Tricks of the Trade

How to Properly Make Up a Bed, According to 10 Top Designers

March 26, 2020

Hospital corners or no hospital corners? Cotton or linen or both? Flat sheet or no flat sheet? (Spoiler alert: Always flat sheet.) These and more are the burning bed-related questions we put to 10 of our designer friends, who happen to have a lot of opinions on the topic. Read on!

Barrie Benson transformed her own midcentury home’s master bedroom into a cosseting retreat, marrying linear, masculine forms with feminine pattern and whimsy. Bedspread, bed pillows, lampshade and upholstered walls in St. Marks Print, with trim details in Ashwood Tape, armchairs in Citrus Garden and curtains in Design 103; all by Schumacher.Francesco Lagnese

Barrie Benson

Must-do for a proper bed: Hospital corners! And the top sheet should always be face down, so that when you fold its top edge the embroidery is exposed.

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: Making the bed!

Perfect sheet material: Cotton. Is there anything better than getting into a bed with crisp, cool cotton sheets?!

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Flat sheet, absolutely, and make it an embroidered one.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: Quilt, with a lightweight duvet folded at the bottom of the bed.

White, colored or patterned linens: White.

Ideal thread count: 400.

Ideal number of throw pillows: Three.

Must-have bed accessory: Beautiful, detailed pillow shams.

Go-to linen company: I like to mix it up between D Porthault, Julia B. and Hamberg House.

Charlotte Moss created a flower-bedecked sanctuary, complete with a stunning canopy and soothing blush and mint hues.Pieter Estersohn

Charlotte Moss

Must-do for a proper bed: Beautiful pressed sheets, tucked in, and a bedcover that covers the top of the box spring so that the bedskirt, if there is one, waterfalls out from beneath.

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: I find that everyone has their own way that they like the top of their bed arrangement—but whatever it is, can it please be pressed, tidy and pristine?

Perfect sheet material: A 400-thread-count cotton percale is the go to, but I also adore sleeping on D. Porthault’s cotton voile.

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Flat sheet, please!

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: A duvet and a bedcover.

White, colored or patterned linens: I have both, my clients have both.

Ideal thread count: 300 to 400.

Ideal number of throw pillows: One boudoir pillow, maybe a neckroll too…

Must-have bed accessory: Well, that’s a loaded question! But seriously, for the bed it’s an all-down pillow and a summer weight duvet, and for next to the bed it’s flowers, water, a notepad and my rose-and-aloe facial spray.

Go-to linen company: Matouk, Leontine Linens, Nancy Stanley Waud, D. Porthault, depending on whether I’m looking for prints, monograms or custom embroidery—and, let’s not forget, whoever has the most reasonable turnaround timing!

The olive greens of the canopy and rich forest-hued velvet of the headboard lend a soft, earthy contrast to the crisp white sheets in this sophisticated bedroom designed by James Farmer.Jeff Herr

James Farmer

Must-do for a proper bed: If it’s for a client’s first view, I like to go for it and have the bed all “perfect.” However, a first time, best-in-show is exhausting, so for every day, I like to keep things simple: sheet and blanket pulled tight to the headboard, pillows stacked and throws positioned accordingly. There’s victory in a neat and tidy bed—it helps to keep the mind neat and tidy too! And the feeling of tossing off the throws at the end of the day, pulling back the covers and sliding into a nicely made bed is hardly paralleled.

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: I am not a good folder by nature—my origami is more smashed than folded—so folding the linens at the corners of the bed is a pet peeve, and an admission of failure. Good thing a blanket can hide those sins!

Perfect sheet material: Cotton, lightly ironed. It has a touch of crispness but is just soft enough.

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Flat sheet. Fitted, flat, blanket. Simply layered, but not too warm. I keep it cool to chilly in the room for optimum sleep.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: Quilt, but with a folded duvet or bedspread at the foot of the bed.

White, colored or patterned linens: White, but with some stitching detail. Embroidery and monogramming are appreciated.

Ideal thread count: The highest isn’t always the best, per se. I do like an above-average count, but freshly laundered and ironed cotton sheets even with a lower thread count can go a long way with the right care.

Ideal number of throw pillows: 4-3-2-1: 4 sleeping pillows, 3 euros, 2 shams, 1 accent or throw.

