I’m the regular recipient of new home interior books, some of which are look-books with beautiful photography designed to introduce the reader to a new or revived trend.
Others are crammed so tightly with lists of instructions, were I to implement them thoroughly there would be little time for anything else, and I might end up broke at the same time.
But there are two books I really value — Colour Now (published by Quadrille) by the design-God, Kevin McCloud, and Keeping House by Cindy Harris (published by Ryland Peters).
The latter is quite a recent publication, written in a way that doesn’t make housework seem such a chore, and which I consulted recently while musing on a spring revival of my bed linens.
After a long period of winter hibernation I’m longing for warmer days and the pleasure of slipping into a bed newly made with clean sheets, to rest a weary head on cool, crisp pillowcases while hugged by a feather-light duvet.
But while bed-making for maximum comfort is not exactly an art, there is a technique involved which includes what’s known as military corners or hospital corners so everything is tight and orderly.
I prefer fitted under-sheets even though they’re difficult to fold and press, not that this really presents a problem for me as I enjoy a happy, long-distance relationship with my iron.
Some of the more expensive linen ranges don’t offer fitted sheets but then I tend to go for middle of the road prices to get comfortable cotton-based linens that won’t scratch the skin like poly mixes.
My issue, though, with fitted sheets is they come about half-way down the side of the mattress and ruin the look of an otherwise nicely made bed.
Cindy Harris enlightened me with news that for very deep mattresses, seek out fitted sheets bearing the label ‘deep pocket’ so the elastic fits comfortably underneath.
Am I the only one who didn’t know this?
I’m also with her when it comes to top sheets, as using one means not having to change the duvet cover every time you wash the sheets and pillowcases.
There’s no simple way of putting on a duvet cover so a top sheet cuts down on how often you break a sweat trying.
She also advises turning mattresses every few months when new, and after the first year to do it every 12 months.
Regular vacuuming will help to keep the dreaded dust mites from increasing and multiplying, especially if you have a family member who is prone to allergies.
If you can, air mattresses outdoors in summertime, but knowing our Irish weather they may end up getting a soaking instead so you need to be certain of a dry day.
In any event I find dragging mattresses outside a bit of a challenge as will many, especially if you have to contend with stairs.
I’ve devised a compromise where I shove the mattress off the bed and flip it up against an open window.
Down pillows, while a pleasure to rest a weary head upon when new, eventually flatten and harden over time — we’re talking four to five years here, according to Cindy, and they’re not ideal for allergy sufferers.
Her advice is to use a zip-up cover under the pillowcase so the texture of down can be enjoyed and nasal-related repercussions might be avoided.
Foam versions won’t present an allergy problem, but neither will they capture the comfortable feeling of down, so a new product called synthetic down might be an acceptable in-between option that gives something of the feeling you want without the risk of night-time sniffles.
Assuming another fine summer’s day, Cindy suggests flinging duvets over a clothes line so any trapped moisture will evaporate and they acquire a lovely fresh air scent that makes you think the duvets are new again.
Now, it might be worth mentioning here that Cindy is from California, hence the assumption there will be sunny days suitable for this job.
When making our bed she says to fluff the duvet by wafting it up and down to increase what is known as the loft — those fuzzy clusters of down which expand to fill space and trap more warm air.
This is certainly worth doing, as facing into an Irish summer we’re unlikely to be throwing off the duvets at night.
Arranging piles of decorative cushions on a bed every morning might be more work than you have time for, so try just one propped against lovely crisp white pillows.
Florals are always in fashion in spring and summer. This naïve-style depiction is the antithesis of the blowsy version for those of us who prefer an understated look Floral embroidered cushion from Next Interiors (€20).
The colours of summer flowers with a touch of an Irish rain shower are depicted in this pastel cushion from Pennys (€10).
For a touch of fun, try the Mr & Mrs cushion from TK Maxx (€19).
Fauna as well as flora is appearing in this year’s pattern trends, especially birdlife. The Hummingbird cushion from Argos adds a touch of the exotic (€20).
ART OF REBELLION
Escape work at lunchtime next week for the Glucksman Gallery where Dr Marie Bourke, former Keeper and Head of Education at the National Gallery of Ireland, will give a lecture entitled, “Artists’ Impressions of 1916 and the Emergence of an Independent Ireland”.
Referencing paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture from the Celtic Revival period, particularly 1900-1927, the lecture will cite artists like Orpen, Yeats, and Keating and the lesser-known Belgian artist Edmond Delrenne. Glucksman, UCC, May 11 at 1pm.
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