Home Decor

What You Need To Know Before Buying Sheets + Six Of Our Favourite Online-Only Sets

We slept on six popular brands to get a sense of how they truly feel, and asked an expert for her best advice on how to buy sheets, sight unseen. Here's what you need to know.

Eight jars of various pickle recipes sit next to one another on a table.

(Photo: Erik Putz; Food styling by Lindsay Guscott; Prop styling by Catherine Doherty)

In the last decade, direct-to-consumer brands (which means the manufacturer sells directly to you, instead of through a retailer) have revolutionized the way we shop for everything from cookware to eye glasses to mattresses. But it can feel like a gamble to make a major purchase without actually seeing—or touching—the goods beforehand, especially when it comes to something as up-close-and-personal as bedsheets.

It all comes down to knowing what you like, says Vancouver-based interior designer Cathy Radcliffe. She suggests thinking about the following before you buy.

1. Thread count
Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch of a cotton fabric—typically, the higher the thread count, the more expensive the sheet. That said, Radcliffe notes that “the quality of the cotton is equally important.” She recommends looking for Egyptian or American pima cotton.

2. Budget
“You don’t have to overspend on sheets,” says Radcliffe. Start by exploring your 200-thread-count options, then aim higher if you can’t find anything you like.

3. Fabric
Think about how you want your sheets to feel on your skin. “Do you prefer something crisp, like cotton, or something that’s a little bit silkier, like a sateen or linen?” asks Radcliffe.

4. Aesthetic
Also consider the type of vibe you’d like your bedding to evoke—for instance, if your bedroom is formal, the casual, lived-in look of linen might not be the right fit.

We slept on six popular Canadian online-only brands to get a sense of how they truly feel. Here’s how they stacked up.

Maison Tess brown bed sheets on pillows

Maison Tess

This Montreal brand’s linen and cotton bedding are produced by a family-owned manufacturer in Portugal and sold individually in gorgeous seasonal and neutral hues to encourage a mix-and-match approach. Of the cotton blends we tried (there are four), we liked the percale best—it’s crisp and cool, and maintains an effortlessly crinkled look. Overwhelmed by options? Swatches are available for $1 a pop. From $65, maisontess.com.

White Flax Home bed sheets stacked on top of each other

Flax Home

Linen takes less water and energy to produce than cotton; it’s also moisture absorbing and a good heat conductor, which means it’s great for those who run hot. Vancouver-based Flax Home produces its 100 percent French linen sheets—available in a chic array of colours—at a family-run facility in China. It took a few washes for these to soften up, but, luckily, the crinkled-from-the-dryer look is the desired aesthetic right now. From $270, shopflaxhome.com.

Grey Takasa bed sheets stacked on top of each other

Takasa

Vancouver-based Takasa (meaning “to purify, cleanse or make bright” in Swahili) uses organic fair trade cotton as the base for its sheets, which are either finished in crisp, 300-thread-count percale or warm and cozy sateen. We tried the percale, which felt like hotel sheets in the best way—they’re sturdy and oversized, and always look freshly made. Takasa ethically manufactures its sheets in India, where its founders hail from. From $239, takasa.co.

Light blue Endy bed sheets on two pillows and a bed

Endy

Best known for its popular mattresses, Endy has now expanded into sheets. Made from 100 percent organic cotton and with a thread count of 300, they’re extremely soft, cozy and cool at the same time. At the most affordable price point of the bunch, these sheets—designed in Canada and manufactured in China and Cambodia—promise a bang for your buck. From $100, ca.endy.com.

Close up of white KOTN bed sheet button

Kotn

Most of Kotn’s products, including its sheets, are designed in Toronto and made from Egyptian and Portuguese cotton. The brand, which is a certified B Corporation (meaning it meets stringent social and environmental standards), also invests part of its proceeds back into its farmers’ communities. This set is 400 thread count and extremely buttery. One note: top sheet not included. From $105, kotn.com.

White bed sheet from Tuck with a tag that says "this is your bottom."

Tuck

Toronto-based Tuck uses sustainably sourced organic cotton and Tencel Lyocell, a blend of botanical-origin fibres that is made via a low-environmental- impact process in China. The sheets are 300 thread count and prewashed, and the brand promises a degree of softness akin to that of a well-worn T-shirt—a claim that perfectly describes how amazing these sheets feel. From $169, tuckbedding.ca.

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Home Decor

Plastic-Free Laundry Strips Are Everywhere Right Now. We Tried Some Out

Plastic-free laundry strips may give you a clean conscience, but how well do they wash your laundry? We tested some popular brands to find out.

good juju, kind laundry and nature clean laundry strips

Lately my social media feed has been awash with ads for laundry strips. It’s definitely not because I love laundry (who does?)—it’s because I’m always looking for ways to use less plastic. And switching to laundry strips, which come in small cardboard packages instead of giant plastic jugs, is a simple way to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging.

There are now several companies making laundry strips, so I decided to test them out. Here’s everything you need to know about laundry strips and whether they are the right choice for you—and the environment.

What exactly are laundry strips?

Laundry detergent strips are ultra-concentrated sheets of liquidless laundry detergent that dissolve in water. Each strip is pre-portioned to deliver the exact amount of detergent needed for a load of laundry. No pouring, no spills. Because laundry strips are lightweight and mess-free, they are super convenient for travel and take up way less storage space than detergents or pods. Most importantly, laundry strips are plastic-free.

The problem with plastic

My family of four goes through a lot of laundry. We do at least five loads a week: sheets, towels, whites, darks, and delicates. That’s 260 loads of laundry a year—and a lot of plastic waste. If every 25 loads uses up a 1-litre bottle of laundry detergent, we’re easily throwing out 10 plastic jugs a year.

Sure, we put our plastic jugs in the blue bin—but there’s a good chance they won’t actually be recycled. According to a study commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Canada, only about 22 percent of Canada’s plastic packaging waste makes its way to recycling facilities. Of that, a mere 15 percent gets recycled into new products. The rest either piles up in landfills or litters the environment. According to Ashley Wallis, plastics campaigner with Oceana Canada, plastic packaging accounts for 47 percent of Canada’s plastic waste.

Globally, the numbers are even grimmer. Researchers estimate that 8300 metric tons of virgin plastics were produced as of 2017. Only nine percent had been recycled. Twelve percent had been burned, and a whopping 79 percent had accumulated in landfills or littered the environment.

Even if every bit of discarded plastic was recycled, the manufacture of plastic still contributes to climate change.

“Ninety nine percent of plastic is made from fossil resources like oil and gas,” says Wallis. “It’s estimated that without action by 2050, plastics will account for ten to thirteen percent of our global carbon budget (as per the Paris Agreement).”

They use natural ingredients

When detergents go down the drain, they make their way into our waterways and drinking water, where they don’t biodegrade—instead lingering and accumulating in the ecosystem. Many are considered highly toxic to aquatic organisms.

