Brit Etiquette expert reveals the 12 ways your boudoir reveals your social class (and why you should never sleep in silk sheets).

October 29, 2017

Expert says your bedroom may reveal more about you than you think. Flat sheets are preferable to duvets, while there is a strict hierarchy of beds

Much was said last week about Windsor Castle reportedly switching from flat sheets and eiderdowns to duvets. The brouhaha this caused was quite perplexing. Seemingly what goes on in our bedrooms is a heated topic.

Perhaps now is the time to have a look at how we can discern whether our bedroom is more upstairs than downstairs.


Bed linens are cotton, linen or a blend of both. Silk and satin sheets are the reserve of haggard, ageing ungentlemanly playboys. Linens are often white, or off white. Floral bedding is acceptable if you’re thatched. Black, deep purple or maroon sheets are to be left in the shop. Or ideally burned. 


Flat sheets, preferably with a little starch in the wash, were always seen (and still are, really) in English country houses. They kept the bodies in it much warmer than duvets, which were only really seen by the English when traveling abroad. A duvet is now fine, but you get double class points for still sticking to flat sheets and an eiderdown. The more layers, the better. Ideally you want to be more or less trapped in the bed. Etiquette expert William Hanson says silk and satin sheets are for ‘haggard, ageing’ playboys only.


Is there a multitude of cushions on the bed? Well, yes, well done: you’ve clearly holidayed in Dubai. In short, the more cushions, the more déclassé your bedroom is. Less is more. Although preferably none at all. 


Ensure your pillows lie flat on the bed, I beg you. Propped up like soldiers is the American standard and not to be seen on British soil. 


One way to make sure your bedroom is up there with the hoity-toity is to display a beaten up teddy bear, stuffed with memories of the nursery. As always, there is a limit. One is good, more than three and we’re two stops away from the need to be sectioned. And please just make sure your bear isn’t Forever Friends. 


It’s not just what bedding you choose to use that counts but the model of bed, too. Four-poster beds are beloved of the country house, but also by the swinger. If you don’t live in a Regency pile (or Radlett) then best avoid them. If you do have one, let’s just hope it’s inherited and antique. Those made from brass with net curtains are very Abigail’s Party. Single beds, or ‘small doubles’ are only suitable for children or trendy vicars. French ‘Lit Bateaux’ beds are charming, but too small for English bodies. If you’ve the real thing you win points; a fake, modern version and you clearly live in a larger Barratt semi with en suite delusions of grandeur. 


I don’t care how comfortable you like making your overnight guests, putting a chocolate on the pillow or by the side of the bed is never acceptable. It’s far too hotely (and the best ones don’t, anyway). 


You cannot wear to bed what you wore in the daytime unless you wish to be labeled an Onslow or Daisy. Upon rising, it is important to change and dress for breakfast if you wish to frolic both outside and inside the sheets with the PLU set. Eating kippers in your pyjamas is not on. Onesies are correctly termed ‘baby grows’ and worn by toddlers ONLY. 


No sex, please, we’re British. Thus, smutty and smeary mirrors in odd and unusual places are vulgar – in every sense of the word. 


A basin in a bedroom is either seen in bedsits or in the bedrooms of high nobility. Unless you have legitimate Ducal tendencies it is best to get the man in from the village to rip out your bedroom plumbing. Add a valet stand perhaps, where the basin once was. 

NB: a basin is where you wash your hands; a sink is where you wash pots and pans. Getting the terms wrong is embarrassing. 


Does your maid or valet bring you a small ‘calling’ tray of tea or coffee in the morning to wake you? Perhaps with the morning newspaper carefully folded to one side? Very smart and a hangover from a by-gone age of elegance. 


The best houses are big houses. Big, rattling and totally impractical. Therefore, they are cold. Especially now as impoverished aristos and gentry struggle to keep the central heating running at all – unless they sellout to costume dramas. 

Cold? Pop an extra dog on the bed rather than reach for the radiator. Cheaper and warmer, by far. Très chic!  

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