Click to download: Wellington Garden Centre
Balancing modern and traditional aesthetics in a stylish family home
A Toronto couple proves that a mostly white interior can be both stylish and family friendly, while also suiting modern and traditional aesthetics.
For a busy family with three young children, living in a mostly white interior may seem more like a pipe dream than a practical reality. But not for this Toronto couple. When the homeowners built their 2,400-square-foot Georgian-style house two years ago, creating something kid-friendly was a huge priority. And, for the wife, that never meant compromising her love of white. “White makes me feel good. Everything’s so bright; everything’s vibrant,” she says.
Five years ago, when the couple had their second child, they figured it was time to move somewhere that better accommodated their growing family. “We were specifically looking for something we could tear down,” says one of the homeowners. What they found was a bungalow with a private drive and a good-sized lot in a historic east-end Toronto neighbourhood.
2,400-square-foot Georgian-style house.
Built-in cabinets and shelving in the family room offer a spot to tuck away toys, electronics and firewood, and display artwork and accessories. A collection of Andy Warhol-inspired Campbell’s soup cans and a beach photograph provide pops of colour.
In the family room, elements like the hide sling chair, patterned toss cushions and sculptural coffee table lend interest and warmth. The couple created a large kid-friendly (not to mention durable and easy to clean) rug out of carpet tiles.
The interior’s sophisticated look – modern furnishings, contrasting black elements, playful accessories and hits of colour all set against a white background – was partly inspired by the Paris apartments of today.
Open to the kitchen, the family room leads to an outdoor deck through stunning black-framed glass doors. “I think those are the showstoppers,” says one of the homeowners. “From the beginning, we had that vision, and we wanted the black to really play off the white walls.”
In the dining room, wainscotting and herringbone floors are juxtaposed with a clean-lined marble and clear-lacquered raw steel table surrounded by iconic Mid-Century Modern Eames chairs. The white linen drum pendant lights, lined in a brass colour, add drama.
The all-white kitchen features Shaker-style cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, ceramic subway tiles, a custom range hood and brass touches. The couple loves the look of marble, but chose low-maintenance engineered quartz countertops instead.
When the homeowners built their 2,400-square-foot Georgian-style house two years ago, creating something kid-friendly was a huge priority. And, for the wife, that never meant compromising her love of white. “White makes me feel good. Everything’s so bright; everything’s vibrant,” she says.
Overall style: White + more white = casual sophistication. Favourite feature: The custom-made range hood. After a tedious search for a white model, the couple asked the cabinetmaker to craft one to match the cabinetry. Biggest challenge: Fitting everything they wanted into the maximum square footage they could build. Most budget-friendly purchase: The brass knobs that needed to match the more expensive pulls. "A colleague helped me find them, and they wer only $7 a pop," says one of the homeowners. 1 Remy bar stool in Matte White, Restoration Hardware, $199. 2 Oxford White CC-30 paint, Benjamin Moore.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.
A fashionable couple treats their stylish abode as an ever-evolving runway that offers opportunities to strike a decorative pose using their chic collection.
A lot can happen in a year. At this time last year – September, to be exact – designer Matthew Meisner, owner of design firm Heirloom & Knot, moved into a new home in downtown Toronto with his partner, Rick Bettencourt, and Rick’s daughters, Milena, 15, and Celeste, 11, who live there part-time. The 2,100-square-foot three-storey ultra-modern abode had great architectural character and, even better, had recently been renovated. All that it required was a coat of white paint, warm wood elements and a healthy dose of personality – of which the couple has plenty.
Fashionable fiances Rick Bettencourt and Matthew (seated) pose in the living room of their downtown Toronto home.
Art collectors, travellers and curators of quirky vintage finds, the two are fashion savvy to boot. Rick is vice-president of Nine West Canada, so even though Matthew is the professional designer, he still lets stylish Rick provide plenty of input. “I want it to feel like we both contributed equally to the look,” says Matthew.
Take, for example, the wallpapers and textiles on display throughout the home: Most are designed by Matthew for his Heirloom & Knot collection but selected for the interior by his hubby-to-be. “It’s like choosing between my own children,” says Matthew. “I can’t pick favourites, so I leave that to Rick.” The open-concept space is also decorated with relics of the couple’s past, from the antique kitchen scale that was one of the first pieces they purchased together (“out of the garage of a random guy we met on Craigslist,” says the designer with a laugh) to the framed fashion show invites in the powder room (not shown) collected during Rick’s days working as the womens- and menswear director for Holt Renfrew (Prada and Hermès and Alexander McQueen, oh my!). Art purchased on vacations, knick-knacks picked out at antiques markets and a real deer head that’s been in Matthew’s family for years all lend the home its eclectic character while clearly reflecting the fashion-forward couple. “Anywhere we turn in our home, we see something that makes us smile,” says Matthew, noting that there are memories tied to almost every object in their house.
Matthew lugged the huge deer head on the plane home from his parents' cottage in Winnipeg. "It's been in my family for ages," he explains. "My great-uncle accidentally hit the deer with his car when he was young." The bust has lived with Matthew's grandparents and parents and now acts as the perfect pairing for the tartan wool-upholstered sofa in the living room, lending a rustic cabin vibe to this modern eclectic space.
And it’s always evolving. “If I were to describe our home in a sentence,” says Matthew, “I’d say, ‘It’s curated over time and never finished.’” The two buy new pieces whenever something catches their eyes and, as a result, the decor rotates almost twice monthly. “What it looks like now is very different from these pictures,” says Matthew, explaining that while big furniture items stay the same, smaller finds flow in and out. The artwork exhibited on the master bedroom’s feature wall is seemingly switched out more often than that of a commercial gallery, and textiles are turned over seasonally.
Though their house’s interior decor shifts many times in one year, it always feels like home. “We’ve brought in things from former jobs, from frequent travels and from day-to-day life,” says Matthew. “It’s the celebration of everything that has brought us to this point in our lives.”
Credits: Ashley Capp
It’s fitting, because almost one year after moving into their dream home, Matthew and Rick will mark another milestone with their September 2016 wedding. And judging by how their two styles harmonize so perfectly here in this home, we’d say they’re a match made in heaven. Chin-chin!
Designer Matthew Meisner had sections of his Rorschach ink blot test-inspired wallpaper blown up and framed as art for his dining area. It makes for lively dinner discussions: "Everyone has an opinion of what they see," says Matthew, "and it's not always rated PG!"
Credits: Ashley Capp
A dramatic departure from the crisp white envelope of the main living space, the kitchen is decidedly dark. Warming up the existing cabinetry is vinyl wallpaper Matthew designed and named after Rick: Bettencourt Series 2. "It's durable and easy to switch out should we want a new look in the future," says Matthew.
Credits: Ashley Capp
Credits: Ashley Capp
The wall tiles in the master bath are a spin on the classic checkerboard look and a clever design hack - Matthew simply cut adhesive kitchen shelf liner into triangles and stuck it to the existing white tiles (which never get wet).
Credits: Ashley Capp
"I love that the bed frame's cane detail has old-world character while the shape is Mid-Century Modern," says Matthew, who introduces layers of history into his designs.
Credits: Ashley Capp