If you’d rather clean your clothes with natural ingredients, laundry strips are a good choice. They are made with plant-based, biodegradable ingredients that are gentle on sensitive skin and safe to use with septic systems.

They are plastic-free

Since laundry strips are liquidless, they can be packaged in cardboard or paper—which is more readily recycled than plastic. Plus the packaging itself is made with post-consumer recycled content.

Every packet of laundry strips replaces a plastic jug of detergent. Comparing apples to apples, a 32-strip packet of Nature Clean laundry strips replaces a 1.8 L jug of Nature Clean laundry detergent—which does 30 standard loads.

Wallis points out that plastic pollution can’t be solved by individual action alone—that we need systems-level changes, including stronger bans on unnecessary and harmful single-use plastics. But until then, it’s up to individuals—and industry—to pave the way.

“Over time we should absolutely be looking to phase out all unnecessary plastics,” says Wallis. “And when industry demonstrates what’s possible, without plastic, it helps create space for government action.”

They have a smaller carbon footprint

Cutting out plastic means cutting down on carbon emissions. Not only is plastic made of petrochemicals—which come from petroleum—but manufacturing and shipping virgin plastic emits greenhouse gases.

And since laundry strips are much lighter and more compact than liquid detergent, they are easier to ship—reducing fuel consumption and emissions from transportation.

How do you use laundry strips?

Laundry detergent strips dissolve in either hot or cold water. Whether you have a top-loading or front-loading washer, simply toss a strip into the drum at the beginning of the cycle. They work in all types of washing machines, including high-efficiency machines. For handwashing, tear a strip in half, dissolve it in water, and add your laundry.

Laundry strips are designed to wash a regular, lightly-soiled load. If you’re doing a smaller load, you can use half a strip. For large or heavily-soiled loads, you can use two strips.

Do laundry strips work?

With a three-year-old and a five-year-old, I have some pretty filthy laundry. I’m talking peed-on, ketchup-smeared, woodchip-encrusted, muddy puddle-splattered, marker-stained laundry. And all the brands I tested did a great job of cleaning it.

Unlike some pods or powder detergents, the laundry strips dissolved completely without clumping or leaving a residue. They don’t create suds like traditional detergents, but all those bubbles are just for show—they don’t clean any better. And they’re also a no-no for high-efficiency machines.

I normally use unscented detergent, since I’m sensitive to smells and have kids. But since I was given some scented samples, I was curious to try them. When I first opened the packages, I found the smell a bit strong, but that’s because they are so concentrated. After the laundry is done, the smell is barely there. Even when I used two strips for a big load of towels, they came out smelling fresh and clean—not perfumey.

I also love the fact that when my family went away to a cottage for a couple of weeks, I could toss a packet of laundry strips in my bag—without them taking up much space or spilling. They came in handy when I had to handwash my daughter’s favourite outfit, and when it was time to take a load to the laundromat.

Laundry strips to try

Here are some Canadian brands that are biodegradable, vegan-friendly, safe for septic systems, and packaged in recycled paper or cardboard.

Good juju laundry strips

Good Juju

Made in Canada, Good Juju makes plastic-free shampoo and conditioner bars as well as laundry strips. All of their products are plastic-free: they ship in post-consumer recycled envelopes and boxes with recyclable kraft paper tape and GreenGuard certified stickers. The online shop is carbon negative: for every order placed, they buy carbon offsets and donate a portion of sales to support carbon reduction initiatives.

Good Juju Laundry Strips (Unscented or Summer Rain), $14.99/30 strips

Nature clean laundry strips

Nature Clean

Nature Clean is a familiar Canadian company that makes a wide range of home cleaning and personal care products. Their laundry strips are formulated in Canada and made in China. They have been allergy tested and dermatologist tested and found to be safe for sensitive skin. You can purchase them online or find them at most grocery stores or pharmacies.

Nature Clean Laundry Detergent Strips (Unscented or Wildflower), $10.99/32 strips

Kind laundry laundry strips

Kind Laundry

Kind Laundry was founded in Toronto by Angie Tran and Bernard Law, who wanted to offer an eco-friendly laundry detergent that reduces plastic pollution. They worked with their manufacturer in China to formulate detergent strips without unnecessary fillers or surfactants, using zero-waste packaging. Their laundry strips have only five plant-based ingredients, each carefully chosen to be super effective and gentle on the most sensitive skin. They also make wool dryer balls and stain remover bars.

Kind Laundry Detergent Sheets, $19.95/60 sheets

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Home Decor

Inside The Cutest Garden Shed We’ve Ever Seen

This charming light-filled studio is the perfect summer retreat.

A photo of floral designer Cynthia Zamaria's cutting garden and potting shed.

Bursting with annuals, perennials and herbs, Cynthia Zamaria’s garden isn’t perfectly manicured—and that’s how she likes it. “Most people think of gardens in a landscaped way, whereas this is more organic and done with a view to cutting,” she says. (Photo: Robin Stubbert)

Imagine starting your morning with a steaming cup of coffee and a barefoot walk through dewy grass, with rose and lavender bushes perfuming the air as you brush past them. Cynthia Zamaria doesn’t have to pinch herself—this is an everyday reality at her 2,400-square-foot cutting garden in Port Dover, Ont., where she grows blooms that are destined for bouquets. “I often think, ‘I’ll just go for a little walk,’ and before I realize it, it’s noon,” she says. “I lose myself in the garden.”

Floral designer Cynthia Zamaria in the potting shed adjacent to her cutting garden.

“I’ve tried to curate the space so that everything has an authentic, maker vibe,” says Zamaria. (Photo: Robin Stubbert)

When the property’s this pretty, it’s easy to understand how time stands still. Cynthia, a former communications executive turned floral designer and decorator, was inspired by the slow-flower movement (the practice of growing seasonal blooms locally) when she plotted this dream garden beside the circa 1857 Georgian home she shares with her husband, Graham Loughton, and their three children. After studying with slow-flower pioneer Erin Benzakein (of the popular Instagram account floretflower), Cynthia decided to start a floral business that would provide homegrown blooms to private clients and small-scale events. “Basically a side hustle that would bring me joy,” she says with a laugh.

A photo of floral designer Cynthia Zamaria's potting shed.

Double barn-style doors maintain the shed’s connection to the garden. (Photo: Robin Stubbert)

The garden’s heartbeat is its charming, custom-built potting studio (to call it a “shed” just doesn’t seem right). Cynthia’s studio must-haves? Windows that overlook Lake Erie, double doors, two water sources (a sink, plus a low spigot to fill flower buckets) and electricity to run her stereo—“I have a soft spot for Prince while I’m working,” she says.

A photo of floral designer Cynthia Zamaria's cutting garden and potting shed.

