Today, folks, you will learn the RIGHT way to make your bed. At this point in my styling career, I can say that I am a bed-making (styling) expert, just like my parents dreamt for me as a child. I did it, mom and dad!! But like anything, when you’ve done something for years and when you’ve made HUNDREDS of beds, you forget that it’s not that simple for everyone. There are a million ways to make a bed, but not all of them look good, so we have some formulas that are fool-proof, GUARANTEED to work and give you that inviting bed of your dreams. Plus there are likely a few mistakes and misconceptions that you should know to avoid.
First, the most challenging element of the bed – THE PILLOWS.
Formula #1: 4 Sleeping Pillows + 1 Extra Long Lumbar =
This is a formula that WORKS and is actually so simple and minimal, while making the bed look pulled together. Four back pillows and one long lumbar and you can be DONE.
Yes. I believe in 4 ‘sleeping’ pillows (as shown through all of these examples). Sure you only put your head on one while you sleep, but you need both for the ‘sitting up’ portion of the evening (reading or watching TV…..ooooohhhhh). Consider each layer a ‘set’ and yes, the sets can be different (but keep both pillows within the set or pair the same). You might want a more firm pillow behind your squishier ‘sleeping’ pillow for the leaning. Plus four pillows simply look way more inviting and balance the length and width of the bed better.
By the way, if you are DYING to know my favorite insert for sleeping it’s this one.
Ironically the softer the pillow the harder it is to style for photos so I have an inventory of ‘prop’ pillows that are fluffier and firmer. But I like a squishy (yet not flat) pillow. Sara has a memory foam pillow and I almost fired her upon announcement. Monstrous.
VERY IMPORTANT: If you have a king bed, you HAVE to have king pillows. A standard size will look just way too small.
Like I said your two sets of pillows can be different – we like to have two different colors or patterns. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes higher contrast (to pull in say, the throw blanket at the end).
HOT TIP: You don’t need euro shams. They are the square pillows that often went in front of your sleeping pillows in lieu of two more sleeping pillows. We still use them now and again, but you don’t NEED them and they can make a bed look fussier, more ‘decorated’. I wouldn’t say they are ‘out’ but just not as in as they used to be.
Also before we leave this formula here are six of our favorites:
FORMULA #2: 4 Sleeping Pillows + 1 Lumbar + 1 Decorative Pillow =
We are building from minimal to more decorative now. I realize that this doesn’t seem THAT different, but sometimes you want to style it to have one more color, pattern or layer. If that’s what you are into, keep that lumbar and add a square, circle or smaller rectangle pillow (I actually have TWO long lumbars on the mountain master bed now that I haven’t shot, but I love it – I have a larger linen one with the smaller leather one in front of it).
GOOD HACK: Brady’s bedroom (above) has a large king sham playing the role of the ‘lumbar’ which totally works, then he put an additional rectangular lumbar in front (I don’t think I can ever say lumbar again, it’s such a terrible word).
As you can see the double lumbar still in action (although the one in front is obviously just a rectangular pillow).
For those of you who love geometry, you can indeed mix a round/circle pillow with a narrow lumbar like we did in that bedroom.
FORMULA #3: 4 Sleeping Pillows + 2 (or 3) Different Shapes/Sized Accent Pillows
If you like yourself a throw pillow (or maybe you have these already around and don’t want to buy a lumbar) then this formula is for you. We love using 2 or 3 different sized (and shaped) pillows in front of your base four. It’s important to have one that is around 24″ to really ground the mini collection – especially on a king (a queen/full could handle 20″).
A good formula we use is one large, one medium and one small. Hand me the Pulitzer prize NOW. Also yes they can all be different colors, patterns, and textures. Certainly, pull in the colors of the headboard and your blankets/throws at the end. You don’t want a really saturated or strong color as a quilt and then nothing to balance it out at the top of the bed. Again, pull from those colors. We wrote a whole post about mixing pillows HERE and rounded up many combos that we love.
You can definitely just do 2 like we did up here (please check out that blanket styling action – boyfriend (aka Scott) LOVES some blankets).
