You can start by disregarding thread count. Here’s what else the pros know that you may not.
If you want your bedroom to serve as a refuge from daily stress, one piece of furniture is more important than all the rest: the bed.
But you need to do more than just choose a good mattress and bed frame. How you dress the bed — whether you create a pared-down crash pad of white linen, say, or a mountain of down topped by a pile of colorful pillows — affects the way a room feels.
It’s similar to fashion, said Deanna Wu, the vice president of merchandising at the bedding company Brooklinen: The way you dress your bed should communicate something about how you want to live.
“Do you want it to have colors, layers of texture and a feeling of whimsy? Or do you want it calm?” she asked. “You can dress your bed as you dress yourself. It can be a reflection of your mood and style.”
We asked interior designers and bedding experts for advice on the basics, from fitted sheets to decorative throw pillows, as well as tips for dressing a bed that looks appealing during the day and encourages snuggling at night.
Begin With the Sheets
Sheets are the undergarments of the bed: You won’t see much of them when the bed is fully dressed, but they have a noticeable effect on comfort because they’re in direct contact with your skin.
High-quality sheets are most frequently offered in different cotton weaves, usually percale or sateen, or in linen, and no choice is better than the others. It all depends on personal preference.
Cotton percale is a plain weave with a relatively matte look and feel. “It’s a very breathable fabric, and kind of crisp and cool to the touch,” said Anki Spets, the founder of the bedding company Area. “You can even put your hand on it in the store, and the percale will feel cooler than the sateen.” Percale is popular with people who often feel too hot under the covers.
Sateen sheets are woven to offer a silkier, luxurious feel. “It has a much smoother top finish,” Ms. Spets said. “It’s so soft, it’s irresistible when you touch it. But they can also feel a little warmer to sleep in, so that’s where you have to know what you like.”
Linen sheets are another popular option, but they aren’t for everyone. “They have a more organic, earthy look,” Ms. Spets said, with a more noticeable texture. They also have a tendency to show wrinkles, a quality that some people view as problematic but others prize as a sign of relaxed, informal living. High-quality linen sheets tend to breathe well and absorb moisture, so they feel cool like percale, Ms. Spets said, while lower-quality options may be thicker and warmer, or even feel rough against the skin.
Choose sheets by feel and appearance rather than thread count. An extremely high thread count, once seen as a sign of quality, doesn’t count for much anymore because it’s possible to inflate the number while using lower-quality fibers.
“Thread count is more of a marketing tool that was brought out in the early 2000s,” said Jenifer Foley, the lead stylist at Frette, adding that higher thread counts can sometimes result in thicker, less breathable sheets.
What’s underneath the fitted sheet matters too. If your mattress isn’t as comfortable as you’d like, consider adding a mattress pad.