Fashion is everywhere

Chez Larsson

Making a (Swedish) Bed


This post was, as is often the case, brought on by you guys. I keep getting comments and questions on how I make a bed or how beds are made in Sweden.

I obviously can't speak for all Swedes out there but I do sense that we make a simpler bed than the average American. I also know it's made differently from how it's (used to be?) made in Germany, at least from my experience of super thick and very short duvets at my relative's houses.


Anyway, when Martin and Wille were away after Christmas I took the opportunity to wash all the bedding in all the beds and took photos of when I made the one in the boatroom. For your viewing pleasure.

What you see above is the matress (covered in a washable stretch cotton cover). I have no idea what it's called in English but it's basically what we sleep on. I've had hernia comments before but I guess it's similar to US box springs?


Normally you would get a bedskirt that covers the matress and goes down the sides but I do my own version which you can check out more closely here.


On top of the bed skirt goes the overlay matress. This one is about 2 cm (3/4") thick but you can get thicker ones too. On the double bed upstairs and on Wille's bed they are about 5 cm ( 2") thick.


I use washable pads for the overlay matress. They are thin padded flat covers with elastics diagonally over the corners. I wash these about every second or third time I wash the sheets.


A flat sheet or fitted sheet goes over the top of the overlay mattress and cover.


The pillow is protected by a similar cover as the one that goes over the overlay mattress and again isn't washed everytime but maybe every second or third time. The pillow inside stays fresher with this on.


A regular cotton pillowcase goes over the cover. Ah, the freshness of clean sheets makes me want to go to bed right now.


Pillow(s) gets plonked on the bed, as many as you like but Martin just wants one.


Comforter or duvet in cover goes on top. I like to fold in the sides for neatness. Martin doesn't like down (too warm) which is why his bed looks really flat whereas my downy one is more fluffy and puffy. On the double bed I fold the duvets so the sides meet in the middle and the outer edges are folded in.

And there it is bedspread and cushions on top, en svensk säng, a Swedish bed.


  • Jessica says:

    Oh! so different, thank you for sharing 😉
    The U.S. box spring is incredibly uncomfortable and is only there to hold up the thick (usually at least 5″ thick) mattress, though it does give a little and support a little as it is full of springs. But you’d never want to lay out such a thin overlay mattress such as yours on it. I think you’d be up all night!
    I love the pillow cover that goes on under the pillow slip, I’d love some of those.
    I have a question: in the second to last photo, where you’ve folded the red checked duvet, it looks like that would have to be refolded like that every morning when you make the bed, yes? Or are we all just tall, kicky sleepers at my house? Also, no flat sheet between the comforter and the person, just the duvet?

  • That was really interesting! It’s really different to how we make beds in Australia. You either just have a mattress on a slat bed base or have a mattress and base (box spring) ensemble. Some people just have a fitted sheet over the mattress and then a doona/duvet on top. Alternatively you can have a fitted sheet then a flat sheet folded over at the top so you get in the bed like it’s an envelope. Then it’s a doona or blankets on top. All this bed talk is making me sleepy!

  • Gracia says:

    Here in Spain we have a “box spring” which is basically a solid wooden structure upholstered (so you CAN’T sleep on it) + thick mattress (Like Jessica, about 5″ or so) + mattress cover + fitted sheet + duvet in its cover and that’s it. Since we sleep in direct contact with the duvet cover, we change it very often and can choose between changing the look of the room or just own identical sets.
    Also, we just let the duvet hang like the bedspread in the last photo. Much easier, although not as neat-looking.
    I’ve been dreaming of adding one of those very thin mattresses and “quilted” pillow covers since I spent a week in a Swede home. So comfy!

  • Gracia says:

    Funny how similar Spain and Australia are in bed-related topics… bed-making, I mean. Here some people do the “envelope” sheet thing and then add blankets and a bedspread on top of it all to make it pretty (since blankets tend to be hideous).

  • Franziska says:

    My bed is in some way similar to yours (not the bedframe). I have a thick mattress, a washable pad, a cover, a none-thick duvet. But the pillow here is 80 x 80 cm sized. I found out the Swedish sell a different size when I wanted to buy some bedlinen last summer when we were for vacation in Sweden… *sigh* Which size do you have? I don’t remember.