Displayed at different heights in an array of buckets, this selection of pink and green plants makes mix-and-match bouquets a no-brainer. (Photo: Robin Stubbert)

On the exterior, a standing seam metal roof and gooseneck barn light give the structure a farmhouse vibe. Inside, simplicity reigns. Crisp white paint, plywood flooring and open shelves put the focus on Cynthia’s collection of vessels, from sap buckets to apple baskets sourced from a local farmer. “I’ve tried to curate the space so that everything has an authentic, maker vibe,” she says. “Even the utilitarian pieces are beautiful.”

A photo of floral designer Cynthia Zamaria's potting shed.

A mix of sleek and rustic textures, paired with a selection of new and vintage items, creates a layered interior. (Photo: Robin Stubbert)

The light-filled studio has become Cynthia’s personal and professional retreat, where she pulls together unfussy arrangements for herself, or for friends and clients. “I’m like a kid in a candy shop,” she says. “I listen to the birds, I soak up the solitude and I experiment. It’s my favourite place to be.”

Originally published in 2020; updated in 2021

Home Decor

10 Statement-Making Picks From Ikea's Latest Designer Collaboration

Brighten up your home with these bold pieces.

What better way to elevate your space than with colourful statement items? Introducing Karismatisk, Ikea’s latest home decor collection, in collaboration with British fashion and textile designer Zandra Rhodes. Rhodes, who has dressed icons like Princess Diana and Diana Ross, collaborated with in-house Ikea designer Paulin Machado to create a limited-edition collection of maximalist home decor. Inspired by Rhodes’ signature eclectic style, this vibrant collection—available in stores and online on September 1—is daring, yet functional. Filled with vivid colours, striking patterns and unique textiles, Karismatisk’s pieces add a burst of self-expression to any space. Read on for our favourite picks from the latest Ikea collection.

Sponsored

Everything You Need To Know About Benji Sleep’s “Softest Sheets You’ve Ever Slept In”

Here’s how this Canadian company is delivering heavenly comfort, and changing the bedding industry along the way

Sheets are the middle children of the bed set up. Pillows get all the attention because it’s really obvious when they’re not working, and we spend months researching our next mattress, debating memory foam vs. springs for weeks. But our sheets? Most of us choose them based purely on aesthetics, with a vague understanding of thread count. Until, that is, you’ve slept under a superlatively good set of sheets, and you realize what a difference they make to your sleep quality.

Take Benji, a bedding company with the “softest damn sheets on the Internet.” The Canadian company was started by two brothers, Ben and Mark McLean, who found themselves in the place we’ve all been: Standing in a big box store, overwhelmed by the array of bottom-top-pillow-case sets, listening to a salesperson trying to convince them that the higher the price, the higher the quality of the sheets. They didn’t walk away that day with a set of sheets, they left with a new mission: Simplify the world of bedding with really great, affordable sheets.

Illustration, Benji Sleep

The serious affordability

It started small—in 2018 they used their parents’ basement as their first warehouse—and they’ve since moved into a large warehouse shipping thousands of orders a month. By working directly with manufacturers, the brothers have been able to deliver on their vision of “affordable luxury”: Sheets (and now a comforter and pillows, too) that feel as luxurious as something you’d pay an eyewatering amount for in a store, all available online for much, much less. We’re talking an entire Queen set—flat sheet, fitted sheet and two pillowcases—for under $100. That’s the power of selling sheets direct to the consumer, without the markup created by a long supply chain.

Photo, Benji Sleep

The luxe quality

How do they make sheets that are “so damn soft”? One of the first areas the brothers investigated was the notion that higher thread count equaled better sheets. (Thread count is the number of threads woven together per square inch in a fabric.) It wasn’t long before they figured out this was a myth, and that the real secret to incredibly buttery soft sheets was using the right fabric. Specifically, a high performance, smart microfiber that has the equivalent softness of a 1500 thread count sheet. (Except these ones don’t need ironing!)

This fabric has a lot going for it. If you’re someone who gets hot when you sleep, you’ll appreciate that the microfiber wicks away moisture from the body and allows it to evaporate (unlike cotton, which can get damp and clammy fast). Or, if you’re perpetually cold, you’ll find this double-brushed fabric extra cozy and fantastic at keeping you warm. (That’s where the “smart” part comes in.) Allergy sufferers will also be happy to hear that these sheets are both hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, and to top it all off, they’re environmentally-certified and made in a socially-responsible way.

Photo, Benji Sleep

So yes, these sheets are extremely soft. And if you’re not convinced that they’ll be “the softest damn sheets you’ve ever slept in,” you can test them for yourself with a 100-night guarantee. If you don’t love them, you can send them back, no questions asked. They even pay the return shipping fee. If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to upgrade your sleep, treat yourself to sweet dreams with the Benji Bundle, which saves you $10 for every product you add to the package.

Join the movement of well-rested, happy customers that have made the switch to Benji. Don’t believe us? Check out the thousands of 5-star reviews from fellow Canadians!

Learn more about the softest damn sheets on the internet at Benji Sleep.

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Home Decor

3 Charming Backyard Shed Offices

Three Canadian women take us inside their pint-sized workspaces.

Working from home has its perks, but it’s easy to lose focus when surrounded by distractions. Three Canadian women found a unique solution to increase their productivity—they took their home office outside. Tour the pint-sized structure below.

Purcell’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Writer Michelle Elrick standing in the doorway of her Nova Scotia backyard shed office.

(Photo: Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

Unable to fit a dedicated workspace into her small home, author Michelle Elrick called on friends and family to help build a charming 77-square-foot shed in her Purcell’s Cove, N.S., backyard, which now serves as a studio. “I wanted to have a space that was separate from the house, somewhere that was just for me—a room of my own, as Virginia Woolf would say,” explains Elrick.

Writer Michelle Elrick's desk in her Nova Scotia backyard shed office.

(Photo: Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

With large windows offering views of a terraced garden and local wildlife, author Michelle Elrick’s cozy shed allows her to reconnect with nature, with herself and with her work. “I try to be intentional with how I use the space,” says Elrick. “When I enter, I know I’m here to think, write and create,” she says. Elrick describes her decorating style as modern and eclectic, favouring clean lines, a neutral colour palette and natural materials, as well as vintage finds and unique knick-knacks that remind her of loved ones.

On her desk, Elrick keeps objects that spark inspiration. “I like to surround myself with objects that induce positive feelings and associations,” she says. “When I was writing my novel, I kept photographs of the landscape where the story was set, and I’ve also used mementoes like stones and shells, magazine clippings and scraps of writing to inspire me.”

Writer Michelle Elrick's reading banquette in her Nova Scotia backyard shed office.

The bench and bookshelves were custom-built by Elrick’s husband, Michael, who moonlights as a carpenter. (Photo: Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

Elrick changes up the decor depending on what she wants to feel or remember, but she keeps a few of her favourite pieces close. Of all the treasures in the studio, Elrick’s favourite is a doll that belonged to her grandmother. “It used to sit on her bed,” she remembers. “Now, it lives on a shelf with some of my early notebooks and copies of magazines I’ve been published in.” Another favourite is her typewriter—which now holds a running list of all the books she wants to read—that was once used to share notes and jokes back and forth with a former housemate. “Reading these scraps of text is like looking at a photograph or watching a video,” she explains. “I treasure them.”

