Click to download: Conestogo Mercantile
Industrial loft design with luxe details and an edgy appeal
Brimming with luxurious materials and industrial swagger, an edgy-meets-elegant makeover sees the union of two lofts.
In sitcoms, there’s always the jokester perpetually getting locked out of his apartment in the hallway wearing socks – or worse, far less. In real life, however, hallway humour is not so funny. Take this husband and wife who had to go out to the corridor every time they needed something from next door. They own (and inhabit) adjacent lofts in Toronto’s historic Merchandise Building. Commensurate with early 20th-century Chicago-style architecture, the building has hefty bones, high ceilings and factory windows – enthralling features that meant moving elsewhere to gain more space was out of the question. “Besides, the idea was always to merge the two units,” says the husband, joking, “but in the meantime, we had the best guest suite in the city.”
After owning the lofts for three years, the professional pair, who has a four-year-old daughter and six-year-old son, finally decided to fuse the 1,763- and 1,372-square-foot spaces. To bring the project from concept to fruition, they collaborated with Croma Design’s savvy Ryan Martin and Amy Kent. Building restrictions only allowed for a small opening between the suites, which was achieved by removing the kitchen and a small laundry closet from one unit, as well as reconfiguring the master bedroom. But it worked out perfectly. “It resulted in two separate zones: one for the family to relax in, the other for entertaining,” explains Amy. Toys are relegated to the family room in one unit, while in the other, the slick living room with its stand-out hot-rolled-steel fireplace is enjoyed when the adults are entertaining.
In the living room of this Toronto loft designed by Ryan Martin and Amy Kent of Croma Design, a standout fireplace surround made from 12 feet of hot-rolled steel creates architectural drama. Modern furnishings, hits of brass and pared-back artwork establish a look that’s at once livable and luxurious.
The dining room’s existing bar niche was updated with a Caesarstone-topped cabinet and upper shelves. An artistic take on utilitarian fluorescents over the dining table, the light fixture offers striking sculptural presence – but no harshness. “It uses LED bulbs, so it emits a warm glow,” says Amy.
The loft’s decor is all about sharp contrast and cohesion, exemplified in the long steel shelves that echo the steel-based dining table, as well as the doors of the nine-foot-long sideboard, which are the same as the ones used for the kitchen cabinetry.
The living room’s custom bookcases were so tall the contractor had to build them off-site and stack them here in components – but the extra effort was worth it. They’re a huge improvement from the cluttered stand-alones that once lived in the loft.
The weight of the kitchen’s darkness is balanced by the light and airy envelope around it, from the white surrounding walls and ceiling to the glass pendant lights. The island is equipped with open shelves to store cookbooks, which offer a hint of colour.
“We chose Caesarstone countertops because they’re durable and easy to maintain, which is great for this family, who is constantly trying out new recipes from their many cookbooks,” says Amy.
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 by: Williams-Sonoma
Getting a homemade dinner on the table on a busy weeknight is easier said than done—but these seven tools and gadgets will help make prepping, cooking and cleaning up a breeze.
From time-saving electronic tools to simple products that cut down on messes, these must-have kitchen items will ensure your weeknight cooking sessions are as stress-free as possible.
Being organized and prepping your ingredients before you start cooking is half the battle. Start by having a variety of small bowls on-hand so you can easily chop and measure what you need for any recipe. This set of four microwave and dishwasher-safe bowls will help you do just that.
Mini latte bowls, Anthropologie, US$12.
Compact and easy to use, an immersion blender makes a myriad of kitchen tasks speedy. From puréeing soups and sauces to making homemade dressing and smoothies, you’ll use this hand blender on a regular basis.
Kitchen Aid Ice Blue 2-Speed Hand Blender, Crate & Barrel, $83, on sale for $55
Small tools can sometimes have a big impact, and this one sure fits the bill. A spoon rest will allow you to minimize mess while you’re cooking by giving you an easy (and pretty!) spot to place a saucy spoon in between stirs.
Gisela Spoon Rest, Anthropologie, US$12
Place silicone liners on your baking sheet in place of parchment paper. Its non-stick surface gives baked treats the perfect texture, without having to wrestle with cutting parchment paper to size. These made-in-France mats are easy to clean and roll up for fast storage.
Silpat Silicone Cookie Sheet Liners, Williams-Sonoma, $32–39
This pretty print makes a useful addition to any kitchen space. It will give you all the kitchen conversions you need at a glance so you don’t have to find all your answers via Google.
Kitchen Conversion Chart, WeJustLikePrints via Etsy $10
One of the handiest tools in the kitchen, this rasp will allow you to finely grate garlic, spices, chocolate and citrus zest in a matter of seconds.
Microplane Rasp Grater, Williams-Sonoma, $22
A cookie scoop simplifies baking by ensuring that all of your cookies, muffins and cupcakes are evenly portioned out, every time! Available in two different sizes, it helps make homemade treats that much more bakery-worthy.
OXO Cookie Scoops, Williams-Sonoma, $19–20
Botanically inspired sunroom.
We designed a botanically inspired sunroom on budgets befitting a seedling and a mature plant. Can you tell the difference?
