Design trends: luxury linens

Every home should have at least one set of luxury bed linens and this season it's all about gentle neutrals in creamy beige, silvery greys and fresh summer aquas.
Oh, the bliss of fresh linen sheets in summer. But alas, we British are not good at making beds: we know little of thread counts and play safe with white. Yet every home should have at least one set of gorgeous luxury linens.

On trend now is a clutch of gentle neutrals in creamy beige, silvery greys and fresh summery aquas, all dancing with tucks, pleats and embroidery. And if you need to justify the expense, remember Mrs Beeton's advice: "Always buy good quality even if the amount bought has to be restricted — it will wear well, and be the cheapest in the end."

Bed linen
Enjoy the skin-rejuvenating effects of an ivory silk duvet from £130, with flat sheets from £90 and pillowcases from £30, at Jasmine Silk (

How to spot top quality
There's a lot of hype about "thread counts" — simply the number of threads woven up and across (the warp and the weft) per square inch. In theory, the more threads, the finer the weave. A thread count of about 180-200 is widespread, and is well established for many quality linens.

Now you'll find bed linens labelled with a thread count of 800 or more but these can use very fine yarns (each one counted) twisted together to make a single thread and it is those threads you should count.

"There are lots of things about quality sheets that are more important than thread count — for example the weave," says Prune Allain des Beauvais, of Yves Delorme, a five-generation French bedding company. "Percale sheets are strong and long-lasting with a crisp, fresh feel, while sateen has a lustrous satin finish and a softer feel which reflects the light."

Her company has just moved its store in Duke of York Square, SW3, a few doors along the street. It also has a large showroom in Harrods (

Bed linen
Helus tropical bed (from £369), with big spot and stripe cushions, £22 each; a bouclé throw, £42, and a pintuck double duvet cover, £31. All from

Is Egyptian cotton always best?
Egyptian cotton is best, usually, thanks to its long fibres (or "staples"), which can be woven into a stronger, finer and more lustrous fabric than, say, pima cotton, which is grown in Peru. Confusingly though, Egyptian cotton can now come from other countries, so look for labels that say "100 per cent Egyptian cotton". Many of those labelled simply "Egyptian" contain only one per cent cotton from Egypt.

Linen, woven from flax, has a slightly coarse feel but gets softer every time it is washed. It's about three times as strong as cotton, and wicks moisture away from the body. Silk is ultra-smooth and a little bit slippery, but it helps to lock moisture into your skin and hair. Some people swear it is as good as a night cream in holding wrinkles at bay.

Jacquards have a woven pattern (typically damask). Seersucker has a crinkly, retro look, and flannelette is the cosiest thing in winter.

Bed linen
Yves Delorme duvet cover in aqua, an on-trend colour, 200cm by 200cm, £289. Visit the Chelsea shop, the Harrods concessions, or
Choosing pillowcases
Standard size for a British pillowcase is 48cm by 76cm. A "housewife" pillowcase is a plain fabric envelope, for a modern, tailored look. Oxford pillowcases have a "flange" of fabric all around them and these should be mitred at the corner. Explore the options on Also check out YBelledorm on was founded in France in 1985, and now sells top fashion brands from many countries. Gaining ground is the continental square pillow size of 65cm by 65cm.

Choosing duvet covers
Beware of uncomfortable closings on duvets. Zips are probably easiest to sleep with but can jam so on balance poppers beat zips or buttons.

Jot down your bed size before you shop or order off a website. A single bed is 90 cm wide (3ft); a double bed is 135cm wide (4ft 6ins); a king-size bed is 150cm wide (5ft); and a super king is 180cm (6ft). Standard depth for a fitted sheet is 25cm, though you can find 28cm.

Bed linen
Don't play safe with white - this Marco striped double duvet cover is £70, with a pair of matching Oxford pillowcases from £12, at (0845 603 0861)

* Invest in a top sheet — it's lovely when you dump the duvet in a heat wave, and cuts down on washing bulky duvet covers.
* Use a mattress protector and under-slips on pillowcases — both are available at John Lewis.
* Don't overload your washing machine or dryer — you'll wear out your linens.
* Don't use too much detergent — this can cause streaks. Wash deep colours on their own, and (except for whites) use a "colour-safe" detergent to avoid fading.

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