Home & Garden

Go bold with your bedding

Zigzag knits are divine with garden trellis throws from Madcap Cottage.
Zigzag knits are divine with garden trellis throws from Madcap Cottage. Madcap Cottage/HSN

There is nothing more glorious than clean, fresh smelling bed linens, comfortable pillows and a fluffy duvet to slink beneath for warmth, especially as the weather cools.

Some prefer their bedding like their sleep time — quiet, neutral, monochromatic with more tone-on-tone subtleties in patterns. Others, though, dive right into color and pattern. And pattern need not be restricted to a single design. In fact, the most interesting beds are outfitted with different motifs connected by color and/or scale.

Swapping out bed linens is the easiest way to lift the mood of a bedroom, morphing the vibe of a space from elegant to sporty, beachy to tailored, even whimsical.

Retailers and designers long have made it easier by putting together coordinated packages that eliminate the guesswork. So a duvet cover may show off two different flavors, one on each side, which is nice, since anyone who has ever battled a queen-sized duvet — stuffing ends into corners — doesn’t really want to repeat the task as often as changing sheets. Shams and pillowcases don’t have to match, and of course, there are toss pillows that can be popped in and out as often as you wish, even with a bit of a seasonal touch. Skulls? Angels? Santas?

With a pre-picked effort that takes the angst out of mixing and matching comes the potential for a more sophisticated layering in a range of color palettes and design motifs. That works for all bedrooms — master or guest. And it can do wonders for the standard issue dorm room.

As far as patterns are concerned, some have become more complex, largely owing to expanded technical capabilities. At Heimtextil, the big international textile show in Frankfurt, Germany, earlier this year, dazzling graphics were possible because of enhancements in inkjet printing. Most noticeably, pattern on pattern, like montages; uber-scale florals or tropicals, some photorealistic; varied scales, starting small and exploding into larger images from top to bottom; and pop-art geometrics.

Inspirations haven’t really changed so much, and nature often heads the list. But interpretations — the way the artist sees it and the way designers put it together — bring some collections to life in very fresh visuals.

For the duo behind Madcap Cottage — Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke — a trip to the Cotswolds of south-central England translated to engaging florals for their just-launched bedding collection for HSN (aka the Home Shopping Network).

“We were driving through hedgerows the first day and we pulled over by the side of the road and had a picnic,” says Nixon. “There were cornflowers and phlox, Queen Anne’s lace and hollyhocks.” With his sketchbook always near, John began to capture the moment: “a sunny afternoon, flowers moving in the breeze, a strong graphic opportunity, colors from the garden, bringing the outdoors in.”

And though romantic, the patterns have a modern edge, such as beds of roses on awning stripes with mega rickrack-like details and colorful zigzags, every bit a reflection of Madcap style.

For West Coast-based Barclay Butera, pattern on pattern has become a signature — and in the bedroom, it’s especially dynamic. Here’s how a favorite coastal theme plays out: with blue and white, for sure, but accented strategically with red for great effect. The magic is in the mix — a rich deep blue paisley for the duvet; striped shams with matching draperies; solid blue oversized pillows with white borders; a bold white on red print for accent pillows; and a graphic anchor in red on white with red piped border and a small red houndstooth fabric on a bench in front of the bed.

In other collections, Butera might introduce on-trend finishing touches from accessories or upholstery details, including nailheads or appliqued trims.

What often captures our attention as we’re trolling the bedding aisles in department stores or checking out sheet possibilities online is the crispness of design as well as the artful teaming of colors. Sometimes it’s the simplest pairing of white with bright: aqua, coral, yellow, indigo or black, for example. This can be dramatic in large-scale patterns or more toned down with smaller motifs — and all, of course, beautifully play off of crisp white.

Black and white is a particularly strong and perennially popular combination — it suits stripes, geometric patterns and toiles, and beautifully takes on almost any color for punctuation — whether it’s a flange border on a pillow or a solid hue contrast. The solid can either be subdued, like a pale pink, or electric, like an apple green.

But even a pattern with a whisper of white can be an amazing companion to white sheets. A perfect-for-fall print at Pottery Barn teams autumnal hues of burnt orange and golden caramel with white highlights in a large-scale organic pattern on a gray ground — a fetching combination.

Putting patterns together lifts the design to another level. An appealing modern combination is a check in luscious citron from Marimekko at Crate and Barrel, shown with a very open citron-on-white design of trees for shams and duvet cover.

A popular pairing of gray and mustard makes a bedding collection from Jonathan Adler pop — especially when the dominantly mustard shams and solid-color pillows are part of the mix.

Even prints in two different colors can coexist handsomely. At Serena & Lily, big blue and white block print live with a smallish coral and white pattern. Blue-and-white awning striped shams are the perfect complement —all this in a room with rich tan walls.

When designers do the legwork for you, and it’s done well, you want to buy in. But what if you want things a bit more eclectic? There are no rules about mixing brands and patterns, just a few guidelines for getting a coordinated look. (Check out Crate and Barrel’s interactive mix-and-match design tool.)

“Buy sheets in different colors or even patterns,” advises Nixon. “You don’t have to match them. Think tonally. If you love blue, green or pink, put together pieces that reference that color. Use color as your guide. Be as graphic as you want to be. Mix and match with what you already have.

“The bed is such important real estate, but it’s so often overlooked,” says Nixon. “It really can have an impact on a space. Plus, you spend so much of your time there. Why not make it magic? Fall asleep to fabulous … wake up to wonderful.”


Barclay Butera Interiors Inc., 800-326-2613,


Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696, www.crateandbarrel.com

Madcap Cottage for HSN, 877-916-0354, www.hsn.com

JCP, 800-322-1189, www.jcpenney.com

Kohl’s, 855-564-5705, www.kohls.com

Emily and Merritt for PB Teen, 866-472-4001, www.pbteen.com

Pottery Barn, 888-779-5176, www.potterybarn.com

Serena & Lily, 866-597-2742, www.serenaandlily.com