First the components of a bed:
The frame: all beds should have some kind of a frame. Mattresses on the floor are for frat boys. This frame might simply hold the mattress and box spring or it might be connected to a headboard and foot board.
The box spring: this is sort of optional these days as there are many kinds of beds that don’t need them. But if your bed has a basic metal frame at the bottom, the box spring raises the height of the bed, provides a solid platform for the mattress to rest on (hence why a platform bed might not need one), and by preventing contact with the frame, also prevents wear and tear on the mattress.
The bedskirt: Goes between the box spring and the mattress and hangs down to cover the boxspring and frame. It’s entirely decorative but can really help pull the bed together.
The mattress: is pretty self explanatory- its the soft thing you sleep on. It can be made out of springs, memory foam, water, and other things.
Topper: this is an optional addition to make your mattress EXTRA comfy. It can be memory foam, egg-carton foam, or feathers. Basically, its a thin, extra mattress made out of a luxurious material.
Mattress pad: This is something that you put on top of your mattress to protect it from stains. Some will have a topper built into them, like an extra thick pad. Some are just some batting in cheap fabric.
Sheets: Traditionally, a sheet set includes a fitted sheet (with elasticized corners that no one can fold- it took me a year and many youtube videos to figure it out!), a flat sheet, and pillow cases. You can also use an additional flat sheet in place of the fitted sheet, you just have to make hospital corners on each corner to keep it in place.
Sheets can come in a number of different fabrics: cotton, flannel, polyblends, linen, satin, and silk. Generally, you will want to choose natural fibers- 100% cotton, linen, or silk. For cotton, Egyptian cotton makes the softest sheets because it has longer fibers than other cottons. Linen (which is made from the flax plant) is great for warm climates and flannel is great for when it’s cold. If you can’t afford silk sheets (so, um, everyone?), you might be able to spring for just the pillow cases- they are great for your hair and skin (full disclosure, I have a set). Thread count is important, but anything above 300-400 doesn’t matter much because they are just using thinner thread.
Blankets: Blankets are often pretty scratchy, so they are generally used over a flat sheet, for extra warmth in the winter. It does seem like blankets are falling out of favor these days, with a preference for heavier comforters and duvets. In very cold climates, you can use an electric blanket which have heating coils to keep you nice and toasty.
Duvets: A duvet is a down (feathers) or fiber filled blanket. It is plain white and made out of a cheaper material because it is meant to go inside a duvet cover. They are sometimes also called comforters.
Duvet cover: A duvet cover is two sheet-like materials sewn together on three sides and left open on the bottom. You shove your duvet up inside it and use it to cover your bed for both warmth and decoration. The duvet cover is often a pretty pattern that you can use to match to the rest of your bedroom. The advantage of using a duvet cover is that it can be washed easily without harming the expensive duvet inside. It is so easily done, that many people (especially in Europe) forgo a top sheet on their beds all together and use just a duvet to cover themselves (*shudder*).
Comforter: A comforter is very similar to a duvet+cover except that the warm part is directly sewn into the decorative part. Comforters can be very elaborate and are not easily washed, so you will always want to use a sheet with them.
Bedspread/Quilt/Coverlet: This is a heavy fabric that you put over your sheets and blankets to be mostly decorative (though its great in the summer if you find a comforter or blankets to be too hot). It’s a little old fashioned and you don’t see them much.
Pillows: You rest your head on them to sleep. They come in many types: memory foam, fiberfill, down, bran (idk, its a thing), and many others. They generally have utilitarian covers, so you want to put them inside a pillowcase both for comfort and to protect the pillow from your hair and face grease, sweat, and drool. When putting the pillows on the bed, the open side of the pillowcases should be on the outside edge of the bed.
Shams: Shams are very fancy, decorated pillow cases (usually matching or complimenting your duvet cover, comforter, or bedspread). There are two ways to use shams. Either the shams have their own pillows inside them (I use cheap or old gross pillows) and go on top of your sleeping pillows. The other method is to stuff your sleeping pillows inside the shams every morning and put them on the bed like that. You do not sleep on shams! When going to bed at night, either put the shams-with-pillows behind your sleeping pillows up against the wall or headboard, on the floor, or if the sleeping pillows were inside the shams, take the shams off and fold them up and put them on the floor or a chair or something.
Throw pillows: These are decorative pillows and should also not be slept on. They can be piled up in a handy chair or tossed on the floor.
On Friday, I will continue with part two: how to make a bed.