Home » blog » Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Vacation Rental Sheets – an Interview with Alanna Shroeder

Some of the most common questions I get from vacation rental owners and managers are related to bed sheets.

Like, what color, what brand, how many sets, which is better – 100% cotton or a blend, how do you keep them white, to iron or not to iron….etc, etc.

I wish I knew all the answers, but I’m a designer, not a sheet expert, so today I’m sharing a recent interview I had with Alanna Shroeder, founder of The Distinguished Guest, the premier supplier of vacation rental bedding. I reasoned that asking her these important questions was the best way to get thorough and well-researched answers. After all, Alanna specializes in affordable, luxurious sheets, specifically for the vacation rental market. She’s the expert.

The Distinguished Guest's Alanna Shroeder

Alanna Shroeder is the founder of The Distinguished Guest.

So without further ado, here’s my chat with Alanna, where we’ll learn everything we ever wanted to know about bed linens, as well as about the sheets she sells on The Distinguished Guest.

MB: Welcome Alanna and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed!

AS: Thanks Mercedes, I’m super excited to talk with your community.

MB: Alanna, first of all, why did you start The Distinguished Guest?

AS: I think the idea of starting The Distinguished Guest happened when staging my Lake Tahoe  vacation rental. Because there is such fierce competition among Tahoe holiday cabins, I knew I had to make mine stand out in order to get a good return on my investment. I determined the best way to do so was to style my cabin with hotel-like amenities such as top quality white bed sheets, thick, luxurious towels and spa robes and even little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and soaps. I wanted to appeal to guests like me who loved the amenities of fancy hotels, but prefered a home, rather than a 200-square foot hotel room.

At the time, and to even a large extent today, my decision went against the current thinking on vacation rental amenities, which was “people are going to trash your vacation rental, so put cheap, dispensable stuff inside.” I have the complete opposite viewpoint. I firmly believe the more tasteful and luxurious vacation rental amenities are, the better guests will treat the home. It certainly resonated in Tahoe. After I styled my cabin, virtually no one destroyed or treated my rental roughly and even better? My bookings were almost twice those of my competition. In fact, after only a few months of renting, my property manager called to ask me what the heck I was doing to attract so many more bookings than his 45 other vacation rentals, and when I told him, it was like a revelation. He had literally never thought of my reverse thinking.

I knew then there was a need for affordable, high-quality amenities specifically for vacation rentals. I knew owners would appreciate the fact that they lead to better bookings AND higher rates. That’s when The Distinguished Guest was born.

MB: One of my first blog posts, Why Average is Over in the Vacation Rental Market, is about exactly what you just said: the better the decor and amenities, the better guests will treat your rental and the higher the bookings. It’s what guests expect these days and smart owners will deliver.

Tell me, speaking of sheets (because that’s what this post is about), how many sheet sets do you recommend for each bed in a vacation rental?

AS: The management companies are buying 2.5 times what they need, but for the average vacation rental, I’d say it depends on how far away you are from your vacation rental. If you are close by, you can get away with two sets per bed; however, if you are far away, I suggest three, just to be on the safe side.

MB: I can see that. If a guest spills red wine all over the bed and destroys the sheets, you aren’t left with just one set. One set is pretty dicey, especially if you’re far away.

AS: Exactly, and on the subject of staining, I also recommend buying sheets piecemeal, like top sheets, bottom sheets and pillow cases separately. Oftentimes, the bottom sheet is stained and the top sheet isn’t, or vice versa, and you want to be able to buy just the sheet that was destroyed rather than an entire sheet set. Buying sheet sets is a waste of money. It’s why I offer sheets piecemeal on The Distinguished Guest.

Centima Sheets by Standard Textile

Alanna sells 250 thread count Centima Sheets by Standard Textile piecemeal, so if a pillowcase, or a flat sheet is destroyed, there’s no need to buy an entire sheet set when you replace it. $17 for a queen flat sheet.

MB: That’s a good point and I can see a newbie owner needing to know that right off the bat. How often do you recommend replacing sheets?

AS: Anywhere from one to three years depending on occupancy. If you book guests all year round, I recommend once a year; if only half the year, every two years; and if you only rent out in the summer or winter (rarer), you might be able to get away with every three years.

The key is to carefully inspect your sheets between bookings. If you can’t get a stain out, replace the sheet immediately. A stain is a big black mark against your vacation rental, no matter how gorgeous it is.

MB: I agree. Stains on sheets are really gross.

AS: Pilling and tears are also unacceptable. My rule of thumb is whenever a sheet or pillowcase looks tired, it’s time to replace it. You generally have to replace pillowcases more often than top and bottom sheets.

MB: Speaking of sheets looking tired, my next question is how do you keep white sheets looking bright? I hate it when my gorgeous white sheets start getting yellow.

white sheets

Bright white sheets are eye-catching and make a bedroom appear cleaner, so don’t let your sheets get yellow. Use Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Liquid and an oxygen brightener to maintain whiteness. Image via Casa and Co.

