White Christmas: get the beds guest-ready for Christmas

Nothing says welcome like the the look and feel of crisp, fresh white bed linen.
After a long day, one of life’s great pleasures is climbing into a bed freshly made with crisp, clean, white sheets in pure cotton. Good-quality cotton always feels deliciously cool and smooth and the calming effect of plain linen — with no buttons, sequins, embroidered flowers or jazzy patterns — makes for the sweetest dreams.
Companies are cottoning on to our love affair with the whiter shades of pale bed linen and are producing accessibly priced “hotel-quality” sheets and pillowcases that feel indulgent, but cost far less than a single night in a boutique hotel.
BUYERS’ NOTES: think thread count, finish, weight and, of course, price
Thread count refers to the number of threads woven together in a square inch, calculated by adding together the number of threads in the length (known as the warp) and the number in the width (weft). So, 100 threads lengthwise woven with 100 widthwise equals a 200 thread count. The fewer used, the looser the fabric — muslin has a thread count of 150, for example — and the more threads used, the tighter and denser the fabric feels.
A higher thread count doesn’t necessarily guarantee higher quality, and a crisp, matt percale finish versus a soft sateen feel is a matter of personal preference. Matt percale makes a good summer choice, while the thicker, softer finish tends to be cosy for winter. Egyptian cotton is renowned for its quality and should last longest. That said, a new set of sheets annually is the gold standard. Here’s our pick of good buys.

Thread count: 400. Single Oxford pillowcase, £15; double duvet cover, £69. Egyptian cotton, made in Pakistan.
Luxe factor: crisp and fine with no frills. A perfect choice for weekend guests who want to feel they are being spoiled (www.marksandspencer.com).
Thread count: 500. Standard pillowcase, £45; double duvet cover, £250. Egyptian cotton, made in Europe.
Luxe factor: the boutique hotels’ label of choice, tried and tested for durability. Comes with a white grosgrain trim. The perfect present, or an indulgence for yourself (www.josephinehome.co.uk).
Thread count: 1,000. Standard pillowcase, £36 per pair; double duvet cover, £99. Indian cotton, made in India.
Luxe factor: indulgently thick cotton with slightly glossy, sateen finish and no-nonsense button closure (www.houseoffraser.com).
Gorgeously fine and crisp: The White Company's bed linen range comes with a 400 thread count
Thread count: 1,000. Pair of pillowcases, £19.99; double duvet cover, £64. Cotton from the Far East, made in the Far East.
Luxe factor: from the new hotel luxury Premier Basics range. Thick, super-soft, dense and strong, a great winter choice, and totally plain (www.achica.com).
Thread count: 400. Standard pillowcase, £20; double duvet cover, £100. Egyptian cotton, made in Italy.
Luxe factor: gorgeously fine and crisp. A brilliant mid-range buy (www.thewhitecompany.com).

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