Food & Home

Fall Bedding Makeover

Fall Bedding Makeover

As summer comes to an end, there’s a good chance that your bed isn’t at its best right now, particularly if you’re a fan of all-white sheets. Sweat, sand, and sunscreen don’t really do linens any favors—nor do they make the most inviting bed. That is, of course, unless you enlist the services of someone like Sarah de Havenon, who runs French Presse, a NYC-based, high-touch linen-service. Not only will they wash and press your sheets and duvets (and restore them to the proper shade of white), but they also rent and sell their own line of 400-800 count sheeting. For de Havenon, though, a well-made bed is about so much more than the right “hand” and “feel”: “Turning in for the night is about turning in to ourselves—shutting down, closing the laptops, turning off the phones, reading Goodnight Moon, and slipping between the sheets of a comfy bed while you welcome the familiar feeling of letting it all go.” Hear, hear Sarah. In anticipation of fall and the promise of crisper, more bedding-friendly weather, we tapped de Havenon to take us through the paces of making—and caring for—a great bed, along with the linen lines that tend to wear and feel the best.


Decoding Hand and Threadcount

“The “hand” describes a particular quality that a fabric has in weight, texture, and feel,” de Havenon explains. “When you think about your clothing preferences—cashmeres, flannels, sweats, silk, pressed lightweight cotton—that should help direct you to the type of sheet you’d like, whether it’s percale, sateen, linen, or flannel. Threadcount indicates the number of threads used in one square inch of material.”

SATEEN: “Sateen is a floating weave that creates a softer surface that’s not quite as durable. Sateens tend to use wrapped fibers, which is what creates a higher threadcount of 800 to 1000. These dense weaves don’t breathe as well during warmer weather.”

NoteLINEN & BAMBOO: “Bamboo and linen are considered more environmentally friendly as they tend to be produced in an organic way. Linen is unique in price point ($350-$500/set) and look and feel. Unless you plan on pressing your sheets every day there is no way to make linen work well in a traditional or formal setting. Linen integrates well into a shabby chic or softer, modern look. When you first buy the sheets the fabric may seem coarse but with washings it become softer over time. If you have the room you may want to hang linen sheets to try. Bamboo sheets, meanwhile, are very soft and slippery. They don’t breathe that well but do absorb and wick moisture.”

EGYPTIAN COTTON:“Egyptian cotton and pima cotton have come to describe a longer strand fiber when pulled from a cotton ball. The result of this longer strand in weaving is a stronger and smoother weave that endures more washing and pills less.”

French Presse’s Favorite Bedding Lines

While de Havenon’s company, French Presse, sells its own linen line (a 400 and 800-count, Egyptian cotton percale that’s made in Portugal), she’s laundered and cared for every conceivable brand on the market. Here, her favorites at every price.


Matouk MatoukShop now »Frette FretteShop now »Sferra SferraShop now »Peacock Alley Peacock AlleyShop now »Matteo Matteo“They make particularly
beautiful linen sheets.”
Shop now »


Serena and Lily Serena and LilyShop now »Macy's Hotel Collection Macy’s Hotel Collection“This line is comparable to many of the high quality Italian and French brands at a more reasonable price point.”Shop now »Calvin Klein Calvin Klein“These have a unique transitionally modern look.”Shop now »


Laura Ashley Laura AshleyShop now »Lands End Lands EndShop now »Martha Stewart Martha Stewart“The price points are great, and these hit a variety of styles.”Shop now »Marimekko Marimekko“These are iconic and modern.”Shop now »Mia + Finn Mia + Finn“They do great modern prints.”Shop now »John Robshaw John RobshawShop now »

Ingenious Discovery:

Hedgehouse Throwbeds

Ingenious Discovery: Hedgehouse Throwbeds

“These have multiple uses,” explains de Havenon. “They are a wonderful alternative to those rubber air mattresses that seem to deflate overnight. They’re a bed throw, a beanbag chair replacement, a transitional toddler bed on your bedroom floor, a college mattress supplement that can be thrown in a washing machine over Parent’s Weekend. A throwbed from HEDGEHOUSE will become an indispensible item in your home. I now keep an emergency stock for clients on my truck.”


