Find cheap and chic kitchen perk-ups for your home.
Organizing, styling and mini-makeover ideas to transform the hub of your home.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
1 Elevate the everyday – invest in a set of handmade cereal bowls.
2 Granny Smith apples – a stylist's secret weapon – are a pretty countertop accent and a healthy snack all in one.
3 When was the last time your toaster made toast the way you like it? If you can’t remember, it's time for a new one.
4 Use a bench with storage as a kitchen banquette.
5 Treat yourself to a fresh set of dishtowels. Reuse the old ones as rags to polish silver, shine shoes or wipe up paint spills.
6 Display a vintage dishware collection on open shelves.
7 Hot-glue a seldom used vintage kitchen utensil in a shadow box and start a collection to adorn your walls.
8 Overhaul the area under your sink cabinet to make room for garbage, recycling and composting.
9 Bake a pie or layer cake – your kitchen will be transformed in less than an hour.
10 Hide the counter clutter of keys, cellphones and sunglasses inside a Moroccan tajine.
11 Remove everything from the tops of cabinets. Thoroughly clean the area. Do not replace the items!
12 Get rid of any chipped plates or cups – they're getting you down.
13 Dress the windowsill with two or three pots of moss or herbs.
14 If you have glass door cabinets but can't keep what’s inside looking tidy, line the glass panels with wallpaper or fabric, or apply frosted window film.
15 Install energy-efficient under cabinet lighting.
16 Use crystal flutes for your orange juice tomorrow morning. Champagne optional!
17 Create a photo wall of family members with their birthday cakes over the years.
18 Conceal scratches or dents on an old fridge with decorative wall decals.
19 A rough-hewn wooden bowl looks just as great empty as it does filled with rustic breads, artichokes or newspapers.
20 If there isn't a window above your sink, hang a mirror there.
21 Add French flair: opt for a rustic table and chairs in the centre of your kitchen rather than an island.
22 Wallpaper the ceiling.
23 Tall ceilings? Install a large nontypical central light, like a chandelier, lantern or industrial pendant.
24 Cook up some natural air freshener: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of apple cider to a simmer. Add a few slices of lemon, cinnamon sticks and 1 tsp whole cloves. Simmer for a couple of hours, adding more cider as it evaporates.
25 Hang a fabric blind with an elegant swag for a touch of grandeur.
Photography by Robin Stubbert
26 A potted orchid in a white ceramic pot is a sophisticated living accessory that lasts longer than cut stems.
27 Install a new faucet.
28 Use a shallow baking dish to store cooking essentials by the cooktop or stove. It will keep everything exactly where you need it and save your counter from oil rings and pepper grinder debris. Decant olive oil into an opaque or dark glass bottle to protect it from light.
29 Treat yourself to a new set of canisters.
30 Say no to paper napkins and switch to a colourful fabric set.
31 Switch out your dated kitchen chairs for black Windsor chairs. They're a design classic – great with mod or trad tables.
32 Remove a pair of cupboard doors and style the open shelves with your prettiest things.
33 Install invisible touch-latch hardware for a sleek, modern look.
34 Hang wallpaper as a backsplash. Protect it with acrylic or glass panels custom cut and installed by a glazier.
35 Leave only your chicest small appliances on the counter.
36 Conceal an ugly backsplash behind peel-andstick Smart Tiles.
37 Banish old knobs in favour of sexy new ones.
38 Conquer the junk drawer.
39 Get a handsome mortar and pestle. When you aren't using it to muddle mint for a mojito, press it into service as a bookend for cookbooks.
40 Paint your cabinets nature's neutral – green. It will look great with all your fruits and veg.
41 Display a pineapple when you're expecting guests – it's the universal symbol of welcome.
42 Make a pretty message board by placing fabric or decorative paper behind the glass of a large frame. Then use a dry erase marker to write on the front.
43 Add shaped brackets along the toe kick to make your cabinets look like fine furniture.
44 Install decorative casing trim around your pass-through.
45 Banish the smelly dishcloth hanging over the faucet! Organize your sinkside essentials on a rectangular dish or tray. The must-haves: dish soap in a pretty container (or decant some into a translucent white squeeze bottle), an all-natural cellulose sponge for dishwashing, a scrub brush and a plastic scrubber for pots.
