Furnishings: Dressed to the Nights

  • Renée Bennett

Luxury bed linens are not a high priority for many men, but they should be. Creating a deluxe zone in bed is really the best way to separate the men from the boys.

"If a man spends $2,000 or more on a suit, he should spend $2,000 on a sheet set that will make his nights more pleasurable," says Paul Marx, who, with his wife, Sandra, owns Between the Sheets stores in Newport Beach, Palm Desert, and San Diego, Calif.

"Our male customer is tactile and likes to feel the sheets," says Penny Murphy of Pioneer Linens, her family’s Palm Beach boutique. "He knows to ask for a high thread count because he is well traveled and has slept on luxurious sheets in the finest hotels around the world."

For more than 22 years, Lynne Jenkins, owner of Lynnens in Greenwich, Conn., has shared her expertise with her clientele. "Our suburban male customer is certainly more aware of thread count, which is his barometer."

But beware of relying on thread count alone. "Despite its continued emphasis, thread count is only one of the many ingredients in luxury linens," explains Marx. "Just because linens have the same ‘number’ doesn’t mean they are created equal. You have to consider the fiber, the spinning, the weaving, the dyeing, the finishing, and the sewing—all factors that help define true luxury linens.

"The fiber is long-staple Egyptian cotton—the strongest for creating fine weaving thread," he adds. "The more ply, or twisted yarn, the stronger the yarn and the less likely the sheet will pill. Double-plied yarn, for example, is far superior to one-ply. And stitching is always small and precise."

Since talk of fiber, yarn, and weave is probably guaranteed to elicit yawns, retailers use other tactics. Penny Murphy explains to her male customer how buying fine bed linens is just like buying a fine shirt—the same quality of cotton, the same finish with French seams. Lisa Rosenberg, the owner of Arrelle Fine Linens, a Chicago boutique that has been offering luxurious bedding for more than 20 years, agrees. "However, our Midwest customer is very conservative. He may spend $5,000 on a suit but ignore putting that same body on equally luxurious linens."

Most retailers find that their male customer wants instant gratification. So they stock accordingly, with huge inventories that allow him to walk out the door with an entire set—sheets, pillowcases, duvet cover, dust ruffle, shams, and down comforter—in hand.

Rosenberg says that because men prefer more tailored linens and simple embellishments, Arrelle offers a wide range of linens to satisfy their tastes, from Heritage, a 600-thread-count Egyptian cotton jacquard by Christian Fisch- bacher from Switzerland, to Milos, an Italian 1,020-thread-count Egyptian cotton sateen with simple hemstitch.

Between the Sheets offers its own 1,020-thread-count Egyptian cotton sateen-weave linens called Millenia, and recently introduced its own no-iron 425-thread-count collection. "Even if clients don’t do their own laundry, they understand the no-iron concept," Marx says.

Lynne Jenkins often suggests Sferra Bros.’ Celeste, which is her biggest seller. "It is a wonderful sheet," she says, "and the color choices run the gamut." Sferra’s Millesimo is a 1,020-thread-count long-staple Egyptian cotton linen made with Swiss yarn and sewn in Italy. "It will always feel wonderful," she says.

Murphy recommends the richly textured Italian jacquard linens by Frette or Anichini, or Celeste by Sferra Bros., which comes in mushroom, midnight blue, graphite, or honey—colors that appeal to men.

The lesson: Dress your bed as you would dress your body.

Arrelle Fine Linens, 312.321.3696; Between the Sheets, 949.640. 9999, www.betweenthesheetsinc.com; Lynnens, 203.629.3659, www. lynnens.com; Pioneer Linens, 800.207.5463, www.pioneerlinens.com

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