Tuesday 21 February 2017

Interiors: We've got it covered - with quality bed linen

Top tips for choosing quality bed linen that reflects your personality

Published 28/10/2016 | 02:30

If you're going to splash out on a dream bed, there's no point scrimping on the bed linen
If you're going to splash out on a dream bed, there's no point scrimping on the bed linen
Fable range from Bedeck offers an alternative take on neutrals, with colours like amethyst
Citrine bird print double duvet set from House of Fraser
King-size sheets from John Lewis
Sheets from Urbanara

My mother tried - and failed - to teach me how to make a bed. "It's meant to look like you'd want to climb in to it," she said in exasperation. "Not like someone just crawled out of it." It didn't work. The daily ritual of tucking, folding and smoothing just wasn't for me. A good shake is the best that my bedding can hope for.

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The trick is to choose a type of bed linen that suits your personality. The current trend is for high thread-count sheets in Egyptian cotton. These feel amazing to sleep in, but even more amazing when they're ironed. For people who like ironing or can afford someone to do it for them, they're the perfect choice.

Egyptian is the nicest, rather than the cheapest, type of cotton and prices tend to rise with the thread-count. A John Lewis king size 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheet costs €42 from Arnotts. A 200 thread-count sheet in the same range costs €32. Both require "minimal ironing". That means you do have to iron them, folks. Synthetic or cotton-mix sheets are cheaper and don't require ironing, but everyone seems to agree that they're not so nice against the skin.

Martin O'Keefe, bedding buyer for Arnotts, finds most of his customers are happy to fork out for high quality sheets. "There's fantastic business in sheets. People are forever upgrading and replacing them," he says.

Fable range from Bedeck offers an alternative take on neutrals, with colours like amethyst
Fable range from Bedeck offers an alternative take on neutrals, with colours like amethyst

In terms of colour, the overwhelming Irish preference is for white, with a recent trend for both dark and light greys. The new Fable range from Bedeck offers an alternative take on neutrals, with colours like amethyst, silver and pearl. The cotton has a silky finish and this, O'Keefe explains, reflects a national preference. The Irish prefer cotton sheets to feel satiny, rather than crisp.

Washed linen is slightly dry to the touch, so it's probably not the right choice for those that prefer a satin finish. For people like me, who can't (or won't iron), it's perfect. Washed linen has a naturally rumpled look. I love it, but there's an ongoing argument as to whether the softly creased fabric makes a bed look sexy or simply sloppy. "You either like it or you don't," says O'Keefe. "It can look well in a trendy loft-style apartment." If you like a bed to look neat and formal, washed linen is not for you. It's also a bit of a luxury. A king-size washed linen duvet cover from the Irish brand Foxford costs €215 (a cotton one costs €120).

O'Keefe also reports a rise in the popularity of brushed cotton, which is as soft as old-fashioned pyjamas and doesn't need to be ironed. "Ten years ago, it was called flannelette and we sold it to the older customer. Now, young people use it for duvet days."

John Lewis's Croft Collection Appin Check in brushed cotton costs €84 for a king-size duvet set.

It's an understated contemporary tartan and a far cry from my granny's candy-striped flannelette sheets, although those were cosy too.

In the old days, bedrooms were unheated. "When I grew up, there was frost on the windows and my father's old railway coat kept us warm in the winter," recalls O'Keefe. "In the past, you never brought someone in to show them the bedroom." If there was an eiderdown at the foot of the bed, it was a much-needed extra layer.

Citrine bird print double duvet set from House of Fraser
Citrine bird print double duvet set from House of Fraser

Now people favour hotel-style throws that tuck around the bottom of the bed. They're no good for keeping you warm. Likewise, multiple cushions. Interiors stylists adore them, but their main function seems to be getting in the way.

"The biggest mistake people make when dressing a bed is trying to do everything all at once," says the interior architect Gina Faustino. "People will have an eiderdown, a blanket and some cushions, as well as the pillows and the duvet." There's a fine art to making a bed look fabulous, but it's easily overdone.

It takes time to arrange the bed in the morning and the display has to be dismantled before you get into bed in the evening.

"Sometimes the other half doesn't appreciate having to take 11 cushions off the bed - it's just too troublesome - and where are you going to store them?" she says.

Faustino's advice is to spend as much as you can on the sheets - her favourite is Bottom Drawer at Brown Thomas - and to accessorise much less expensively. "I'd go to Dunnes Stores or Meadows & Byrne for a bounce of colour and a bit of fun." Or, if you're enjoy online shopping, the British company Urbanara has a nice range of textured accessories in robust colours.

Her other trick is to create a careful balance between patterned surfaces and plain ones. "Weigh up your patterns with your plains! The bedroom is meant to be a restful place. There's a lot of pattern out there. If you overdo it, it's just too much and the eye can't rest."

In a recent project for Minima, Faustino was one of three designers to dress a bed in fabrics from Creation Baumann, a company known for curtain and upholstery textiles. The bed cover was in a double weave twill called Diora (€72 per metre) which is normally used for upholstery; the throw was Dorma (€103 per metre); the pillows were made from a sheer curtain fabric, Scalino (€256 per metre); and the roll cushion in another semi-transparent called Corso Un (€90 per metre).

Although Faustino followed the conventional pattern of using luxurious fabrics on the top half of the bed with something warm at the foot, none of the fabrics - apart from the throw - were used in the way for which they were intended. "Sometimes you look at things differently when they're put in a different place," she says.

See arnotts.ie, bedeckhome.com, minima.ie, ginafaustino.com,

urbanara.co.uk.

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