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Home - Posted March 27, 2015 10:44 a.m.
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Photos by Shannon Richardson

How to Make the Perfect Bed

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While bed-making may have grown more complicated over the years, it is still an important small step to start the day. A well-made bed results in a neater home and a more peaceful bedroom. In fact, best-selling author Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” has written that making your bed each morning is one of the simplest steps toward personal happiness.

We’re fans of personal happiness, so we turned to Kem Lester, of Kem’s Bed & Bath, who has become one of Amarillo’s foremost experts on linens and bed-making since opening her business 36 years ago. Step by step, she guided us through the process of making the perfect bed.

Sheets

Start with the best and softest bed sheet you can afford (see sidebar on thread count). Lay down your fitted sheet first at the head of the bed. As you pull down from the middle – not from the corners (you risk ripping the sheet) – make sure the sides reach beneath the mattress rather than just the corners. “Fitted sheets can be hard,” Lester says. “You have to know the size of your mattress and find a sheet that’s big enough.” The measured depth of your sheets will typically fit 1 or 2 inches longer than a mattress of that depth. “Sheets have gotten bigger over the last 10 years because mattresses have gotten thicker.”

With the flat sheet, Lester suggests turning it finished side down. Fitted and flat sheets are made to face each other so that when the flat sheet is folded down, the finished or printed side remains visible. “Spread it out on the top of the bed and make sure you get an equal drop on each side,” she says. “You don’t need a huge drop to keep it secure, so if you have extra length, put it at the top of the bed.”
To achieve a true fitted or “hospital” corner, tuck the sheet in at the foot of the bed (1), keeping it taut.

Let the sheet hang on the sides and pull the excess up into a 45-degree angle (2) on top of the bed.

Tuck in what remains at the bottom, (3) then cuff the corner and fold it under the mattress.

While this results in the nicest look, Lester says it may not always be the best choice for guest beds. “If you have somebody who’s tall or a guy whose feet come to the end of the bed, he may not feel like having this corner tucked in so tight.” In this case, leave the corner untucked. There will still be plenty of fabric at the foot of the bed for it to stay secure.

Watch video about putting on sheets.

Blankets

If using a blanket or lightweight coverlet to stay warm, this item comes next. According to Lester, it should stretch to around 6 or 8 inches from the head of the bed. “You want to be sure you bring your sheet over the top of the blanket,” she explains. “Your sheet should always cover what other bedding you have as you sleep. It protects your blanket and your duvet cover and keeps everything from becoming soiled.” More than anything else on the bed, sheets are easiest to launder. And, “it’s a trick for keeping your bed together,” she says. “You don’t have to start all over every morning when you make it.”

Next, secure the blanket at the foot of the bed as you did the flat sheet. “Pick it up and tuck the hem all the way and make your good corner,” Lester says. She suggests using a blanket larger than the mattress. “A wide blanket gives enough width to really cover and snuggle and you don’t have to be fighting over the blanket,” she says. If it hangs down too far, simply tuck it under the mattress – though it’s acceptable to leave blanket corners untucked, too, to provide extra foot room.

Coverlets or Quilts

Because coverlets are lightweight and most are machine-washable, Lester recommends these as a popular covering for the top layer of the bed. Whether quilted or woven, coverlets are usually made with a thin layer of warm batting. “A coverlet will hang and there’s no specific length,” she says. “You can have a fresh bed whenever you want one.” Though there’s no written rule because beds vary so much in height, she suggests a length that covers the top mattress and part of the box spring.

Before placing your coverlet, decide if you want an open or closed bed. Open beds are popular in stores and home décor photography because they display sheeting. “It always looks very inviting and very friendly,” explains Lester. “But some people don’t think their sheets should show during the day, and that’s a closed bed.”

For an open bed, bring the coverlet as near to the head of the bed as possible. It may not extend the whole way, because coverlets are designed to be slept under. Fold the coverlet down, then fold down the top of your flat sheet over it.

“Lots of times, our customers will use two coverlets,” she says. “One to pull up and one that they put at the foot of the bed.” That last one is usually for decorative purposes, or may only be used when it’s particularly cold. For a king- or queen-sized bed, she suggests using a twin coverlet, quilt, or duvet cover folded lengthwise to add color to the foot of the bed.

Watch video about blankets and coverlets.

Duvet Covers

A duvet is a soft, pillowy quilt filled with down or a synthetic alternative, inserted into a large pillowcase-like cover. A duvet and cover are another simple option for the top layer of the bed. These are generally smaller in size than a coverlet. “The reason for that is because the duvet cover is heavy and the weight on the sides is going to be pulling against you at night,” Lester says. “You want as little pulling as possible.” She says many of her customers purchase a duvet cover to keep folded at the foot of the bed. “The way to make it look fluffy and prettiest is to fold it in thirds and lay it at the foot of the bed,” in a Z-shape, she says. “When you are in bed it’s easy to pull up.”

