The Ultimate Guide to Bedding Part 2

Part 1 is here.

So now that everyone knows the components of a bed, we can talk about putting it all together into a scrumptious mass of comfort and relaxation.

The first thing you want to remember is that if you always want your bed to be nice and clean and inviting, you have to make it everyday. Nothing makes your bedroom more untidy and stressful than an unmade bed. The inimitable Jolie Kerr runs a bed making challenge every year and every year more people are converted to the joy that is a nicely made bed. This is also great advice for a guest- make the bed everyday and make a marvelous impression on your host.

To make a nice bed, you take your mattress and cover it with either a topper or a mattress pad, or both! Then put your fitted sheet (that’s the one with the elastic in the corners) on top of that. The lay your flat sheet over that (if it’s printed, put the printed side down as that is the “nice” side of the fabric and then you are enveloped in the nice parts of your sheets!) and tuck in the bottom corners (hospital style or whatever is easiest for you). Then put blankets, if you are using them, over that. The next step is to put your pretty comforter/duvet/bedspread/quilt/coverlet on top. There are two main methods of doing this.

  1. Just lay it flat- this is typical for fluffy spreads like comforters and duvets
  2. Lay it flat and then fold the top third backwards, place your sleeping pillows on the fold, and then fold the spread back over the pillows. This is what you frequently see in older motels since it was pretty popular in the 50s/60s/70s. It obviously works better with a flatter spread like a quilt or coverlet. This is a good option if you don’t want to bother with shams or decorative pillows but you still want to disguise your drool-covered and sweat stained sleeping pillows.

This is what this style of covering looks like. [Via]

This is what this style of covering looks like. [Via]

Once your have your covering on, you need to put your pillows on. There are also two methods for this. You can lay your sleeping pillows flat, like you sleep, and put sham pillows (or not) on top of them, like pancakes. Or, you can do what pretty much all bedding stores do and put the sleeping pillows vertical, leaning against the headboard or wall and put the sham pillows in front of them. Then you can put your throw pillows in front of all that.

So, ultimately, it’s not THAT hard to have your bed look like this:



Wash your sheets once a week or at max once every two weeks, as a rule of thumb. Always wash guest sheets between guests.

When you are a guest, ask your host what they want you to do with your sheets at the end of the visit. Don’t assume they want the bed made up with dirty sheets OR that they want you to strip it.

Of course, if you wish to sleep in a rats nest of unwashed, unmade sheets, that’s pretty much your business.

The Ultimate Guide to Bedding Part 1

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

This isn’t technically etiquette but it is etiquette adjacent, because hosting is a big thing in etiquette, and a gracious thing to do as a host is provide a nice bed. And if you are a guest, you are going to want to know what all the parts of a bed are so that you don’t accidentally mess it up.

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┬áthat 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.