What with putting the indulgence of Christmas behind us and bidding adieu to another year, January is the month of new beginnings. And what could be a better way to start the year (not to mention, endure the first few weeks back to work) than climbing into a freshly decked out bed at night? Not much we’d say.
The condition of our bedrooms and, most importantly our beds, is a major contributor to the quality of sleep we get each night. Studies show that bedmakers are happier, more productive, stick to budgets and have a more restful sleep than non-bedmakers (you know who you are). There are even sleep doctors whose sole purpose it is to teach us this basic principle. Talk to any interior designer and they’ll tell you the same thing – no expense should be spared when it comes to your bed’s wardrobe. It’s the equivalent of dressing yourself in ill-fitting, scratchy or worn-out clothing for around 8 hours a day and expecting to be on top form. An unlikely scenario.
That being said, the world of bedding is pretty vast and replete with so much terminology and jargon that it can be slightly confusing to the untrained among us. If you’ve ever found yourself perplexed by thread counts, percales and baffle walls, read on – our resident expert Sue Smart is on hand to banish the question marks.
Lay The Foundations
Before you start with the most luxurious linens and accessories, think about your foundations. A bed is not a bed without a cloud-like duvet or some perfectly suited pillows – and by cloud-like we mean those fluffy cotton wool types. “After about 10 years use, your duvet may need replacing,” advises Sue, “Select a duvet suitable for your room – think about if it is heated, etc. – and how warm or cold you and your partner feel in bed.”
For duvets, the most important thing is its tog rating. To spare you the details, in short, this is a measure of warmth and will ensure that you enjoy sleep at the optimum temperature for the season. For summer, a 2.5 to 4.5; spring, autumn and general use, use a 9 to 10 tog; and for winter, a 12 to 13.5. All season duvets are the ideal scenario, Sue tells us, with “two duvets (of light and medium weights) which can used separately during spring, summer and autumn and then buttoned together to make a very warm one for winter.”
Duvet construction and casing are two other factors which are important to consider. Quilting and baffle walls (walls of fabric which create deep chambers in the duvet) are the best way to retain shape and heat whilst “a high-quality, down-proof casings will improve the weight and handle (feel) of the duvet.”
Pillows should be soft enough to be comfortable but firm enough to give the appropriate support to your head, neck and shoulders. A test to know if it’s time to replace your pillow is to place it over your arm – if it droops, it’s time for a new one.
Your choice of filling will be determined by personal preferences, of course, but we know expert advice when we hear it. Sue claims that “down fillings are the lightest and most comfortable to sleep under” but if you’re in the market for something a little more sensitive, Gingerlily’s silk duvets are hypoallergenic. For the finest down turn your thoughts to our cooler cousins like Poland and Hungary or (for the very best) Iceland for its Eider down – “a rare raw material, difficult to collect and that needs lots of TLC to process it.”
Count On It
Second on the list but thread count is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about bedding. Truth be told though, most of us probably don’t know why we should be so preoccupied with it in the first place or why higher is apparently better. “Thread count measures the fineness of the fabric by counting the number of threads per square inch,” Sue explains, “It’s often used as a measure of quality but it can be misleading as high thread counts can include twisted threads of double yarn.” Got it. And what’s percale then? “Percale’s simply a fabric with a thread count generally over 180 threads per square inch.” Ok, this is getting easier.
Sue reveals that “the quality of the bed linen will depend on the fineness of the yarn as well as the quality of the weaving and finishing processes.” As always – it’s more about quality than quantity.
Most bed linens usually fall within the categories of cotton, silk or linen and, luckily, Sue tells us that “all are natural fibres which are breathable, thus helping to regulate body temperature.” But they do have specific functions which can be decided by your personal preference.
The classic, freshly-made bed is undoubtedly one dressed in a cloud of pure cotton sheets. And not just any cotton, of course – “Egyptian cotton is one of the finest,” Sue – a one-time Harrods buyer for over 30 years – reveals, “Being made from a long staple fibre, it gives a smooth, crisp finish.”
If you want super glossy hair and hydrated skin – meaning less wrinkles – (and, honestly, who doesn’t?) then opt for silk bedding. The protein-infused structure of the silk strands is naturally equipped to tame locks and keep moisture close to the skin resulting in an improved morning face and less sightly bed head. And don’t worry if you’re not a fan of the glossy finish – as with most bedding, silk-filled pillows and duvets also come with cotton covers.
For fans of the relaxed, lived-in look most commonly see in breezy beach-side villas, pure linen bedding is the best bet. Don’t be nervous – it’s less upkeep than you’d think. As with wearing linen, you just need to accept a less ironed look, but after several washings it will get softer and softer and feel wonderful.”
As for satin and sateen – “two fabrics characterised by a glossy, smooth surface” – they are not one and the same. “Generally a fabric is called satin if it’s made of silk, or sateen if it’s made of cotton,” Sue informs.
It might seem like a lot of work but – trust us – it’s worth it. They say you’ve got to make your bed and lie in it so now that we’ve sorted our downs from our togs, we don’t mind if we do!