Friday, June 18, 2010


I was miserable at math in school. My Grade 10 teacher agreed to pass me if I promised never to take math again. (True story). I use a lot of math in my business now, fractions, decimals, converting meters to yards, inches to centimeters. I’m pretty good at it and do most of it in my head. Who would have thought. I also flunked potholder in Home Ec. Here are a few things you may not know but might be a good idea to tuck away for future reference. Because so much of what we use in the decorating world is from the U.S. a working knowledge of both inches and meters is essential.

A meter is a little more than a yard. ( A meter is actually 39.5” but we’ll use 40” for ease of calculation, a yard 36”) Every 4 inches is .1 of a meter or 10 centimeters. So, if the pattern says 1 yard is required, this is 36” divided by 4 equals 9; you would need .9 of a meter. If you need 7 yards, this is 7 times .9 = 6.3 meters. 2.5 centimeters is one inch.

How much paint is needed? The wall is 10 feet wide and 8 feet high. 10 times 8 = 80 square feet on the wall. If there is a huge window, 8’ x 6’, for example you can subtract 48 ( 8 x 6 ) from the 80 and the actual square footage you need to paint is 32. This is also the basic formula used to calculate wallpaper requirements and flooring. There are 144 square inches in a square foot.

The width of a window is the measurement from side to side. The length is the measure from top to bottom. Measurements are always written as width first, then length.

How do I know how much that foam cushion will cost? If you are buying foam from most retailers the price will be listed per foot of ‘thickness’ but is actually calculated in board feet. If you can do this yourself you will get a much better idea of exactly what you are paying. A board foot is a piece of something 12 inches wide, 12 inches long and 1 inch thick. A piece of foam 12 x 12 x 2 is 2 board feet. You want a cushion 24 x 36 by 5 inches thick. 24 x 36 = 864. This is the square inches on the ‘surface’. Divide this by 144 ( the number of square inches in a square foot ) and we get 6. This is the square feet on the surface. You want the cushion to be 5 inches thick. So.. multiply 6 by 5 and you get 30 board feet in your cushion. Don’t fall over when you see how much foam costs per board foot.

Fun stuff; nothing to do with home decor: To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit , add 15 and double it. 20 degrees Celsius plus 15 is 35, times 2 is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Just reverse to take Fahrenheit to Celsius. To convert kilometers per hour to miles per hour, multiply the first digit by 6. 60 kph is 36 mph. 65 kph is the 36 plus 6 times 5 = 3 for a total of 39 mph.

And lastly, one of my favorite nonsense bits for all of you who travel to Vancouver. To find out what the avenue is crossing a main street at a specific address, subtract 15 from the first 2 digits of the address. 4500 Granville is at Granville and 30th.

Down in Duvets

I remember my Dad telling me that 2 inches of newspaper is as warm as 2 inches of feathers. I’m not sure if that is actually true or not, my Dad had a lot of this kind of knowledge stored in his brain, but I’ve learned some things about down ( as in duvets) that follow along with this theory.

The warmth of a duvet is dependent on the amount of warm air trapped in the fibers of filling. The quality of down is measured by fill power and good down duvets will have this figure listed on the label or packaging. Fill power refers to the number of cubic inches that one ounce of compressed down will ‘fill’ when uncompressed. If the number is 500-550, it is considered good with higher numbers 550-700 being the best. So, a high fill power rated down will give a higher loft and trap more air, thus being warmer than a lower fill power down. This is also the fluffiness factor. The same thickness can be achieved by adding more down of lesser fill factor, but this increases the weight of the duvet. Duvets are also rated by weight, a king size bed duvet would be 50 ounces for the warmest, 35-40 ounces for the medium and 30 for the light.

Down is not feathers. Down is what grows on the bird at the base of the feathers. Feathers are not interchangeable with down and a feather pillow, or comforter is decidedly different than a down one. Most down found in ready made duvets is harvested from young birds that have been raised for consumption. Eiderdown is considered the ‘gold standard’ and is harvested by hand from the abandoned nests of the Eider duck, in Europe, and the cost of an Eider down duvet can approach $12,000.00.

Down is warmer than synthetic insulation ounce for ounce, it retains its shape and loft and will wick body moisture away but down looses it’s warmth when wet and is difficult to dry. It is highly compressible and lightweight but requires special cleaning and may contain allergens. It certainly wins in the fluffiness category but needs to be shaken and fluffed daily to keep this look.

I understand that in some European countries employees are allowed a certain number of days off work per year (just ‘cause) and they are often referred to as ‘Duvet Days’; days to just stay home and snuggle under the down duvet. What a good idea.