Decorated in shades of silver and gold, this shimmering tree makes a statement. Image by: Donna Griffith
What’s better than chic, sophisticated holiday style? The ability to achieve it with ease. Here are 10 tips to simplify your next festive soiree.
Last year, when homeowners Pamela Schott and Sheldon Pollack moved into this 7,500-square-foot five-bedroom century home in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, they merged more than just their families (he has three 30-somethings; she has two kids; and four of the five live at the house part-time). The couple, who will wed next year, also blended their approaches to the holidays. To that end, their seasonal decor is sophisticated and minimalist, glamorous and uncluttered, neither too gimmicky nor too theme-y. For Pamela and Sheldon, it’s all about simplicity. Though they enjoy entertaining – the couple loves to host a holiday drop-in – they always keep it effortless. “A party is about the friends, family, wine, appetizers and conversation,” says Pamela, who makes creating a relaxed atmosphere her priority. “It’s about the event, not the planning.” Here, we highlight 10 ways Pamela and Sheldon execute their elegant holiday style with ease.
1 Choose function: A petite potted rosemary tree gives the kitchen counter holiday flair with purpose. Well into the new year, it will serve as a source of fresh decoration for place settings and garnish for themed cocktails.
2 Make strategic splurges: Don’t stress about baking in the days leading up to your party. If you lack the time and the piping skills, splurge on artfully adorned cookies iced in your home’s colour scheme for a scrumptious statement.
3 Stay simple: A bouquet of white amaryllis is an understated accent that’s synonymous with winter but doesn’t scream “holidays.” Buy the blooms a few days before your event so they’re at their prime when guests arrive.
4 Lay it down: Getting festive garlands to swag just right can take a lot of fussing. So if you want to gussy up your windows in a flash, layer cuttings of greenery on your windowsills instead. Here, Douglas fir and magnolia leaves add a luxe touch.
5 Accent the architecture: Draw attention to eye-catching structural features like leaded glass windows with beautiful holiday wreaths that accentuate the details but don’t steal the show.
6 Make room for more: Use a bowl to hold gorgeous Christmas ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree for a simple centrepiece or coffee table accent.
7 Wrap it up: No pot? No problem! Use a swath of grey linen fabric secured with decorative ribbon to dress up the base of a tabletop tree. This unconventional feature lends a festive touch to an otherwise unadorned space.
8 Come out from under the tree: Take your gift wrapping to the next level with finishing details like sculptural toppers and layered ribbons. Don’t just place presents under the tree: Artfully arrange them on various nearby surfaces for vignettes that suit the season.
9 Mix metallics: Sticking to a gold and silver palette makes decorating the tree almost effortless. Look for a mix of shimmering materials, from beading to mercury glass to metallic fabrics, so you don’t have to think too hard about even distribution.
10 Make it a team effort: Whether it’s decorating the tree, hanging wreaths or wrapping presents, holiday tasks are more easily executed as a team. Get your tools out ahead of time, gather the family and put on your favourite holiday tunes to set the mood – you’ll be done before you can say “cool yule!”
Satisfy even the most discerning epicureans on your list with one of these fashionable foodie-approved finds.
We all have that person in our life who can prepare an intricate meal without so much as glancing at a recipe. That person who dabbles in all things culinary related on a daily basis and has a kitchen pantry that rivals that of celebrity chef Mark McEwan (or it at least comes close). Not sure what to treat them to this holiday season? Browse through our list of food-related gift ideas for inspiration.
A heart-smart treat for the health food aficionado in your life, this carefully curated six-pack of cold-pressed juices contains almost two pounds of fruit and veg in every bottle! Cold-pressed Juices, Dose Juice, $42 per 6-piece pack.
This elegant Art Deco-style coffee dripper is for your friend who has one foot planted firmly at home and the other off in some distant Parisian patisserie. Hario stainless copper Coffee Dripper, Indigo, $100.
If the Bat Cave had a coffee maker, this would be it. Nespresso’s latest boasts a matte black finish befitting anyone in need of a caffeine jolt before saving Gotham City. VertuoLine Coffee Machine in Matte Black, Nespresso, $249.
This high-ranking mustard deserves your salute. Flavoured with decadent wine and truffles – and only available for a limited time – it’s a covetable condiment fit for any top official. Black Truffle and Chablis Mustard, Maille, $43 US.
These striking mugs echo exotic corners of the earth that yield top-notch coffee, from Sumatra to Costa Rica. Pair a mug with beans from the same region for a gift guaranteed to please any java junkie. Stamp Art Mugs, Starbucks, $19 each.
