How to Build the Perfect Bed

Photo courtesy Jody Jones

Sleep, that elusive and temperamental beast. I’ve spent my adulthood seeking it like Godzilla hunts Mothra, or the way that perimenopausal women look for sleep.

Thanks to better living through chemistry, I’ve come to a mighty-fine agreement with sleep: Leave me alone for 14 hours a day, and you can have all of me the other 10. Ish.

Having your own issues? Try calming lavender sachets or spray, melatonin, warm milk, calming music or Ambien (at your own risk). Surely something will stick (fingers crossed!). And once you’ve conquered getting sleep, it’s time to turn your attention to the quality of your sleep, which very often begins with building the perfect bed.


Start with foundation: A stellar mattress begets a perfect bed. The tough part? It’s completely subjective.

I have some friends who swear by their “green” latex mattresses. I’ve loved my crazy-expensive, wrapped-coil Stearns & Foster, having first sampled it at my Mammy’s house and refusing to get out of it for a day or three.

There are benefits and drawbacks to all choices: Pillow tops feel cushy, but you can’t flip them as recommended (so wear will be uneven). While garnering the highest owner satisfaction, memory foam mattresses are noted as being “not romance-friendly for some.” No thanks. And waterbeds seem groovy, man… but just don’t.

Finding the best mattress for you is a lot like finding a spouse: You gotta kiss a lot of frogs. You gotta lie on a lot. It’s the only time in life your friends and family will encourage you to sleep around.

My philosophy: Buy a good mattress, but not the best. Invest the “extra” money in replacing your mattress more frequently. Think about all the dust and junk that probably builds up in there. You may wash your sheets every week, but you wash your mattress never.


TN000293 - Sheets
(Photo courtesy

Don’t buy shitty sheets. Period.

Many claim Frette sheets are the best out there. Many also have to take out second mortgages on their homes to enjoy such things. If you’re flush with cash, take the plunge. You won’t be disappointed.

However, you don’t have to break the bank to feel pampered. Try Bed Bath & Beyond’s Hotel Collection Bedding. It feels good, it wears well and you’ll still be able to afford dinner after your purchase.

My current favorites are Garnet Hill’s Eileen Fisher Home Washed Linen Collection. Cool in summer, warm in winter, available in so many soothing tones and — like us — they look even better with age.


Picking pillows can be just as personal as choosing a mattress. Down? Synthetic? Foam? Latex? Other? Lots of choices can lead to mucho frustration, but — in the end — also lead to a wonderfully comfortable and customized sleeping experience.

A great place to start is Cuddledown’s Pillow Picker. Enter in some information and you’ll get a selection of pillows that might be right for you. Based on my answers, Cuddledown recommended this pillow for me. Sure is much easier than sifting through the (seemingly) hundreds of choices without guidance.

Wanna do it the old-fashioned way? Bed Bath & Beyond is once again a go-to source, especially if you want to test the merchandise in person. They have everything! That’s what “beyond” means.

And as anyone who has shopped SkyMall knows, there are as many specialty solutions for condition-specific needs as there are fingers on a centipede. If you have back pain, or neck pain, or are pregnant, or have a headache, or get hot flashes, there’s a pillow made for you. Isn’t that comforting?


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Sometimes I feel like I have more blankets than I do square feet in my home. I justify them all by thinking (knowing!) that each serves a different purpose for all the rooms, occasions and seasons.

A few favorites:

Cynthia Rowley’s Quilts
While not always easy to find, they’re worth the quest. I first discovered them in Cynthia’s quirky, small shop in Montauk, NY. I bought two. Rotate them regularly for an always-fresh look.

Serena & Lily’s Throws
Made in America, these cotton throws are machine-washable and oh-so-comfy. Perfect as warm-me-up wraps during cool springs (like this year’s). They also work great for keeping dog hair off your white linen couch.

Ikea’s Ofelia Blanket
This funky thing kinda rocks. It’s some combination of a wide-weave sheet and a scrunchie. It’s stretchy and lightweight, perfect for cocooning on a warm summer night. It’s tough to fold, so just roll it into a ball and shove it into a closet. I promise it won’t be there long.

Finishing Touches


Slipping to sleep doesn’t just feel nice — it actually smells nice, if you place a favorite fragrance in your bedroom. I like Antica Farmacista Home Ambiance Fragrance in Peony, Gardenia and Rose. It’s sure to make South of Houston smell like the South of France.

Noise Machine

This is here to debunk the myth that these things always work to quiet spaces and create a peaceful sleep environment. They don’t; not if you’re terrorized by partying neighbors in your antique apartment building. For me, the only thing white sound machines really do is remind me of my therapist, which is weird to experience in bed.

Solution: move.


Get yourself one of these and you’ll never be cold or lonely again.

Janey on a Cynthia Rowley quilt, courtesy Jody Jones

Sweet dreams, y’all!

Tell Us in the Comments

What do you think?

5 Responses

  1. Susan_Linney

    OK totally inspired now. TOTALLY. New bed for spring/summer! Great tips (and easy( — thanks Jody!


  2. Elena

    There are terrific white noise apps for free for smartphones. I’ve used them on noisy trains and when the kid upstairs has a bad night. The sound of ocean waves does the trick for me!

  3. Wendy Goldman Scherer

    these are a few of my favorite things and some new ideas – thanks!

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