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Meet the Founders – Sue and Cathy, of Dormitory luxury bed linen

Sue Graham and Cathy Marriott are the co-founders of luxury bed linen producers Dormitory. They also have an online specialist linen shop with their own product and a range of carefully edited bed, bath and living products. Here I asked them how they got started, how they work, and what they like in the world of interiors. 

How did you first meet?  

We both started working as sales assistants at Liberty in their Linen Department many years ago, straight from university after studying for different Art Degrees. We both went on to become Buyers there.  

How did Dormitory come about?  

After leaving buying, we were both consulting for some major home brands and decide to join forces on a couple of projects when, in the midst of a pitch to a well-known department store we were asked if we could also produce and supply the ideas we were presenting. Without hesitation we said yes. It was only when we got outside we thought “gosh, what have we got ourselves into?” but by then our brains were racing and we were committed. 

Was retail a good training ground?

Without doubt! When we first started, buyers were true product specialists and you had to know your stuff.  Retail is also really hard graft but very creative and proactive. If we see retail experience on a potential employee’s CV we know they will be great workers. 

Can you describe Dormitory’s ethos?

We truly love textiles and are not interested in churning out cheap tat that will fall apart after a few washes. We pride ourselves in producing a well-crafted product using quality materials. Other items we sell on our website do, we believe, follow that same ethos. 

Do you export your products? 

We have sold our product all over the world and have worked on projects from retail collections to palace refurbishments. It is always exciting working on collections for other markets, often you can work with colours and materials that just wouldn’t work here. 

What is your favourite design?

Cathy: I have just painted my bedroom a soft pink and have taken home a set of Brunswick in Flint. The dull green works really well against the sweetness of the walls. I am also thinking of taking a set of the Empress in green for winter when I love the cosiness of cotton sateen. 

Sue: I have a real thing about investing in classic pieces to form a strong base and then experimenting. I have a dark blue bedroom but with very classic white Brompton percale on my bed but its then dressed with some of my odd finds. Antique cushions, vintage bedspreads I’ve experimentally dyed. I would always suggest trust your own judgement and don’t follow fashion slavishly. 

brompton white

What sort of bed do you have?

Cathy: I have an antique headboard which I found locally and was going to paint but the wood grain is so nice I ended up leaving it as it is. 

Sue: My husband and I are both tall so need a large bed which has been made extra long. Luckily, finding sheets to fit is not a problem as we stock them! 

What did you last buy for your home? 

Cathy: I have had wires for wall lights sticking out of my sitting room wall for a year and just yesterday finally found some vintage French 1950’s sconces on ebay. 

Sue: I bought a fantastic solid wood table, that I’d found in Belguim, for the kitchen. It took 6 men to carry it in but it does seat 12 so is perfect for dinners. 

What is your best tip for making a bed look good? 

Cathy:  Don’t be mean with pillows. A good bed needs to look plump and ready to jump into. Euro square pillows are great for adding some height and are perfect for Sunday morning sitting with the papers in bed. 

Sue: Buy the best quality you can afford. The better the quality and finish the longer it will last after numerous washes. Classic, luxury bed linen can always be updated with up to the moment accessories and throws. 

What trends are coming in linen?

“Cosy” seems to be the buzz word this Autumn and, with an increasing interest in the benefits of sleep, comfort really is of paramount importance. We have already seen a growth of interest in washed linen and a more casual and informal style of bedding. Now it really is going to be all about the tactile qualities of linens and creating the perfect winter nest. There is also more colour around, mixing and layering contrasting tones sometimes in unexpected combinations. 

Sustainability is also another long running trend for us. Far better to buy one set of beautiful bedlinen that will last than continually buying poor quality sets that have to be replaced regularly.  

Do you enjoy running your own business?

Over the years there have been plenty of times when we’ve thought we must be mad. However, as soon as you think about another job you soon realise that doing something else just isn’t an option. Essentially, we just love linens and the creative process. There is nothing more exciting than being at the inception of a new product and following and controlling all the stages, till it is in the hands or ‘bed’ of your customer.  As to the rest, it is all manageable and with the help of the best people round you, all solvable just as long as there is a plentiful supply of tea!  

Plans for 2018

We’ve got quite a lot of travelling and sourcing planned for 2018, North Africa and Madagascar for new textile and embroidery ideas as well as returning to our usual European haunts. We will try to find more time next year to just design and progress with some ideas that have just remained on the drawing board this year. 