Writer Michelle Elrick's favourite things in her Nova Scotia backyard shed office.

(Photo: Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

Some of her favourite objects came into her life by chance, like the beat-up clock radio that was left by the previous homeowners. It provided music and background noise during a months-long renovation of the house. “It was dropped from ladders, and coated in drywall dust and wood shavings, and somehow still works,” notes Elrick. “I believe in reusing and repairing, and many of these objects have been with me for 15 or even 20 years—roughly half my lifetime.”

Toronto, Ontario

Susan Chang outside her Toronto backyard shed office.

(Photo: Chris Greenberg)

As Principal, Regional Leader of Consulting at HOK, a global architecture and interior design firm, Susan Chang was used to working in her company’s Toronto office. When the pandemic hit, she struggled to find space to work without distractions in the bungalow she shares with her husband and youngest son. She tried setting up shop in her eldest son’s bedroom and in the family’s den, but none of these spaces were conducive to productivity.

Chang realized that if she wanted a usable space, she was going to have to create it herself. “I wanted to create a more long-lasting and satisfying work-from-home environment,” she says. “Since our boys are basically grown and no longer holding soccer and hockey matches in the backyard, it became an excellent setting for creating a dedicated studio space for me to work in.” Chang intends to continue using the space with colleagues when lockdown restrictions are lifted. “The studio can accommodate three people for future collaboration.”

Susan Chang's desk in her Toronto backyard shed office.

(Photo: Chris Greenberg)

Chang designed her shed to be comfortable in any weather, with heating, cooling and a wall-mounted heater for extra cold days. Hidden double-screen doors let fresh air in and the space gets plenty of natural sunlight, doubling as a greenhouse of sorts for Chang’s collection of 35 houseplants.

Susan Chang's reading corner in her Toronto backyard shed office.

(Photo: Chris Greenberg)

“I designed the studio to have a very clean, crisp, and contemporary backdrop with cool white painted shiplap walls and ceilings,” says Chang, noting that she included a few pops of colour in the form of vivid coral French doors, artwork and sculptural planters. “I chose white as the perfect background for my hand sketched artwork and to not compete with the verdant colours of my garden outside.” 

Calgary, Alberta

Nicole Bross' Calgary backyard shed office.

Author and editor Nicole Bross was ahead of the game in the shed office department, creating her space several years before the pandemic hit. As a work-from-home parent, her 1,000-square-foot bungalow in Calgary—which she shares with her husband, two kids and three cats—simply wasn’t big enough for her to carve out space to get work done.

Inspired by a book titled My Cool Shed, Bross built an office in her backyard using a prefab garden shed kit. “It took about a week to put together, working in the evening and on the weekend,” she says. “We had to put down a gravel pad and build a platform first.” While the shed is not equipped for winter, Bross plans to add insulation to make it more comfortable in colder weather.

Nicole Bross' Calgary backyard shed office.

The shed is just big enough to hold a small desk, a futon and a couple of chairs. Bross decorated with vintage flair, dotting it with thrift store finds and other knick-knacks Bross has collected in her travels, such as antique bottles, inkwells, books, seashells and beeswax candles. The shed is also home to a few pieces from Bross’ typewriter collection, one of which she is convinced is haunted. One of her favourite piece is a bright orange upholstered chair she rescued from her father-in-law’s basement. “It is gloriously garish and makes me smile every time I see it,” she laughs.

Nicole Bross' Calgary backyard shed office.

For Bross, having this space for herself is vital. “My shed is the only place I’ve ever had that’s just for me. Everything is just the way I want it, and I love the atmosphere I’ve created for myself in there,” she says. “Even if I could have an office inside the house, I’d never give up my shed.”

Home Decor

How To Plant Your Own Cutting Garden

Four tips for growing gorgeous bouquets in your backyard.

(Photo: Robin Stubbert)

A vase full of fresh flowers can instantly brighten up a room, but plucking stems from a perfectly curated garden can leave it looking a little bare. To get lush bouquets whenever you want and keep your flower beds looking their best, consider planting a cutting garden. Designed specifically to grow flowers destined for bouquets, they’re the perfect way to make the most of unused garden space.

“Most people think of gardens in a landscaped way, whereas this is more organic and done with a view to cutting,” says floral designer Cynthia Zamaria’s 2,400-square-foot cutting garden in Port Dover, Ont. A former communications executive turned floral designer and decorator, she was inspired by the slow-flower movement (the practice of growing seasonal blooms locally) and decided to start a floral business that would provide homegrown blooms to private clients and small-scale events. Here, she shares four tips to grow your own cutting garden.

1. Choose conventional blooms in unconventional hues

Look for familiar flowers with a twist, such as buttercream-toned cosmos with a kiss of blush pink, or lime zinnias.

2. Don’t overlook herbs

These kitchen staples are lovely additions to a cutting garden. “Dill, oregano, thyme and sage are all great filler for a bouquet, especially for weddings or special occasions,” she says.

(Photo: Robin Stubbert)

3. Divide and conquer

Keep annuals (which need to be replanted every spring) and perennials (which return year after year) in separate zones of the garden for easier care.

4. Forage (responsibly) for whatever elements you’re missing

Ferns, sumac and even weedy wildflowers like Queen Anne’s lace add texture and lushness to any arrangement.

Home Decor

9 Small Canadian Home Decor Brands We Love

Update your home with a cute accent or two.

A collage of Canadian home decor brands on a peach and turquoise background.

(Art: Aimee Nishitoba)

A funky art print for your home office. A cute hand-painted mug for your morning coffee. A scented candle that brings back memories of sunnier days. Making a house a home is all in the details. From joyful ceramic mugs and affordable prints to ethically-made throw pillows, here are some Canadian home decor brands to have on your radar.

Home Decor

7 Money-Saving Ways To Reuse Single-Use Plastics

Canada’s recycling systems may be broken, but there are still plenty of ways you can reuse single-use plastic

Plastic pollution is a serious problem. And, while many people are investing in reusable products with an eye to becoming zero-waste, cutting back on how much new plastic you buy is a great first step to reducing your plastic dependency. Here are a few thrifty ways to re-use the plastic you already have.

No Name Naturally Imperfect frozen mango to illustrate a piece on how to reuse single-use plastics

As freezer bags

If you already buy frozen fruits and veggies that come in resealable bags, there’s no point to buying new freezer bags. Just wash out the frozen produce bags and re-use them. (Big 2-kg bags like the one above are especially handy, and can fit a whole loaf of bread.) You might not be able to see inside, but with a little bit of labeling, those bags can go a long way.

