When it comes to your home's furnishings, the bed is absolutely crucial. For one, there are few things more important than a good night's sleep. But for another, the bed often determines how the rest of the bedroom will look. How the bed is dressed will affect its functionality, and impact the rest of the room's aesthetic. But for someone walking down the linen aisle and seeing so many options, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. From duvets to comforters, to quilts, to bedspreads, each has its unique pros and cons. Let's take a look at each and break them down so you can rest easy.

Quilts

bedroom with quilted bed
  • A handmade quilt on average costs $250-$500 depending on its size.
  • Alternatively, picking up a quilt at Walmart can cost as low as $5.
  • People often hang quilts on walls to display as art.

A quilt is simple in function, but complex in construction. There are typically three layers. The top is the iconic, immediately recognizable layer, often composed of squares stitched together to form various patterns. On the bottom is a more plain, solid piece of fabric, and in between the two is an insulating layer of wool or down. The contrasting outer layers offer a positive aspect to quilts: their versatility. While the patterned side can be more colorful, detailed, and personal, the appearance often looks folksy, or more traditional. By flipping the quilt over to the plainer side, it's easy to achieve a cleaner, more contemporary aesthetic. Additionally, a quilt can function as both the main bed covering, or draped as a throw. Best of all, many quilts are machine washable, making them much easier to clean than other options that would require a trip to the dry cleaners.

On the other hand, those in colder climates might think twice before using a quilt as their main bed covering, as they are quite thin. Their light weight makes them great for summer, but unlikely to provide warmth in the winter months.

Comforters

silver floral patterned comforter in a room with neutrals
  • A queen-size comforter set from a store like Target or Walmart costs, on average, $40-$90.
  • Most comforters are filled with duck down, but splurging on a comforter filled with high-quality white goose down could cost as much as $850!
  • Making your bed each morning reduces the number of dust mites building up.

A comforter can be just as decorative as a quilt, but its construction is much more streamlined than the quilt's elaborate stitching. As such, their simplicity makes them easier to select within the context of the rest of the room, especially since they usually come with matching sheets and pillowcases. Their value especially shines in how little effort they require maintaining. It's easy to head to the store, pick out your favorite set, unzip the bag, and dress the bed. Functionally, they can also be more comfortable while sleeping, given that they can easily be tucked into the bed and stay put even as you move around throughout the night.

However, sometimes making things easy comes at a price. As a more mainstream, inexpensive option, comforters often lack in quality in other areas. For one, the stuffing can be cheap, leading the comforter to grow lumpy over time. In addition, their material usually requires dry cleaning, rather than a simple toss into the washing machine at home. Due to the inconvenience, they go through long periods between washes, building up in dander or dust mites that those with allergies might find difficult to manage. It's advised to include an additional sheet beneath the comforter that can be cleaned more frequently.

Duvets, Covers + Inserts

patterned duvet cover in white bedroom
  • A queen-size duvet cover at IKEA or Target costs around $20-$50.
  • It's possible to get duvets and comforters that don't use any animal product. Look for "synthetic down," "down alternative" or "polyester fill" on the labels.
  • When you're washing your sheets and duvet covers, make sure not to overfill. They need enough space to fluff up in the dryer.

Technically, a duvet is a type of comforter. However, when most people say "duvet," they are referring to the duvet cover. Essentially, it is a thin cover that can be stuffed with a comforter or any other insert that would provide weight and warmth. Because the bulkier insert can be easily removed, the duvet cover can go into the washing machine without issue. Increased washings remove the necessity of additional sheets typically paired with comforters, making it easier than ever to make the bed. Also, duvet covers are cheaper than comforters, so it's more affordable to swap them out when new design inspirations strike.

Although, what makes a duvet cover convenient can become a hindrance just as easily. Since the duvet cover's insert makes it thicker, it typically shifts more than a comforter. For those who toss and turn during the night, duvet covers can easily slip off them. Another inconvenience could be in finding a duvet insert that's a perfect fit for the cover, as well as increasing the cost of dressing the bed overall.

Bedspreads

floral bedspread in bedroom
  • A bedspread set might cost anywhere from $50 to $125.
  • Bedspreads were created to reach all the way down to the floor in order to prevent dust bunnies from building up underneath the bed.
  • Bedspreads look old-fashioned because they've been around for over a hundred years.

Finally, a bedspread is the most decorative, least functional of the bed clothing options, often put on beds that are more for appearance than utility. Unlike other bed coverings, a bedspread reaches all the way down to the floor, often covering the pillows as well. As such, a bed in a guest room that sits unused for an extended period of time might use a bedspread to fully cover the bed in a way that provides a crisp, clean aesthetic (adding additional blankets for guests who do use it). As a decorative bed covering less concerned with function, bedspreads usually include fringes, pompoms, and other adornments.

Although they have their purpose, bedspreads are rarer in modern homes which favor more minimalist designs and fewer frills. Still, bedspreads are common in hotels, as well as in homes designed around old-fashioned tastes.

When It Comes Time To Decide, Consider Both Function And Appearance

closeup of bed with upside down teddy bear on top

When it comes to choosing a bed covering, there are certain characteristics to consider. Most apparent, and easiest, is appearance. As a matter of taste, deciding between the aesthetics of quilts, comforters, duvet covers, and bedspreads happens quickly and instinctively. However, functionality can be just as important. If you need to worry about cold nights, it might be prudent to forgo the thinner quilts and bedspreads for comforters and duvets -- perhaps adding a quilt on top for additional warmth.

Additionally, ease of washing is an important factor, particularly for those sensitive to allergens. While a comforter might be the warmest and most comfortable, it's easy to prioritize other things over stripping the bed and taking it to the dry cleaners. A duvet cover can be a great alternative, given how easy it is to slip into even the smallest washing machine.

There are a lot of things to think about, but stopping to look at the pros and cons of each type of covering makes the decision a lot easier. There's no reason to lose sleep over it.

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