If you want your bedroom to act as a refuge from everyday stress, one piece of furniture is more important than any other: the bed.
However, you need to do more than just pick a good mattress and bed frame. How you dress the bed – whether you’re making a pared-back crash pad out of white linen or a mountain of down with a stack of brightly colored pillows – will affect the way a room feels.
It’s similar to fashion, said Deanna Wu, vice president of merchandising at bedding company Brooklinen: The way you dress your bed should convey something about how you want to live.
“Do you want it to have colors, layers of texture, and a moody feel? Or do you want it quiet? “She asked.” You can dress your bed the way you dress. It can be a reflection of your mood and style. “
We asked interior designers and bedding experts for advice on everything from fitted sheets to decorative pillows, as well as tips on how to get a bed that looks nice during the day and snuggly at night.
Start with the leaves
Bedding is the bed’s undergarment: you won’t see much of it when the bed is fully dressed, but it has a noticeable effect on comfort as it is in direct contact with your skin.
Quality sheets are most often offered in a variety of cotton fabrics, usually percale or satin or linen, and no choice is better than the others. It all depends on personal preference.
Cotton percale is a plain weave with a relatively dull look and feel. “It’s a very breathable fabric that feels crisp and cool,” said Anki Spets, founder of the Area bedding company. “You can even put your hand on it in the store and the percale will feel cooler than the satin.” Percale is popular with people who often feel too hot under the covers.
Satin sheets are woven for a silky, luxurious feel. “It has a much smoother top finish,” said Ms. Spets. “It’s so soft that it is irresistible when you touch it. But you can also feel a little warmer sleeping in it. So you have to know what you like. “
Linen sheets are another popular option, but they’re not for everyone. “They have a more organic, earthy look,” said Ms. Spets, with a more noticeable texture. They also tend to show wrinkles, a trait some people find problematic but others a sign of relaxed, informal living. High-quality linen sheets tend to breathe well and absorb moisture, making them feel cool like percale, Ms. Spets said, while low-quality options can be thicker and warmer or even feel rough on the skin.
Choose leaves based on feel and appearance, not thread count. An extremely high thread count, which was once considered a mark of quality, no longer counts for much as the number can be inflated if lower quality fibers are used.
“Thread count is more of a marketing tool launched in the early 2000s,” said Jennifer Foley, the senior stylist at Frette, adding that higher thread counts can sometimes result in thicker, less breathable sheets.
What’s under the fitted sheet is also important. If your mattress isn’t as comfortable as you’d like, consider adding a mattress topper.
“I like to start with a really nice mattress pad that gives you some cushioning under the sheet,” said Chad Dorsey, a Dallas-based interior designer who frequently uses a Macy’s Hotel Collection pillow. “It doesn’t get too hot and has just the right amount of volume.”
Add layers for warmth
There are two basic strategies for adding warmth to a bed: adding a comforter or using a bedspread, sometimes combined with a blanket.
Down comforters wrapped in duvet covers have been a must have for years. They’re so fluffy, soothing, and good at regulating temperature that many people give up their top sheets entirely and take a European approach to making a bed with a fitted sheet and duvet – and nothing else.
If you’re not using a cover sheet, the choice of fabric for your duvet cover is more important, and it should feel similar to your fitted sheet. For this reason, some duvet covers are made from a two-material sandwich. “A lot of our duvet covers have an ornate jacquard on top. The bottom is really just plain satin fabric. So what touches your skin is still soft,” said Ms. Foley.
One benefit of this way of dressing a bed is that it’s easy to make up in the morning – just pull up the covers and you’re done. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to use a cover sheet with a comforter if that is what you prefer. In this case, Ms. Foley recommended folding the top sheet over the top 15 inches of the comforter at the head of the bed for comfort and a decorative touch.
But now bedspreads, duvets and duvets – once bowed by duvets – are making a comeback. Many interior designers are welcoming them, and companies like Coyuchi, Parachute Home, and Hale Mercantile are introducing more options.
“Five years ago it was all about that chunky bedspread to deal with and it was impossible to find a bedspread,” said Jayne Michaels, founder of New York-based interior design firm 2Michaels. “Now it’s changed and you can again find great comforters and bedspreads that we prefer.”
A bedspread allows your bedding to change with the seasons, Ms. Michaels said, by making it easy to put woolen blankets underneath in winter and remove those blankets in summer. The look of the bed is usually more tailored than a bed with a duvet.
If you can’t decide which approach is best, you can do both. Mr Dorsey put a bedspread on some beds before adding a folded duvet to the foot of the bed. Other designers do the opposite and cover the mattress with a duvet. At the end, they put on a thin, folded quilt.
There are two types of pillows: those for sleeping and those for decorative purposes and for sitting in bed.
For a typical queen-size bed, you need at least two sleeping pillows of your preferred firmness (or a single pillow for a single bed). But many designers use more. “Usually four to sleep in,” said Mr Dorsey. “Maybe two medium and then two very soft.”
These pillows should be stuffed into pillowcases that are similar to the feel of your sheets. “You can have two that go with the leaves,” said Mrs. Spets, “and then you can have two that are a different color or something that makes it more interesting.”
Decorative pillows, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, can be added for color, pattern, or texture.
Some designers, like Mr. Dorsey, prefer a minimalist approach. “Maybe just a decorative pillow to finish it off in the middle,” he said. “I think more than one is getting a bit picky.”
Josh Greene, a New York-based interior designer, also likes to use a single decorative pillow of a very specific size. “I usually do a tall lumbar spine and my favorite size is 17 by 36,” he said, which is big enough to show off a patterned fabric. “You don’t want it so tight that it looks like a noodle.”
Other designers prefer to use a lot more, even if it means the bed is more laborious to make. A traditional way to style a bed is to stack two large euro-square pillows, sleeping pillows, and decorative pillows. The euro squares are usually placed against the headboard and behind the sleeping pillows, Ms. Foley said, and then a group of throw pillows is added in front. The euro squares should be in matching pillow cases, but the pillows can be of different colors or patterns.
For decorative pillow inserts, firmer is better, said Mr. Greene. “I always buy extra firm,” he said. “You want the bluffs to always look full and tight because you are only putting them on for decoration.”
Play around with color, pattern, and texture
For the ultimate in simplicity, choose a single color for all of your beds. For example, by making everything white, every time you slip into bed you can get that feeling of hotel-like freshness.
For a more personal statement, try experimenting with color and pattern. Sticking to neutral and pale colors makes it easy to add decoration while creating a bedroom that still looks calming and restful.
“There is definitely room to mix and play,” said Ms. Wu of Brooklinen. “Depending on my mood, I could switch to a more colorful option, like a nice combination of lavender and toasted almonds with some dark pillowcases.” On other days, she dresses her bed in stripes inspired by men’s fashion.
Unlike choosing an upholstery fabric for a sofa, there is little at stake as the colors can be easily changed. “There’s really no way you can go wrong,” said Ms. Wu.
Mr. Greene also likes to break away from simple, all-white beds and instead focus on playing texture. “The bed is a big deal in the room, just to have one color in one texture,” he said. “I think what looks best is having different textures.”
In one bedroom, he layered the bed with fine cotton sheets, a waffle blanket, and a linen and shams duvet cover in various shades of gray, and then added a striped decorative pillow with a sturdy fabric.
As you add decorative accents, keep in mind that you need to fluff, fold, and tuck these things away every morning.
“It should all be simple and easy to put together,” said Mr Dorsey. “I’m a fan of making my bed every day.”
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