Saturday, 2 January 2010
On bedrooms and bedding
As far as I’m concerned, Sunday mornings are for spending in bed [after coming home from church] — with papers, books, coffee, croissants, a computer and even a good old movie playing on TCM. Beds are obviously the center of bedrooms, but this bed is even more so, since it takes up most of the room, which measures 6.5 feet by 8 feet! I had never seen a bedroom as small as this one before I looked at this apartment to rent, but being “all bed” actually made it rather lovely, especially once the wallpaper went up. The wallpaper, which is so feminine, opened up the room enormously; before it went up, the room was like a cell, its white walls terribly enclosing. But now it feels like sleeping and waking in an old-fashioned greenhouse. Of course, the window helps — windows are such an important element of a room. When I am looking for a place to live, I always use the windows as a guide. If you are getting sidetracked by the way the place is decorated and can’t see past the style (or lack thereof), look at the windows. If they are good, and the room is a good shape, you will always be able to make it lovely.
But this week I want to talk about beds, and what makes them: soft, cool sheets; squishy, delicious pillows; and layers to pull up from the end of the bed when it is chilly. Everything about a bed should envelop you and feel crisp and clean and gentle on the skin. There are two staples that I always start with: square pillows and Gingerlily duvets. Square pillows are just the best, because they allow you to throw yourself onto your bed without cracking your head on the wall or headboard! For sitting up and reading they are an absolute necessity; behind them, I like a couple of standard soft down pillows for sleeping. The next thing is the Gingerlily duvet, which is silk-filled, making it both hypoallergenic and thin, which is the part I like. I don’t want that poufy marshmallow landscape; those duvets only look good in the morning when the bed is unmade, which might have its upside! Instead of a mountain of feathers, these light duvets are really like blankets — but without the bother of having to struggle with all those layers when you are making the bed.
Next, and the most fun, are the sheets. I love them, and have collected then over the years. You should look at them as a collection, because good sheets are expensive. The best way to buy them is on sale, which is how I have acquired most of mine. In fact, it’s much better to shop sheet sales than to purchase greatly reduced clothing in the wrong size — something I am good at doing. My favorite sheets are D. Porthault; they are pricey even on sale, but I just love their prints, which are both joyful and the best for mixing. The mixing aspect works at both ends of the price spectrum. When you are starting out and just want (or can only afford) the pillowcases — even they are very expensive — you can mix them with white percale sheets. Later, as you add to the sets, it is fun to mix the patterns. In the “after” photo, you can just see a boudoir pillow by the window, an old Porthault flower print that I picked up on one of my mother’s clearing-out sessions. I love it, especially when I mix it with the hearts print.
Keeping to a palette and mixing the sheets a little is a very pretty thing to do. I love that rough Welsh blanket at the end of the bed mixed with the piqué blanket cover and delicate voile sheets. Mixing textures and weights is a lovely thing to do, and it gives everything a longer life because if you can mix things in a slightly different way each week, you won’t tire of what you have so quickly. I have a beautiful, antique embroidered tablecloth that I use as a bedspread, and an old French quilt on other days that I alternate with this pink-and-white one. Those are the things that you can keep adding easily, and before you know it your linen cupboard has grown enough that you can change the look of your bedroom each week. The main thing is to keep everything soft. I hate upholstery-weight fabrics on the bed, and anything that spends too much time on the floor, like heavy bedspreads, or cushions that really belong on a chair or sofa. Your bed should always be ready to catch you as you fall into it.