Depending on your bedroom’s design and décor, these can also look nice positioned at an angle. “Some people get concerned about things at angles, but some of us like it to look like someone lives in the house,” she says. “It’s definitely a personal matter.”

Watch video about bed spreads.

Pillows

Complete the making of your bed with pillows. “Personally, I like a lot of pillows,” Lester says. “A lot of our customers no longer use king pillows. They just use several standard-size pillows. I like to have at least four sleeping pillows.” She suggests stacking the sleeping pillows at the head of the bed, then placing pillow shams in front of them. “This allows you to have some design expression in your room. Lots of people match shams to the foot of the bed and pull it all together.” Stuff shams with inexpensive pillows rather than your sleeping pillows. “If you take the sham on and off everyday, you’re going to rip it. Just leave your shams stuffed at night,” she says.

Larger Euro shams and pillows are popular right now, according to Lester. These square pillows are standard at 28 inches but also come in sizes of 30 inches and larger. “They are nice because they give height to your bed,” she says. “If you have high ceilings or a huge headboard, you’ll need some Euro shams or your bed will look like it’s way too low.”

While it was once popular to place a variety of accent pillows on the bed, more people these days will layer shams and bed pillows with only two or three small, decorative throw pillows. These look best when made from another fabric or color. “Decorative pillows will be more expensive, but they are more of a design statement. Some are actually works of art,” Lester says.

Put the shams in front of the sleeping pillows. Then place any decorative pillows in front of those, making sure they are still several feet away from the folded duvet cover or coverlet at the foot of the bed.

Bed Skirts

“You either love bed skirts or you hate them,” Lester says. While they can be difficult to keep in place on some beds, “if you want a traditional, finished bed you need a bed skirt.” To determine its length, measure from the top of the box spring to the floor. These days, many bed skirts are sold in three pieces – one for each side and one for the foot of the bed. “You pin them to the box spring with upholstery pins and they are easy to use,” she says. This approach allows for quick height adjustments. Single-piece platform bed skirts, while simpler to use, require removing the mattress.

Not every bed necessitates a bed skirt, including sleigh beds and beds with decorative headboards and side rails.

Because so many pieces are required for a well-made bed, Lester says to think of a bed like you think of a wardrobe. Buy quality products that are versatile enough to be mixed, matched, and used over a long period of time. “You want to be able to change your bed without changing your whole room,” she says. “It should always be something you can enjoy, sleep well in, and are happy for other people to see.”

Caring for Bedding

“The sheets you use all the time need a break,” Lester says. “They’ll last longer.” Not only do bed linens need rest from use on a bed, they also need a break from storage. “I’ve seen bed linens begin to come apart or break down along a seam if they’re folded too long,” she says. To avoid trapping moisture and promoting mildew growth, Lester says never to store sheets in the plastic bag they came in or in any kind of plastic container. Instead, she recommends using something that breathes – like an old pillowcase.

Does Thread Count Matter?

In short: No. The conventional wisdom that higher thread count always means a softer, higher-quality sheet is mostly marketing spin, according to Lester. Thread count refers to the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric. Fifty years ago, a thread count of 160 – 80 horizontal threads and 80 vertical threads in a square inch – was considered a luxury. By the early 1980s, the best sheets had a thread count of 200. Now companies sell sheets boasting a thread count of 1,000. The only way to reach that number is to twist thinner threads together into a larger thread, resulting in a thicker, less breathable fabric.

“The sheet industry has been invaded by some scoundrels over the last few years,” she says. “Better sheet companies have stopped advertising thread count because it’s so misleading.” Lester says sheets with a thread count of 400 are perfectly fine, and there’s no reason to buy anything larger than 600. She recommends focusing instead on the quality of yarn fiber used in the fabric. Look for sheets made of Egyptian cotton, Sea Island cotton, or pima cotton. Due to the dyeing process, white or off-white sheets will always feel softer than colored sheets. And most importantly, don’t buy sheets before touching them first. “The only way to know if you’re buying a good sheet or not is to feel it,” she says. “A good sheet will feel good right out of the package.”

Watch video about selecting sheets.

Choosing a Pillow

Lester prefer two options when it comes to pillows: synthetic or down. Unlike the noisy feather pillows of old, down pillows are made of the soft, fluffy undercoat of insulation beneath duck and goose feathers. “The best pillows are always down,” Lester says. Down pillows are softer, more breathable, and hold heat. With frequent fluffing, they can be very durable. However, down is more expensive and tends to collect more dust than synthetics – making it a bad choice for allergy sufferers.

Synthetic pillows made of down alternatives are designed to provide the comfort of down while remaining hypoallergenic. They can also be less expensive, remain cooler at night, and are easier to care for. However, they may have a shorter lifespan than down.

Regardless of the pillow content, Lester says to choose one with a high-quality fabric cover. “You want that to be a high-quality thread count,” she says. “There’s no use buying a soft sheet and putting it over a scratchy pillow.”

Watch video about choosing a pillow and caring for it.

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit heyamarillo.com and jasonboyett.com.
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