Sleep Tight

We spend up to half of our lives in bed. Here’s how to make that time comfortable and well designed.

By Samantha Simma

A FEW WORDS THAT RUN through interior designer Kristin Fay’s head when she starts to design a bedroom are comfort, inviting, peaceful, serene, calm. “You want to be able to relax and decompress in your bedroom,” she says. “The point of the room is for you to sleep and recharge. You want the room to have a calm energy, whereas living rooms and kitchens are more high-energy areas.” With this in mind, the first piece of furniture Fay picks out is the headboard/bed frame.

“Bedrooms will differ in the number and placement of their windows, the color of their walls, the artwork and accessories, lighting and views, and dozens of other details,” she says. “But every bedroom has a bed. That is why a headboard and bed frame are the first things I think about. After these are picked, we’ll build the rest of the room around them.” For bedrooms that are used every night (as opposed to guestrooms), Fay likes upholstered headboards. “They’re cozier, softer, and inviting,” she says. In guest rooms where people might only be sleeping for a week or two at a time, Fay sometimes suggests headboards made from wood (she likes reclaimed barn wood) and a live-edge wood platform bed frame. “For long-term, I think comfort is a good guide, but it is fun to mix it up in rooms that aren’t used as frequently,” Fay says.

While the headboard and bed frame are the first items Fay considers, there are two things that are more important to how well a bedroom functions: the mattress and the pillows. These get covered by linens so they don’t affect what a bedroom looks like, but “correctly supporting your body is the number one most important ingredient to deep sleep and, consequently, a great next day,” says Jennifer Fay, owner and founder of Linen Alley, a Jackson shop that sells all things bed-related. (She’s also Kristin Fay’s sister-in-law.) Jennifer says that pillows and mattresses, as well as the sheets and bedding that cover them, should be looked at as investments. “When you go for high-quality products, they can last a really long time.”

Sheets: “Sheets, in look and feel, are a personal preference,” Jennifer Fay says, “but I always recommend sheets made from 100 percent natural materials like cotton or linen.” Poly-cotton blended sheets “lack in their ability to breathe since they are not an all-natural product.” And they won’t last as long. “I’ve had 100 percent cotton sheets for 15 years and there are no holes in them,” Jennifer says. Kristin says, “These are something you’re lying on for eight hours a day. What they look like matters to the feel of the room, but you should pick sheets based on comfort first.”

 

Thread Count
“Thread count really means nothing as far as what sheets feel like,” Jennifer says. “It is really a way to get people to spend more money on cheap sheets. The real difference is between sateen and percale.” The latter has a tighter weave and a crisper feeling. Sateen has a little bit of sheen to it. “It’s silkier, but not slippery,” Jennifer says.

 

Sleeping Pillows
The best pillows are true down pillows, which by their nature are hypoallergenic, although Jennifer says she often sees customers with preconceived notions about allergies and down. “It’s actually dust held in the feathers incorporated with the down that people are allergic to.” In the U.S., a pillow can have up to 20 percent feathers mixed with down and the manufacturer can still call it 100 percent down. Jennifer says that if you pay less than $100 for a standard-size down pillow, it is likely that it is not truly 100 percent down. Aside from down being hypoallergenic, Jennifer says, down pillows “breathe, are softer, and bring you closer to your mattress so your neck is in alignment with your spine.” They also come in a variety of firmnesses. “We carry three different companys’ down pillows,” she says. “One company’s firm is a lot firmer than another company’s.” How do you know what firmness is right for you? “As long as someone is willing, we have them lay down with different samples that we have and we look at their posture. We’re looking for your neck to be in alignment.”

 

Bedding
“You can have a great headboard and not have the bedding right and it can be distracting,” Kristin says. “It’s hard to go wrong with fairly quiet patterns and neutral colors. Crazy, bold patterns and colors can ruin the feeling of calm we’re trying to create.”

 

Accessories
“For a serene space, I keep it uncluttered,” Kristin says. “A throw blanket at the end of the bed and some decorative pillows can add a lot and are an easy way to add a pop of color if you want. But be careful not to do too many pillows. A bed covered with pillows that you have to take off and then put back on every day isn’t appealing.”

Mattress
The Swedish royal family has slept on Hästens mattresses ever since the company was founded in 1852. Today Hästens mattress models range in price from $9,000 to $189,000. To many people this is ridiculous. To others, “these are hand-down-to-your-grandchild beds,” Jennifer says. Each Hästens mattress takes more than 350 hours to make, has more than 30 layers, and is entirely handcrafted using organic wool, cotton, and braided horsehair that has been cleaned and de-dandered. Linen Alley carries Hästens mattresses that range in price from $15,000 to more than $42,000. Jennifer says she noticed a difference the first time she slept on a Hästens, which happened on a visit to the factory in Sweden. Linen Alley employee and interior designer AJ Albright invested in a Hästens of her own. “I think her exact words after her first week sleeping on it were, ‘It’s incredible,’” says Jennifer. Hästens uses the materials it does and includes so many layers in part to help regulate body temperature and to allow air to flow through the mattress continually. “Once you drive a Ferrari, it’s hard to drive other cars,” Jennifer says. “It’s similar with a Hästens.”
Mattress Pad
The average person loses as much as one pint of moisture in sweat each night while they sleep. This is “a recycling process your body needs to do—it’s a release of daily toxins from the environment,” says Jennifer. Using a cotton or wool pad will wick away moisture that otherwise gets trapped in your mattress and will prolong its life.

 

Color & Texture
“Start with a neutral palate and warm the space with layers of texture,” Kristin says. “In bedding, I like to do a mix of wools, plaids, or heavy furs—different textures that complement each other.”

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