As garbage bags

It’s pretty common to use larger plastic grocery bags to take out garbage, but there are still so many other unavoidable plastic bags that inevitably pop up. For example, in eastern Canada, the litre-sized bags used for milk aren’t recyclable everywhere, and most of them will inevitably end up in a landfill. Don’t overlook those—use plastic bread bags, milk bags, or those flimsy produce bags (which are also sometimes difficult to recycle) for anything from scooping up dog poo to lining compost bins.

To guard against squirrels

Plastic produce boxes protecting tomatoes growing in a garden

(Photo: Sun Ngo)

You can use plastic produce containers to protect your growing produce from squirrels and other interlopers. Close the containers around tomatoes—you may need to notch it to fit the vine. The holes will allow for drainage and air circulation, and the containers can be easily removed when you want to eat your crop.

reuse single-use plastics: closeup of many strawberries in plastic clamshell boxes on display in wooden crate

Photo, iStock/krblokhin

As colanders and food containers

Unless you have the means to shell out for local berries in paper baskets, you’ll probably wind up with lots of plastic clamshells. Give them a second job by washing your fruit in them or using them to carry easily bruised fruit like peaches for portable snacks or picnics.

reuse single-use plastics: light blue bread tag "best before feb 29" on hot dog buns bag

Photo, Wikimedia Commons/Brandon Dilbeck

As bag clips and twist ties

In Halifax, Calgary, and Toronto’s waste systems, bread tags are supposed to go directly into the garbage. So, if you don’t own bag clips already, it makes more sense to reuse these than go out of your way to buy new ones. Here’s another 15 ways to re-use bread tags, ranging from the clever—using them to mark the end of tape rolls—to the, uh…optimistic (bread-clip guitar picks, anyone?).

reuse single-use plastics: Assortment Of Four Salad Dressing Bottles without labels

Photo, iStock/Saddako

To pack a picnic

Wash out a finished salad dressing bottle, make your own salad dressing, and refill the bottle (most bottles are Pet, or polyethylene terephthalate, which is safer to reuse than some other plastics). This works for glass jars and bottles too—they make ideal, mess-free ways to transport hummus, dressing or other dips.

As food storage

Those yogurt tubs and margarine containers won’t work as a microwaveable lunch container, but you can still use them to keep your kitchen tidy. Pop in various bulk foods to stack on the counter or use them to refrigerate leftovers or to bring them to work for lunch (just pour food into a bowl to microwave). If you’re uncomfortable storing food in plastic, they’re great for keeping loose household items too, like batteries.

Home Decor

We Traded A Cramped Apartment For A Sweet Home In The Country

With fresh eggs, flowers and a three-acre backyard, a family of former Torontonians has found joy in rural life.

How a family of Torontonians moved from the city to the country.

In the living room, a weathered door leads to the porch. Kate built the rattan daybed in the corner and made cushions for it. “It was our first pandemic building project,” she says. “It’s our favourite hangout spot in the house.” (Photo: Carmen Cheung)

When she first saw the listing for her 1805 farmhouse in Bath, Ont., Kate Crothers Little felt like she had stumbled upon a set for Little House on the Prairie. Quaint antique tea things were on a table, a pot dangled from a cast iron arm over an open fireplace and an old-timey rifle was by the door, in case someone needed to chase down dinner. “The previous owner, an antiques dealer, had it staged as a pioneer village house. It looked like a museum,” says Kate, an interior designer who runs the eponymous design firm Kate Crothers Design. “My husband said to me, ‘We can’t raise four kids in an oversized dollhouse.’ ”

How a family of Torontonians moved from the city to the country.

Noel (holding Augie) and Kate with—from left—Maeve, Hazel and Charlie under a vine-tangled arbour Kate fashioned from cedar rails she snagged off Kijiji. (Photo: Carmen Cheung)

At the time, the family—Kate; her husband, Noel; their four children, Maeve, 10, Charlie, 8, Hazel, 6, and Augie, 2; and Rigby, their golden retriever—was living in a small rental apartment in Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighbourhood. Prompted by rising rents and impossible house prices, Kate started to dream about moving back to the country; she and Noel both grew up in Campbellford, about 85 kilometres northwest of Picton, the heart of trendy Prince Edward County, but were up for any rural locale. “My husband and I spent our childhood roaming free,” says Kate. “In the city, kids have limited freedom.”

How a family of Torontonians moved from the city to the country.

The farmhouse exudes welcoming, lived-in comfort, from the cushy chairs to the tulips and branches foraged from right outside the door. The piano isn’t purely decorative—the older kids all play. (Photo: Carmen Cheung)

In 2019, they took possession of the 2,000-square-foot white clapboard house, which happens to be just 40 minutes away from their childhood hometown. “The kids tore through it, and all of the china started to shake,” laughs Kate. “They immediately broke the antique doors that were not meant to be used.”

With five bedrooms, the storey-and-a-half structure set on three acres of land is palatial compared with their city digs. “Our property backs onto 50 acres of hiking trails with a stream,” says Kate, who has since welcomed a fat black cat named Tuck, two ducks and 13 chickens. The family built a coop so they can enjoy farm-fresh eggs every day. The kids have taken to the Silkie chickens, a fluffy, docile breed happy to receive clumsy cuddles. “It has been lovely to see my kids come into their own,” says Kate. “They help feed the chickens, catch them and put them away; they dig up worms for them. They have no fear.”

How a family of Torontonians moved from the city to the country.

Kate built the chicken coop outside—a big lockdown project. (Photo: Carmen Cheung)

Kate has also realized her dream of having a cut-flower garden: The 40-by-60-foot plot bursts with cosmos, snapdragons, sunflowers, delphiniums, peonies, dahlias and zinnias. “The kids arrange and sell bouquets on the roadside in the summer.”

But it isn’t all rosy in the country, admits Kate. “I miss being able to walk to the grocery store. The closest one is 10 kilometres away,” she says. “I even miss public transit.”

How a family of Torontonians moved from the city to the country.

The vintage oil portrait from 1948 that hangs in the dining room is an Etsy find, shipped from the U.K. The family named her “Claudette.” (Photo: Carmen Cheung)

That said, the property is a great escape. Indoors, fresh white paint covers previously dark-blue and mustard shiplap walls. Vintage treasures (largely inherited from Kate’s grandmother Margaret, a major design influence) and clever DIY projects (like the painted diamond-pattern pine floor in the kitchen) make for a character-filled home. “It brings a sense of playfulness, which I think is important in a living space,” says Kate.

How a family of Torontonians moved from the city to the country.

In the kitchen, a thrifted oak cabinet (top right)—a $75 Kijiji score—holds Kate’s colourful assortment of collectible dishware from the ’30s and ’40s. (Photo: Carmen Cheung)

The soulful kitchen was created out of a mix of old and new materials. Kate removed the upper cabinets, painted the lowers in Farrow & Ball’s Studio Green and asked contractor Adam Dalgarno to build an island out of a dead poplar tree found on the property, tucking in Ikea drawers below it. Reusing old things is in Kate’s blood. “My grandmother was a real history buff and antiques collector. She valued well-made, beautiful items,” she says.

