I distinctly remember the first time my 18-year-old self excitedly unpacked my “Bed-in-a-Bag” purchase from Bed Bath and Beyond, only to be sorely disappointed. Standing in my college dorm, I immediately noticed the way the overall look did not match that of my mothers, or any other grown-up bed I had borne witness to in my day. My measly pillow looked sad and deflated, the fluff factor in my comforter was severely lacking, and the sheets were creased from coming straight out of their package. TL;DR: it was not (yet!) the cozy haven I was hoping it would be.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to finance a new bed frame or splurge on sheets that cost several hundred dollars in order to feel positive about your nighttime routine. Rather, creating a “grown-up bed” requires just a little extra attention to detail and a few extra steps than the good ol’ Bed-in-a-Bag deal had to offer. Ahead, I’m breaking it all down, layer by layer.
1. Cotton or linen sheets
I can’t bring myself to specify ironed sheets here even though I think that’s what the real grown-ups would recommend. I, myself, don’t own an iron. However, at the very least, giving your sheets a good run in the dryer can make a world of difference in the overall look and feel of your bedding and help make wrinkles feel way more manageable. It’s a minor detail, but one that you’ll soon learn is a total game-changer. I opt for either 100 percent cotton or linen sheets when possible since they offer a more luxurious look and feel than something that incorporates polyester or microfiber.
There’s no way to deny that sheets can be an unexpected investment, but I try to remember that I literally sleep on them every night, and buying the nicest set that I can comfortably afford will pay off. Also, don’t be fooled by exorbitantly expensive sheets that boast a high thread count. I recently learned from Good Housekeeping that this doesn’t actually make a difference past 500!
2. Fluffy duvet insert, paired with a solid-colored duvet cover
As a teen, I always remember picking out patterned comforters instead of actual duvet inserts and covers (which is what my parents had). To this day, a patterned comforter makes me feel like I’m back in my childhood bedroom.
Still, the ultra-fluffy and luxurious “grown-up bed” look just can’t be achieved without substantial fluff and volume from a quality duvet insert, so the moment my bank account allowed, I made the inevitable switch. Hot tip: you can find great, reasonably-priced options for both of these pieces at IKEA if you’re a bedding novice like I was and need to ease yourself into three-digit bedding purchases.
3. A cozy quilt or blanket
It may seem over the top, but this layer is pretty crucial to the overall look and feel of the bedroom. Style yours at the foot of the bed to inject a bit more cozy texture into the space (or you can style it on top of your sheets, and opt to fold your duvet at the end of the bed instead).
I like to take the opportunity to bring in another subtle shade from my room’s color palette as well. For example, if I’m sticking to light neutrals, I might opt for a more ivory blanket to pair with my crisp, white sheets, just for a touch more dimension and interest.
4. At least four standard-sized pillows
If you’re sleeping in a double bed or larger, having at least two stacked pillows on each side of the bed will look and feel like a massive upgrade. Since high-quality pillows can really break the budget (especially when you have to buy four of them), I prefer to save by only purchasing two investment pillows for the top half of the stack, and sticking with basic, inexpensive options for the bottom half.
5. A bed skirt
I feel like Bunny McDougal saying this, but to be fair, this is only applicable to those of us who are sleeping with a traditional box spring and mattress set-up. While many contemporary beds don’t require a bed skirt, they help to conceal unsightly under-the-bed storage, and, more practically, help limit the amount of dust that settles underneath your bed frame. Not to mention, they have a wonderfully traditional vibe that instantly makes me feel like I’m in a fancy hotel.
6. Decorative pillows
What I love about this layer is that it’s highly customizable depending on your budget and taste. Some designers go all out with three or more decorative pillows, while others opt for just one long lumbar style as a focal point. There’s no right or wrong way to go here, but I’m willing to bet you’ll find that bringing in even just one throw pillow makes your entire bedroom feel more polished and complete.