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.
Image: Angus Fergusson
A Toronto designer saves a lot of money and time when creating an elegant yet approachable living room for her young family.
They say time is money, and former Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg was keen to conserve both when she endeavoured to beautify her living room. The busy mom of three and her husband, Don Saynor, had recently renovated the main floor of their 2,000-square-foot Toronto home, netting the room a crisp envelope of fresh white walls, black-framed windows and wide-plank hardwood floors. The decor, however, left much to be desired. “We had our dog crate in there and our TV on this little side table,” says Stacy. “The room had a sad university student vibe.”
The space needed a decorative growth spurt, so Stacy began by splurging on a designer drapery fabric that echoed the monochromatic-plus-yellow palette of the adjacent kitchen (featured in Style at Home’s June 2014 issue). To further elevate the room, she sourced a high-end grasscloth wallpaper and accented the fireplace wall with it. “Once you have a couple of investment pieces, you can play with lower-cost elements,” says the designer, who applied the principle here: While some of the furnishings – including the velvet swivel chair and statuesque side table – are affordable new purchases, others, such as the celestial-patterned bench and glam gold coffee table, are actually inexpensive second-hand items Stacy had updated. And the chic William Birch-style sofa? It’s an existing piece the designer updated by replacing the back cushions with some throw pillows. Budget-friendly artwork and other accessories, ranging from high to low, finish the room.
Sporting a chic California-cool look, the resulting space seems like a tall order, but it only took a couple of weeks to pull together – proof that style need not suffer if you’re strapped for time and cash.
In a low-budget few-week makeover, homeowner and designer Stacy Begg gave her living room a California-cool look. Against a neutral backdrop, elements like floral drapery, a gold-painted bamboo coffee table and a funky celestial-inspired bench offer a sunny, relaxed vibe.
The chic bar cart was an on-sale buy and the landscape photograph above an existing piece.
Custom drapery made from vibrant designer fabric enlivens the room.
Stacy opted for a floral drapery fabric in white, black and yellow that echoes the palette of her adjacent kitchen. “That was my jumping-off point,” she says. “I really love the yellow.” Other elements like the grasscloth wallpaper, berber-style rug and hits of brass add texture and warmth. The graphic black and white print provides contrast, and the faux encaustic hearth tiles evoke the popular Tuscan trend.
The original fireplace, which juts out past the chimney breast on either side, precluded custom built-in storage. “It was for the best,” says Stacy, who opted to hang floating shelves instead. “They were a fraction of the cost and went up in no time!” Accessorized with pieces from the designer’s stash of styling gear, the substitutes look no worse than the built-ins would have.
The fireplace, which got a crisp drywall job during a recent reno, needed some character, stat. Stacy highlighted it by covering the surrounding wall with a rich taupe sisal grasscloth – a project she and a friend completed in less than a day.
Image by: Tracey Ayton / Design: Kerrisdale Design
Get the inside scoop on the year's most popular design trends.
Every year brings with it hot new trends and this year’s design trends are sure to get you excited about making some changes at home. Whether you’re thinking about something small scale like painting your powder room in one of the year’s hottest shades or going bigger with beautiful architectural features, these ideas from designers are sure to inspire!
Credit: Amber Interiors
1 "I think that a top design trend will be spaces that are more relaxed and casual with nothing too fussy or sparkly. Call it a restrained and tailored boho aesthetic; think Amber Interiors. Linen or velvet seating (in performance fabrics, of course), a mixture of woods and textures and nothing matching or contrived. Worn, antique area rugs, handmade block print fabrics and a real plant or two add to the layered yet edited feel and give a home soul." - Interior Designer, Vanessa Francis.
Photography: Tracey Ayton / Design: Kerrisdale Design
2 "Look for interior finishings to take centre stage in 2017. While decorative elements like furniture and wallpaper have traditionally set the trends, increasing attention is being paid to the bones of a house. Applied mouldings, interior doors, archways and window casings are becoming more elaborate as homeowners discover that architectural features can make bold statements too." - Blogger and Designer, Jennifer Flores.
3 "Today, forest green has made a comeback and is seen mixed with deep woods and black hardware and punches of brass to make it pop. Go bold and paint a powder room green. Pair with an antique chest turned-vanity and some brass pulls and brass faucet." - Interior Designer, Tara Fingold.
Photography: Stacey Brandford / Design: Jessica Claire Interiors
4 "My favourite design for 2017 is wallpaper that mimics a wall mural. There are some incredible designs on the market where wallcoverings depict designs like large scale florals or hand painted landscapes. The dramatic impact is pretty incredible, and I love how it adds a bit of a handmade influence to any room." - Designer, Lisa Canning.