How a family of Torontonians moved from the city to the country.

Kate’s grandmother painted the picture of Kate’s mom. “Both have passed, so it’s extra special,” she says. The wooden sign is from Kate’s great-grandfather’s biscuit factory in Kingston, Ont., which has since closed. (Photo: Carmen Cheung)

Slow living is to be cherished: “I didn’t realize how lucky I had it growing up. I wanted my kids to have that experience.” At first, Kate says the children were shell-shocked by the freedom—they used to complain they were bored. “It’s taken them a year to realize that our entire property is their playground.”

Home Decor

10 Cute Picks From Ikea's New Collection

Refresh your home with rustic textiles and earthy hues.

Whether it’s an accessory update or a furniture overhaul, summer is the perfect time to hit refresh on your home decor. Ikea’s latest collection features rustic materials, modern designs and cool, earthy hues that will take your style into fall and beyond. Need some inspiration? Take a look at our favourite picks from the latest collection.

Home Decor

How I Furnished My Entire Apartment For Free

Stooping is a fun and sustainable way to snag one-of-a-kind home items.

A teal couch with a sign marked "free" to illustrate an article on curbing and how to furnish your home for free.

(Photo: iStock)

In the middle of the pandemic, I moved apartments. I had previously been living in shared accommodation, but with dropping rental prices, I managed to snag an amazing apartment all to myself along Toronto’s lakeshore. Moving out on my own meant the cost of furnishing was all on me; a tab that can easily run in the thousands according to Statistics Canada, who found that Canadians spent an average of $1,124 on furniture in 2019. Because of my strict budget (I lost many clients due to the pandemic, slashing my income), I had to get creative. I decided to furnish my new apartment entirely with items I found on the curb, a practice that is sometimes called “stooping” or “curb mining.” You read that right—someone’s trash literally became my treasure. 

I first came across this practice years ago when my neighbours put a box of vinyl records out on the curb with a “free” sign. I initially balked at the idea, but when I saw how quickly the box emptied out and how excited passers-by were, I realized there might be something to it. 

I’ve since embraced the practice. My sofa, vintage armchair, flat-screen TV, antique sewing table, vintage record player stand and countless other home and kitchen accessoriesfrom teapots and coffee grinders to ottomans, curtains and side tableswere all found for free. “She Stoops To Conquer,” indeed!

If you want (or need) to decorate on a budget, read on for everything you need to know about stooping and why you shouldn’t be afraid to try it.

What is stooping?

You’ve probably seen your neighbours put a box of odds and ends on the curb during spring cleaning. That’s stooping: taking someone’s previously loved but unwanted goods right off of their front lawns. (Don’t worry, they want you to take them!) Items on offer will range from small things, like books, hair dryers or votive candles, to major items, like couches, dining room sets, wardrobes and electronics. 

Curb mining offers major benefits, especially if you’re on a budget. Apart from the savings, you can rest easy knowing you’re giving new life to pre-loved items and living more sustainably. In order to reduce waste from our culture of fast-paced consumerism, we’re often told to buy less or swap our unwanted items. When stooping, you can rest easy knowing that you’re taking part in the sharing economy by reducing waste and your carbon footprint. 

Where do I start?

If you want to get serious about stooping, put on your walking shoes and spend time searching beyond your hood. Plan to go for curb mining excursions, walking up and down the streets. Always carry reusable, sturdy shopping bags with you (moving bigger pieces might require access to a car) and keep an eye out for tell-tale cardboard boxes at the end of driveways. If you live in an apartment complex, discarded furniture can often be found next to the recycling dumpsters. Some complexes have a designated area near the laundry room or parking garage where unwanted items are free for the taking. 

Don’t forget to let your friends and family know that you’re looking for furnitureit’s an easy way to snag free stuff!

A vintage credenza in an apartment furnished for free through curbing

A vintage credenza given to the author by a friend. (Photo: Christine Estima)

Are there online resources for stooping and curb mining? 

Absolutely, and joining online forums in your neighbourhood should be your first port of call. There are also forums dedicated solely to stooping and curb mining that include information like pictures, nearest intersection and working condition of the items in each post. There are Canada-wide easy-to-join groups and forums like the Dumpster Diving in Canada group, the Buy Nothing app and the Bunz app, plus an array of localized groups. Toronto has the Stooping Toronto Instagram account and the Palz Trading Zone group. Montreal has the Jeté Trouvé and Bunz Montreal groups. In British Columbia, there are the Vancouver Free Stuff and the Victoria Buy Sell and Trade or Free groups. There are also tons of groups to be found for smaller cities across the country. 

I got my hands on an incredible vintage armchair when a neighbour posted about it in a local group, so I hailed a taxi-van and raced to get it before she put it out on the curb. It now serves as a vibrant statement piece in my living room.

Can I do it no matter where I live?

Absolutely! If you don’t live near a major city, you can use online classified like Kijiji, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Opt to receive notifications for their “free stuff” section, and tailor the  search to maximize results in the radius you’re willing to travel. If all else fails, get outside and wander your neighbourhood.

When stooping via online resources, people will hold the items for you (just like when you buy something on Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji) if they haven’t put the items out to the curb yet. Once it’s put outside, it’s first-come, first-serve.

When is the best time to try stooping?

When looking to salvage items from the curb, timing is everything. The most successful time to look for items you need tends to be at the end of the month, when leases end and people move. That’s when items they can’t take with them are likely to be put curbside. Conversely, when someone is moving into a new place, they might also give away items left behind by a previous occupant. 

A brown couch with pillows in an apartment furnished for free through curbing.

The author’s loveseat. (Photo: Christine Estima)

I managed to snag a loveseat when a new neighbour got rid of the furniture left behind by her home’s previous tenant. She said I could have it for free as long as I moved it myself, so I grabbed a friend who offered their strong arms and their mini-van to collect it, and voilàfree sofa! In another instance, a neighbouring sub-letter in my building left behind a fairly new flat-screen TV in perfect condition when they moved out and the new tenant already had their own, so it was offered to me for free in exchange for letting her use my Wi-Fi until she set up her own. Deal!

Is stooping safe?

Many people believe that if something is dumped on the curb, it must be broken junk and not worth lugging all the way home, or even dirty and infested with bugs.  But common courtesy is a big part of stooping. I’ve found that the community almost never puts something completely damaged to the curb or online. Notes are always placed on items to indicate any quirks, broken segments that need repair or if they come from a pet/smoking home. If there are poor weather conditions, items like mattresses, sofas, and electronics are almost always wrapped in plastic. 

Always give items a thorough inspection and a quick wipe-down before bringing them into your home, including the underside of all furniture for cobwebs or creepy-crawlies. If considering upholstered furniture, be sure to have a lint roller on hand to get rid of pet hair. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many items are left with wet wipes to kill germs. Above all, don’t feel pressured to take anything! 