1 Frayed cotton canvas botanical No.81 and No.33 PRINTS (mounted on wooden dowels), Pottery Barn, $119 US each. 2 Hand-blown glass TERRARIUM, Crown Flora Studio, $55. 3 Steel Dark Leaf CONSOLE with reclaimed barnwood top, Urban Barn, $649. 4 Bar-height powder-coated iron Burke STOOLS with adjustable swivel elm seats in Grey, Structube, $159 each. 5 Woven BASKETS, HomeSense, $25 each. 6 Sugar Hill laminate FLOORING in Smoke Plank, Torlys, $3.70 per sq. ft. 7 Viscose blend Bohemian RUG, 5' x 8', Urban Barn, $329. 8 Gus Modern ash Truss ARMCHAIR with polyester Leaside cushions in Driftwood, Style-garage, $950. 9 Cotton TOSS CUSHION COVER, 20" x 20", H&M Home, $15; duck feather INSERT, H&M Home, $13.
1 Botanical linen canvas Cherry and Sunflower PRINTS (mounted on wooden dowels), The Evolution Store, $219 US each. 2 Handmade faceted soldered glass TERRARIUM, Crown Flora Studio, $165. 3 Custom handmade polished steel CONSOLE with reclaimed wood top, Junction Wood + Metal Co., $1,200. 4 Turner bar-height black-finished metal STOOLS with adjustable swivel seats, Crate and Barrel, $299. 5 Beachcomber extra-large round hand-woven seagrass BASKETS, Pottery Barn, $129 US each. 6 Artisan Elite maple engineered hardwood FLOORING in Bracken Hill, Torlys, $7.90 per sq. ft. 7 Hand-knotted wool and bamboo silk Bal Harbour RUG in Antique White & Ocean, 6' x 8', Weavers Art, $3,950. 8 Huppe beech Citta ARMCHAIR with leather cushions in Boston White, Shelter, $1,999. 9 Polyester Swaying Palms TOSS CUSHION with down alternative insert, 20" x 20", Tonic Living, $54.
Be inspired by spring in the sunroom. With the perfect chair the room will be nothing short of the ideal spot to grab a book, make a lemonade and check out your budding love for nature. LOW: Gus Modern ash Truss ARMCHAIR with polyester Leaside cushions in Driftwood, Style-garage, $950. HIGH: Huppe beech Citta ARMCHAIR with leather cushions in Boston White, Shelter, $1,999.
Some like to decorate with piles of books, others with an array of candles. But if you ask us, nothing beats the impact of plants, and this less-is-more tableau is a case in point. The key to this look is the negative space, created by loosely arranged unobtrusive glass vessels. The plantings are few but carefully chosen, varying in height, colour and texture. And don’t forget an element of surprise – did you notice the animal figurines in the terrariums? LOW: Hand-blown glass TERRARIUM, Crown Flora Studio, $55. HIGH: Handmade faceted soldered glass TERRARIUM, Crown Flora Studio, $165.
A long day doesn’t seem so daunting when you come home to stylish decor. That’s why we love these slender minimalistic consoles. Whether your place is ultra-modern or a bit rustic (and whatever your budget), there’s a choice for you. LOW: Steel Dark Leaf CONSOLE with reclaimed barnwood top, Urban Barn, $649. HIGH: Custom handmade polished steel CONSOLE with reclaimed wood top, Junction Wood + Metal Co., $1,200.
Introduced in the early 19th century, oversized botanical charts were a staple in classrooms throughout Europe, used to educate youth about the anatomy of various flora (such as the sunflower) and fauna. As close to the real deal as you can get, our High prints are exact copies of German charts from the 1950s and ’60s. In fact, they’re produced by the original internationally recognized manufacturer using the same film and methods. LOW: Frayed cotton canvas botanical No.81 and No.33 PRINTS (mounted on wooden dowels), Pottery Barn, $119 US each. HIGH: Botanical linen canvas Cherry and Sunflower PRINTS (mounted on wooden dowels), The Evolution Store, $219 US each.
Host a "welcome spring" party with a new smoothie recipe or take a seat while you care for your plants. Whatever the occassion, keep around some stylish seating to blend into the natural ambience of the space. LOW: Bar-height powder-coated iron Burke STOOLS with adjustable swivel elm seats in Grey, Structube, $159 each. HIGH: Turner bar-height black-finished metal STOOLS with adjustable swivel seats, Crate and Barrel, $299.
Greenery has a way of livening up any room, and when that verdant touch doesn’t require any maintenance and remains bright year-round, it’s a clear winner. From banana to palm leaves, the motifs of these printed toss cushions have a moving quality that calls to mind a tropical beach – a sunny ambience every Canadian household can use. LOW: Cotton TOSS CUSHION COVER, 20" x 20", H&M Home, $15; duck feather INSERT, H&M Home, $13. HIGH: Polyester Swaying Palms TOSS CUSHION with down alternative insert, 20" x 20", Tonic Living, $54.
In a room like this the only burst of colour should be coming from the plants. Keep your flooring and rugs low-key with a simple pattern that blends the flooring together to create a faux grass or dirt area. LOW: Sugar Hill laminate FLOORING in Smoke Plank, Torlys, $3.70 per sq. ft.; Viscose blend Bohemian RUG, 5' x 8', Urban Barn, $329. HIGH: Artisan Elite maple engineered hardwood FLOORING in Bracken Hill, Torlys, $7.90 per sq. ft.; Hand-knotted wool and bamboo silk Bal Harbour RUG in Antique White & Ocean, 6' x 8', Weavers Art, $3,950.
Nothing makes a space like this just a bit more unique like putting your own taste into the planters. Decorate your own pots or go for something more special, like these teacups for smaller plants. It doesn't really matter what you plant them in, just make sure it reflects you and the room you want to create. HIGH AND LOW: Teacup (used as pot), Crown Flora Studio, prices vary.