Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Art of Good Bed-Making

The bedroom is the site of what mental health professionals call “regression,” a normal falling away of the more rational and controlled parts of our personalities – which is necessary to falling asleep. It’s where we unwind, release the day’s tension and share the most intimate part of our lives. For such reasons, it is recommended that one make the bedroom their first priority when tackling home decorating projects.

Obviously, the most important aspect of the bedroom is the bed. However, so little instruction has been given as to what goes into making the perfect bed, one that’s conducive to good health and a good night’s sleep. For centuries great thought and care went into dressing the bed. I remember once being told by an elderly Italian grandmother that even if I found myself in poverty or sickness I should always make a good bed for myself. That tidbit of advice stuck with me. To make the recipe for a perfect bed you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Undercovers: A mattress pad and pillow covers to provide an added barrier of protection against soiling. Waterproof or allergen-impermeable ones are available if needed and are good bets for children.

  • Additional padding: Some prefer extra softness from the use of a feather bed, lambs wool pad or a man-made alternative. I’ve had a lambs wool pad for years and swear by their insulating properties. To clean it I run a vacuum attachment over it weekly when I change the sheets and launder every other month. If you are using a feather bed you’ll want to encase it in a cover to help keep in the feathers and prevent any poking.

  • Skin contact linens – the bottom sheet (may be fitted), top sheet and pillowcases.

  • Insulators – blankets, quilts, comforter or duvet

  • Day cover to protect against dust – These are often your decorative bedspreads, coverlets or blanket cover.


Sheets: Once you’ve placed the fitted bottom sheet on the bed place the top sheet wrong side up so that when the top hem is folded down over the blanket the detailed edging shows its right side. Fold under and miter the two corners at the foot of the bed. Mitered – or hospital corners – look neater and stay securely in place while you sleep. (If you’re not familiar with how to make hospital corners email me at or Google them).

Blankets, quilts, or duvets: Put on the blanket, right side up, over the top sheet so that the top of the blanket comes to a point about six to ten inches from the head of the bed. Tuck the blanket in at the foot and make corners at the bottom, same as the sheets. Then fold down the top sheet over the blanket. There should be a generous portion of the sheet turned down to protect the blanket from body oils. If you wish, add a second top sheet or some other thin, light spread over the blanket. You see that a lot these days in fine hotels. This adds a modest degree of weight and warmth and helps keep the blanket clean. Or in summer you can use a second sheet in place of a blanket.

Comforters/Duvets: Usually left untucked because of their thickness. These can add the decorative element to your bed. If you are not using the duvet for warmth it should be folded down at night before you sleep. Same for the comforter as these are items that typically require dry cleaning and are often expensive to replace.

Day Cover: The outermost layer of the bed can be a coverlet or tailored bedspread and is used to protect the bedclothes from soil and can provide another decorative element. Thanks again to fine hotels, day covers are finding their way back into many households. If you have a dust ruffle, the bedspread should not reach the floor.

Pillows: Once your day cover is spread you can place the pillows in any style you like. A contemporary style is to fold the top sheet over the comforter of blanket cover, leaving two, four or more pillows showing at the top of the bed. Pillows that are covered in decorative cases – or shams – are not for sleeping and should be removed from the bed each night.

Dust Ruffles/ Bed skirts: Ruffled or pleated decorative fabric placed between the mattress and box springs hang to the floor. They are totally optional and their only purpose is to make the bed look attractive – though they do come in handy for hiding things stored underneath. Simply vacuum dust ruffles regularly with an attachment.

Yes, making a proper bed may take more time than simply throwing over a sheet – but there are concrete and luxurious reasons to do the extra effort. So, take a cue from those high end hotel chains and turn your bed into a sleeping sanctuary – you’ll thank yourself in the morning, I promise.

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