Must-have bed accessory: Phone charger and firestick remote! If I’m not binge watching something or Instagram stalking, I love to read in bed.

Go-to linen company: For bedding in general, I love Matouk. Since cotton is king for my bed, I also love Red Land Cotton and Boll & Branch, and I rely on Land’s End for their classic white sheets with monogramming!


Brooke McGuyer Huston gathered the creamy-hued curtains into the four corners of the canopy bed to add a touch of softness to the space.Michael Hunter

Brooke McGuyer Huston

Must-do for a proper bed: Master the art of making hospital corners. It makes a huge difference.

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: Not smoothing out the sheets before making the bed, incorrectly folding the sheets under the mattress, having noticeable sheet wrinkles under one’s coverlet, or having a part of a flat sheet hang out from under a coverlet!

Perfect sheet material: Cotton percale.

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Flat Sheet.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: Duvet.

White, colored or patterned linens: Good question! It depends upon the room. If there’s a strong pattern on or around the walls, then I love using crisp white bedding with subtle design details for the visual relief it brings to the space. If a room has solid walls with subtle pattern elsewhere, then I do like to incorporate pattern on the linens.

Ideal thread count: 400.

Ideal number of throw pillows: Up to eight!

Must-have bed accessory: Monogrammed pillows.

Go-to linen company: Leontine Linens.

In this bedroom, Amy Berry chose linens with periwinkle-blue accents to complement the charming floral pattern.Nathan Schroder

Amy Berry

Must do for a proper bed: There’s something wonderful about crisp, clean bedding, and it shouldn’t take a century to turn a bed down to climb in—I think that less is more!

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: An overload of pillows.

Perfect sheet material: Cotton percale.

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Yes, flat sheet!

Duvet, quilt or bedspread: It depends, truly. I probably err on the duvet or quilt (or both) side.

White, colored or patterned linens: White linens, unless I’m using D. Porthault.

Ideal thread count: 600 plus.

Ideal number of throw pillows: Three.

Must-have bed accessory: An extra soft matelasse.

Go-to linen company: Lenora. They have the most beautiful line, and are wonderful to work with. 

Crips white walls and linens become a canvas for the patterned curtains, headboard, and bench in this bedroom by Elizabeth Cooper.Tom Grimes

Elizabeth Cooper

Must-do for a proper bed: Tightly tucked sheets and properly fluffed pillows are a must for making a bed look polished.

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: Duvet inserts that “lump up” and don’t lie smoothly inside the duvet cover.

Perfect sheet material: Usually cotton percale, but linen in the warmer summer weather!

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Flat sheet.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: Duvet.

White, colored or patterned linens: White with contrasting trim.

Ideal thread count: 500.

Ideal number of throw pillows: Two at most!

Must-have bed accessory: Beautiful shams.

Go-to linen company: Matouk, Julia B., Leontine Linens, Walker Valentine, Matteo.

Sara Gilbane’s guest room at her family’s Palm Beach, Florida, retreat features a playful chinoiserie bed and walls and linens awash in tropical pinks and blues.Carmel Brantley

Sara Gilbane

Must-do for a proper bed: I like the flat sheet and the blanket to show, with the duvet folded at the foot of the bed. This gives a sense of order to the the bed and has a more layered look. It is important to get the size and number of the pillows correct as well. For a queen bed, 2 to 4 standard pillows and 2 euro shams, and for a king bed, 2 to 4 king pillows and 3 euro shams.

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: Bunk beds are the most tedious beds to make. On installs, those probably take up most of our time. For a bunk bed, keep it simple with a fitted sheet, a flat sheet and a duvet that pulls all the way up—the less folding and tucking, the better! It is also terribly difficult to insert a king duvet into a duvet cover—get a friend to help, that’s what they are for! Going it alone can be daunting.

Perfect sheet material: I am a bedding fanatic, so I appreciate it all, but if forced to choose, I am happiest in fresh, cool cotton percale. Linen sheets in the summer or in a tropical location are also tough to beat.

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Absolutely a flat sheet.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: I love a cotton blanket on the bed with a quilt or duvet folded at the bottom

White, colored or patterned linens: Color and pattern all the way.

Ideal thread count: 400 or higher for something perfectly soft.

Ideal number of throw pillows? For a king bed, the ideal mix is 2 to 4 king pillows, 3 euro square pillows and 2 boudoir pillows or one long lumbar pillow—all in varying patterns!

