Thursday, 17 September 2009

Bed, bath and beyond me

It seems no weekend chez Nappy Valley is complete without a trip to our local branch of Bed, Bath and Beyond.

For the uninitiated, this shop - sorry, store - is an Aladdin's cave of household goods; the bastard child of the John Lewis kitchen and bedding departments, and Woollies in its heyday. In other words, perfect for people who have arrived in the US without things like ironing boards, coathangers and American-sized fitted sheets. It's not particularly posh, with a 'pile it high' approach to retail theatre, but its range is huge, and you can get everything there from a beach umbrella to mothballs.

If it weren't for the Littleboys, who use every visit as an excuse for racing up and down the escalators (signs saying 'no unsupervised children on escalators' are like red rags to bulls with them) ensuring I can't actually look at anything properly, I could spend many a happy hour browsing its upwardly stacked aisles.

The first time I went there, I just 'popped in' for some pillows while The Doctor waited in the car with the boys, who were asleep. On my return, a good half hour later, I remarked, "Well, lots of beyond but not sure what happened to bed and bath...". But it turned out I had been waylaid so long in the kitchen area that I failed to notice the entire second floor, which housed the bedroom and bathroom goods.

However, last weekend's mission to buy bedding was somewhat farcical. My father arrives for a visit next week and we need to kit out the spare bedroom. None of our standard double sheets fit the queen-sized beds here (in the US a double bed is called a 'full' and is definitely thought of as inferior). We also needed another duvet.

What we failed to realise is that is a whole new language to learn when it comes to bedding here. Even the way Americans make the beds is alien to us Brits, hailing from a culture where you either sleep directly under a duvet, or under a sheet and a blanket.

For a start, Americans don't have 'duvets', it seems. They have something called a 'comforter'. This is similar to but seemingly puffier than a European duvet. But, judging by the beds we've seen made up in showrooms, in the US you don't sleep under the comforter. You sleep under a flat sheet, with the comforter on top.

We were therefore confused to find something called a 'duvet cover' in a sheet set. What was this for? The comforter? How, I pondered, can you have a duvet cover if you don't have a duvet....?

Next problem. "What on earth is a 'sham'?" I exclaim in bewilderment, looking at the back of the sheet set packet. "Absolutely no idea," replies The Doctor. On closer inspection they appear to be tiny little pillow cases. Now, I know some people are big fans of what I would call 'throw cushions'; I am not, particularly. But here, these appear to be an essential part of whole bedding arrangement.

We departed, duvet-less and shamelessly sham-less, Brits baffled by bedding.

Still, it wasn't an entirely wasted trip.....while there, we managed to mysteriously acquire a brand new coffee-maker, as part of The Doctor's continuing quest to make his pefect cup of coffee in America. Yes, Bed, Bath and Beyond is doing very well out of us.

26 comments:

Almost American said...

The last duvet cover I bought, I got from Amazon, and the one before that at Target. The ones I've bought at BB&B have all ended up being very poor quality :-( (Or maybe that was that Linens 'n' Things - a very similar store!) We have a queen size bed, king size comforter, and normal sized pillows - so I hate buying sets of bedding! I have been known to buy a king-sized set if it had no fitted sheets and then I sewed the two sheets together to make a duvet cover.

I'm a fan of The Company bedding and towels. Not cheap, though sometimes they have good deals when they have sales. Their website doesn't seem to be working properly for me tonight for some reason though. (Firefox keeps telling me it's an "attack site!")

Almost American said...

Oops - that's The Company Store.

Lorna Harris said...

I hate the bedding here! It's so frustrating that you can't just buy a fitted sheet without having to buy a complete set. I'm going to stock up at John Lewis next time I'm back in the UK.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Small boys and escalators. What is the attraction? Can't get mine off of them. They like trying to run down them into the oncoming people trying to get up...

A Modern Mother said...

I love reading about your trials and tribulations -- makes me feel better!

We used to spend hours there too. Also, have you figured out yet that the bed sizes are different? i.e. a UK "king" is a US "queen". Very confusing when you move between countries.

Strictly said...

An American friend told me a sham is what you put on the pillow case during the day to make your bed look pretty to visitors.

Potty Mummy said...

Strictly's comment does beg the question; how many visitors does one expect in one's bedroom...? (Or is this another difference between here and there?)

Mud in the City said...

Have you seen a US 'Emperor' size bed? I don't think it would even fit in my London flat!

And yes, I have to admit that my bedroom doesn't quite get enough visitors to merit special sham pillows.

That's just odd.

Expat mum said...

And what about the pillow cases? They don't have the flap at the open end to tuck the pillow into. It looks SO unfinished.

nappy valley girl said...

Almost American - will check out the Company Store. I hadn't thought of buying bedding on Amazon, but it makes sense...

Lorna - yes, very frustrating how they all come in sets.( And another thing - why are nearly all sheets 'sateen' - which is all slippery and shiny, not what I like at all?)

Brit in Bosnia - yeah, just like they always want to climb up the slide the wrong way....

Susanna - ooh, I didn't know that. Thanks for telling me....

Strictly, Potty Mummy - oh, I always entertain visitors in my boudoir. Let's see, there's my husband, the boys, my cleaner....hmmm, can't think of anyone else who has actually darkened its door yet....

Mud - I didn't know there was such a thing, but it doesn't surprise me. Everything is huge here - we have failed to find any bedside tables which actually fit next to our beds as they are all enormous...

