By the time most couples these days arrive at the altar, they have probably accumulated a few worldly goods. But few newlyweds want to start off their married life with the sheets they inherited from Mom or those thinning bath towels that have seen a few rotations around a Kenmore.
A wedding is a time for new beginnings, and the linen closet in particular is one of those places in your life where you might want to give the old belongings the heave-ho and start afresh.
It pays to take some care in choosing items for your bath and boudoir, for these are things you will be using on a daily basis. And, for the same reason, this might be an area where you want to indulge yourself a bit. As compared to furniture, for example, the additional cost of buying top quality is relatively modest. And high-quality items often end up being less expensive over time because they have a longer lifespan.
A couple will need a minimum of three sets of bath towels per person, according to Catherine Gentile of Bed Bath & Beyond. A set includes a bath towel, a hand towel, a face cloth and a washable bath mat. "Three sets per person ensures that you're not constantly doing laundry or caught without a clean towel when guests spend the night," says Gentile.
You want towels that are big enough and absorbent enough to do the job.
"In bath towels, it's all about the quality of the cotton, and Egyptian cotton is known for the thickness and length of the loop," says Linda King, general manager of Macy's Monterey.
You may also want some guest hand towels, says Meredith Crowell of Linens & Such in Carmel. You could choose a "tip towel," which is about the same size as a wash cloth, and made of terry cloth, or a guest towel, which is made out of 100 percent cotton and "is considerably dressier," according to Crowell.
Bedding is one of those areas where you have to either purchase the items yourself or do your homework and be very specific in the bridal registry about exactly what you want. If that $300 sheet set seems like a stretch for one person to purchase as a gift, suggest to three or four friends that they pool their resources.
As with bath towels, three is the magic number: "one set for the bed, one for the laundry and one for the linen closet," says Gentile. "Rotating through three sets will also extend the life of your sheets and keep them in great condition," she adds.
As for pillows: "For each person who will be sleeping in a bed there should be two sleeping pillows, one more firm, one softer," according to Crowell.
The bed should have a mattress cover and zipper covers for the pillows to protect the ticking that covers the pillow, which is more easily damaged by use and cannot be washed. "The pillow is generally an expensive item, especially a down pillow," says Crowell. "In order to protect the investment, you want to protect the ticking. It extends the life of the pillow."
Thread count is not the only consideration in selecting high quality linens. Crowell, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the technicalities of bed linens, says there are several additional factors: ply, the type of cotton, and whether or not the cotton's been combed.
A ply is the conversion of raw cotton into a yarn or a thread, she explains. A single ply is cotton that's been twisted onto itself. Two-ply is two single-ply threads twisted together. Three-ply could be one of two things: one two-ply thread and a single ply or three single-ply threads twisted together. To get the thread counts that are over 1,000, manufacturers have used plied threads. Plied threads are thicker and heavier, which may not be desirable, says Crowell.
She recommends Egyptian, Pima or Upland cotton. "If the sheet is percale, then 300-400 thread count; if sateen, about 400 thread count. A percale sheet has a crisper appearance, and it has an equal number of threads going up and across (warp and weft). In percale those are always the same number," she explains. "Sateen is a type of weave in which there are fewer warp threads than weft threads, and in the process of weaving it, the warp threads get hidden so you can't see any cross-hatching."
"Quality sheets start at 180 thread count," she says.
You also want to look to see if the sheets are made of "combed" cotton. Combing is an additional process that removes the last traces of any debris from the cotton fibers so the final product feels softer.
"For a sheet to say 100 percent cotton isn't enough. For a quality sheet, it has to say all those other things," says Crowell.
Other items that a couple will need include a bedcover, and a bed skirt, to cover up the box spring.
For couples on a limited budget Crowell recommends at blanket cover. "Maybe everybody can't afford a down comforter. A blanket cover is a lightweight spread that has no pillow allowance. It usually doesn't go down to the floor, but it protects the blankets.
If she were to pick one indulgence what would it be? "The best pillow you can find because that, and the kind of a bed that you're sleeping on, is going to affect your whole life, or at least the next day, and a series of days make up your life."
Monogrammed pillow cases would be the luxury of choice for Brigitte Leplus, owner of Jan de Luz in Carmel. Custom lettering, available in 100 different colors and 50 different fonts, is applied to pillow cases selected from stock.
Macy's Linda King suggests their Hotel Line of cashmere blend sheets. A mixture of cashmere and cotton, "they just feel softer than the highest thread count sheets," she says. "It all started from customers wanting to feel as luxurious as they feel when they go to a five-star hotel."
Bed Bath & Beyond
1690 N. Main, Salinas, 831-443-4160
Linens & Such
Lincoln & 6th, Carmel, 831-624-7557
Jan de Luz Carmel Store
Dolores & 7th, Carmel, 831-622-7621
100 Del Monte Shopping Center,
Learn more about the Monterey Bay area at MontereyBayAdventures.com.