It may not come as any surprise to learn that at Design Public we LOVE bedding. We treasure bedding pieces that make it a joy to go to bed at night as well as hard to want to leave in the morning…not to mention look sharp all along the way.
With the introduction of Sanford Burrows we knew right away that we found something amazing. Take a look at the embroidery, the Italian crafted textiles, and the attention to detail Jill Sanford Burrows puts into her work and you’ll see what we mean. Enjoy the Q&A!
I’d love to learn a little bit about your background…how did you get into working with linens and designing for the home? How did Sanford Burrows come together and get off the ground?
I had a long career as a graphic designer. Years ago, I was living and working in London and found myself wanting to design something more tangible—something that people would have an immediate, emotional reaction to that didn’t carry a marketing message— so I decided to take a few fashion design classes. But, my interest kept being drawn more and more to home furnishings over time because I was so inspired by what I was seeing in London and around Europe. With all the great home design out there I wasn’t finding bedding that hit just the right note. So, I eventually decided to take the knowledge from the fashion design classes and use it to create the bedding line.
Without question, your bedding collections are impeccable. I love the notion that your bedding is “like sleeping at a 5-star hotel every night,” but I think in reality your collection is off the charts. What was the inspiration for creating such quality, lasting pieces?
I first set out to simply make a line of modern bedding. But, along the way I learned so much about cotton and fabric production that I became dedicated to making a high quality, modern product. When I shop for myself, even for clothes, I’d rather save up and spend more money on something that I’ll have for years (or forever) than buy something quick and cheap that won’t last or is part of a trend that I’ll tire of. I brought that philosophy into the line. Yes, it costs more to produce a high quality product, but the line is really special and is meant to be around for a long time.
It is a rarity to see fine modern bedding that is actually crafted in Italy using traditional techniques. Round of applause for making the two come together so perfectly! Tell us about the process in making this happen. How hard was it to mesh modern style with traditional Italian craftsmanship?
When I started working on the concept for the line, I thought that embroidering simple line-drawing type designs would be easy. I quickly learned, however, how challenging it would be to embroider my free-form designs across over 90 inches of fabric. Embroidered bedding is typically a border design or repeated motifs or patterns. Most machines aren’t even capable of doing the work that I had in mind, especially if I was to insist on particular details like stitch style. It took finding companies that were excited by the unique concept and who were willing to experiment.
My journey did not start in Italy, but I’m so happy it ended there. Italians are still interested in craftsmanship, they’re not willing to just churn something out. From the first sample they did for me, I knew that they were exactly what I had been searching for in a manufacturer.
It was such a long process to make this all come together, my husband kept asking why I hadn’t started with something simple like sewing placemats in our living room. I’m so glad that I stuck with it though, it’s worth seeing the line just as I had envisioned it.
Can you dispel the thread count myth for us? The higher the count doesn’t always mean better quality, right? Shed some light for us!
I’m so glad that you’ve asked this question. I’ve become an evangelist about this subject. Thread count has become an easy marketing buzzword, and people have been led to believe that higher thread counts guarantee better linens. But, this isn’t always the case. Thread count is only one factor in determining quality. What matters most is the quality of the cotton. Egyptian and Pima are two of the best because their fibers are extra-long and create strong, silky threads. This makes for a soft, long-lasting linen. If the cotton used isn’t high-quality, the highest thread count in the world isn’t going to produce a quality sheet. In Italy, thread counts of 180 and up are considered quality linens because they’re made with quality cotton! Finishing is also super important. The way that the raw fabric is treated also helps to determine how soft it will be, and how long that softness will last.
With thread count, I always say that if the price seems to good to be true, it probably is. If you find those 800 thread count sheets that you’ve dreamed of for a hundred bucks, don’t bother. Here’s why. . .thread count is the number of threads in a square inch of fabric. Lots of fine threads made of cottons like Egyptian and Pima can fit into a square inch easily, creating a soft, durable fabric. Inflated thread counts that are sold on the cheap can be the result of multiple threads made of lower-quality, short-fiber cottons being twisted together to create what are called 2-ply or even 4-ply yarns, which are essentially bulkier and weaker. Some manufacturers cram as many of these as possible into a square inch, then count each single thread when determining their thread count, which can at least double the number. The sheets won’t look or feel good for very long. Their fibers tend to break or get tangled on the surface, causing the fabric to pill and get rougher over time. This is why a 200-thread-count linen made of a high-quality cotton can be far superior to an “800-thread-count” linen.
The easiest way to go is to buy from a brand that you know you can trust.
Any tips for taking care of linens?
At the top of the list is to not dry your linens to death. Overheating and over-drying breaks down cotton fibers. Linens are really best air-dried, but if you put them in the dryer like most people, take them out and hang them or lay them flat when they’re still slightly damp. This also helps to lessen the wrinkling. If you iron them, you should do it straight out of the dryer when they’re still damp.
I’m still experimenting with the best way to keep sheets white. Vinegar is gentler to use than bleach and does a good job of freshening linens up. You put about 1/8–1/4 cup in the last rinse cycle. Don’t worry, the smell won’t stick with the sheets.
Any design or bedding pet peeves?
I do have a pet peeve about bed making. It’s a funny subject in my house. I like my bed to be made from the “bounce-a-quarter-on-it” school of bed making. With hospital corners. My husband does the opposite and just throws the sheet and duvet up to the top effortlessly. I’m often re-making a bed that he’s just made. And he hates for his feet to feel trapped by the hospital corners, so I tuck my side in and leave his side out.
Do you collect anything? Any prized treasures?
I love to buy things when I travel that I can incorporate into my house. I love my carved wood sculptures that I got in Africa, a lamp that I made my husband carry on planes, trains and automobiles around Italy, and my collection of photos and drawings that I’ve picked up at markets from Puerto Vallarta to Prague. Some other prized treasures are things that have been passed down from my family—beautiful silver and crystal to kitchy glassware from my grandparents’ old cabana.
Finally, what is next for Sanford Burrows?
I’ll be working on new designs for the bedding line soon. Down the road I hope you’ll see the line expand to lots of other furnishings.
I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.