Making the perfect bed

“It goes without saying that there are many ways to make a bed, as some people like to be swaddled like a baby or want to be able to kick free all night,” de Havenon explains. Preferences aside, we asked her for the basics on a well-styled bed that’s easy to keep that way. As she points out, “Even a six-year-old can be taught to draw a duvet up to the pillow line and spread the corners evenly.” Here, some other tips and tricks.


“Fitted sheet first, preferably out of a medium-heat dryer. Don’t let them sit or they’ll just become more wrinkled. Start with top corners and move down to the bottom, pressing out the wrinkles with your hands as you go. Try to buy fitted sheets where the elastic wraps around the whole base of the mattress, not just the corners.”


“Place the flat sheet on next, squaring it evenly to give yourself enough slack for whatever cuff size you prefer. (If you like a modern look, make a wider, 10″-16″ cuff on the turn-down fold. If you like a more traditional look, 6″-10″ is the perfect cuff width.) If you don’t want your sheets too tight, lay two to three pillows down the midline before placing the sheet.”


“Place whatever blanket you are going to use over the fitted sheet and square it. I like to tuck the end of the bed under first. It makes for a neater view when approaching the bed on entrance. Then, pull the sides taut and fold them under. Otherwise, if you fold the base last and have a thicker blanket it can create havoc for the sides.”


“For a duvet, place the cover on right out of the dryer and shake it out. Pull all four corners taut. If you want your down comforter to look fluffier, go down a size for the duvet cover, i.e., place a king duvet in a queen-sized cover.”

TIP: “If you like the pristine look of pressed linens but don’t have the time, just press your pillowcases. If you want to go a step farther, iron the folded down cuff on the bed itself.”

TIP: “If you’re anything like me, you dread the uncooperative duvet and cover duo. This technique makes it easier: Turn the cover inside out. Feed your arms up the interior of the duvet and catch what would be the two outside corners in each hand. Now pinch the two corners of your duvet and pull the corners through, turning the cover right side out. Some duvet covers generously offer ties for your corners to keep the duvet even and in place.”

Caring for your linens
(and keeping them white):


“Use warm water and no bleach, as it wears the fabric down. Also skip the fabric softener, as it builds up in the material and doesn’t rinse out. It destroys towels, too!”

Keeping Whites White

“When we clean sheets at the shop, we start with the mildest cleaning agent. If the stain doesn’t respond to the agent we move to the next strongest. We have about four levels. A very gentle place to start at home is with baking soda and white vinegar. Add half a cup of baking soda with your detergent at the beginning of the wash cycle. Then, at the start of the rinse cycle, pour in half a cup of white vinegar. These two natural whiteners also have a softening effect. If that doesn’t do the trick, try oxygen-based whiteners such as Borox and Nellies All-Natural.”

“I suggest using bleach as a last recourse. Bleach is very tough on the fibers of fabrics and can shorten their lives substantially, and should never be used on linen. The fibers will become brittle and eventually start fraying. Also, bleach can interact with sweat on whites and create yellow stains (a disaster for tennis whites).”


“Don’t overdry your beautiful sheets! If you’re going to press them save the life of your sheets and your arms by taking them out while still damp and pressing them then.”

Washing Machine Maintenance

“It’s critical to keep your cleaning tools clean, so start a monthly maintenance habit of running an empty load with hot water and one cup of distilled white vinegar and one cup of baking soda. You may notice that water can pool in the base of those front loaders. Just wipe down the interior every now and then. If the machine is going unused for an extended period of time, leave the door ajar. Another cleaning tool to maintain is your beautiful smooth iron plate. Oh the heartbreak of a sticky iron catching on your favorite blouse and making a spot!”


“Put each set in its pillow case and store by size in the bottom drawer of a dresser in the room in which it belongs. If space is precious, store the change of sheets between the boxspring and the mattress. Down comforters should always be stored in breathable fabric.”