AS: That usually only happens to 100% cotton sheets and is often due to using bleach when you launder. I recommend bleach for spot cleaning only, and that’s assuming nothing else works. For maintaining a bright, white look, I suggest Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Liquid. Interestingly, to make white goods acceptable to their customers, manufacturers of sheets, towels and linens put their fabrics through a process of bluing. After it’s bought and put into use, the fabric naturally becomes yellowish and the blue needs to be put back in.

Mrs Stewart's Bluing Liquid

Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Liquid is key for maintaining the bright white sheet look. Amazon $9.99

Also, never wash white sheets in hot water, only warm. Washing and drying sheets in high temperatures can lead to a break down of the fibers which, over time, lessens the ability of sheets to stay white. I also recommend using an oxygen brightener in every cycle.

MB: How do you recommend organizing sheets in a vacation rental? And how do you differentiate between the queens, kings and twins when you take sheets out of the laundry?

AS: Ideally, I would not leave an extra set of sheets for guests. You will just make more work for yourself; as a rule of thumb, guests will use what they see, even if the sheets aren’t dirty. Because most vacation rentals have washers and dryers, guests wishing a fresh set of sheets midway through their stay can wash them.

There are lots of ways to organize sheets, but my system is as follows: I have one set on the bed, one set being laundered by my cleaner (who takes them home to wash) and one set in the owner’s closet. The sheets in the owner’s closet are stored in baskets or bins with clear labels that say “King, Queen and Twin.”

Storage of bed linens

Baskets in your owner’s closet is a nice method of storing sheets. Image courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

MB: And how does your housekeeper know which top sheets go with which bottom sheets? That must be confusing.

AS: Look for sheet sets with clear labels or colored stitching so you can match them after laundering. Most of the sheets I sell on The Distinguished Guest, for example, have identification tags that make matching the sheets easy. For example, my Standard Textile sheets are identified by different colored stitching down the sides; for instance the king sheets have a green stitched line, the queen a blue, the full a lavender and the twin a red stitched line. The Down Etc. sheets have different colored labels for each size. The only sheets I carry without an ID system is the Thomaston Mills, so I tell customers to take a sharpie and write the mattress size on the tags.

labelling sheets

Sheets etc, a line of Down etc, uses a green label to identify “King.” Colored labels make it easy to match the proper top sheet with the proper bottom sheet.

MB: Speaking of your sheet brands, Alanna, how did you choose the brands you represent on The Distinguished Guest?

AS: There are three things that are key in choosing bed sheets for vacation rentals. 1) They must be affordable. 2) They must be comfortable and 3) They must have first-rate quality control. The latter is super key and the reason I have gone with the big dependable institutional companies, rather than any old wholesaler. I need my clients to know that when they buy a replacement top sheet, it’s going to be the same quality as the matching bottom sheet they bought two years ago. I’m in this business for the long haul and want to maintain a top-notch reputation.

MB: That is so important and something that most of us don’t even think about! Can you tell me a little bit about the brands you carry? Let’s start with Thomaston Mills, shall we?

AS: The Thomaston Mill sheets are my most affordable option. They’re best described as a basic, crisp, starched feeling sheet. They’re a 60/40 cotton polyester blend, 200 thread count Pima cotton sheet made exclusively for the hospitality trade in the USA. They don’t wrinkle as easily as a 100% cotton sheet and the price is really friendly.

To give you some perspective on thread count, property management companies are generally using 250 thread count sheets on king, queen and full beds and 180-200 thread counts on twin and sofa beds.

MB: I think that’s a good rule of thumb. Put the 200-count sheets on the twin beds or the fold out sofas and the higher thread count sheets on the bigger beds. I actually did just that in a client’s Idaho cabin. The Thomaston Mill sheets are on the twin beds that double as an L-shaped “sofa” during the day. 

Albion Idaho vacation cabin

The Idaho vacation cabin I designed for my client, Tracy Bennett, has a “sleeping porch” off the living room that doubles as an extra sitting area during the day and two twin beds at night. Because they are not used all the time, I spec’d the more affordable Thomaston Mills 200 thread count sheets.

We bought a set of Thomaston Mill sheets from you almost two years ago for our personal use and they’re still going strong. My husband describes them as something he would have slept on in his grandmother’s house back in the day.

What about your next step up, the Centima and Comfortwill Sheets by Standard Textile?

AS: Both the Centima and Comfortwill sheets are softer than the Thomaston Mills at 250 thread count, but still have a crisp, starchy hotel feeling. The Comfortwill line is slightly softer than the Centima with a 70/30 cotton/polyester blend, while the Centima’s blend has a tad bit more cotton at 75/25. Both lines arrive pre-laundered so you can throw them immediately on the bed. People love these sheets because they are quintessential hotel sheets. It’s not like they are luxuriously soft, but they have a welcoming, crisp professional feel that guests associate with nice hotels.

MB: The fact that they come pre-laundered is nice. I can see owners really appreciating that, especially if they’re buying lots of sheets at a time.

Tell me about your fabulous Centium Satin Sheets by Standard Textile. I specified some sets for the Idaho cabin’s queen bedrooms and they have been a huge hit with guests. Feedback has specifically mentioned “sheets really soft,” so these sheets are the bomb.