  • Franziska says:

    by the way: I have no box spring but a slatted frame.

  • CraftyHelen says:

    Who would imagine that something so simple as bed-making could vary so much from country to country? My bed-making is really dull in comparison…

  • This is Martin's bed and he doesn't even make it at all unless he knows someone's comimg over… Luckily the door closes so I don't have too look at the mess. When I make the beds I usually fold the sides in. And no, there isn't a flat sheet inbetween the person and the duvet cover.

  • Fernanda says:

    As CraftyHelen pointed out, differences in such a simple thing are amazing. Here in Brazil, as Catherine in Australia said, most people use slat beds with a mattress. Like in Australia, we usually use a fitted sheet, followed by a flat sheet, blankets or duvets (depending on the season). Nowadays, less people have a bed spread on top for neatness (I insit on having one in every bed). These last few days, though, it’s been sooo hot that we skip almost everything, and just use the fitted sheet with no covers.

  • I was in Spain as a guest and I couldn’t figure out where in the envelope do I get in…
    At home we sleep on floor level (most of our stuff is floor level except the desk). So it’s a slat base, on top of that is a mattress (which comes in it’s own cover), on top of that I put a fitted sheet. And then a duvet in it’s own cover.
    I have no idea what a typical German bed looks like though (I tend to do things my own way)
    I’d go crazy with the envelope system, I think I’m too impatient for it.
    A washable pad seems like an idea worth adopting.

  • NancyV908 says:

    Yes, interesting! Here in the eastern US I use a flat & fitted sheet. That way I don’t have to wash the duvet covers as often (although thanks to Benita I now know how to get them back on much easier).
    For me the top sheet is important because in a lot of places instead of a duvet with removable cover, there are quilt/bedspreads that are permanently stuffed with filling, so you have to wash the whole thick thing, not just a cover. I’m betting those get washed far less often. Growing up, we had bedspreads that were dry clean only, so they were rarely cleaned. Yuck. It frustrates me that here in the US I can find far fewer duvet covers than I can these bedspreads/quilts.

  • Lizzy says:

    Here in New York, I have a box spring, a big mattress, a mattress cover, a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, a blanket and a comforter in a duvet cover. We use both the blanket and the comforter to stay warm without having to turn the heat up too much. The only problem with having a sheet, blanket and comforter is that there are more pieces to fight over with my husband!

  • Oh, I can't stand when they make the beds in the envelope style in hotels. I need fluff around me. The first thing I do is to just rip it all out and bunch it up around me. I always feel really sorry for the maid who has to redo the whole thing from scratch in the morning.

  • Jacqueline says:

    Benita, thank you for this post. I love the way you make and care for your bedding. In our family we have combined our German roots and American culture to a bedding melange. Only a fitted sheet, simple pillow and a duvet in a cover. But, our bed has a box spring and mattress which we do not like. We prefer low beds and while I have thought about using a platform bed with
    just a mattress, I find the beds in well known Swedish-American (!) stores are poorly made and over priced. So, I have a few questions: can you tell me the height of your bed from the floor to the top of the mattress? Do you still wash the duvet cover about once a month? Do you use thinner duvets in the summer and store a heavier one for winter use? I have been trying to use two light/medium for winter (as needed) and then using just one of those for summer.

  • Kari says:

    We learned the joy of the Scandinavian bed when we were in Norway and Denmark a couple of years ago. In hotels and B&Bs the beds were made as you did (although the mattresses were a bit thicker–the 2 inch variety). We fell in love with the duvet and no top sheet–my husband and I had had “issues” with the top sheet for years–he wanted it loose and I liked it tightly tucked in. The use of the duvet solved all that.
    Now out bed looks very much like yours–standard mattress (we have a very good futon on a platform ned), two inch mattress on top of that; mattress cover and fitted sheet, pillows, and cases, pillow covers, duvet and duvet cover. The bed is far easier to make and we can keep it clean–we have three cats and sheets and duvet covers get washed weekly. Scandinavian beds rule!

