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Bed Coverings 101

Bed Coverings 101

This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on July 30, 2015.

A well-dressed bed means different things to different people: it can be as simple as fine quality sheets topped with a fluffy duvet and duvet cover, or composed of various layers, such as a flat sheet, blanket, quilt, and a throw. Or perhaps it’s all hidden under a bedspread. There are lots of combinations, and there is certainly no right or wrong for how one builds the perfect bed.

Your dream bed may look different from anyone else's, but with all of the options out there, we think it’s important to understand the difference between all of these choices. What’s the difference between a coverlet and a quilt? A bedspread and a blanket cover? And what the heck is a bed scarf? Scroll down for our handy bed coverings glossary.

And once you’ve mastered the bed coverings, click over to our pillow formations chart, which provides ten different style schemes.

Flat Sheet
The flat sheet is the first covering over the fitted sheet. It's the layer that touches the body, providing a hygienic, easy to wash barrier between you and other bed coverings that are used for warmth and/or decoration. A flat sheet can hang down the side of the mattress though traditionally it is tucked in all the way around for a more polished presentation.


Left: The Parterre duvet cover provides a finished look. Right: A Lorelei duvet is layered over a quilt.

Duvet Cover
Made from sheeting, the duvet cover is a decorative and protective covering for the duvet insert- hopefully ours - that comes in various weights and fillings, from our remarkable down-free option to our luxurious European goose. The duvet cover can be used with a flat sheet or on its own. When used without intermediary layers, the cover reduces the complexity of making a bed. In this case, a cover with decorative trim at the top, such as Matouk’s Parterre, provides a finished look. This can also be layered over a quilt or blanket, folded at the foot of the bed or pulled all the way up, as an extra layer of warmth. A duvet cover hangs down the sides of the bed to cover the box spring; it is never tucked in.

Clockwise from left: A stack of Dream Modal blankets; the waffle-patterned Chatham blankets; Dream Modal blanket layered atop a flat sheet.

A blanket is a generic term that refers to almost any bed covering thicker than a sheet, including quilts, duvets, and comforters. It can also refer to a more utilitarian woven covering that is sandwiched between a flat sheet and another layer primarily for warmth. A blanket drapes over the sides of the bed. The Dream Modal blanket is one of our bestsellers.

This easy-care Plisse seersucker blanket cover is finished with white eyelet lace.

Blanket Cover
A blanket cover is a very lightweight decorative covering that is layered over a blanket, almost like a decorative top sheet. A blanket cover is often used on hotel beds as the outermost layer over a blanket, protecting the blanket so it won’t need frequent laundering. The fitted sheet, flat sheet, and blanket cover can be pulled off the bed and washed in a single load. Blanket covers are usually poly/cotton blends, requiring very little attention; no ironing necessary. Matouk’s Plisse blanket cover has been a staple for over fifty years.

A comforter is an easy to use layer that sits on top of the mattress. It functions similarly to a duvet and duvet cover, but is constructed in one piece, with widely spaced functional stitching that ensures its filling remains evenly distributed. Matouk does not manufacture this category of bed covering.

Luna features diamond railway pattern quilting.

A quilt is comprised of three layers—two layers of fabric with batting in between—stitched together, often with a decorative design. Matouk quilts are constructed from the same fabric as the fitted and top sheets, making them soft enough to sleep under. A quilt is thinner than the more voluminous duvet cover or comforter, but denser, resulting in a heavier feel atop the body. Quilts can be used solo over a flat sheet, layered over a blanket, or under a duvet cover.

Left: Pearl coverlets are made from matelassé with an iridescent finish; right: Barcelona coverlets are made from matelassé with a large over-under-pattern.

A coverlet is a bed covering with sides that hang down a few inches past the box spring, but don’t touch the floor. A coverlet can be tucked in or left untucked if edged with decorative trim. Coverlets can be layered directly over a flat sheet or over a blanket. Matouk coverlets come in different fabrications, such as piqué and matelassé woven on a jacquard loom, resulting in an allover texture. It may sometimes resemble a quilt, but unlike a quilt, which is comprised of several layers, a coverlet is just one layer of fabric woven in such a way that mimics the quilting technique. Coverlets that are soft and drapey, like Matouk’s Pearl, are quite comfortable to sleep under. Others, like Barcelona and Lugano, are stiffer and dressier, and likely would be pulled back at night.

A bedspread is lightweight, decorative, and covers the entire bed, coming up over the pillows and kissing the floor. Although currently out of vogue, bedspreads were once adored as an easy way to make a bed, allowing one to hide everything on the bed in one fell swoop. Currently out of vogue, chenille bedspreads were popular in the 1950s. Today, Matouk bedspreads matelassé can be custom ordered through Matouk retailers.

Salinas throws are made out of finely spun baby alpaca yarn woven by Peruvian artisans.

Throw blankets are small decorative blankets, often with trim or fringe, that are used for extra warmth, decoration, or as a covering when lounging on top of the bed. It is normally folded at the foot of the bed, on top of any other bedding. Matouk’s Salinas is a favorite decorative addition and Soledad throws add great pops of color.

Bed Scarf
A bed scarf is a decorative layer that spans entire width of the foot of the bed to protect the bedding from dirty shoes or suitcases in a hotel or from a pet at home. Most of Matouk’s matelassé fabrics can be custom made in this dimension through Matouk retailers.