Over the four years I’ve lived in my apartment, I’ve steadily—slowly—swapped my lesser-quality essentials for better, more lasting versions. Glassware, under-bed storage, even my plastic clothes hangers: They all got upgrades. Somehow, though, it took me years to invest in quality bedding—I’m not sure why, given how much attention I pay to my bed and how I savor the simple ritual of making it each day.
Still, a year ago I was still living with the $19.99 sheets I’d bought as a placeholder when I moved in. They drove me crazy: They were too soft, and hung limply where I wanted crisp corners. Hoping to upgrade, I did what many people my age do: invested in what I thought would be next-level sheets from a new bedding disruptor I’d seen advertised on the subway. I bought a pair of sheets for about $100, excitedly unwrapped them, and slept in them for a month, only to start to notice a distressing yellowish stain start to emerge on my side of the bed; in other places, they turned waxy and opaque. Washing them each week seemed to only make it worse. Thinking I might’ve gotten a lemon, I bought another pair, only to have the same thing happen. (Time to put laundry bluing to the test, perhaps.)
So when I heard that luxury sheet company Sferra had a new, more affordable bedding line, I was cautiously optimistic. It sounded promising: Alma was designed to be more affordable than the company’s other offerings (Justine reported in on Sferra’s Giza 45 Percale Collection, which can run up to $750; see Is It Worth It? The Lowdown on Luxe Sheets by Sferra), but unlike new disruptor companies, it has Sferra’s nearly 130 years in the fine linens market behind it. Among the things that make Sferra experts on bedding, they say: correcting the myth of Egyptian cotton (a label they say is misleading, since pure Egyptian cotton is now harder to find), sourcing the best raw materials, working with fine mills in Italy, and spinning longer cotton fibers for a smoother, softer weave.
Curious, I ordered the Memoria Sheet Set (from $299), Memoria Duvet Cover Set (from $299), and Origami Coverlet (from $329), all in Snow. My question: Was it worth ponying up an extra $200 to get beyond the disruptor market? Could I tell the difference? Read on.
Photography by Mel Walbridge for Remodelista.
When I first looked at the collection online, I was hesitant: The various lines in the Alma collection come in shades of Rose, Taupe, and Celestial (and the Alumbra line comes in floral patterns) that weren’t my style. Sferra told me that Alma is geared toward millennials, but this millennial was pleased that they also offered Snow, a pure white–or what the Sferra representative I spoke with referred to as a “candlelight white.”
The bedding arrived with none of the trendy packaging that my disruptor sheets had. I immediately unzipped a corner of the bag and felt the material: I like sheets that are pretty crisp (my sister laments that the sheets I like feel like rolling around on a tarp), and these seemed crisp without feeling starched. Perhaps this is what Sferra meant by a “textural, relaxed percale.”
My first impression held when I put the sheets on my bed: They were smooth and tightly woven. Sferra had told me that it’s the length of the cotton fiber, not the thread count, that determines softness and quality; perhaps that’s what made the difference. While the pillowcases and shams were quick to wrinkle after sleeping on them, the duvet and sheets stayed smooth. My former sheets would get long, deep creases in the bottom sheet after one night; the Memoria sheets don’t seem to.
I like the way the bedding gives my Manhattan apartment the feel of a summer cottage, ready for warm-weather sleeping. And the sheets pass my test: They make a pleasing crinkling sound when I fold back the covers to get in.
Those looking for super luxe sheets should know that this bedding doesn’t have the same level of exquisite detailing that Justine discovered on her next-level set (I spied a small blue thread caught inside one of the borders, and the corners aren’t mitered). But the stitching is of a much higher quality than the disruptor sheets I had, which felt like they’d been sewn in haste, and I love the neat, un-frilly borders on the shams.
What some might see as a downside ended up working well for me: The Memoria line comes only in queen and king sizes, and I (like many apartment dwellers) have a full-size bed. I ordered the queen set. The fitted sheet requires extra tucking around the mattress (elastic all the way around helps), but the corners lie flat and smooth, and it means I don’t need to break a sweat trying to stretch the corners to fit onto the mattress. I also leave the generous sides of the flat sheet untucked to hide the extra storage under my bed. Bonus: No fighting over the sheets.
With my last two sets of sheets, I had a particular vengeance for the crease that formed in the top border of the flat sheet. It wouldn’t lie flat, no matter how hard I tried. Even steaming it proved fruitless after a night or two. But the Memoria sheets stood the test: Even on the last day before I washed them, after a week’s worth of wear, the top border lay flat and looked freshly ironed.
Another thoughtful detail: Instead of long, loose tags sewn into one end of the pillow sham, there is a neat little label sewn onto the inside pocket, so that the tag is out of sight on the finished pillow.
I gave my sheets a wash one week in, following the care instructions from the website. The guidelines: a warm gentle wash, followed by a gentle tumble in the dryer. When I took the sheets out of the washing machine they were just as white as when I unwrapped them (no distressing yellow stains in sight). Although I ignored the advice to take the sheets out of the dryer “while still damp” (I wouldn’t have had enough room in my apartment to let them air-dry completely) and to steam iron them on a “cotton” setting, the sheets were still crisp and mostly wrinkle-free. Most importantly to my slightly compulsive bed-making tendencies, all of the hems and top border stayed smooth and uncreased.
I’ve come to think of the Alma collection as the equivalent of swapping out Ikea for the next level: a step up from the intro. It’s not quite the level of sophistication of Sferra’s super-luxe collections, but it’s the best-quality bedding I’ve ever owned, and so far has proved to be far better quality than the one disruptor company I’ve tried in the past (let alone my $19.99 set). I paid $100 for my disruptor sheets, no small amount for a young person on a budget, but they quickly turned yellow—not worth the money I’d spent. For those looking to invest in something that will last (and don’t mind spending a little extra for it), the difference seems a small price to pay for a higher quality product that will wear better.
Two weeks and a couple of washes in, the bedding is still crisp and looks as neat on the third and fourth day after a wash as it did when I first made the bed. Best of all, because of the well-made details and simple textures, my bed looks neat and freshly made just by smoothing back and folding the covers.