Expat Mum - yes, it's infuriating. I thought I had bought a dud set when I first discovered that. Then I realised that they are all like that. Strange, because in general Americans design everything for convenience....

Metropolitan Mum said...

I love, love, love Bed, Bath & Beyond. No matter how convinced I am not to buy anything when entering the store, I always leave it with a pile of extremely essential stuff. Bought the perfect icecream scoop last time I went there. And 100 lavender sachets. And a gigantic fork to use for BBQs (next summer is round the corner!), and, and, and!

Lisa L said...

You can buy single sheets (ie not in a set) at places like Ross and Target etc...

YLM said...

Sounds like a bedding minefield! And I thought I had problems here in Dubai finding stuff without tassles and/or gold blingy trims in neutral colours! Good luck for when you suck up the courage to brave the ordeal of B,B & B again... (must say though, sounds GREAT!)

Mwa said...

It's all those little things that can make it so tiring to live in another country, I find. Some things you can never get used to.

pqalise said...

Private Quarters is a wonderful company offering everything for the bedroom and bath. Our bedding is luxuriously oversized and we have a selection of unique sheets and linens along with comfortwear and gifts.
The pillowcases in our bamboo line have the built-in flap that Expat Mom is looking for and they feel silky soft.
The SeaCell sheets are very lightweight and the cellular fibers from seaweed release vitamins and minerals that soften your skin as you sleep - really!
Another top seller is the Plush sheet line. Far better than flannel, they are fluffy and cozy and come in 9 colors and we also offer matching duvet covers too.
If I can be of service, my website is: www.pqalise.privatequarters.net

Iota said...

I get 20% off vouchers through the mail monthly for B,B&B (though, oddly, I've never been!) You should maybe try and get on some mailing list, if you're going to be a regular customer.

I still haven't quite worked out the bedding language, but I managed to buy the right size Spiderman comforter when I needed to.

rosiescribble said...

I didn't realise there was a different language for bedding. I thought a comforter was something like a dummy or the old teddy my daughter takes to bed. All quite confusing. The Americans must find our terminology all a bit odd!

Hot Cross Mum said...

Perhaps you can turn this to your advantage and once you've sussed it all out go on Mastermind with your specialist subject as 'American Bedding Terminology'! I now know why a wedding gift from relatives in the US has never been 'quite right'!

nappy valley girl said...

Metropolitan Mum - it's that kind of a store. Go in for one thing, and come out with a million things you never knew you needed...

Lisa - thanks for the tip...

YLM - next time I go, it will be without the boys. Hurrah!

Mwa - you're so right. The little things.

Pqalise - thanks, will check it out.

Iota - I'm already on their mailing list - have been so many times in the last three months that I practically deserve a loyalty card, I think.

Rosie - my husband thought a comforter was a dummy, too....

Hot Cross Mum - yes, perhaps I'll be writing a thesis on the intricacies of UK vs US bedding. I'm sure no-one has thought of that one...

Scousette said...

I'm afraid to admit it, but Ikea is the only place I've found thus far (after 10 years living over this side of the pond) that sells duvets of comparable quality / price to Blighty. It took a while, but I finally convinced my Californian hubby that a duvet is the way to go.

Bed Bath and Beyond is brill. But I have to admit, Target is my mecca these days :)

Oh, and still have no idea what a "sham" is!

nappy valley girl said...

Scousette - thank you. I hadn't thought of Ikea for duvets, but there is one near here, so I shall be heading down there soon.
As for shams, I was looking in a catalogue yesterday and saw something called a 'Euro Sham'. Quite bizarre considering we Europeans have no idea what it means...

pqalise said...

Hope this helps to answer all your questions:
A duvet cover is the decorative (and protective) outer cover for the down or down alternative comforter (duvet). The term “duvet” literally means “Down” in French. Therefore a “duvet” is a down or down alternative comforter and a “Duvet cover” is the cover for the down comforter. The term “duvet” is rarely used to mean down comforter in the USA, but is often used to refer the cover. Therefore if you see the term “duvet” by itself, the meaning is usually “duvet cover”. There is often only one size to fit both the full and queen sizes called a full/queen. These tend to be slightly oversized for a full bed. There is only one king size to fit all king beds.
A "sham" is a decorative pillow cover. A Euro Sham is a square pillow. This pillow is often used as a decorative pillow in back of or in front of the bed pillows, and doubles as a bed rest. It measures about 26"x26".
Private Quarters specializes in quality bedding and linens. We ship anywhere in the United States.
www.pqalise.privatequarters.net

Bush Mummy said...

Ahhh Bed Bath and Beyond.. happy memories of shopping in there, child free in my late 20's. Equipping my micro size apartment in one fell swoop. I think it is fabulous and still have a few things from there although totally agree on the bed linen. I still have two pillows from there that are just a fraction too wide for good old Blighty pillow cases but too narrow for square ones.. It is much easier on the eye than Ikea though don't you think? I salute you going there with small children!!

BM x

Liberty London Girl said...

There was a class action last yr, I think, against BB&B for labelling low thread count sheets as high thread count! I have to say I bought all my linen here from BB&B & found it staggeringly expensive and terrible quality - def optimistic on the thread counts. When I first came over in 07 Macy's didn't sell a SINGLE sheet or cover in plain white! All in hideous prints & patterns. (Although they do now). I ended up bringing all my linen over from London. LLGxx

Henry said...

Browse all Platform Queen Beds in many styles and colors at Spacify.com

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