46 Install a plate rack. Use it to display a collection of platters or cookbooks.
47 Splurge on a marble-top dining table for your best friend.
48 Keep utensils contained and at the ready in a plain white pitcher – it goes with any kitchen.
49 Perk up a family table with cheerful oilcloth that you can wipe clean in a flash.
50 The next time you buy groceries, bring home a bunch of daisies for the kitchen table.
Whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles.
A DIY-inclined couple turns an 800-square-foot two-bedroom bungalow into the perfect home for their young family.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson transformed the secondhand piano by covering it in grey paint, casually accessorizing it like the rest of the living room and softening its bench with a faux-sheepskin throw.
The whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles. “I brought softness into the space with the upholstered pieces, while keeping a farmhouse vibe with the antique rocking chairs,” says Amanda.
Homeowners Jason and Amanda Robinson hang out in the bright living room with their sons, Ethan (left) and Aidan.
While blue hues rock this farmhouse, Amanda also popped in some pink tones as contrast.
A fun DIY project or easily picked up at a gardening centre, terrariums are a great way to keep your home green in small ways.
Durable slate tiles define the entryway in this open-concept space. Practical items in natural tones like the bench, mirror and coat rack are artfully arranged so everything looks pulled together.
The kitchen epitomizes Amanda’s love of pale backdrops punctuated with colour and natural tones. “I made the shelves out of wooden boards from our barn and left them unpainted to contrast all the white and to complement the butcher block counters,” she says. Mismatched hardware picks up on the hits of blue throughout the home.
With their young sons and pets (Weimaraner Tessie and cat Nimble) in mind, Amanda chose tongue-and-groove pine planks for the floors, ceilings and walls. “I didn’t want new drywall with two little boys and pets running around,” she says. “It was the best design decision I ever made.”
Amanda knew she wanted a light and bright space and conceived the decor with colour in mind. “This is still a really small house, so I stuck to a neutral palette for the base: white and cream with natural wood tones throughout,” she says.
Amanda and Jason knocked down walls to create an eat-in area that features a free-standing stove surrounded by stone-veneered walls and a thrift-store dining table and chairs proudly bearing a mismatched paint job. “I painted everything grey and then decided to paint all the chairs blue but got sidetracked after one,” says Amanda. “It’s fun and quirky as is, and the boys take turns sitting in the blue chair at dinnertime.”
“The walls in Aidan’s bedroom were in good shape, so we painted them and added pine planks to the ceiling,” says Amanda. “I like the masculine look of the unpainted wood.” The new blue dressers share the space with a thrift-store wicker chair, a yellow-painted hand-me-down stool and rope-hung shelves Amanda crafted from barnboard.
“Ethan wanted everything in his room swimming pool turquoise.” They settled on a seafoam blue that’s more soothing for a bedroom and then incorporated coordinating accents in every room – even on the front door. “If you keep the big things neutral and then add accents in a single shade, it makes everything seem effortlessly connected,” says Amanda.
A bright screen door frame hints at the pops of blue to be found inside the house. Amanda refinished a hand-me-down pine table in grey paint and repurposed it as an easy-to-access storage unit for firewood. Antique Canadian Pacific Railway lanterns found in the barn and on Kijiji layer in more colour and reference the surrounding rustic landscape.
After a fresh coat of paint and some carefully placed furniture, the Robinsons are set to make this newly decorated farmhouse their home.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson used blue paint throughout her home to liven up the soothing neutral palette and provide a link from room to room. Here are her three favourite shades.
How to: Paint outdoor furniture
When undertaking a DIY project, there are usually a few things to consider. Add tempermental weather to the list and suddenly that little list has multiplied. How do you prepare your furniture for painting? What type of paint do you use? How does it differ for different types of material?
Though the process of painting outdoor furniture may seem daunting now, the best way to go about a DIY job is to be prepared. We talked to an expert at Canadian Tire to do just that. Michael Bache, Category Business Manager at Canadian Tire, shares his prepping and painting how tos to help put your DIY nerves at ease.