Must-have bed accessory: A standard pillow in a silk-lip case to prevent fine lines on my face! I hide this behind the other pillows on my king bed so that it doesn’t ruin the look, but it is an essential for skin and hair!

Go-to linen company: Matouk, D. Porthault, Leontine Linens, Julia B.

In this bedroom by Robin Rains, a palette of blues, grays and neutrals makes for a soothing cocoon.Austin Lord

Robin Rains

Must-do for a proper bed: I always like to make sure that the sleeping pillows are well hidden behind the decorative pillows. I also love crisp, ironed sheets—there’s nothing better than a high-thread-count sheet that’s been ironed! And, a down-blend fill in a pillow makes such a difference, and you must always get a pillow that is two inches larger than the actual sham that you’ll put it in. You can’t beat an inviting, well-layered bed!

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: When euro shams are in front of queen or king shams. Always place euro shams in the back, behind your standard or king shams.

Perfect sheet material: A high-thread-count percale, because it doesn’t wrinkle easily and it looks great folded back over the blanket or coverlet.

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Flat sheet.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: Duvet.

White, colored or patterned linens: Always opt for white linens!

Ideal thread count: At least 320, if not more.

Ideal number of throw pillows: For a king bed, it’s 3 euros, a pair of king shams and a bolster pillow. For a smaller bed, stack one pair of standard shams on top of another pair for a total of 4 pillows.

Must-have bed accessory: A wonderful alpaca throw. They’re so cozy and perfect for a cat nap.

Go-to linen company: Matouk.

Vibrant pink patterned sheets are the star of this neutral-hued bedroom by Gen Sohr of Pencil & Paper Co.Jessica Amerson

Gen Sohr

Must-do for a proper bed: Iron your linens for the most decadent night’s sleep—bonus if the sheets have a pretty, subtle scent.

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: When someone doesn’t use a flat sheet.

Perfect sheet material: I’m partial to a classic cotton percale, but I recently used Mark D. Sikes’s checked linen bedding from Annie Selkie, and that’s pretty dreamy too!

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Always a flat sheet.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: I layer a combination, depending on the season and temperature. During the warmer months I use a soft, lightweight quilt and usually layer that with a decorative coverlet. For winter, I add in a feather duvet into the mix.

White, colored or patterned linens: Do I have to pick just one? I really love a classic white sheet with pretty monogramming and a contrast piping, but it’s always fun to throw a pattern into the mix during warmer months. And for children’s rooms, I love the playfulness and fun of an assortment of different scale patterns together!

Ideal thread count: 350.

Ideal number of throw pillows: It really depends on how much time you want to dedicate to making your bed each day. I’m in the camp of less is more, so I’d say 3 to 4.

Must-have bed accessory: I can’t sleep without a good feather pillow (and preferably, it’s not too thick).

Go-to linen company: I love Matouk! Also, I’m desperate to try my brilliant friend Jane Scott Hodges’s stunning hand-embroidered Leontine Linens.

Graphic patterns all in a calming blue palette reign supreme in this bedroom designed by Rita Konig.Simon Brown

Rita Konig

Must-do for a proper bed: Pull the sheets as tightly as possible when you’re tucking them in. And I do rather like the sheets to be ironed!

Greatest bed-making pet peeve: The sheets not being pulled tightly enough across the mattress.

Perfect sheet material: I love cotton percale or very old linen.

Flat sheet or no flat sheet: Definitely a flat sheet.

Duvet, quilt, or bedspread: I prefer sheets, blankets and an eiderdown or old quilt.  I do have a duvet though. And I hate bedspreads.

White, colored or patterned linens: I like white, pale pink or pale blue. I love D. Porthault linens, but those are the only patterned linens I like. I am about to order some very pretty embroidered bedlinens, which I suppose could count as patterned, but the patterning on them is very delicate.

Ideal thread count: I have always bought bedlinens from companies that don’t really talk about thread count, because they just sell a good quality percale. I think the ideal is probably about 300, but I just feel my way!

Ideal number of throw pillows: No throw pillows.

Must-have bed accessory: Very soft pillows.

Go-to linen company: D. Porthault, or one of the Italian companies, who really do the best linens.


Looking for delicious new linens to curl up in? Check out a few of these Matouk x Schumacher favorites!