  • Jaimie says:

    I too prefer having just the duvet in a duvet cover, no flat sheet. In summertime, however, I do make the bed with a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, and a thin, washable cotton quilt, and we often sleep with just the flat sheet on top of us.
    When visiting a friend in Sweden, I found it interesting that double/queen sized beds, used by a couple, would have two individual twin-sized duvets on it (one per person) instead of a single large duvet. No haggling over the covers at night!

  • Jennifer says:

    This is very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  • Suzette says:

    Although we are in the U.S. my family also just uses a duvet with a duvet cover and no top sheets. In fact, I only own one top sheet for when company comes. At this time I don’t use a bed spread on my own bed, but my two girls each have a cute quilt for their beds.
    This was a great post!

  • kristen says:

    i wish ikea in america still carried the mattress/box spring with legs that’s just like martin’s bed. they stopped carrying it a year or two ago. i can’t find anything like it anywhere. *wipes tear from eye*

  • Titti says:

    Benita, what you refer to as a box spring is really a box spring and mattress in one in American terms. I guess Americans need more fluff or a greater selection or something so they have the mattress part separate 🙂 If I remember correctly the Swedish version is hard as a box spring on the bottom and then soft and springy with a thin layer of padding at the top, am I right?
    And for the Swedes that need more padding you just add one of those thinner mattress toppers.
    I’m a Swede who has lived in the US for 6 years now and the only thing that is very different as far as the sleeping experience goes is that in the US the mattress topper (thin mattress on top of the thick mattress) is strapped to the mattress with a fitted sheet which makes it all stay in place better. I used to have to remake my bed, mattress topper and sheet and all, every single day because it started sliding around while I was sleeping. And I’m not a very wild sleeper either 🙂
    On the other hand the flat sheet used in the US can be very rambunctious if used with a heavier cover, my husband tends to kick it down under the cover and only keep track of the heavier cover. Flat sheet used alone during the heat of the summer works great, though. Just my two cents 🙂

  • Jen says:

    How do you get the sheets so white? Mine went yellow after a month of use. I’ve tried sun, bleach, oxyclean and they are still grungy.

  • Messy says:

    I love the thin mattress cover! Originally, we didn’t have them in the Netherlands, but I bought one in Ikea because I like to be able to wash them. I cover mattress and thin mattrass with one fitted sheet at once though. And sleep under a duvet/doona/comforter with no extra sheet, just the cover.
    Interesting stuff!

  • lisa h. says:

    Jen, I wonder if your water has something to do with the yellowness? Maybe you have hard water. Do you also have discoloration in your shower, for instance?
    Just a thought.

  • lisa h. says:

    I love reading the comments on this post; it’s so interesting to read about different ways to make up a bed.
    I’m in the US & grew up with the typical American arrangement of a thick innerspring mattress on top of a box spring, fitted sheet, flat sheet and bedspread/comforter. Also, we never used pillow covers under the pillowcase, but I like the idea of using a nice thick pillow cover like Benita’s.
    When I was living in the UK for a year, I *really* liked not having a flat sheet (I find them annoying) & instead using a duvet with a washable cover, so that’s a practice I brought back to the States when I returned. Like one of the commenters above, I only bring out the flat sheet when I’m making up the guest bed for a visitor.
    We don’t have much choice in the way of duvet covers in the US, and they tend to be rather pricey, but a duvet cover must be one of the easiest things in the world to sew using a couple of flat sheets.
    I’m interested to know what the big base mattress is like in Benita’s bed here. Is that big box also padded? Does it have wooden slats? Could you lie down on it if you wanted, without the thin top mattress? I looked at the Ikea site (US) for cues, and they have something they call a “foundation” and also something they call “box spring.”
    In the end, I was even more confused!

  • ann says:

    I’m in southern california. I have a light weight down filled duvet and although a flat sheet isn’t necessary, I just find it a whole lot easier to wash the flat sheet weekly rather than taking the time to remove and replace the duvet cover. (I do wash the duvet cover, but only every few weeks or so). My daughter hates the flat sheet, though, so we omit it from her bedding.

  • z says:

    I’m in Switzerland, having moved here from the US. We got our bed at IKEA here. So, the slightly curved wooden “Lattenrost” + mattress thing isn’t used in Sweden? Interesting… we also use a mattress pad in addition, so that it can be cleaned once in a while. Duvet (2: his and hers) for the cold months, and a flat sheet when it’s very warm. The duvets are indeed quite short in comparison to what I had in the US, but it didn’t take me much time to get used to them.