How do I let people know that I have furniture up for grabs?

If you want to give back to your community by giving away items you no longer want, the online forums are the best way to advertise that. Make sure to include photographs of the items in your post and include as much helpful info as possible (such as location and condition). To be a courteous and thoughtful stooper, always make sure you offer up items in relatively good condition, give them a wipe down and add a note that warns of any flaws.

What kind of items should I look for?

At first, you will find that small common items are in abundance, like kitchenware, side tables, plant pots and framed artwork or prints. But with some diligence and persistence, large, expensive items, and even one-of-a-kind antiques, are absolutely possible to find. 

My favourite and most cherished piece is an antique sewing table dated from 1893 with its original foot pedal and wrought iron wheel. These beauties go for hundreds of dollars on eBay and at auction, so when I saw it discarded on the curb, I didn’t hesitate to wheel the antique back to my place (luckily the wheels were still attached). 

DIY Crafts

How To Build A Backyard Pallet Bar

Two great things about your new local: it’s always open and couldn’t be closer to home.

Paper bar illustration, made of pallets

Photography, Erik Putz. Paper illustrations, Caitlin Doherty. Art direction, Stephanie Han Kim.

DIY design guru Tamara Smith—find her on Instagram @mygrandparentschair—designed and built this backyard bar using a couple of freebie pallets (check your local Kijiji) and a little elbow grease. Here’s how you can make one, too.

Headshot of Tamara Smith, author


Here’s what you’ll need:

Supplies

  • 2 wooden pallets (47 x 38 or 42 x 38)
  • 2-1 x 6 x 6′
  • 1-2 x 4 x 8′ (only if you’re using 42 x 38 pallets)
  • 1-2 x 12 x 8′
  • 2 ½” deck screws
  • 4-4″ shelf brackets
  • 2-4″ stainless steel mending plates
  • Paint, in the colour of your choice
  • Deck stain, in the colour of your choice

Tools

  • Mitersaw (or a miter box and handsaw)
  • Drill
  • Nailgun
  • Orbital Sander
  • Circular Saw

And here’s how to build it:

1. If your skids are 47″ high, cut 5″ from the top of each skid. (If your skids are 42″ high, this is not required.)

Skids, large

 

Sawing excess off skids, per instruction

 

2. Attach the full-size skid and one of the half skids together at a 90-degree angle with screws.(You will not need the other half skid.)

Two skids attached at a 90 degree angle

 

Tamara nails skids together

 

3. Cover the gap between the pallets with a 1 x 6 cut to size.

Attaching cover between skids

 

4. Attach the toe plate with screws. (Make this from the wood cut off the top of the 47″ pallet; if you’re using 42″ pallets, you’ll need to use a 2 x 4 x 8′.)

Adding bar step to the pallets

 

5. Attach “shelves” using remaining 1 x 6 cut to size to the inside of the skid on the cross pieces.

Tamara adds shelving in the middle of skids

 

6. Sand and paint the bar.

Sanding the skids

 

Painting the skids black

 

7. Cut a 2 x 12 to size for your bar top. Stain the two pieces of bar top, then use two stainless steel mending plates to screw the two pieces together. (You can use either a butt joint or a mitered corner to attach them.)

Staining a piece of bar top

 

8. Attach the bar top using the shelf brackets; leave a 7″ overhang.

Adding bar top with shelf brackets

 

9. Enjoy your new bar!

Completed bar, front shot

 

Completed bar, back shot

 

To see more ways to get the most out of your summer, check out our Summer Fun Guide hub.
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Home Decor

How To Create A Stylish And Functional Outdoor Space

A step-by-step guide to turning your backyard, deck or patio into an oasis you’ll want to linger in.

A photo of a picnic table set for dinner in an outdoor space to illustrate an article about how to create outdoor spaces you'll love

(Photo: iStock)

To turn your outdoor space into a spot you’ll want to spend all your time, think about it as though it were a family room. What textures, colours, lighting and layout make you happy and relaxed? When Caitlin Black of the Vancouver-based landscape design company Aloe Designs starts creating a backyard layout, she asks clients: “How do we appeal to your senses so that you’re sitting in a space that feels totally natural and comfortable?”

Start from the ground up

In shoe-optional weather, what’s underfoot is crucial to creating a space that feels right. Grass, pebbles, paving stones, decking—each creates a different experience. Try combining contrasting elements, such as soft moss alongside crunchy gravel or colourful wild grasses next to stone pavers. And consider how that “flooring” will wear over time; for example, cedar decking is better in a sunny spot, instead of in the shade.

Think long-term

Quality furniture is worth the investment. “I like wood because it’s softer and warmer on the body than glass or metal,” says Black. She’s partial to wood, like teak, which can last when cared for properly. “But be practical about how you store your table come winter—invest in a cover,” she says.

Pick a colour scheme


Create a bold effect by planting flowers of similar hues throughout the garden. Keep that look consistent by buying patio furniture that complements the mood of your garden, whether it’s pops of colour or soothing neutrals.

Go with the flow

If you don’t have enough space for a full dining set, create an area where you can both lounge and dine. For small balconies, Martin Wade, a partner at MWLA Landscape Architects in Toronto, recommends pieces that complement your interior furniture so you can bring them inside for larger dinner parties, and vice versa.

Create Outdoor Space You Loe feature image of a backyard with couches and string lights

Photo: Design by MWLA Landscape Architects, photography by Tom Arban.

Extend the night

Uplighting a tree or shrub and adding pathway lights along a walkway are great for added safety and also create fantastic shadows, casting a magical mood worth staying up for. If you don’t have a power source, movable and rechargeable lanterns are a good option. “Think about what you want to highlight,” says Black. Try a lamp by a chair or fairy lights above a lounge, and add layers of lighting.

Control the guest list

Keep mosquitoes and flies at bay by plugging in a fan during mealtimes. In addition to cooling you down, a brisk breeze can deter bugs because they’re simply not strong enough to fly in the wind. And be sure to wipe outdoor tables after eating and mop up spills so the food doesn’t attract ants, flies or wasps.

Sponsored

Everything you need to know about the stylish new Endy Sofa

The Canadian mattress brand is bringing comfort to your living room

Endy has become synonymous with comfy and convenient mattresses: The Toronto-based brand launched in 2015 with a game-changing bed-in-a-box model and a mission of elevating sleep for Canadians. Since then, the direct-to-consumer company has expanded its offerings to include sheets, a pillow, duvet, mattress protector, weighted blanket and a bedframe.

Now, the brand is moving outside the bedroom and into the living room. Launched this June, the new Endy Sofa boasts some of the same great features that made the Canadian company stand out from its competitors, promising comfort and affordability, with hassle-free service, super-fast shipping, and no-cost returns.

Whether you’re moving into your first home and furniture shopping from scratch, or looking to upgrade your living room, here’s everything you need to know about the newest sofa on the block.

