Get to know the bedding basics.

Laurey W. Glenn; Styling: Liz Strong

Pulling together a polished look for a bedroom starts with bedding. The ensemble of sheets, blankets, and shams sets the tone for your space. Get to know the bedding basics before shopping to choose the right style for you. For instance, duvets and comforters are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually two different things. Here, we’ll break down the details.

What Is a Duvet Cover?

Think of a duvet cover as a giant pillowcase for a duvet insert. A duvet cover is a protective, removable sleeve that keeps an insert clean. It’s sewn together on three sides, with the fourth side open for sliding in the duvet insert and closes with buttons, zippers, or ties. It’s easy to remove and wash. A duvet cover is usually made of thinner linen material, similar to sheets. It’s a European custom (that many Americans have adopted) to ditch the top sheet when using a duvet cover, because they serve a similar purpose. Wash the duvet cover as regularly as you would a top sheet.

Duvet vs. Comforter

A duvet is an insulating top layer of bedding that made from cloth sewn together and stuffed with down, wool, feathers, or a synthetic material. It doesn’t need to be washed as frequently as the cover. It’s usually white, and you won’t be able see it inside the duvet cover. Invest in a duvet you’ll use for years, and swap out the cover when you’re ready for a new look.

A comforter is a thicker, quilted, fluffy blanket used as the warmest top layer of bedding. If you’re looking for an option that helps making up the bed a breeze, choose a comforter. It’s a one-and-done piece usually sold with coordinating pillows that pull the whole ensemble together (who doesn’t love the convenience of a bed-in-a-bag?).

WATCH: How To Style The Perfect Bed

How To Choose a Duvet

Pick an insert based on fill material. Allergy-prone sleepers should go with a down alternative, with a hypoallergenic synthetic filling. Box stitched inserts are sewn together around the edges and then filled and quilted into squares; this keeps the filling in place. Fill power refers to the loftiness and fluffiness of the duvet; the higher the fill power, the lighter and more insulating the duvet will be (and usually higher quality).

How To Make Your Bed with a Duvet Cover

Start with a matching set of white sheets and pillowcases. Add a white coverlet with a textured pattern (like matelassé) over the flat sheet; pull it to the head of the bed and then fold the flat sheet down to the top third. Incorporate color and pattern with a duvet cover and matching pillow shams. Fold the duvet neatly at the foot of the bed, and set a pair of matching pillows at the top of the bed.

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