White wool only should be used in bed-making, and should be of the best quality obtainable. It ought to be the natural white wool, and not have been rendered dull and lifeless by bleaching. The price of the finest wool is about 7s. 6d. a pound ; and in Paris, where the fancy for choice bedding is perhaps carried to an excess, the best wool runs from 8s. to I0s. a pound. But a good quality can be secured in London from 2S. 6d. a pound.
The comfort of one's bed depends upon its mattress. An excellent article is what is known as the "French mattress." This has three layers of material. First comes an inner layer of fine, long horsehair, with, on each side, an outer casing of long white wool, that serves to make the bed soft, easy, and comfortable. The central stratum of hair prevents the wool layers felting down into a firm mass, and gives to the soft, fleecy wool just that amount of elasticity which is required to make one of the most comfortable beds that can be imagined.
The best bed ever made is, in my opinion, the "Woodstock" mattress. This is a mattress of fine, long horsehair, having on either side a thick pad of the finest eiderdown. This layer of down forms a soft surface, and produces the softness of a feather bed without its undue warmth and its unhealthy mass of material. The price of a "Woodstock" mattress for a single bed would be just over £5, and a good French mattress of the same size would cost about £2 2s.
Ordinary wool mattresses can be had from 9s. Linen and not cotton ticking should be used for mattress covers, but the best mattresses are covered with swansdown.
Bolsters are made of fine feathers, and in these there have of late been several improvements.
Opinions on pillows are many and varied. Most of us prefer a down pillow, for the sake of its softness ; on the other hand, some people - men especially - like a pillow of extreme hardness.
To my mind there is a happy medium, and this can be obtained by a mixture of down and the finest feathers. The best eiderdown costs about 8s. 6d. a pound.
The " Hair-down " pillow, a patent, is a useful invention.
It contains a layer of down on the outside, which gives a pleasant sense of softness, and an inner case filled with fine horsehair that supplies the desired amount of firmness.
The question of sheets is one easily settled. Fine linen sheets are the best, and these can be trimmed with lace or embroidery. But a few wealthy faddists prefer silk sheets, as being less cold to the touch in winter.
Blankets should be of the finest white wool, and of the best make and quality.
The styles of bedding here described are unrivalled for luxurious comfort and daintiness. But they must be written down as expensive. However, at all the best shops another and cheaper style of bedding can be procured, which is equally good in the important points of purity, texture, and hard-wearing qualities.
Wooden bedsteads have of late come much into favour. They were at one time disliked from the fear of insect pests which might be secreted in their various sections. But this evil has been avoided by the use of iron fittings, and by a different form of construction.
Iron and brass beds are, however, still in general use, and artistic specimens of these latter can be procured in certain of our London emporiums.
As regards the shape of beds, we have of late become more sophisticated. The simple style, made with a low rail at head and foot, has now fallen into disfavour. What is known as the French or tester-shaped bed is preferred, and some of us even have adopted the old-world four-poster.
Huge beds, of which the great Bed of Ware makes an historic example, are out of date.
A modern contrivance that is useful is an expanding bedstead. This is at once a single and a double bed, for, by means of hinges and folds, it can be contracted to hold only one, or expanded to make room for two - or, indeed, one might say for half a dozen. This can be done by a touch of the hand, and in the course of a couple of minutes.
Many people prefer nowadays to sleep without any sort or kind of bed-hangings. But there can be no doubt that some kind of curtain, if well arranged, adds much to the comfort and beauty of one's apartment. The question of material is a wide one, and must depend on the aspect of the room, and on the nature of the carpet, wallpaper, etc.
If the colour of the latter is decided, white dimity curtains make a good contrast, and have an excellent effect, especially if the colour that surrounds them is repeated in the form of braid at the edge or in some other style of trimming. In large towns, however, white curtains are soon soiled, and it is better to have a pale-coloured wallpaper and curtains of serge or of chintz or cretonne.
Brocade curtains, on account of their cost, need not be described in detail in this article.
Coverlets also are worth careful consideration. In winter eiderdown quilts are highly desirable. These are now made in all colours, styles, and qualities. White cotton cover-lot , too, are used often, and some in cotton printed with colours may be set down as pretty, artistic, and serviceable. Coverlets of a richer kind can be made of silk or satin, gold-braided or hand-embroidered ; or else in thick brocade, with a coarse lace appliqued on to the surface.