  • Suki says:

    Wonderful! I need to test that in Finland, hih.

  • Karin says:

    As another Swede I felt the need (hey, does that rhyme?) to comment on this post of only to warn you that not all Swedish beds look this neat… 🙂 Honestly I couldn’t be bothered with sheet and pillow protectors – more bulky things to wash is a no-no when you live in an apartment with a shared laundry room… The do look neat though. Also I must admit that I don’t fold the corners of our duvets – since the bedspread hides them anyway. 😉
    I did also want to WARMLY recommend having 2 separate duvets instead of one large one – my boyfriend and I joke that it’s one of the essential steps to a happy relationship! 😀 We both tend to hog the covers otherwise, plus he likes having a super thin duvet whereas I have a puffy warm one.

  • Franziska says:

    better for the neck and the backbone, isn’t it?

  • Vizz says:

    Shit pommes frites vilken avancerad säng! Nu kände jag mig genast som en lodare… suck.

  • foobella says:

    I admit it. I was one of the curious asking about the bed!! =) So, I am happy to see this post and love all the comments.
    I was wondering about that thin mattress and how you keep it in place. I would have it bunched up all over by the time I woke up in the morning.
    thanks Benita!

  • Gretchen says:

    clean sheets are so AMAZING! and now I understand the IKEA mattresses I’ve been scratching my head over for years are actually all Americanized and Fluffy next to the real deal mattresses in the Swedish motherland. How do you keep from sliding right off the bed mattress and all? Love your blog… it is how i start my morning before going to school (to teach).

  •  It's all cotton so it stays put, don't worry 🙂

  • Sorry, I forgot to show the safety belt with which we strap ourselves to the mattress 🙂

  • A duvet cover IS the easiest thing in the world to sew! Just sew two flats sheets together all the way around exept for an opening at the bottom and two small openings at the the top corners so you can reach your duvet from the top (optional).
    The matress has a wooden frame which doesn't go all the way to the top, wooden slats underneath, springs on top of the slats and padding for comfort. You can definitely lie down without the thin mattress but it would be cumbersome to make the bed without.

  • I use a brand of detergent called Skona for white (local brand) and for sheets and towels I occasionally add ocyclean but I see you've tried that. Also I wash them in really hot water and run prewash too. It could be your water as someone else commented. Martha sometimes mentions blueing. Try googeling it. Basically you add a bluish tint so optically the sheets look whiter. I've never tried it but I think I saw some detergent that supposedly has that effect.

  • Thanks, great to hear from someone who has Swenglish experience!
    For the matresses that slide off each other, maybe a rug pad in between will help keep them in place?! You know the rubber grid kind?
    I don't like flat sheets in bed. I grew up with them and very morning the flat thing was twisted around my legs like a boa constrictor.

  • I know, and to me it's so weird that Americans have one gigantic thing. So difficult to handle! I had a ginormous bed at the hotel in the States in December and with it came a huuuuuuuuuuge duvet with cover and I honestly couldn't figure out how the bad was made. They must have had a team of maids for each bed?!

  • The height from the floor to the top of the matress is about 20". I wash the covers every second week or so. We don't change the duvets with the seasons, but Wille and Martin like to use thinner blankets during the hottest summer nights, they just shove the duvets (well comforter in Martin's case as he doesn't like down). Really hot nights are quite rare over here, but they do happen once in a while. I love my duvet all year around, I just wear a little less myself on the hottest nights.

