I get a lot of questions from readers about how to make a bed. Not the pulling up of sheets and tucking in of corners. But: What should those sheets look like? Should there be a top sheet? A bottom sheet? A down comforter? A duvet? Two duvets? A Blanket? A comforter and a blanket? Throw pillows? No pillows? Buckwheat pillows? It’s complicated business, sleeping.
I’ve gotten notes about husbands that sleep hot. Some men are radiators, apparently, all hot and bothered and sleeping in their own pools of sweat, heaven help us. Then there are stories of people who can’t get warm enough. They have layer upon layer of mismatched comforters and throw blankets and nary a wink of sleep.
James and I have been sharing a bed now for almost nine years. But this post isn’t about who hogs more of our double bed (James). Or whether it’s appropriate to draw a line of demarcation down the middle of white sheets (tempting!). It’s about what the heck to put on a bed in the first place.
Beds are kind of the ultimate example in matters of personal preference. And I think a lot of that comes down to what you’re used to.
I grew up in a house where we made our beds with hospital corners. During the long New England winters, we layered wool blankets underneath comforters or quilts and over top sheets and tucked them all in neatly, folding crisp triangles of sheets and blankets at the ends of the bed and shoving them under the mattress. We didn’t hop into bed, so much as tuck ourselves in like letters working their way into an envelope. In the summertime, I mostly remember sleeping on top of the quilt—too hot to deal with sliding between the sheets or taking off the quilt and finding a place to stash it.
But on the hottest nights, the sheets were wrested from their tucked-in corners and our parents would come into our rooms and give us wind baths. If you don’t know, a wind bath consists of laying perfectly still in bed, while someone else raises and lowers the top sheet over you, making a glorious breeze. After a few snaps of the sheets, my parents would let go, letting the sheet settle softly over our skinned and mosquito bitten knees. If you ask me, a wind bath is the best arugment for having a top sheet that there is.
Matters of top sheets and hospital corners aside, coming from a woman who just replaced a couch with a cot, it won’t come as any surprise that I like my bedding to be relatively spare. (Though don’t think for a minute that I’d complain about a more comfortable mattress.) In the pursuit of simple bedding, this is what has worked for us:
– Two sets of white sheets. For us, the classic American combination of top and bottom sheet means that we don’t have to launder a duvet cover, or store a large down blanket in the winter months when it’d be too hot in here to use one. In the summertime without A/C, a white top sheet still looks relatively neat, even without a blanket to complete the ensemble. Having two sets of sheets keeps the bed clothed even after we take our weekly haul to the laundromat. And they’re white because I decided that slight yellowing beats fading.
– A thick cotton blanket for 3/4 of the year. In New York City apartments with steam radiators, our cotton blanket has been thick enough to get us through almost the whole winter, with the exception of a night or two when we’ve added on a throw blanket for a little extra warmth. In the summertime without air conditioning, we go blanketless entirely. It’s just us in our white sheets in our white room and if it wasn’t for our blackberry-colored headboard and the crib at the foot of our bed, we might wake up thinking we were in a cloud.
– A few sets of extra pillowcases (one could develop quite a hobby of finding beautiful vintage varieties, I’ll warn you) means that in a week when we forget to change the sheets, we at least have clean pillowcases.
– A white bed skirt hides our boxspring, and the few things we keep underneath it.
– Throw pillows have been relegated to the “couch,” leaving only the pillows we sleep on, plus one, each for bolstering on the bed. (And yes, I have been trying out a buckwheat pillow lately. Though I admit I’m still in the learning curve stage.)
I’m not opposed to a duvet on principle. In fact, I really love the look of a pillowy white duvet cover on a down blanket. And what a thrill to just pull the duvet up and have the bed made in one pass. You might very well see duvet on our bed one day, but for now, we’re all cotton blanket and sheet sets.
What about you guys? Duvet devotees? White sheets? Patterned? Mountain of throw pillows? I’m curious.
In case you’re curious:
These are our favorite sheets.
This is our ticking stripe blanket.
This is the mattress of my dreams (just in case anyone wanted to get me a really nice present).
These are buckwheat pillows.
Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – #120, right here.