Customizable to fit any space

The Endy sofa is all about customization and can be configured to be an armchair, loveseat, 3-seater, and more. The modular design is made to fit any space in your home, whether it’s a small studio apartment or a larger home. Plus, the sofa features reversible cushions so you can choose between the tufted and non-tufted sides. You also have the option of adding an ottoman, another multi-purpose element that can be used as a decorative table or to create an L-shape sectional look. Best of all, if you ever move homes, your sofa can move with you and adjust accordingly.

Quality design without the hefty price tag

The modular sofa is super affordable without skimping on quality. A one-seat Endy sofa starts at $600, while a three-seater is $1200. Available in a modern and versatile grey, the sofa is made using a high-density foam and dressed in a durable, linen-like fabric. Meanwhile, the walnut finish on the solid wood legs give it a contemporary look and feel. It also prioritizes comfort, so you can lounge around, binge-watch your favourite TV show or cozy up with a book.

Speedy service from start to finish

As with all Endy purchases, the process of shopping online is made easy from start to finish. While many sofa deliveries from other retailers may take six to eight weeks to ship, the Endy Sofa is ready to ship across Canada with deliveries arriving in 3.2 days, on average. That means you can save precious time and avoid camping out on your floor while you wait for your new furniture to arrive.

Easy, stress-free unboxing

Bringing furniture into the home and assembling is probably the least fun part of any home decorating experience. To help you avoid Friends-style moments a la Ross Gellar (we promise you won’t be screaming, “Pivot!” in your stairwell), Endy’s sofa is shipped in compact individual pieces so you can bring them into any space with ease. The entire sofa can also be assembled and disassembled quickly and easily, with no tools required.

Test-drive-ready with warranty

The biggest obstacle with any online purchase is not knowing whether or not you’ll like it before trying it out (buyer’s remorse is all too real). Before you stress out about buying a couch off the Internet, the Endy Sofa comes guaranteed with a 30-night trial and five-year limited warranty. In addition to getting a true feel for it, you can see how it actually fits into your space. If you’re unsatisfied, you can return the sofa (via a free return) and receive a full refund. Added bonus: the sofa is as easy to disassemble as it is to put together.

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Home Decor

How To Shop For Second-Hand Furniture Online

An avid furniture flipper shares her best tips for sourcing unique vintage pieces on a budget.

A vintage piece of furniture painted white after a makeover.

(Photo: Lindi Vanderschaaf)

Buying second-hand furniture is an easy way to save money and shop more sustainably. Whether you’re looking to upcycle your vintage finds or let their history shine through, thrifting requires a bit of luck and a lot of patience. An avid furniture flipper, Alberta blogger Lindi Vanderschaaf—who gave the tired vintage cabinet (above) she found online a modern makeover—knows a thing or two about giving old furniture a second life. To make the thrifted cabinet work for her space, she and her husband, Russel, added a sleek custom-made front, painted the piece off-white and replaced the doors’ original glass panels with cane inserts, before finishing off the look with elegant brass pulls. “I love that we were able to completely customize it to our style, all for a fraction of the cost of buying new,” she says.

Wondering where to start your own thrifting journey? We asked Vanderschaaf to share her best tips, from where to source unique finds to how to negotiate with sellers.

1. Know what you’re looking for

With thousands of options available, sourcing pieces, especially online, can be a bit of a rabbit hole. “I save inspiration from both Pinterest and Instagram when I’m looking for project ideas,” says Vanderschaaf, adding that she pays close attention to the styles and trends stocked at her favourite stores.

To get your inspiration board started, search for hashtags used by the thrifting community on social media, like #furnitureflip and #ourthrifteddecor, or ones specific to the style you’re looking for, like #scandinaviandesign.

2. Check buy-and-sell sites frequently

Once you’ve narrowed down your style, it’s time to start your search for the perfect piece. While thrift stores, flea markets and antique malls are great places to browse once they are open again, shopping online is easy and lets you search for exactly what you need. First, search online classifieds like Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or your local community’s Facebook buy-and-sell page. Instagram has also seen a surge in vintage sellers. There’s a lot to comb through, so keywords will come in handy. You can even set alerts for your preferred keywords on some platforms. If you have a hutch on your wish list, you’ll get a notification or email if one is put up for sale. Keep in mind that you’ll be in the ring with antique dealers, so if you see something you love, snap it up right away.

If you can’t find exactly what you want, don’t despair. Sometimes the perfect piece finds you. Vanderschaaf says she keeps an eye out for all vintage furniture but also keeps a list of specific pieces she’d like to get her hands on, like the cabinet (above), which she finally found on Kijiji.

3. Visit auctions and online estate sales

While not technically thrifting, auctions and estate sales are where the pros source some of their best finds. Most now take place virtually and offer online catalogs with easy-to-use search functions and keyword notifications. You can pull up local auctions and sales with a quick Google search. There are deep discounts on quality pieces to be had, but keep in mind most have a buyer’s premium, which is a small commission to the auction house for running the sale. You will also need to pick up your win within a specific time window.

4. Assess the condition of the piece

There are no returns when thrifting, so Vanderschaaf recommends making sure that the furniture you source has good bones and is made from quality materials. Pay attention to the condition of the piece. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller to provide multiple photos of the pieces, including close-ups or even videos, before arranging a viewing in person or a pick-up, and ask about the condition, as well as any broken parts or quirks.

Be honest with yourself: how much work are you willing to put in? Vanderschaaf notes that cosmetic damage might not be a big issue when upcycling furniture, but structural issues tend to be difficult or expensive to fix. If you’re willing to put in some work to restore your piece, chipped paint and stains can easily be sanded down and worn items can generally be found for a steal. One thing to keep in mind: pieces made of cheap veneers are much harder to get a beautiful finish on, says Vanderschaaf.

5. Learn how to negotiate

Found your perfect piece? Before you make an offer, take into account the quality, condition and the cost of upcycling the piece (if that’s something you’re interested in doing). “Think about how much you might spend on wood for doors, shelves, new hardware and paint,” suggests Vanderschaaf. “When I buy these pieces for cheap, I’m generally okay with splurging on nice handles or finishes because I’m still saving a lot of money compared to buying new.”

When thrifting, you have an opportunity to negotiate. Sellers are generally receptive to offers, and even expect them. If you feel uncomfortable making an offer, try asking “What’s the best you can do on this?” or “What’s your best price?” instead.

Home Decor

13 Cute Bath Mats To Brighten Up Your Bathroom

This easy swap will give the room a whole new look.

The best thing about small rooms? A simple swap is all it takes to create a whole new look. If you’re looking to give your bathroom a much-needed refresh, there’s no need to break out the paint rollers or start ripping up tiles (who has time for that?)⁠—just lay down a splashy new bath mat and call it a day. From cheeky slogans to colourful designs, we’ve rounded up a few options that instantly spark joy.