Designer 101: How to Make Your Bed

Designer 101: How to Make Your Bed

Design expert Kenneth Wingard explains the correct way to design your bedspread.

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By: Kenneth Wingard

I like a properly made bed. Perhaps it’s the Southerner in me, or my military father, but few things make me happier than a well-made bed. That being said, the design tendency over the past decade to make beds that look as if they’re set for the Queen of England is a bit over the top, not to mention a royal pain to get into at night.

Then there’s the bed-in-a-bag option, where everything is thought out for you and you just unzip and throw it on — where’s the fun in that?! That bears the questions: How is a properly made bed made, and when is enough, enough?

Let’s make the bed…

Start With the Fitted Sheet
Pull it tight on your mattress and really smooth it out. All too often you pull back a beautiful top sheet to find a poorly tucked fitted sheet. In general, I like a solid fitted sheet, but that is completely personal. I do find that a patterned fitted and patterned flat sheet together can be a wee bit much, so keep that in mind when choosing sheets.

Next, lay your flat sheet, right side down, on top of your fitted sheet. Line the top edge of the sheet with the top edge of the mattress. If I’m going to do a pattern in my sheets, this is where I do it. A bold graphic or a color that is different, yet complementary to your fitted sheet works well for this. If you don’t know what you like, white is always a fail safe.

Sheet Materials
Sheets also come in different materials, cotton being the most common, but satin, silk, linen and jersey are also available. While material is partly a comfort choice, it is also a design choice.

Silk: Genuine silk sheets can be quite luxurious. It’s heavy, warm and available in beautiful colors. Silk sheets are quite expensive and require hand washing or dry cleaning so they’re not for everyone. If you’re designing a very formal, traditional bedroom or one with Asian inspirations, silk might be for you.

Satin: True satin is a special weave using silk which floats extra threads on one side of the sheet creating a smooth feel and look. More often you’ll find polyester satin, which does not breathe or wear well and should be avoided. Design-wise, satin sheets work in a bedroom that has an Art Deco or old Hollywood style.

Jersey: Still relatively new to sheeting, this material is the same as your t-shirts. Soft and relaxed, it makes great bedding, but will always be visually more casual and modern than most of the other options.

Linen: Often considered the queen of bedding fabrics, linen isn’t for everyone. The fiber is less uniform and creates a finish that some consider rough. If you’ve ever worn linen, you know that the fabric wrinkles with the slightest touch. That being said, the way it breathes and the way it looks on a bed is hard to beat. Linen sheets work well in both a very traditional setting as well as in a casual beach or seaside room.

Cotton: The standard go-to for sheets. They launder well, are comfortable, reasonably priced and available in a wide array of colors and patterns. You have the choice of a classic flat weave called “percale” which works in any setting, a sateen finish which gives a slightly showier look and the warm-and-fuzzy flannel which can’t be beat for a more rustic or cabin-inspired look.

Add the Blanket
This is where people get a little off track. Obviously, adjust the weight and material of the blanket to your season and region. I find that I enjoy a blanket even when visiting my parents in Georgia during the summer — the added weight just makes me sleep sounder.

I like to choose a color and texture that will relate back to the fitted sheet. Place the blanket right side up, on top of your flat sheet. If your blanket is large enough, line up the top edge with that of your flat sheet. If not, start the blanket 15-20 inches down. Fold your top sheet back onto the blanket the same 15-20 inches exposing your fitted sheet. The amount of fitted sheet showing should be approximately the same width as your pillows. Tuck in the blanket/sheet combo all around the bed.

Add the Bedspread
While all are designed to keep you warm, there are some design implications from each choice of bedspread.


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Quilt: Composed of a patterned and pieced-together top, a center of batting and a solid bottom which are all stitched together, a quilt works well in country or cottage-inspired bedrooms.

Comforter: Similar to a quilt, but they’re a solid color or a printed pattern that is not pieced together. They also have a batting center and use stitching to hold the batting in place. These sometimes have a lower perceived value than other options and are usually more suited to a child’s room or casual guest room.

Duvet: A high loft bed covering that is filled with down, feathers, synthetic fill or a combination thereof. The fill is held in place by an enlarged overstitch pattern. A duvet is not meant to be used on its own and is inserted into a duvet cover.

Personally, I use a duvet on my master bed. It is warm and comfy, and, more importantly, it takes about two seconds to make it look good in the morning. Since you have a myriad of duvet cover options they can work in any style room.

Coverlet: A cover that is much thinner than a comforter or duvet. Still having a thin layer of fill, they are usually a solid-color fabric that has been overstitched with a pattern. Used as a top layer of the bed, they are not tucked in.

I use a coverlet for my guest room where I can invest time in keeping it ironed and crisp looking. A very traditional look that works well with classic design.

Finish with Layers of Pillows
Pillows play a large role in the well-appointed bed of today. Each type of pillow has a name:

Pillow Shams: A decorative cover for a standard pillow. Shams often have a decorative edging like a flange, ruffles or cording on three or four sides. They can match the sheets, the top cover or nothing at all.

Euro Shams: Large decorative square pillows and covers, usually 26 or 28 square inches. These are placed against the headboard. They often have decorative edge treatment.

Bolsters: A long, cylindrical pillow that is usually between 6 and 10 inches in diameter and can run anywhere from 18-inches wide to the full width of the bed.

Boudoir Pillows: Small rectangular pillows that are purely decorative. The standard size is 12-by- 16-inches.

Standard Pillows: This is what you actually sleep on. Available in sizes to match your bed and best when paired with a pillow protector which zips over it and greatly extends your pillow’s life.

Start with two euro shams standing up against the headboard. For a full or queen use the standard 26-inch size, but for a king bed bump it up to 30-inch. The shams often work well in the same or complementary design as the bedspread or the blanket.

Next, add the sleeping pillows which should match either the fitted or flat sheet. I use two on each side of the bed. I think this is necessary to prop oneself up for reading, otherwise you’ll end up scrunching up your euro shams for support and they’re too expensive for that! Also, for a king bed it’s important to use four king-size pillows instead of three rows of standard size as some people recommend — I think that just looks out of proportion. After that, add one standard square throw pillow, an accent pillow and either a bolster or boudoir pillow and stop there.

I think this provides just enough volume and options for mixing up color and pattern without going over the top. When you’re ready for bed, each person grabs one sham and one accent pillow and jump in — you don’t need to spend 10 minutes disassembling your masterpiece!

Kenneth Wingard attended Princeton University’s School of Architecture and has studied art, sculpture and architecture in Europe, Asia and Africa. It was during these travels he developed an appreciation for the skill of the local craftsmen and began to think about how to combine those talents with his own design sense. He’s worked for Williams-Sonoma and was the Divisional Director of Pottery Barn. His products have been spotted at the New York and San Francisco MOMA, LACMA and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Get to know Kenneth here.

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