Credit: Colette Grand Cafe
5 "One top design trend is to introduce unconventional design elements into our homes. Whether your inspiration is a sensational bar shelf suspended from the ceiling at Colette, the stunning floor to ceiling glass walls at The Chase Toronto, or the metal trim detail between floor tiles at most commercial spaces, 2017 is the year for innovative ideas so why not be inspired by our favourite restaurants or the beautifully designed stores as we shop for the holidays?" - Blogger and Decorator, Tim Lam.
6 "Loft-inspired design has been around for few decades but we're seeing a resurgence of this trend with the black steel factory door. The large black grid of these elegant beauties are not only attractive but they provide great sight lines to the outdoors, further forging the relationship between indoor and outdoor living. They can easily elevate any modern or traditional home whether as a patio door, room divider or shower door. With this much versatility, it's easy to see why the black steel factory door is expected to be a big winner in 2017!" - Designer, Andrea Haraldsen.
Photography: Michael Graydon / Design: Sam Sacks Design
7 "Give way to lighter woods! We’re seeing a move towards a blonder, natural looking wood from floor to ceiling. Wider plank hardwood with an oiled/ matte finish is a great choice in creating visual interest and providing a neutral backdrop for furniture and other interior elements. Natural, rift cut oak is a great option for cabinetry, pairing well with walnut and darker woods and even painted finishes. Light wood is extremely versatile and a great way to add warmth and texture throughout a home without it feeling overpowering or heavy." - Interior Designer, Nyla Free.
10 things to throw out now
10 things you need to get rid of to unload and update your home.
12 organizing ideas that will change your life | 5 ways to conquer clutter hotspots | 10 quick clutter busters
Does the traffic jam of clutter in your home feel more oppressive than ever? You've likely already started thinking about a plan to tackle the easy stuff-cleaning the house from top to bottom, donating clothes you no longer wear to charity, clearing out the garage. (Well, at least the thinking part is easy.)
But here's a list of things that you may not have realized are cluttering your surroundings just as much, adding to the overload of outdated or just plain excess "stuff." Add these to your to-do list, and you'll be surprised how much space you'll free up-not to mention the mental freedom that comes from letting them go.
1 Outdated technology
You probably have one (or more) computers, TVs, DVD players, VHS recorders, cassette decks or other rusting electronics stored away in your basement. What are you waiting for, the return of the eight-track machine? Old electronics can be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly way at the local transfer station. (In the case of computers, be sure to wipe the hard drive completely first for security reasons. Many office supply and computer stores will do this for you for free.)
2 Old files
Whether you have a working home office or not, chances are you have a file cabinet filled to overflowing with old files and paperwork. Most of it you don't need to keep. If you do, scan the papers and store them electronically. Then put the rest in the recycling bin (shred it first if it contains sensitive information). Tax returns should be kept for seven years; after that, you can get rid of them with a clear conscience.
3 Bedding and mattresses
Even top-quality mattresses only have a life span of about 10 years; if yours is older, it could be the reason you have that nagging backache in the morning. If you can fold your pillow in half and it stays folded, it's ready for the pillow retirement home. While you're at it, go through your linen closet; old sheets and towels that are no longer in fashion, no longer match your decor or are torn or faded should be recycled.
4 Smoke/carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers
Over time, smoke detectors get clogged with dust, pet dander or simply become less sensitive. Also, the efficiency of newer models is higher, making periodic replacement (every 10 years or so) a good idea.
5 Medicines and vitamins
If you no longer have the affliction the medicine was prescribed for, or vitamins (or over-the-counter medications) have expired, they should be safely disposed of.
6 Makeup and nail polish
Rare indeed is the beauty queen who doesn't have a bathroom drawer filled with dried-up nail polish or makeup that's worn out, nearly used up or the wrong colour. Out it goes.
7 Coat hangers
Metal coat hangers have a way of multiplying. Determine how many you really need and toss the rest. They should be recycled or taken to the transfer station.
8 Books, CDs, DVDs, vinyl LPs
If you're a culture vulture, you probably have a large collection of one or all of these (except perhaps LPs, unless you are of a certain age.) Go through them and recycle or donate anything that no longer interests you, and free up room for all the new ones you're probably going to buy. In the case of DVDs and CDs, download them from iTunes (or similar streaming services) from now on.
9 Anything chipped or broken
I have a teapot I purchased at Value Village years ago that's lovely, except for the little chip on the spout that makes it unusable for tea. If I can part with that, you can part with the cracked coffee mug that you rarely or never use, or the flower vase that's a beautiful colour but leaks.
10 Excess furniture, rugs or chairs
In some cases, old furniture can be repaired, reupholstered or repurposed, but if, realistically, you're not planning to do it any time soon, donate it to charity (or if really beyond repair, take to the dump). Old rugs, unless they're heirloom quality, take up a lot of room when they're rolled up. Alternatively, if your old pieces are too nice to throw out, put them on Craigslist and turn your clutter into cash.