  • Brandy says:

    Thanks Benita – beds of the world are so interesting!
    We live in Victoria, BC (a pretty warm part of Canada right now) and have a box spring & mattress, fitted quilted mattress cover, cotton fitted sheet, cotton top sheet (flannel if I lived anywhere else in this cold country!), down duvet with cover &
    buckwheat hull pillows with pillow cases.
    I really dislike the silky satin feel of the synthetic fabric that covers most mattresses and box springs here so I add the fitted quilted mattress cover for feel and a bit of warmth.
    We used to struggle over tucked in (me) vs. un-tucked (him) top sheet – now I leave his side un-tucked & tuck my side in.
    I like sharing a duvet so we can actually touch each other however the idea of two separate duvets is extremely appealing since he’s a hot sleeper and I’m a cold sleeper. I’m considering a local custom made wool or alpaca duvet so I can get some extra thickness for my notoriously cold feet! It may soon be time since our current down duvet is 8 years old and is getting pretty flat and a bit ‘gungy’ – does anyone else have problems with an overly oily male sleeping partner? My husband’s side of the duvet, mattress pad and his pillow (I’m thinking an extra pillow cover would be good for him) all have a yellowish tinge to them. We call it his ‘dirt’ – really he is very clean & just has way more oily skin than I. Same thing with my sister’s husband . . . anyone else?

  • Juli says:

    Really? We bought the mattress/box spring with legs at IKEA last summer in Toronto, and I am pretty sure they still have them. I am surprised that we have it and the US doesn’t.

  • Juli says:

    We just bought a Swedish bed and are anxiously waiting for it so this post came in good time for us! It has the mattress on legs and then a mattress topper. We are so excited to get rid of our ugly pillow top mattress! We are going to use a flat sheet around the mattress topper (no need for bedskirt because the bed is already finished in a nice gray fabric). I remember sleeping in beds in Scandinavia and not having a flat sheet between the duvet, but that was in the summer when a thin duvet was perfect. In the winter, I find that a flat sheet helps keep the warmth in.

  • Erin Kleider says:

    You reminded me that I wanted to wash all of my bedding today! It’s an all day job!
    Erin 🙂

  • Maren says:

    You might want to think about sleeping with a top sheet on in a hotel, given that they probably rarely wash the blankets or duvet! My mother always brings a spare flat sheet to wrap over the top of the bedspread as well.

  • How interesting! I live in the US and yes, it’s different than how you do it. My American way seems so boring I don’t even know if I’d want to blog about it.

  • Taking photos while making the bed did fel a bit silly but after all the queestions I figured I might as well answer them all in one go 🙂

  • I always check to see if the duvet cover has been washed, one can usually tell from the folding creases. Believe me, if it isn't I make sure to cling to that flat sheet!

  • Actually IKEA adapts their stock to some countries. I remember when being part of the team that built the first IKEA in the UK that they couldn't sell double beds, only single ones because a double wouldn't fit in the staircase of the "two up two down" homes. I guess if they want to sell beds to Americans they need to sell American style beds. You Canadians are perhaps more used to "our" beds?

  • Fernando says:

    Swedish beds rock! all I can say is HASTENS!
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  • Love that, nice and neat.
    I also really love the side table/shelf–I assume you made that? It’s fabulous.

  • Anna @ D16 says:

    They definitely still sell them! They’re called “foundation bases”, and the legs are sold separately:

  • Lisen says:

    Ah, I love a newly made bed with with crisp white cotton sheets. And I’m considering adopting your bed skirt idea (Bedskirts are still not that common in Sweden, or maybe I come from old- fashioned surroundings?).
    I’m a Swede living in the UK, and I hate the “continental” style beds with box springs and then a separate thick mattress on top. Even worse are the actual bed bases that are common here- really just hollow particle board boxes with slats on top. They often have small wheels, but the box itself sits about 1 cm above the floor, so in order to vaccuum underneath you need to lift the whole bed. Why not have just flat slats on a frame, and legs? And for bedlinen most people here have “easycare” ones, which are 50% polyester, 50% cotton. Yuck! They get those nasty lintballs on them and look and feel terrible after about 2 washes. (At my parents place in Sweden we still use bed clothes from the seventies, and they look immaculate even after a hundred washes.)
    Cotton bed clothes are very expensive here though, so thank God for IKEA!
    I too love the mattress& pillow protectors- it’s a lot easier washing them than the mattresses and pillows themselves. But even though I change bed linen every week, the protectors don’t get washed more than maybe once every six- eight weeks. When it comes to making the bed, I’m exactly like your husband- it’s only for show 🙂

  • cristina says:

    Apart your organization skills I enjoy your sense of humor….

  • caroline says:

    so this was posted years ago but i stumbled upon it via pinterest, and i’m in love! with your style of making the bed AND your blog.
    happy new year!