Settling the Top Sheet Debate: The Best Quick-Change Duvet Covers and Topless Sets for Anyone Ditching the Two-Sheet Bed
The debate over how to make a bed—with a fitted sheet only, or a flat sheet on top—rages on. Our take? There is no wrong side of the bed. Here are some of our favorite linen brands that offer versatile, well-designed options for all.
My top sheet is making me look old.
It’s a generational thing, I’m told, to be making my bed with crisply tucked hospital corners, just the way my grandmother taught me. Flat sheets have drawn some serious ire in recent years, rejected by people who don’t want to struggle with making a complicated bed. They’ve been dubbed “inconvenient,” “uncomfortable,” a “nuisance,” and an “ungodly tangle.” That tangle bit is my own, inspired by the disaster my son leaves knotted up on the floor next to his bed every morning.
In the quest for a better night’s sleep, and a happier bedroom, mattress makers and sheet purveyors have conducted some fairly exhaustive research about how people have changed the way they make their beds.
A 2019 Casper study revealed that two-thirds of Americans over 55 believe that a top sheet is essential, and almost 20% of people in the 18 to 24 age group feel “strongly against” using a top sheet. A Sleep Junkie survey reports that only about 60% of us use a top sheet.
A quick poll of Sunset staffers enforces the divide. “Can’t ever remember using one!” reports intern Teaghan Skulzski. “Team top sheet all the way,” says digital producer Nicole Clausing. Garden editor Deanna Kizis ditched the top sheet as a preteen, after she took a trip to Europe and “was sleeping under a cloud,” i.e., a pristine duvet only. Photo editor Christine Bobbish throws a curveball by using a flat sheet as a fitted sheet—a genius move to avoid folding bunchy fitted sheets forever. And assistant editor Magdalena O’Neal made me feel better by admitting that she thinks of her own strict grandma when she makes her bed, claiming the “top sheet is a friend to all.”
“Many of our over-40 customers do prefer to make their beds with multiple layers, which can include the top sheet, blankets, and quilts,” says Karin Sun, founder of the Bay Area-based, direct-to-consumer luxury bedding line, Crane & Canopy, confirming my suspicions. “And we found that almost 40% of American women prefer not to sleep with a top sheet. The amount of time that goes into adjusting and straightening the top sheet when making the bed is reason enough to just get rid of it in my opinion. What I love most about sleeping without a top sheet is the limb-moving freedom it creates.”
I’m tempted to let go of my fuddy-duddy ways (people still say fuddy-duddy, right?) but I will not be less committed to keeping our mattresses, pillows, and duvets clean. Flat sheets provide an extra barrier between bodies and covers by design, so without them, those top layers like blankets and comforters need more frequent washing. Eliminating a top sheet might seem like less laundry in the short-term, but the weekly wrestling match that is shoving that fluffy duvet monster back into its fresh and clean cover isn’t exactly convenient.
Enter some new, smart sheet options that address our changing needs and concerns, streamlining the bed-making process for all of us. Here are our favorites:
Crane & Canopy
“We love that sleep styles are changing and evolving similarly to how the Europeans have been sleeping—without the top sheet—which is why we created a sheet set option without the flat sheet for our customers,” says Sun. If you love the convenience of a duvet-only bed, but still want that layered, flat sheet look, try their signature Nova duvet cover, with its two-toned look (creating the illusion of a flat sheet folded over a blanket) and a concealed zipper, making it easier to change.
Founded by Lisa Fravel, an Airbnb Superhost in Washington state who was tired of endlessly digging through piles of laundry trying to find the size bedding she needed, FIX Linens is designed with a simple-sort sheet system. It’s easy to find the size you’re looking for in a pile of white sheets, thanks to color-coded tabs sewn discreetly into the seam. And while the sets do contain a flat sheet (which you could save for next year’s Halloween ghost costume), the silky long-staple cotton duvets zip on and off like a breeze.
Ariel Kaye, the founder and CEO of Parachute—and a millennial hometown hero in Venice, California—launched the brand as a direct-to-consumer high-end bedding source in 2014. Since then, Parachute has opened a dozen shops across the country and become an established tastemaker for all things bedroom design-related. In a nod to its younger, hipper customer base, the bedding starter packs (available in linen and three kinds of cotton—percale, sateen, and brushed) come with pillow cases, a duvet cover and insert, and a fitted sheet only, which saves the top-sheet haters a little money. In case parents come to visit and want to sleep in the guest room, flat sheets are sold separately.
A king size, stonewashed French linen sheet set from SIJO, an exceptionally chic, modern, and affordable brand started by a U.C. Berkeley business school graduate, is only $155—if you opt for no flat sheet. Flax linen lovers praise the fiber for its long-lasting qualities, noting that quality linen sheets can last 20 years or more, if they’re washed regularly and gently. An even more affordable, eco-friendly option is the brand’s Eucalyptus bedding, made from super-smooth, cooling TENCEL, which is made from the fibers of a eucalyptus tree. The duvet cover is a steal (starting at $105), available in eight shades, and comes with corner snaps to keep the insert in place.
The “Organic Crinkled Percale Minimalist” set from Coyuchi, a sustainably made textiles outfit with a flagship store in Point Reyes Station, California, is a no-fuss dream. For one, the duvet cover, fitted sheet, and pillow cases come pre-wrinkled for that relaxed, lived-in look. They’re available in seven earthy colors like hazel chambray and ginger. And shoppers save 15% when they buy the bundle.