Decor & Renovation

The complete bed buying guide

The complete bed buying guide

Homesense Author: Grace Toby

Decor & Renovation

The complete bed buying guide

Expert advice on how to buy the best mattresses, pillows and soft furnishings will help you create a dreamy sleep sanctuary.


We asked the experts to lay down their best bedroom advice—for mattresses, pillows and soft furnishings, that is—to help you create a dreamy sleep sanctuary. Here's how.



100% cotton-flannel queen sheets, $90,

When it comes to high-quality sheets, yes, thread count matters, but there are two other key factors: where the cotton is grown and where the fabric is woven. Egyptian cotton is prized for its long fibre length, which creates softer, stronger and more durable sheets, explains Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens in Toronto. If you want to slip into soft sheets, look for 100 percent Egyptian cotton, woven in Italy, with a minimum 200 thread count. And if you're looking for more affordable fabrics, you don't have to sacrifice quality, either. " Organic cotton is great for staying cool because it breathes more and easily wicks away moisture," says Jennifer Harvey, associate buyer of textiles for West Elm, "and a poly blend is cheaper and may look better because of the wrinkle-resistant quality of the blend. It's really about personal preference."  


Coyuchi queen duvet cover, $179,

Goodman recommends European- or Canadian-made duvets for their quality. "Choose 100 percent white goose down with a soft cotton-satin shell to avoid any crunching sounds," she says. Note its "loft," or "fill power"—the number of cubic inches filled by an ounce of down. A higher fill count (600 or more) translates into a puffier, warmer duvet. A lightweight option is best for all seasons—it will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. Down alternatives, usually made with microfibre or silk fill, are great for allergy sufferers and can be less expensive (or less warm) than down.


Distinctly Home perfect-support natural jumbo pillow, $90,

The right pillow can be the difference between a restful sleep and a restless night. So how do you find the right one? "Do a practical test," says Jory Solomon, sleep expert with Sleep Country Canada. "Rest your head on different pillows with varying levels of firmness to find your perfect fit." Consider what's inside, too: Choices range from natural (down and feather) to synthetic (foam and latex). Foam-based orthopedic pillows, meanwhile, offer additional support for the head, neck and shoulders. Finally, consider your preferred sleeping position: Stomach sleepers need a relatively flat pillow that won't wrench their neck; back sleepers need medium support; and side sleepers require a firm option with more support to keep the neck and head in alignment.


Sealy Posturepedic Optimum Parker queen all-foam mattress, $936,

You spend one-third of your life sleeping, so a top-notch mattress is a worthy investment. To ensure your comfort, test-drive different models in store. What kind of support do you prefer? Back and stomach sleepers often like a medium to firm mattress, while side sleepers can benefit from more plush models (their body weight is concentrated at the hip and shoulder, which requires more cushioning). Solomon recommends testing each bed for five minutes, noting if it feels better or worse than the previous option. He also says consumers typically test three to six models, which keeps a shopping visit to the half-hour mark.

The Casper Mattress in queen, $1,050,

Mattresses fall mainly into two categories: innerspring and memory foam. Most innerspring mattresses are made with pocket coils (many individual coils instead of one continuous spring). "A good benchmark is 800 coils for a queen bed with a gel-based memory-foam top that absorbs pressure and regulates temperature," says Solomon. A memory-foam mattress is also a great option because it offers incredible support. "Memory foam is designed to revert to its original shape and not your body's shape." Solomon recommends high-density foam topped with a gel-based layer to lessen heat retention. And don't forget about your box spring, which is a must; it supports the mattress and acts as a shock absorber. Replace your box spring when you replace your mattress—it suffers wear and tear at the same rate. Solomon also notes that, though your box spring doesn't have to cosmetically match the mattress, it should have the same internal structure. He recommends replacing your mattress every 10 years.

Simmons Beautyrest Symphony Faulkner II Mix and Match tight-top queen mattress, $1,240,

How to clean and maintain pillows and mattresses:

Regularly washing your bedding is a given, but how about your pillows and mattresses? They can collect dirt and dust (and dust mites—ew!), too.

Use pillow protectors: These zippered covers go over pillows and under pillowcases, keeping body oils, dust and dust mites out, says Julia Black, a Toronto interior decorator. They also help your pillows last longer. Machine-wash weekly with your other bedding.

Wash your pillows: Down and synthetic pillows can be laundered in your washing machine; just make sure to follow the care instructions. "Clean your pillows a minimum of twice a year," says Black. "Run them through the cycle twice—the second time without detergent—for a thorough rinse.  And to ensure that the stuffing is moisture-free and to prevent mould, use a long dry time."

Wrap it up: "Use a breathable, waterproof quilted mattress cover, and wash it monthly," says Black. This extends the life of your mattress by several years and prevents deterioration from oil and moisture.

Regular turnover: Black recommends flipping and rotating your mattress, but check first to see if it's necessary (newer models with pillow tops no longer need to be turned over). Use a vacuum or an apparel steamer to spot-clean the surface. Soap and water or baking soda will remove most stains or marks. Finally, once you've cleaned your mattress (without getting it sopping wet), let it dry completely to discourage dust mites from setting up shop.


Classic-weight white-goose-down queen duvet, $500,

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This story was originally part of "Build A Better Bed" in the February 2016 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!


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Decor & Renovation

The complete bed buying guide