Luxury sheets are hot.

Rather than choosing bed linens based on whether they're on sale or because they don't clash with the bedroom color scheme, discerning shoppers are imagining how it will feel to relax nestled under high-end bedding at the end of a long, hectic day.

They're scrutinizing labels for clues to quality, checking thread counts and getting familiar with names of revered bedding makers such as Yves DeLorme , Sferra Brothers , Pratesi and Frette .

"Some people shop for brands, others for the feel of the product or the overall aesthetic," says Jane Berk, public relations director of ABC Home at ABC Carpet and Home in New York City.

"The older brands have a long history of quality and attention to detail. They have produced some of the finest sheets on the market, and have brand recognition," she continues.

The increased demand for luxury bedding stems from a dichotomy of current trends: staying home and going away.

"In these uncertain times, we're putting more time and money into the home," says Jeffrey Whitney, the store manager at Nancy Koltes at Home , a purveyor of elegant linens in Manhattan's Nolita district. "People are staying closer to home and have the inherent need to feel really, really comfortable. They're not traveling as much but are more in tune with the self and with the home as an extension of the self."

On the other hand: "People are looking for beds to reflect their travels," Berk points out. "Five-star hotels are all about luxury bedding. People have been to five-star hotels around the world and want to create the same experience in their homes."

Ritz-Carlton hotels feature Frette sheets in guest rooms and Pratesi in executive suites. The W hotel chain received so many queries about its bedding that it now offers its sheets for sale online .

Fine linens are so prominent in the public consciousness that even Macy's carries a private-label Hotel Collection , which includes pieces with thread counts of up to 600 per square inch.

Down for the Thread Count

Some shoppers think of high-quality sheets as a numbers game, rejecting thread counts below 250 per square inch and extolling the merits of those soaring to more than 1,000.

But thread count is not the only factor that determines quality and comfort: The fineness, softness and durability of the threads are important to consider.

"Thread count is just a number," says Gail Secular, president of Archipelago , a Manhattan shop specializing in luxury linens and designer bedding. "Choose a sheet by 'hand' -- if you like the way it feels. What's best for you is your personal preference."

Archipelago carries a thread-count range of 220 ($325 for a queen-size set of a fitted sheet, a flat sheet and two pillowcases) to 400 ($830 for a queen-size set).

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