We will be working on items nearer to home in Scotland and Sussex. Lots of new ideas for the bed as well as launching a table linen and accessories collection for outside dining next spring. 

 

 Interview by Jay Curtis

Dormitory has just launched their new website with some fabulous new products for Autumn. Check it out here.

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Are you the starfish or the soldier? What your sleeping position reveals about your personality – and your health.

We all know we’re meant to sit and stand with straight backs and maintain good posture for spine and muscle health – but did you know that posture is equally important during sleep? The position you sleep in not only affects how well you sleep, but also has a significant effect on your waking posture and body health. A bad sleeping position can contribute to aches, pains and muscle stiffness. Taking care to think about the way you sleep and the mattresses, pillows, mattress toppers and bedding you use can make a big difference to your sleep health. Here we take a look at different sleeping positions, what they might reveal about your personality, and what you can do to improve your sleep posture and comfort.

Sleep specialist Professor Chris Idzikowski analysed 6 common sleeping positions and the personalities of 1000 people and came up with some interesting results. These are the positions, and personality types he identified:

  • The foetus. Adopted by 41% of the people surveyed, curling up on one side was far and away the most popular sleeping position and reveals a personality that is ‘tough on the outside but shy and sensitive at heart’. Sleeping on your side can be helpful for preventing snoring and acid reflux, though sleeping on your left side can put pressure on some of your internal organs and being curled up can cause muscle pain. If you are pregnant, sleeping on your left side is recommended as it has been shown to help your kidneys get rid of waste products, and is safer than sleeping on your back which can stress the main blood vessels that supply the uterus.
  • The starfish. Beloved by small children (especially when sharing beds with their parents) – the starfish is an open position, lying on your back with your arms up. Starfish sleepers are described as helpful, friendly and good listeners. This position is good for your spine as you are lying straight, but leads to a greater likelihood of snoring, sleep apnoea and breathing problems which can be quite disruptive for refreshing sleep.
  • The freefall.  Lying on your front with your arms up is the freefall position which is adopted by extroverts who are gregarious but don’t take criticism well. Lying on your front is beneficial for digestion but because your head is turned sharply to one side to aid breathing, it can sometimes cause neck or spinal pain.
  • The log. Easy-going and trusting, log sleepers lie on one side with legs straight and with the arms by the side. This is a great position as it keeps the spine straight, the airways clear and is comfortable – there is a good reason for the phrase ‘sleeping like a log’!
  • The soldier. Lying straight on your back with your arms by your sides is a position favoured by quiet and reserved types who have high standards. As with the other back sleeping positions, this pose can lead to snoring and breathing problems. If you’re sleeping next to someone who snores, usually flipping them over to one side will help!
  • The yearner. If you lie on your side with your arms out in front of you, you are a ‘yearner’. You may be indecisive and cynical, but you should have fewer problems with acid reflux or snoring than a back position sleeper. One downside of side sleeping is that leaning on pillows with one side of your face can cause wrinkles – make sure you have the best quality cotton, silk or micro modal pillow cases to minimise the damage.

Of course, as fun as this all is, most people don’t have much control over their sleeping positions. It’s something you do naturally and can’t really change even if it is causing problems with snoring or back pain. Despite this, there are things you can do to ensure that you have the best chance for sleeping in a comfortable and healthy way. Here are our top tips for organising the best sleep environment:

  • Mattress – your mattress should support your body and distribute your body weight evenly to keep your spine aligned. As a mattress ages, the structure becomes compressed, so make sure you get a new one every 10 years or so. You can add a topper to give an extra layer of softness and comfort to a firm mattress.
  • Pillows – Down and feather pillows are most comfortable as air is trapped between the feathers and they will keep their shape longer. Obviously some people have problems with allergies. If you need to use synthetic pillows, replace frequently as the structure deteriorates quickly and won’t give your head and neck enough support.
  • Support Pillows – If you’re a side sleeper, place a pillow between the legs to support the hips or under your side to support the back. If you sleep on your back, a pillow placed under the knees can support the spine. Front sleepers risk neck pain, but a pillow placed under the chest can lift the body a quarter turn to take the pressure off the spine and open the airways.
  • Duvets – Duvets made from natural materials are best for aiding sleep. Down and feather fillings are warm and can feel gorgeously light and airy. Wool duvets are also great for retaining warmth and are hypoallergenic. Synthetic duvets are a good choice for those who have allergies – but try to get the best quality you can afford. Some poor quality synthetic duvets can be limp and heavy.
  • Bed linen – Try to use the best quality natural bedding materials. Synthetic fibres can trap heat leading to an uncomfortable night. Natural fibres like Egyptian cotton are more breathable, durable and smooth. If you get a cotton with a sateen finish – that will be even softer. Some materials like good quality linen can be great for both summer and winter as they can keep you both cool and warm. Wash your bedding frequently and buy new when your existing bedding becomes tired. Hot water, detergent and frequent use will all shorten the life-span of your bedding, although high quality cotton sheets will last much longer than the norm.