These pretty, precious and feminine flasks are almost too stylish to sully with alcohol – but everyone has a friend who would! Stainless steel Odeme Flasks, 90 ml, West Elm, $29 US each.
This vintage-look colander is a timeless classic that takes an everyday kitchen tool from dull to display-worthy. Copper-plated steel Colander in Gold, Anthropologie, $34 US.
This Scandi-chic French press in pale pink (with a pretty copper detail) is not only a beautiful vessel for your morning brew, but also an ideal addition to any open shelf. Ceramic French Press in Sand, Yield Design Co., $120 US.
Treat fans of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation to “the gift that keeps on giving.” Translation: their very own Jelly of the Month Club gift set! (Reference lost on you? See here.) Griswold Jelly of the Month Club Gift Set, Retro Festive, $40.
It may resemble salami, but this treat is made entirely out of chocolate. Containing hazelnuts, almonds, cherries and even rum, the confection is a certified crowd-pleaser – especially when presented on a cutting board. Chocolate salami, SOMA Chocolatemaker, $23.
Count on Alessi to make a conventional utensil undeniably sleek. Crafted from stainless steel and boasting a unique shape, the modern citrus squeezer also doubles as a pestle. Valerio Citrus Squeezer, Alessi, $71.
Building a beautiful cheese platter is something of an art form, but it helps to have stylish spreaders to complement the nibbles. This gorgeous set with rose quartz handles will make any table sparkle. Rose Quartz Spreaders, HomeSense, $15 4-piece set.
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.
DIY project: Winter wreath
Add this festive winter wreath to your holiday decor.
1 Secure one end of the yarn to the back of the wreath form with one of the straight pins.
2 Wrap the yarn tightly around the wreath form, keeping the yarn taut as you work your way around the form until its entire surface is covered. Every inch or so, secure the yarn at the back with a straight pin. Cut the yarn at the back of the wreath and tie it off; secure the yarn tail with 2 or 3 remaining straight pins.
3 Cluster the felt flowers at the bottom of the wreath, arranging them slightly off centre; secure with the quilting pins. Hang the wreath with the ribbon (you can prevent the wreath from slipping by pinning the ribbon in place).
1 Using scissors or a fabric circle cutter on a cutting mat, cut one 2” circle out of one of the sheets of felt.
2 Cut the other piece of felt lengthwise into 6 equal strips (about 1 1/2” each). Fold each strip in half lengthwise and glue together the cut edge.
3 Using scissors, make 1/2” snips into the folded side of the felt strips every 1/4” or so, depending on how big you want your loops. Larger intervals will create bigger loops.
4 Working with the felt circle on a flat surface in front of you, carefully begin gluing one of the looped strips around the perimeter, allowing the looped side to hang over the edge of the circle. Work your way to the centre of the circle with the remaining strips, making sure the loops overlap. Cut off any excess.
Makes: 1 2” flower
1 Using scissors or a fabric circle cutter on a cutting mat, cut out one 4” circle from the felt. Working from the outside in, cut into the circle in a spiral motion, gradually moving from a thin to a thicker width as you reach the centre. Carefully trim the outer edge of the spiral, creating a scalloped effect.
2 Beginning at the thin outside edge of the circle, roll up the felt into a small rosette. The centre of the circle of felt will create a tab that will cover the bottom of the rosette. Secure the bottom of the rosette to the tab with glue.
Makes: 1 1” flower
1 Using scissors or a fabric circle cutter on a cutting mat, cut out eight 2” circles from the fabric sheets.
2 Fold one of the circles in half and make a tiny snip to cut off the corner of the crease on each end. Unfold the circle and fold it again along the other axis, lining up the small snips. Make a small snip to cut off the corner of the crease at either end of the new fold. When you unfold the felt circle, you’ll have four sections. Cut a small V shape in the middle of the edge of each section so you end up with eight sections. Use scissors to round the top of each section around your circle of felt, creating a scalloped flower effect.
3 Place a small bead of hot glue in the centre of the flower and fold in half; press firmly and hold in place until the glue is set. Place another bead of hot glue in the middle of the crease of the half flower and fold in half again; press firmly and hold in place until the glue is set. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with all but one of the remaining circles.
4 Glue four of the folded petals onto the flat flower; glue the remaining three petals on top to create a full flower effect. When the glue is dry, gently open the petals slightly to fluff.
Makes: 1 2” flower