The challenge then became making the monochromatic scheme come alive. The solution? The expert touch of Croma Design’s Ryan Martin and Amy Kent. “The homeowners wanted a house that was modern but not stuffy or sterile,” says Ryan. Here, we look to the three-storey abode’s master bedroom and ensuite for decor lessons that might just have you embracing a neutral palette and kicking colour to the curb.
During the reno, designers Ryan Martin and Amy Kent opted for an expansive window with distinct black framing. “We could have done a white frame, but adding that touch of black gives life and character to the otherwise clean-looking master bedroom,” says Ryan. This design choice also draws attention to the property’s verdant back garden.
Thanks to its rich woven quality the grasscloth-clad accent wall is the understated showpiece of the room. Says Ryan: “You can see the seams where the wallpaper lines up, but that’s what shows off the material’s texture and embellishes the look.”
When it was time to decide where to splurge, the homeowners knew they couldn’t do without oil-finished oak flooring, which is carried throughout the house. The timeless grey-brown shade anchors the space and lends an additional layer of warmth.
A wall of custom built-in closets is any homeowner’s dream, but that’s not to say function should come before style. In addition to providing ample storage, these units feature subtle moulding that adds architectural presence to the bedroom. Similar built-in wardrobes also flank the hallway that leads to the ensuite.
It’s often the subtle details that make or break the look of a space. The key, explains Ryan, is to create cohesion. For this modern ensuite, the designers strategically chose metal faucets that coordinate with the other dark accents in the room – including the shower door hinges.
The stylish washstand was the starting point for the space’s contemporary scheme and helped steer the clients away from an all-white aesthetic. The washstand’s Carrara marble top has soft grey undertones, which add depth to the look,” says Ryan.
“It was important to design a nice, clean bathroom that wasn’t too stark,” says Ryan, speaking to his and Amy’s decision to include bright brass-finished elements like the sconces and mirrors. Overall, the contrasting metallic pieces add a touch of glitz. To establish an elegant-meets-edgy look, the design duo used Carrara marble throughout in various shapes, such as rectangular wall tiles and hexagonal floor tiles. “We even used a dark grout to enhance the formats of the tiles,” says Ryan.
Marble Contact Paper in Marmi Grey, Design Your Wall.
These faux marble options are just as elegant as the real deal.
Few materials strike a chord with us in the same way that marble does. The sought-after stone, with its subtle sheen and veined markings, is quick to catch the eye and lends a luxe look to a space without being over the top. The downside, of course, is its price point. Here are 5 marble-like options that will achieve the same sophisticated, formal look for a fraction of the cost.
Looking for a faux marble tile that can handle heavy foot traffic? Consider peel-and-stick vinyl floor tiles. In addition to their resilient nature, the tiles can be installed over most existing flooring. In other words, they make for a perfect weekend DIY project that won’t end in defeat. TrafficMaster Premium Vinyl Tile in Carrara Marble, Home Depot, starting at $0.89/sq. ft.
If you love the marbled look, you’ll want to customize all of your furniture with this stylish contact paper. The affordable material has a peel-away backing that can stick to almost any surface, from the top of a coffee table to the inside of kitchen drawers. Keep in mind that the paper doesn’t react well to water, so avoid using it in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink. Marble Contact Paper in Marmi Grey, Design Your Wall, $59.99 per roll.
Elevate your living space with ceramic wall tiles that mimic the look of marble like this elegant option from Ciot. Though similar in appearance, ceramic is far more delicate than marble and is therefore more susceptible to chips and cracks. The solution: Be strategic with placement, avoiding high-traffic areas in favour of bathroom walls or backsplashes. Marvel Wall Tile in Calacatta Extra, Ciot, see store for pricing.
Porcelain is another classic material that boasts marble's polished aesthetic without the hefty price tag. The tile is more resilient than ceramic, which makes it perfect for flooring as well as bathroom walls and kitchen backsplashes. Let's just say marble-inspired porcelain has the ability to make any space sparkle. Glazed Porcelain Tiles in White, Olympia Tile + Stone, see store for pricing.
If you’re not yet familiar with Laminam, allow us to be the first to introduce you. The innovative material is touted as being the world’s first porcelain tile that's offered in 3 metre by 1 metre panels and is thinner than standard porcelain tiling. This means that in addition to covering existing walls and floors, Laminam can take on an array of delicate surfaces (think fireplace surrounds, kitchen countertops and outdoor areas). I Naturali Laminam in Bianco Statuario, Stone Tile, see store for pricing.