Dormitory creates timeless high quality bedlinen. Crafted in our own workshops, we combine traditional techniques with the best natural European fabrics. #FeelingIsBelieving so try for yourself. For a free fabric swatch, click here.

 

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The Alchemy of Sleep – why it’s so important and how to sleep better.

Most of us realise that we function better with a good night’s sleep, and recent research is indicating that lack of sleep is a significant risk factor for developing life-threatening diseases and early death. The real problem comes when a pattern of disturbed sleep becomes established; it can seem an impossible cycle to escape. However, there are things that you can do before bed that will prepare your body for a restful night and help you sleep better. 

Here are a few of our tips: 

 

  • Exercise

Exercise is one of your best defences against insomnia – just don’t do it immediately before bed time. Anything from a brisk walk to a full work out 4-6 hours before bed time will benefit sleep. If the morning suits you better then, no problem, it will still set you up well for rest at the other end of the day. 

 

  • Digestion 

The old saying is “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper”.  Eating too close to bed time forces the body to work when it should be resting. A light meal at least 3 hours before bed time is ideal to help you sleep better.

 

  • Snacking

Don’t! Late night snacks raise blood sugar levels which in turn affect hormone levels. This fluctuation of hormone levels can be a contributing factor to waking up in the middle of the night. 

 

  • Bedtime Drinks 

If you spend all evening drinking tea or anything else then you will quite likely need one of even several trips to the bathroom during the night, so limit the amount you drink in the four hours before bed. 

 

  • Sensory Deprivation 

Don’t take your phone to bed and start running through work e-mails. This is guaranteed to get your brain racing. Put the phone away and make your space a calming one. Keep your environment quiet. Use earplugs if you like silence or calming, gentle music or even the radio. The shipping forecast does it for me every time!  If you need to look at a TV or screen, use an amber filter which blocks out the blue ‘daylight’ that keeps your brain alert and will help you sleep better.

  • Darkness 

A key factor in how our sleep is regulated is exposure to light and darkness. Exposure to light will signal the part of the brain that can control how sleepy or awake we feel which is why most of us find it easier to get up in the summer. It also means having a dark room is essential to stimulate melatonin levels and promote sleep. In an age of increased light pollution many bedrooms never get properly dark so blackout blinds or curtains are a worthwhile investment. 

 

  • Posture 

It may sound obvious, but you need to be comfortable in bed. A saggy mattress will stress the back and result in a night spent tossing and turning. Make sure what you are lying on suits your shape and weight. The pillows too, can make a difference. Often, we keep pillows far beyond their natural life so be sure that your head and neck are well supported and if you are getting up with a sore neck every morning them it is probably time to change them. 

 

  • Temperature 

Being too hot or too cold will affect sleep so regulate the room temperature appropriately and have some good ventilation. Natural, breathable fabrics will ensure that you do not wake up in a pool of sweat every morning. A quality down duvet will respond to your natural body temperature keeping it constant, the down working just as it would on a bird. Do not be tempted to layer blankets or bedspreads over the duvet on a cold night as this will prevent the down trapping warm air and could leave you even colder than before. 

Love Room & Linen Mist by Corinne Taylor

  • Scent 

The olfactory system is directly linked to the emotional centre in the brain. The right scent will encourage the body to release feel-good, relaxing chemicals that can set the stage for great sleep. Lavender is probably the best known for its sleep enhancing properties but there are others, and once you have found the right one for you bring it into the bedroom. A scented candle or room diffuser will fragrance the room. For a more direct hit you could try a sleep pillow or drop some essential oil on to a hankie and put it under the pillows as a natural way to help you sleep better.

 

What techniques do you use to sleep better? We stock of range of sleep aids from natural bedding  to linen mistsscented candles and herbal pillows.

#FeelingIsBelieving – so if you’d like to receive a fabric swatch, please get in touch here.