How to be good in bed
Here's a gripe. Most designers are really boring in the bed department. Or else they make it worse by trying too hard. YAWN, writes Eleanor Flegg
Think of your duvet cover as a blank canvas. In most cases it's a missed opportunity. Either it's plain white (couldn't we have a bit more fun in here?) or smothered in tastefully textured textiles in taupe. Restful, but dull. Other duvet covers are covered in floral patterns so sweet and bright that they'd set your teeth on edge. Many of these would look better on a cupcake.
So where do you find a bedroom experience that's fun, interesting, and makes you laugh? I'd suggest a trip to Amsterdam . . . There's no one to do it better between the sheets than the Dutch.
The Dutch design company Snurk (it means "to snore" in Dutch) was born when Erik van Loo unexpectedly lost his job. He decided to go into business with his partner Peggy van Neer who had an idea for a duvet design – inspired by the sight of homeless people sleeping on the street wrapped in cardboard boxes.
From this unorthodox starting point, the couple designed Le-Clochard (from €59.95 including pillowcase), a cotton duvet cover printed with a very realistic pattern of discarded packaging.
It can be combined with Le-Trottoir (from €44.95), a fitted sheet that mimics a section of pavement, complete with rusty drain.
It's an amazing look – great for teenagers – but it's more than just a wry comment.
Snurk donates almost 40pc of the proceeds to various European foundations that help the young and homeless: SZN in the Netherlands (www.zwerfjongeren.nl); Off Road Kids in Germany (www.offroadkids. de); and Emmaus in the UK (www.emmaus.org.uk). Witty and worthy – hooray for Holland!
Other Snurk designs followed, most of them with a trompe l'oeil effect. Bob is a plain duvet cover with a photo-realistic dog curled up on the end of the bed. Ollie is based on a similar idea, but with a graphic of a sleeping cat. Perfect for allergy sufferers.
Then there's Geogami, a photo print of 3-dimensional folded paper referencing the trend for the Japanese art of paper-folding.
New School mimics an old-school crocheted bedspread (possibly this is more of a Dutch thing), and a design called Granny White imitates crocheted squares (I do remember those).
Not all of Snurk's designs have worked. Yawn, a grid of photos of yawning faces, is no longer in production. "Even though many people loved the idea, it didn't sell very well. I guess people don't like staring into open mouths when they wake up in the morning," van Neer explains.
Recently, they've launched a series of children's bed sets (€59.95) based on the idea of the dressing-up box. There's a figure printed on the duvet so when you are under it with your head on the pillow it looks just like you're dressed up as an Astronaut or a Flamenco dancer. There's also a duvet cover that makes the bed look like a trampoline, simply because kids always bounce on the bed even when they're not allowed. Down with that sort of thing!
A duvet cover with pillowcase from Ikea can range from €10 to €40; you pay less for a cotton/polyester mix and more for 250-thread-count cotton percale.
In general, the higher the thread-count the more expensive the bed linen but, if the way that your sheets feel against your skin is important too you, it's probably worth it.
One of the strongest performers in the thread-count stakes is the Paul Costelloe Living range from Dunnes, which has 500 thread count sheets (€35 to €50).
Actually Ikea's more expensive bed linen, like the Ängisspira (it's an abstract pattern based on elk antlers) has a higher thread count than the Pink Frieda bed set (€60 – €109) designed by Matthew Williamson for Debenhams.
You're probably paying a bit more for the high-camp (I didn't say lurid) designer brand.
Arnotts has more flamboyant florals, including the Harlequin Orsina range (€80 for a double duvet cover). Look out for reversible duvet covers, with different patterns on each side, and patterned sheets that you can use under the duvet, turning over the top to create an exciting ensemble.
The trouble is that not all men sleep peacefully under a pink girly duvet. This is where neutrals come in. "I'm a plain bed linen person myself", says Yvonne Cleary, interior design consultant with Arnotts. "I like that clean hotel bedroom look - nude and neutral." A plain bed can be dressed up, hotel style, with a neat throw and carefully arranged cushions. This takes a bit of time, but Cleary feels that it's worth doing properly.
"I couldn't leave the house without the bed being made. It's a personal thing, but I'm really fussy about having the bedroom look a certain way when I come home to it."
What happens next is that the man of the house comes home, dumps the cushions and throws on the floor, climbs into the bed, and goes to sleep.
Or maybe that's a stereotype.