Wednesday, July 15, 2009
BED HEAD Julian Tomchin peruses West Elm with help from Shanika Chabel, a manager.
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By ELAINE LOUIE
Published: January 7, 2009
Image by Brian Palmer for The New York Time
WHEN it comes to bed linens, Julian Tomchin is a debunker of myths, like the one that says a 1,000-thread-count sheet must be of superior quality (not necessarily, he said) or the one that professes a pure cotton sheet can be wrinkle-free (don’t get him started).
At 76, Mr. Tomchin knows a thing or two about linens. He has been involved with them since 1979, first as the senior vice president and fashion director for home at Bloomingdale’s; next as vice president of creative services at Fieldcrest, both in New York; and then, from 1993 to 2002, as senior vice president for home-product development at Macy’s West in San Francisco, where he is retired.
“A bed is usually the largest piece of furniture in the bedroom,” he said. “What you put on it becomes a major decorating decision, which some people, including designers, prefer to ignore.”
Not Mr. Tomchin. On a trip to Manhattan in December, he visited several stores, sharing his philosophy about linens and thread counts. At Kmart, the Martha Stewart Everyday sheet, a 300-count solid-color cotton set, suited him just fine. So did two sheets at Macy’s: Ralph Lauren’s Cole Brook, a handsome 350-count cotton with green and cream stripes (he liked the woven look), and Calvin Klein’s Bamboo Flowers, a 220-count cotton in pale blue or hyacinth (“Lovely, lovely soft blue”).
It may sound like a relatively low count, but Mr. Tomchin prefers it. In fact, he advised, “Once you get beyond 400 threads per square inch, be suspicious.” The standard for counting is to add each warp (vertical) and filling (horizontal) thread per square inch. The most that normally fits, he said, is 400, after which the threads are thinner and weaker. Some companies use two- or three-ply threads and multiply the count. “An 800-thread-count sheet made of two-ply yarn should legitimately be relabeled as 400,” he said. “That’s how you get 1,000 threads per square inch: creative counting.”
Which wasn’t in play at West Elm, where he admired the minimalism of the 230-count Frayed Edge Organic Cotton sheets, in off-white. And when he saw the simple 300-count espresso brown sheets there, he felt at home. The reason? He sleeps on a set himself. Told it was free-shipping day, he did what any good shopper does: he bought another set.
One type of sheet gaining popularity these days is bamboo, which Mr. Tomchin praised for its softness. He found a set at Bed Bath & Beyond and took time to explain the process: “It’s a cellulose, and you boil the fibers from bamboo strips, pour it through a sieve, and what comes out is a yarn.”
Still, to Mr. Tomchin, nothing beats pure cotton. Once a bed is cloaked in it, he said, “I defy anybody to turn out the light and say one sheet is more comfortable than the other.”