Buying guide: Pillows, sheets and duvets

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Buying guide: Pillows, sheets and duvets

Fall's chill makes us appreciate all things warm: hot chocolate, a fireplace and curling up in bed under a giant duvet. If your bed has ever seen a bag, you're not getting the full experience. Your sheets, linens and pillows are what you allow next to your skin eight hours a day (hopefully), so they need to be comfortable, practical, and personal. Designer Kimberley Seldon shares how to find that perfect combination and what to look for. Like most decor options, the most important consideration when choosing bedding is personal preference. The second-most important? Read on.

Between the sheets
Buying good sheets is like investing in a fantastic shirt. They should feel good against your skin and be made from natural fabrics: synthetics don't breathe or wash well. “The problem most people make is that they go by the thread count,” says Kimberley. “Buy Egyptian cotton and think about where it's woven.”

Italy, Sweden and France are good bets; pass on anything woven in China, since it's more likely to be of a lower quality. Also, think about stiffness, although this is a matter of personal preference. Sateen cotton is a satin blend that feels like silk. Percale cotton, Kimberley explains, “is more crisp, like a man's work shirt.”

Bundle up
The most important thing to consider when purchasing a duvet is the fill. Unless you're allergic to down, it's your best bet. It's more durable than synthetic fills (a high quality down duvet can last as long as 30 years, while synthetics rarely make it past 10). Down is also warmer, making for lighter covers. Down responds to your body temperature, keeping you comfy. But be warned: Kimberley says there's no getting around price. “You get what you pay for. If it's a ridiculously inexpensive price, there are probably more quills than feathers.”

After you've dealt with the filling, the next questions are: Is there enough down in the duvet to fill it? Does it have a wrap around it (a layer of feathers only) to protect you from quills? And is it baffled (stitched) so the down doesn't fall to one corner? Yes to those, and you have a high quality duvet that will keep you warm through the coldest nights.

Follow the rules of duvets and buy down and feather combination pillows, which will shape to your head. If you want a firm pillow, choose one with a high proportion of feathers; for a soft fill, look for one with more down. Pay attention to whether it's baffled, and the wrap is especially important, so you don't wake up with a quill in your ear. Buy a cotton pillow protector, which zips over your pillows, and you'll be able to keep your pillows for as long as they're comfortable -- at least a few years.

Take care
You can keep a down duvet for 15 years if you treat it right. Avoid the dryer by dry cleaning, or at least minimize the damage by putting your duvet or sheets in the drier for only 15 minutes before hanging them to dry. “Think of a good quality Italian shirt,” says Kimberley. “You would never put it in the dryer every other day.” After that, the only other worry is colour, which will fade. Buy classic white so it's not a problem in a few years.


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Buying guide: Pillows, sheets and duvets