HOT TIP: We love a round pillow. It really breaks up all the squares and rectangles that are innate in a bed. Also looking back at that bed (above), it could have used a quilt at the end and it does defy the formulas below you are about to see, but it’s ok and we didn’t get arrested for our lack of layering. But if we could go back in time I’d add a quilt or blanket to break up the line of the bed frame and give it more of an inviting and relaxed look. Here are some of our favorites:
I gasped when I saw that above photo thinking that the first throw pillow was too small, but then I realized it was a lumbar – THANK GOD.
See? Proof. PHEW.
Here is a handy graphic to help you remember our pillow formulas:
Now on to your bedding – the quilts, throws and comforter portion of the bed that can be equally paralyzing to style.
The Bedding Formulas:
HOT TIP: You don’t need a flat sheet if you have a washable duvet cover. It’s only required if you have a less washable comforter or quilt.
FORMULA #4: 1 “Fluffy Component” + 1 “Flat Component” =
I know there are more ways to style the bedding but we like the simplicity of choosing one that is more “fluffy” for lack of more scientific term – either a duvet with an insert or a comforter (typically less washable, but just as fluffy). You can also definitely have two “fluffy” components or two “flat components”, but we like at least two “blanket components” in total. I hope you are taking notes …. there will be a test.
HOT TIP: When styling a bed to look the most inviting, it’s crucial to fold the comforter/duvet (and potential flat sheet) back far enough that it clears the 4 back pillows. This adds depth and texture, plus if your fitted sheet is a pattern or color then it pops out more which is more fun. It’s like the cuff of a sleeve underneath your sweater – it’s just a little pop of something else that makes it look interesting.
You want your bed to say, “come on in” and folding it back a bit does that. It does NOT have to clear your decorative/accent pillows, in fact, it is better if it’s layered on top, thus bridging those two surfaces.
EXCEPTION: Emily of the Sweet Beast only used TWO back pillows and laid them flat to show off her low but beautiful headboard. This is absolutely acceptable – the bed looks slightly less full but seeing the pretty spindles of the bed adds additional texture and style (plus it lets more natural light through).
If you want to go one step further, like the graphic above here you go …
1 “Fluffy Component” + 1 “Flat Component” + 1 Extra Throw =
If you are a true layering addict, then this is for you – add an ADDITIONAL blanket mostly to add more color/style/pattern/texture and sculptural shape. We like to have the bottom layer be more structured, typical fold, then the top one to have more of an organic shape.
PET PEEVE: Please, guys, BOTH blankets should be long enough to at least fall over both sides of the bed – not to the floor, but to look properly scaled to the bed, they shouldn’t just sit on top (although we’ve done it when we’ve had to and no one got arrested or fired).
The blankets should be different in order to add contrast in color or texture. Like above, the bottom blanket is more structured and folded conservatively, while the top one has more movement and fringe. If we had just used the navy blue blanket it would have been too strong of a color moment to balance out the top of the bed. It would have overwhelmed the bed, visually, so the white breaks it up and calms it down a bit.
Here are some great “large enough” bed blanket options:
1. Winter + Summer Cotton Coverlet | 2. Yarn Dye Stripe Ringspun Cotton Bed Blanket | 3. Candlewick End of Bed Blanket | 4. Sweater Knit Bed Blanket | 5. Handwoven Dorado Blanket | 6. Belgian Flax Linen Blanket
But if you have a throw blanket from your living room and are desperate – this is acceptable …
You may throw a blanket casually to create a sculptural shape and add interest. It’s a little ‘stylist-y’ and ideally, it would be bigger. But it’s better than folding it straight and having it look way too small, like a mistake. This just looks kinda pretty and effortless.
I had no idea how much I had to say about making a bed, and frankly, I could say more. There are no actual rules and we’ve gone outside these formulas many many times, but I also think having a couple guaranteed ways to help guide the styling is so helpful, even to US. Looking back through my years of styling I can see that my favorite beds fell into those formulas and the ones where I went outside just weren’t as successful.
In case you want to pin this, or maybe you respond to graphics – we pulled together our formulas in one place.
Now please, please go and make your bed and tag us on social so we can see and reshare. Use #showemyourstyled and show us those beds.