How to create a comfy, American-style bed in your European home.
As a traveler in Europe, you might see the charm in the old hotel rooms and are probably so tired at the end of the day, you may not even notice the rock-hard beds after your long day of walking all over cobblestone-filled cities. If you are older like my parents, you definitely notice and may even pay extra to stay at a familiar American hotel chain like Hilton to ensure you get that familiar bed experience you need to enjoy your trip in full.
Traveling is one thing, but if you move to Europe it is a different story. Of course you can of course adapt to the European bed experience, which I did for my first seven years, or you can go the extra mile and invest in a bed setup that will make you feel truly at home in your home away from home. I recommend the latter if your budget can manage. I chose to upgrade my bed after I had the first two years of my career behind me, and I was upgrading from a studio apartment to a two room apartment (not to be confused with a two bedroom, but this is a post for another day).
What is the European bed experience we are trying to combat?
To preface my in depth experience comes from the German bed culture and market. I have however traveled Europe what one would consider a good bit and from my experience this seems to be the standard:
One 80x80 pillow per occupant
One duvet per occupant
Slatted Frame instead of a box spring
No top sheet
1 single mattress + 1 single mattress = 1 King Sized Bed
It just takes a quick search on Booking.com to see what I mean, take this example of a room at 4* Seehotel Schlierseer Hof. There is nothing wrong with it per se, it's just that you can do better when it comes to the bed game.
What is the American bed experience we are trying to achieve?
Again a note for correctness: this is not exclusive to Americans and seems pretty prolific across the Anglosphere, but I am American so pardon my reference. I have done my best to mock the bed in my American home. Way before it was a trend to invest in your sleep, my mother always took a comfy, cozy bed setup as a worthwhile expense into somewhere you spend 30% of your life . What we are going for here is the full package:
Box spring bed with headboard
Mattress with pillow topper
Bedding: Single comforter that fits and drapes over the bed and a top sheet
I am certainly not the only one with this grievance. I had a good LOL when I read Yamini's rant on German pillows and 40% German's tweet garnered all sorts of opinions.
If you're living on the European main continent, this at first may seem hard to achieve, especially on a budget. But I am here with good news, it is doable and even without ever setting foot in a store, as evidenced by the photo of our bed below (although admittedly I did this pre-Brexit so things may have get a bit trickier).
Box Spring Bed with Headboard
I recommend starting by finding a box spring bed, most of which come with a good statement headboard. This will act as the center piece of your room and will guide your other design decisions, such as pillow size and bedding colors.
You may notice that it is a little different than the box spring setup you know. For example, I knew it where you have a frame, drop in the box spring, plop a mattress and pillow topper on top, and voila. The European box spring bed options you will encounter will actually have the box springs, which are two pieces, built into the bed frame with 1) the mattress on top, 2) a pillow topper atop the box spring or 3) both. Both is the ultimate goal. Building the box spring into the bed seems a little impractical to me, e.g. if you want to keep the frame but replace the box spring, but we can only work with what we've got here.
There are a few places I recommend looking for affordable box spring beds with home delivery. You can buy it as a whole set, which might scare the bejesus out of some of you to not be able to try-before-you-buy, but if you do fall in that group you can always buy the mattress separately. It does seem going for the whole package is the best approach financially.
IKEA has a lot of good deals and furniture, but beds do not qualify here. I also recommend checking out Wayfair.de and XXXLutz. I found my bed originally on Wayfair, but could only find it on Otto today.
Mattress with Pillow Topper
All of the beds above come with a mattress and topper, so you are getting the full package bundled into the price, which comes out reasonable. If you do want to choose your own, the Stiftung Warentest is the gold standard of German test quality and the Emma One mattress-in-a-box came out on top. The even offer a pillow toppers for your mattress and proper pillows, which we are getting to...
Euro Shams are a Sham! Rectangular Pillows for Life
The commentary I shared from my fellow expat bloggers in Germany sums it up better than I ever can, but as properly stated by my best friend, "Euro shams are a sham". Euro shams, or Euro pillows, were mere decorative pillows that got tossed off the bed back home in Texas, and I stand by that is exactly what they should be - tossed off the bed.
Standard pillow width in Germany is 80 cm, so the Euro pillows come in at 80x80cm and the rectangular pillows at 40x80cm. The 40x80 cm rectangular pillows may work a smaller bed, but ours is 180 cm wide, which leaves you with a lot bed without pillow coverage. A king-sized pillow is about 90cm in width,
The square pillows don't need to be thrown out; the can serve as deco extra back support pillows for when you want to sit up in bed, but for proper sleep you need to get yourself a rectangular pillow. Pillows are by far the toughest part of getting you bed right in Germany, and ultimately the part where I gave up, purchased some pillows in the US, packed them into vacuum-sealed bags, and brought them back to Germany. Ok I could have paid a premium and avoided that effort. alternative is the only king sized pillows I found from Casper
If you are not as extra as me, this is how I would make it work:
Buy two well stuffed 80x80 cm pillows, which will serve as decoration and back support in the back of the pillow line up
Buy two 40x80 cm pillows which fit to your pillow likeness (e.g. I like a soft, non-feather pillow)
Decorative pillow of your choosing. I recommend Westwing & WestwingNow for anything decorative for the home.
Bedding: Single Comforter and a Top Sheet
Now that we have the bed setup and equipped, we need to discuss the most controversial of the topics: the bedding. I have a strong opinion on the single comforter cover and the use of a top sheet (flat sheet).
Some will argue that the comforter per person is the best part of the German bed, and I do hear the arguments such as no fighting over a single cover and avoiding the heat generated by your bed buddy. Nevertheless it reminds of of when Lily & Marshall switched to twin beds in "How I Met Your Mother". It seems great for a couple days, but you miss the comfort of being under the one blanket together. On top of the lovey bit, I believe it just looks much nicer to have a large duvet draped over the bed. Your shopping options and thus the price ranges vary greatly here, but I would consider three aspects in addition to price: 1) size relative to your bed (e.g. for my 180x200 cm bed I went for a 220x240 cm comforter), 2) hypoallergenic (even if you don't have allergies, it doesn't hurt), and 3) thickness (we went for a year-round comforter). Check out these spots for price ranges, starting from lowest: Amazon, WestwingNow, and Bettenrid.
Finally we have the top sheet, perhaps as elusive as the king-sized rectangular pillow. I recommend this out of pure practicality because washing duvet covers can be a hassle (particularly without access to a dryer) and it will keep your duvet cover clean for longer. Plus in the summer months (no A.C.), we only use the top sheet to sleep and fold the duvet back to the end of the bed, so our all-year duvet works out find with no need to switch between a summer and winter comforter. You will quickly learn that the beloved thread count is apparently not a concern, and that there is a weird liking toward jersey sheets in this country. For the top sheet, the struggle is real and again I will admit I flew a couple over from the USA (thus also my preference to keep everything white for easy mix-and-match), however Linenbundle has a decent selection, plus here and here are a couple more options.
What have you done to make your bed feel like home?