How to choose perfect bed sheets: ‘People think the higher the count, the better — it isn’t’

There is nothing quite like clean, crisp bed sheets – and, given that we spend a rather large portion of our lives in them, it might be time to consider investing in a decent set.

Structured fabric has existed since twigs were woven together, but Tielle Luxury was born only five years ago. Then, Tradelinens, the business Mr Lancaster Gaye had founded 30 years before with partner Joe Molloy, was already supplying fine hotels – the Ham Yard Hotel, Piccadilly, W1, is his favourite.

Enquiries from guests eager to enjoy similar quality at home were flooding in. ‘If you pay £15,000 for a suite, you expect an exquisite standard’ and the bed is crucial – it leads to sleep, something of which many of us need more.

‘The textile industry is the most important in the world. Everyone on the planet uses it’

The duo decided to start stocking bed linen under the (quite fabricated… ahem) name Tielle (TL, for Tradelinens) and selling to individuals. Actual linen is rough in texture, now it’s not laundered in the old-fashioned way of keeping it damp so it irons flat, so although the crumpled-linen look is fashionable, smooth cotton makes for a better night’s sleep.

Tielle Love Luxury bed

Egyptian cotton is no longer ‘a thing’, he insists, so don’t be duped by offers – ‘there is more Egyptian cotton sold online than is produced in Egypt’. It is all about the quality of the yarn, not the thread count.

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‘The thing about bed-linen quality is that people get confused with numbers. They think the higher count the better – this simply isn’t the case ’

‘If you get in and feel good, the serotonin release makes you happy,’ enthuses the perfectionist. His postman deemed down-filled pillows too expensive, until he tried one. He bought 12, stating:

‘I didn’t understand, but now I do.’

Robert Lancaster Gaye’s tips for looking after your linen and cotton:

  • Spend as much as you can on pillows and duvet. You’d happily spend £45 on dinner, but you can’t put a price on a wonderful sleep
  • Synthetic pillows and duvets aren’t breathable, so store more dust mites – in fact, they are worse for allergy sufferers
  • Do not dry clean bed linen if possible – the chemicals aren’t good to sleep with
  • Eco-friendly washing powders work just as well, the more simple the better – clean smelling doesn’t always mean clean
  • Wash sheets at high temperatures with fewer chemicals or lower with more detergent
  • Do not use fabric conditioner. It coats towels with a residue, which you then rub onto your skin
  • If you like fluffy towels, but don’t want to waste energy, pop them in the dryer for five minutes once they’re almost air-dried
  • Sheets will last 20–30 years – if left for 100 years, a cotton sheet would tear like tissue, but linen would be exactly as you left it The optimum thread count for price, wearability and comfort is 400–600; most hotels use 300. Pillow cases with a 400 thread count start at £20, full sets from £126.

Tielle Love Luxury was the first UK business to join the Better Cotton Initiative in 2016, which trains farmers in water efficiency, caring for Nature, reducing the use of harmful chemicals and respecting workers’ rights. For more information, visit

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