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.
Bright and colourful basement
Style at Home editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin reimagines her dim and dysfunctional basement games room as a bright multi-purpose space with Scandi flair.
Dark. Dated. Dungeon-like.
Just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when looking at the shocking “before” photo of Style at Home editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin’s now-admirable Toronto basement. Low ceilings and black-stained hardwood flooring made the 600-square-foot space feel oppressive – and the hefty pool table, oversized oil paintings and orange-painted millwork didn’t help. “It screamed ’80s pool hall, but worse yet, it was pretty much unusable,” she says. “It needed a total overhaul.”
To the untrained eye, making something of the narrow, windowless space would have seemed like a wasted effort. But as the proud owner of a century home, Erin is no reno rookie and had a clear vision of an airy, functional family room.
Erin's basement before its bright and inviting renovation.
At the far end of the family room, blend-into-the-wall white storage cabinets offer function without adding visual weight for a bright, airy space. Classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s grace the TV screen on frequent family movie nights.
An existing large alcove was the natural choice for the dining nook. Grey paint defines it and balances out the stone-clad fireplace across the room.
The next big thing to windows that open to the outside? A pair of radiant nature photographs paired with newly installed pot lights. The wall treatment of white-painted wood boards lends the room a Scandi-chic vibe.
To sustain the airness of the space, Erin chose a palette of soft greys and taupes with mauve accents.
Erin opted for a touch-latch mechanism in place of door pulls on the high-gloss flat-panelled storage unit (made from prefab IKEA cabinetry) for a totally streamlined look.
A light push in the right spot on the white storage units reveals the family’s extended collection of classic flicks and literature.
Seating options abound in the new family-friendly space. Even Cloudy, homeowner Style at Home editor-in-chief Erin McLaughlin’s Siamese cat, gets a stylish perch of his very own in an unused corner. The inconspicuous wall-hung radiator was a practical addition in the circa-1920s room.
2014 paint colour trends
A photo canvas of New York City paired with Eames-style dining chairs lend this dining area a stylish look.
In her light-filled Toronto apartment, Style at Home associate design editor Morgan Lindsay cleverly combines old and new with her own crafty creations.
While most people in their 20s are cobbling together their first apartment from leftover student furnishings and dubious hand-me-downs, Style at Home's associate design editor, Morgan Lindsay, has managed to assemble a sweet and stylish look that would make most 40-somethings envious. And she's done it all on a small decorating budget, with a clever mix of new, thrifted and heirloom pieces, plus a good dose of DIY decor.
The 850-square-foot, two-bedroom Toronto apartment has an enviable uptown location with a distant view of the CN Tower from big south-facing windows. Morgan's brother already lived in the building, so she rented this top-floor unit as soon as it became available. The next step was to successfully woo her friend Lauren Hanna into being her roommate - an easy feat, as they've been tight since meeting in their first year of university. Once the pair moved in, Morgan set to workmaking the basic space into a reflection of their youthful style. "Lauren is not that into decorating, but thankfully she trusts my taste," says Morgan. "She's always happy to help, too!"
The girls' family members pitched in as well. "Lauren's dad is our handyman. He hung all the drapery rods, the heavy vintage mirror above the desk and the shelf in the kitchen," says Morgan. "And my mom sewed most of the toss cushions." This being a rental, major modifications obviously weren't feasible, but clever Morgan found ways around the no-permanent-changes rule. A feature wall just inside the entryway was treated with graphic wallpaper - hung with double-sided tape so it's easy to take down when the time comes. The same paper creates a low-commitment yet dynamic kitchen backsplash. Luckily, the white walls were in line with Morgan's clean and simple aesthetic, so her bedroom was the only room she painted - pale grey, her favourite shade.
In her spare time, Morgan can also be found getting crafty with paint, glue and glitter, making art pieces to frame and add to the galleries above her bed and the sofa. Happily, her friends eschewed the typical bottles of wine for a housewarming gift. After spotting a certain bar cart on Morgan's Pinterest board, her closest pals chipped in and bought it. Now it sits in one corner of the dining area, ready for entertaining her generous friends and family. We're guessing she'll still have it when she's 40-something.
Bold Marimekko wallpaper provides a graphic punch to the entryway wall. The pink bench gets pressed into service as extra seating when friends and family drop in.
Morgan added colour (in a scheme of course) to her entrance using stacked books, a flower arrangement and a fitting stock card that says "hello".
The so-out-it’s-in room divider is original to the ’70s-era apartment. The white slipcovered sofa is one of the few brand new items Morgan bought to furnish her first place. Her love of white, grey and pink is evident throughout the space.
Inspired by a favourite blogger, Morgan crafted this genius gallery wall with a label maker and cardboard.
Homeowner and Style at Home associate design editor Morgan Lindsay enlisted her mom to sew most of the toss cushions in the space.
The open-concept living area included a small office nook, where Morgan gets creative with her DIY projects. She scored the hanging mirror for $20 and transformed its beat-up frame with grey paint.
Morgan's DIY decor tools are always at an arms-length (and looking pretty!) just in case she's inspired to get crafty.
Morgan’s parents bought her the giant photo canvas of New York City. In it you can see Parsons the New School for Design, where Morgan attended a summer program. In this cozy space, Morgan loves her Earnes-style dining chairs.
It was a happy accident that the kitchen had basic white cabinetry and grey countertops and flooring. Morgan updated things by changing the hardware and using leftover wallpaper from the entryway as a makeshift backsplash.
Morgan added charm to her bedroom with vintage and heirloom pieces. There's an antique toile-covered sidechair and pine dresser (both passed down from her grandparents) commingle with the clean-lined bed and modern linens. The giant “M” came from the Christie Antique Show, which Morgan attends every year.