Idaho vacation cabin pomerelle

I specified The Distinguished Guest’s Centium Satin sheets for the queen bedrooms in Tracy Bennett’s Idaho vacation cabin. These are un-ironed and still look elegant.

AS: Thanks, that’s exactly why I sell them, and I personally feel that if the budget allows, these are a guaranteed hit. Guests really notice and comment on them. These are the sheets I recommend for more luxurious rentals. The quality is excellent, they’re extremely soft. The fact that they are blended – 65% cotton, 35% polyester – means they don’t wrinkle easily and are durable. Also, if you happen to be an owner who irons sheets, they are very easy to press.

The one thing confusing about them though is the word ‘satin;’ people associate it with satin pajamas of the disco era, and nothing could be farther from the truth. There is a tiny bit of satin in the sheet but that’s the element that keeps the sheet cooler.

MB: Can you explain the reason why a blended cotton and polyester combination is so favored in hospitality sheets? Almost all your brands are blends and I wonder what the advantage is.

AS: The two main advantages of blended sheets are that they last longer and wrinkle less. Because of the way they are woven, the fabric withstands constant laundering, a characteristic super important in vacation rentals where you are washing and drying sheets much more often your home sheets. Furthermore, the fact that they wrinkle less is key. Most vacation rental cleaning crews don’t iron bed sheets so this is of paramount importance.

MB: And yet you do carry a 100% cotton line by Down Etc. What are its advantages?

AS: The Down Etc. sheets and duvets are for my cotton purists who wish for a top-of-the-line experience for their guests. Owners of high end luxury rentals who have demanding clients expecting the very best, buy these 350 thread count sheets. Down Etc is a brand with bragging rights and can be mentioned in a listing in order to stand out from the competition. After all, the brand is a top choice for some of the most high end resorts and boutique hotels in the world.

MB: Funny that you mention boutique hotels and Down Etc. sheets. I stayed in The Graduate, an amazing boutique hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer and wrote an article about how owners can copy boutique hotel design trends. The beds all featured Down Etc. bed linens and they were heavenly. It was actually a challenge to get out of bed in the morning because I just wanted to stay snuggled up in those amazing sheets.

Down Etc. sheets

The Graduate Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia features Down Etc. bed linens.

AS: Oh yeah, the Down Etc. sheets are super amazing, and hotels have the means to keep them pressed and looking extra spectacular.

MB: Speaking of pressed sheets, do you recommend that 100% cotton sheets be pressed?

Well, it’s a personal decision. I admit that pressed sheets are the ultimate in luxury but it’s not always realistic for owners. Furthermore, the elegantly rumpled bed look is really ‘in’ right now; if you have the knack for pulling it off, all the power to you.

rumpled bed look

Creative Flats, a boutique vacation and business rental company, has mastered the look of the ‘Rumpled Bed.’ In this Old Montreal apartment, the bed beckons with it’s wrinkled elegance.

MB: Creative Flats up in Montreal has that look down! Their design team are masters at wrinkled elegance. I agree with you though, it’s a hard look to pull off. If an owner does want 100% cotton and is willing to press them, what do you recommend?

AS: If you do want pressed sheets, I recommend hiring a linen service, and just charging a little more in your cleaning fee. For those ambitious owners who wish to do it themselves, I highly recommend watching Martha Stewart’s video on doing it properly – make sure you start out with slightly damp sheets, fold them horizontally (vertical lines look terrible) into fourths on your ironing board and steam iron them through all four layers.

MB: Well thanks for describing all your sheet lines, Alanna. Before we end our interview, I want to ask you about thread count and what it means. I think there’s the perception that the higher the thread count, the better the sheet. Can you enlighten us a little on what it means?

AS: I’d love to! Thread count is calculated by the number of horizontal and vertical threads in one square inch. At the end of the day, there are only a certain number of threads that can fit in that square inch. It tends to max out at about 400 threads. The way manufacturers get into the higher numbers is by using multiple ply in the yarn, so one thread might have several strands. So it may be that a 200 thread actual count is considered a 400 count because each strand contains 2 threads. It doesn’t necessarily mean the sheet is going to be of higher quality or last longer. In some cases it may mean the reverse. I recommend sticking to thread counts under 400 because you are less likely to run into scam companies claiming bogus thread counts.

MB: I have always heard that truly high thread count sheets are extremely expensive and never a bargain. Is this true?

AL: Absolutely! The real deal, such as Léron, D. Porthault, Sferra and Frette, cost upwards of $1,000 and that’s because it’s expensive to make them. The mills employ a technique using the finest cotton yarns (sometimes 50 percent finer) resulting in extremely high thread counts. Furthermore, the sheets are made from the finest, longest Egyptian-cotton fibers and are spun in France or Italy. Although luxurious, they rarely, if ever, make economic sense for vacation rentals because of their high price tag. Beware of sheets claiming a high thread count with a bargain price. It’s probably a scam.

MB: Thanks for clearing that up! I think you’ve answered all my questions, Alanna, but if readers wish to ask you more questions, I’m sure you’ll be happy to answer in the comments section below, right?

AS: Absolutely. Thanks for the interview. It’s been great to help out.

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