1 What supplies will you need for prepping and painting?
Depending on the state of the furniture (e.g. new wood, old plastic, painted metal, painted wood) and the type of paint chosen, a variety of items should be considered.
If using brush-on paint, consider using a primer before applying a new fresh coat of colour. When priming your furniture, make sure to use a good quality paintbrush and rags or drop cloths for clean-up. However, if you're using Krylon® Fusion™ no primer is required.
If repainting a metal or wood surface that has loose peeling paint, it must be removed for best adhesion. You can use sandpaper, steel wool, wire brush, scraper, or a stripper. You may require a tack cloth to clean up dust residue when sanding. If sanding a latex paint, a simple damp rag will work just fine.
2 Do these steps differ when prepping different materials, such as metal, plastic, wicker or wood?
Yes. Some products don't require primer, saving you a prep step. Using an aerosol is a benefit, too, as you also save a step in the prep. It generally dries faster and doesn't require clean-up since no paint brushes are involved. Even better, aerosols tend to give a factory style, air brush finish when applied properly, as opposed to a brush-on paint.
Bare wood generally requires a primer to seal the wood prior to painting as the surface is porous. The primer is used to provide a nice, smooth finish. Krylon Dual saves a step on both bare wood and metal since it primes and paints in one easy step. This saves time and allows people to have more time enjoying their furniture and less time prepping it!
3 What type of paint should you use for outdoor furniture?
Always follow the directions on the label for specific product use. This will ensure proper adhesion to your surface.
Plastic patio furniture should only have a paint specifically designed to adhere to plastic and hard-to-bond surfaces. Many general purpose paints can adhere to most surfaces except plastic.
For wicker or rattan, spray paints tend to make a nicer finish and easily gets into the grooves. Muskoka chairs are also easier to paint when using an aerosol as opposed to a paint brush. Now there's even an aerosol wood stain by Krylon. Spray stains make fast work of Muskoka chairs and planters - no brushes to clean up either.
5 What about rust prevention?
Paint designed especially for metal surfaces tends to add rust protection into the paint - make sure the paint says "rust proofing" or "rust inhibiting".
As our climate changes, U.V. rays are also a consideration - they're hard on our skin and our exterior patio furniture! Some paints actually have U.V. protection in their paint. This will help protect your finish to resist harsh weather conditions. We suggest storing patio furniture during the fall and winter months when not in use. If space is a problem, a variety of covers and tarps are available to help protect your investment.
6 What are the best painting methods to use?
Much of this is personal preference. However, some surfaces, like wicker and rattan, have a nicer finish when sprayed versus brushing.
7 What kind of finish, if any, should you use?
Most paint companies offer a variety of finishes to choose from - satin, gloss, textured, metallic, hammered, and more. As long as you use an appropriate paint for your exterior surface and follow the instructions, you should achieve the finish you want. The really nice thing about the variety of paints and finishes available is that people can turn "garage sale finds" into treasures. Mixing and matching old and new creates a different and personalized patio set.
8 How many coats should you use
Follow the instructions on the can, however many paints suggest two coats. When painting remember this rule of thumb: Thinner coats are better than thicker coats. Thinner coats dry faster and produce a harder finish.
9 What should you look for in a brush?
Is it the right paint brush for your paint? Oil-based paints generally have different bristles than latex paints. The brush label will specify this.
Is the paint brush the right size to do your project? If you are painting furniture, smaller brushes may be better. Ensure it fits into your paint container.
A roller can be great for large flat surfaces, like a tabletop. This can help reduce brush marks, too!
10 How does climate affect the painting process?
Weather is a big factor. For the most part, if you're getting a sunburn and sweating, it's probably too hot to paint. This will cause the paint to dry too fast. If it's too windy and you're using an aerosol paint, your paint may dissipate before it reaches the surface. Either wait for the wind to die down or use cardboard to build a spray tunnel. Humidity can affect the paint's dry time, which leaves more time for surface imperfections to take place on your finish. In general, 21ºC and about 50% humidity are ideal conditions for painting.
12 Any last tips?
Remember to protect other surfaces if working outside by using masking tape and drop cloths. Most importantly, regardless of your project, remember to always read product labels thoroughly and follow directions.
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.